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Webbing and Bone

By Time Brady

Undergrad Molly Watters tastes the pleasures of life as a student leader at the U.
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Molly Watters
Beijing was a blast for Molly Watters, right up to the moment they brought out the duck’s feet. The senior and recipient of a 2007 President’s Student Leadership and Service Award was traveling last May with Professor Doug Hartmann in China. The topic of the month-long study abroad seminar was sports and globalization, with the upcoming Olympic games in Beijing as the focus of the trip. Among other activities, the U of M students got to meet with the Chinese Olympic committee, spend a day with students at the sports university in Beijing, and play a game of softball against them.

Then they found themselves dining at a restaurant in Beijing famous for its Peking duck. “In China, when you eat duck, that means eating all of the duck," says Watters, who was okay through plates of gizzards, tongue, and liver. Then out came the feet. She swallowed hard but eventually got it all down. “Webbing and bone." Her reasoning? “A person just doesn’t get to China that often."

It’s not surprising that Molly Watters would ultimately choose experience over inhibition: her university career has been marked by a willingness to explore possibilities.

In 2006, for instance, Watters became the first female drum major in the long history of the University of Minnesota Marching Band. She won the right to do it again in Spring 2007, when she was picked a second time to lead the 300-member band. “You have to audition every year," says Watters, who in addition to her drum major duties was elected president of Kappa Kappa Psi, the national honorary band fraternity.

Leadership comes naturally to her. In high school in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, she was captain of her track team, and good enough in the shot put and discus to be recruited by the U of M and Cornell University. She also played the piano and the mellophone. It was her devotion to music, rather than sports, that steered her extracurricular activities at the U. She thought her time would be stretched too thin by participating in both her field events and her music, so Watters veered toward the band as a freshman.

Her academic career took a turn or two as well. She began college planning on majoring in political science, but a friend suggested that she take a sociology course to fill out a course schedule when she was a freshman. She wound up in Ross Macmillan’s introductory course and got a serious crush on the subject. Another class, Hartmann’s Sociology of Sport, “sealed the deal," in Watters’s words. Sociology became a second love and second major, along with political science.

In addition to her studies and band duties, Watters worked as an undergraduate research assistant with professor Phyllis Moen in the offices of the Department of Sociology. As she finished her academic career last fall, she helped get Contexts magazine off the ground at the U of M, as well as working on research assignments for Moen and the department.

After graduating in December, Watters left for Washington, D.C., where she serves as an intern in the office of Congressman Jim Ramstad through the winter and spring of 2008.

She’s uncertain about what lies ahead, though she anticipates further studies. Watters says that regardless of what happens next, “Sociology is a great background for whatever I choose. I can’t imagine not using my studies here for the rest of my life."