Ben Frigon ’22.5 shares his experience as a Watson Senior Fellow Student Liaison as well as his work on human rights, diversity and inclusion.
Hometown: Nashville, Tennessee
Concentration(s): Public Policy, Certificate in Entrepreneurship
What made you want to be a Watson Senior Fellow Student Liaison for Keith Harper last semester?
I had participated in two Watson study groups in the past, one with former RNC Chair Michael Steele and one with former Senator Heidi Heitkamp — both were incredible experiences, so I knew I wanted to take every opportunity to get involved with the Watson and to help the next class of Brown students have the same impactful experiences I did. This felt like the perfect opportunity.
What are some of the most valuable skills or experiences you gained from the program?
I’ve always believed the people make the place, and this program has been no exception. Every day at Brown I’m reminded that I go to school with the most intelligent and creative young people in the world, and the most valuable experiences I’ve had as a student liaison have been in interacting with fellow students and listening to their ideas during our sessions. Watson fosters an environment that encourages enlightening discussion and collaboration, and each student brings a unique perspective. I’m grateful to have been able to work with two other fantastic student liaisons, Josh Nerhona and Alex Lehman. It was a distinct honor to have been able to work with Ambassador Harper, who has not only been a wonderful teacher to everyone in the group, but has also a mentor and inspiration to me.
How do you plan to continue engaging with issues of human rights, both at Brown and beyond.
In my time at Brown I’ve developed a passion for technology, specifically the blockchain, and how it can be used to give more people power to thrive in society. I believe the solutions to many of today’s greatest injustices lie in creating new, more egalitarian institutions for the world using decentralized technology. Adhering to the core tenet of decentralization allows us to build new public goods which are available to all but also controlled by all.
This Fall, I co-designed and co-taught the first ever credit-bearing college course on non-fungible tokens, “NFTs, Blockchain, and Art.” We covered a range of humanitarian issues as part of the course, focusing on how blockchain technology can be used to solve them. After Brown, I want to work on building technologies that will make the world a better place. I truly believe that technology, especially the blockchain, has the potential to circumvent discrimination that continues to marginalize historically oppressed people.
You are also on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at Watson. What made you want to join the committee and how has it been a valuable experience?
I wanted to join the Diversity and Inclusion Committee at the Watson Institute because I wholeheartedly support its central mission to advance knowledge for peace, freedom, and social justice. The more educated we become about the obstacles that minority groups face, the more likely we are to find policy solutions that make lasting improvements — both here at Brown as well as the world after college. I also wanted to help ensure that Brown remains a house of liberal learning— a marketplace of diverse ideas where all individuals of all backgrounds feel empowered to share their thoughts. I have enjoyed the edification from the Committee’s thought-provoking programming, its critical assessments of our curriculum, and most importantly, the conversations it has facilitated with fellow classmates and professors.
--Aalia Jagwani ’24