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Justin BrownJustin Brown

Justin Brown: Put the pieces into place.

Countless students have earned prestigious national scholarships to continue the research they began at Willamette. They're making discoveries, and they're enhancing our understanding of the world. After all, research isn't about explaining the universe in a single equation; it's about solving a complex puzzle one piece at a time.

The pieces are falling into place for Justin Brown, a 2004 economics graduate from Bakersfield, Calif. Brown earned a Watson Fellowship to evaluate the efficiency and success of local barter networks in England, Thailand, Australia and South Africa - and he says he couldn't have secured the $22,000 travel grant without the support of the Willamette community. "The Watson Fellowship was completely beyond my experience," says Brown. "The faculty and staff are dedicated to connecting students with opportunities. They really inspired me."

As an undergraduate, Brown was inspired to explore alternatives to the current economic system, which accepts poverty as the cost of doing business. "Before I came to Willamette, I didn't know enough about the world and how deep and structural the poverty is," says Brown. "I think it's an abomination - there's no excuse for people starving in this world."

And in Brown's mind, there's no excuse for the world's dependency on petroleum as an energy source. After returning from his travels, Brown is interested in forming a farming cooperative that would produce vegetable oil for use in diesel engines. He wants to convert the next generation of drivers from petroleum-based diesel to biodiesel, thereby minimizing the violence associated with the fight over scarce resources - and his vision came into focus at Willamette.

"I've totally changed since I came here," says Brown. "I'm a lot more independent-minded, and I feel like my perspective has widened. I've learned to look at the world and see what needs to be changed."