Tag Archive for watson fellows

Bashir, Lezhanskyy Receive Watson Fellowships

As recipients of the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, two Wesleyan seniors will explore their academic aspirations internationally through a yearlong personal project.

Inayah Bashier

Inayah Bashir ’20

Inayah Bashir ’20 and Luka Lezhanskyy ’20 are among 47 Watson Fellows selected from 153 finalists. This year’s class comes from 20 states and eight countries, and exhibits a broad range of academic specialties, socio-economic backgrounds, and project diversity.

Bashir, a College of Social Studies major with a Writing Certificate, plans to explore the histories, stories, and teachings of African spirituality through her project titled “African Spirituality: Obscured Foundations of the Diaspora.”

“In a world dominated by Abrahamic religions, African spirituality has been stigmatized by tropes of demonic practice, witchcraft, and black magic. Yet African spirituality has always served as a form of healing, protection, and resistance across the African diaspora,” Bashir explained in her project proposal. “Ultimately, I hope to understand the spiritualities that served as the foundation of my ancestors’ cultures and traditions.”

Bashir hopes to travel to South Africa, Ghana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago; however, due to the coronavirus pandemic, travel may be restricted.

Luke Lezhanskyy

Luka Lezhanskyy ’20

Lezhanskyy, an English major, hopes to spend his Watson year studying how NGOs and communities combat child trafficking in hot spots around the world through his project “The Global Campaign Against Child Trafficking.”

“An estimated 5.5 million children are trafficked worldwide. I will collaborate with NGOs engaged in anti-trafficking work in nations with a high prevalence of child trafficking,” Lezhanskyy explained in his project proposal. “In so doing I hope to understand the causes of this pernicious business, and the solutions devised to counter it.”

Lezhanskyy had planned to travel to Nepal, Romania, Senegal, and Brazil for his study, but also due to the coronavirus pandemic his travel may be restricted.

Through one-of-a-kind programs and over 100 global partnerships, the Watson Fellowship provides students with personal, professional, and cultural opportunities that expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and build their confidence and perspective to be more humane and effective leaders on a global scale.

Watson Fellows are selected from 40 private colleges and university partners across the United States. They receive $36,000 for 12 months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Afterwards, they’ll join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Nearly 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969.

Watson Fellows have gone on to become leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, Emmy, Grammy and Oscar Award winners, Pulitzer Prize awardees, artists, diplomats, doctors, entrepreneurs, faculty, journalists, lawyers, politicians, researchers, and inspiring influencers around the world.

In 1961, the Watson Foundation was created as a charitable trust in the name of Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM.

Afelin ’19, Kim ’19 Awarded Watson Fellowships for International Exploration

Momi Afelin '19 (aafelin) and Justin Kim '19 .  (wkim). Thomas J. Watson Fellows.

Momi Afelin ’19 and Justin Kim ’19 are recipients of the 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Two Wesleyan seniors will spend a year abroad working on purposeful international discoveries as 2019 Thomas J. Watson Fellows.

Momi Afelin ’19 and Justin Kim ’19 are among 41 students from 40 partner institutions across the country to receive the prestigious fellowship. The Watson Fellowship is a rare window after college and pre-career for students to engage their deepest interests on a global scale. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States, and gain personal insight, perspective, and confidence.

Afelin, a biology and neuroscience and behavior double major, will spend her fellowship year working on a project titled “Island Innovation: Embodiment through Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation.” She will embed herself in five island countries in the Pacific and Caribbean including Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Fiji, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago and observe how geographic isolation and unique social structures of island communities demand innovation for survival and success.

Her curiosity in island innovation comes from growing up in Molokai, Hawaii.

“To grow up on an island is to grow up a problem solver,” she said. “I would like to explore how other islanders like myself are harnessing their innovation through social entrepreneurship or social innovation endeavors that address community issues.”

Fisher ’17 Wins Watson Fellowship to Study Cooperatives

Michaela Fisher's Watson Fellowship will take her to Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany and Canada. Fisher is interested in understanding “the many ways in which co-ops can flourish or fail." (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Michaela Fisher’s Watson Fellowship will take her to Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany and Canada. Fisher is interested in understanding “the many ways in which co-ops can flourish or fail.” (Photo by Olivia Drake)

As the recipient of a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, Michaela Fisher ’17 will spend a year studying cooperatives in five countries. Her project, titled “Cooperative Worlds: Exploring the Global Cooperative Economy,” will take her to Spain, Argentina, New Zealand, Germany and Canada.

Watson Fellows are all seniors nominated by 40 partner colleges. According to the website, “Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States for one year and embrace the ensuing journey. They decide where to go, who to meet, and when to change course.” Fellows receive a $30,000, 12-month travel stipend and health insurance while abroad.

The Thomas J. Watson Foundation was created in 1961 by Jeanette K. Watson in the name of her husband, Thomas J. Watson Sr., best known for building IBM. Through one-of-a-kind programs, the Foundation provides fellows with cultural, professional and personal opportunities that challenge them to expand their vision, test and develop their potential, and build the confidence and perspective to do so for others.

Watson Fellows to Study Aquaculture, Immigrant Detention Abroad

Noah Hamlish '16 and Chando Mapoma '16 are 2016 Watson Fellowship recipients. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

Noah Hamlish ’16 and Chando Mapoma ’16 are 2016 Watson Fellowship recipients. (Photo by Olivia Drake)

As 2016 Watson Fellows, Noah Hamlish ’16 will examine the effects of aquaculture in coastal communities and Chando Mapoma ’16 will investigate alternatives to immigrant detention.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study awarded to graduating college seniors. Fellows conceive original projects, execute them outside of the United States, and embrace the ensuing journey. Fellows receive a $30,000 stipend and are required to submit quarterly reports.

Watson Fellow Banks ’15 to Study Restorative Justice Practices in 4 Countries

Isabella Banks '15 received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study. Her project, "Making Crime Personal: Restorative Alternatives to Criminal Justice" will allow her to study in New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa.

Isabella Banks ’15 received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, a one-year grant for purposeful, independent study. Her project, “Making Crime Personal: Restorative Alternatives to Criminal Justice” will allow her to study in New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa.

Restorative justice practices, such as victim-offender mediation, family group conferencing, programs for juvenile offenders, and community policing, emerged to give victims and their surrounding communities greater agency than traditional criminal procedure provides to resolve conflict and address its consequences.

As a 2015-16 Watson Fellow, Isabella Banks ’15 will travel to countries where restorative justice has had success, acting as a participant-observer in these practices. Banks will interview individuals involved and evaluate the capacity of restorative alternatives to heal those affected by crime and reduce recidivism within each cultural context.

“In doing so, I hope to come closer to envisioning a perfect system of justice,” she said.

Her project, “Making Crime Personal: Restorative Alternatives to Criminal Justice” will allow her to study in New Zealand, Australia, England and South Africa.

Weitzman ’14 to Study Slam Poetry as Watson Fellow

 Emily Weitzman ’14

Emily Weitzman ’14 will travel around the world for one year under a prestigious Watson Fellowship studying slam poetry communities.

Emily Weitzman ’14, a double major in English and dance and an original member of Wesleyan’s slam poetry team (WeSlam), will travel around the world studying slam poetry, community and culture under a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship.

Weitzman plans to visit South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Nepal and Ireland to explore communities of slam poets. She was one of about 40 individuals this year to receive the prestigious fellowship, which comes with a $28,000 stipend for travel and independent study. She will begin her year-long journey by August 1.

“While my proposed topic is slam, something that I really love about the Watson is that it’s not so much about your project as it is about your experience while pursuing a project. The Watson says that they ‘pick people, not projects,’” she said. “Just like slam is a vehicle for sharing art, my project is a vehicle for experiencing the world, and the people and art across the globe. So for me, pursing this project is really about meeting new people, learning about diverse cultures, immersing myself in different places, and experiencing the art created in different communities. It’s also probably about a whole bunch of things that I don’t even know yet.”

Weitzman became interested in slam poetry during her freshman year at Wesleyan, when Michael Rosen ’11 founded WeSlam, a performance poetry team that competes regionally and nationally. Weitzman has been part of all four teams in WeSlam history that have competed in the College Union Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI); in 2011, she won “Best Persona Poem” for a group piece performed with Randyl Wilkerson ’12, and in 2012, won “Funniest Poem” for her poem “Couch.” (Watch a video of Weitzman performing “Couch” at the Yale Regionals in 2012).

Tratner ’12 to Study Educational Alternatives as Thomas Watson Fellow

Cara Tratner ’12 plays guitar in Algorrobo, Chile, where she studied abroad. Tratner, a sociology major, will travel to Peru, Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India as a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow.

Cara Tratner ’12 grew up in the dorms of Stanford University where her dad taught English. Immersed in academia from the start, she did not begin to question her educational privilege until her freshman year at Wesleyan.

“As I became aware of the unequal patterns of access to education in the U.S.,” Tratner comments, “I looked back at my own schooling in a different light, starting to think critically about the level of segregation even in my own ‘good’ high school, and the way in which my success as a student was to a certain extent dependent on the failure of so many others.”

After this realization, Tratner began exploring alternative models of education and working with educational organizations seeking to reach those excluded from the type of education she grew up with. She taught in diverse settings ranging from Philadelphia public middle schools to Argentinian high schools to Connecticut prisons.

Yet Tratner shares that her experience in these teaching positions only complicated her understanding, leaving her wondering how and when educational structures actually benefit the communities they serve. “In my teaching experience I struggled to determine whether alternative educational practices were truly built out of the needs of those communities, or whether they functioned more to integrate individuals into a standardized educational paradigm,” she says.

As a 2012-13 Thomas J. Watson Fellow, sociology major Tratner will explore the topic “Overcoming Exclusion: Community-Based Educational Alternatives” in a year-long “wanderjahr.” Tratner is one of only 40 Watson Fellows selected to follow her passion in a self-designed project in countries outside the U.S. The fellowship comes with a $25,000 stipend. “The Watson is a way for me to learn about the work of educators who aim to empower marginalized communities to construct their own education,” she says.

Tratner will begin her wanderjahr in Peru, where 70 percent of Peruvian children who live isolated in Andean mountain communities do not complete more than five years of school. She’ll also explore and compare the work of educators in Guatemala, Ghana, Uganda and India who are developing culturally-relevant education programs for communities that have been left out of the formal education system.

Tratner will examine how cultural context influences the pedagogical methods of the educational response in each region. She’ll explore the diverse ways educators around the world are seeking to solve the problem of educational exclusion.

“The wanderjahr is a perfect opportunity for me to see first-hand the incredible variety of innovative initiatives around the world aiming to create a culturally-relevant education,” she says. “If I can discover how educators are able to empower entire communities to construct their own model of education, I hope that I too will be able to locate myself within a global educational community and work to construct my own path as I step forward into the world of education.”

Watson Fellows Awarded Year Abroad for Independent Study

At left, Zully Adler and Davy Knittle received 2011-12 Thomas J. Watson Fellowships.

Zully Adler ’11 hopes to document cassette culture in five countries while Davy Knittle ’11 aims to explore the relationship between public space and location-based identity in three major cities.

As 2011-12 Thomas J. Watson Fellows, Adler and Knittle will have one year to travel outside the United States for an independent study. Each student receives a $25,000 stipend, which is funded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.

The Wesleyan students were among 148 finalists nominated this year to compete on the national level. Of those, only 40 were selected for a fellowship.

Adler, a history major focusing on European history, will travel to Malaysia, Australia, Mexico, Belgium and Sweden for his project titled, “Redubbing the World: Cassette Culture and the Power of DIY Production.”

Adler’s interest in cassette culture stems from running the student radio station in high school, where he hosted local musicians from the Los Angeles area. He observed that most musicians used cheap and recyclable cassette tapes to distribute their own releases and trade music with others.

Woskie ’10 Awarded Watson Fellowship to Research Community Health Workers

Liana Woskie '10, pictured in India, will return to the country next year as a Watson Fellow.

Liana Woskie ’10 believes that Community Health Workers (CHWs) can be effective and vital components of systems that serve the health needs of hard-to-reach populations. However, their success varies across cultures and program models. She wants to know why.

As a 2010 Watson Fellow, Liana Woskie ’10 will research CHWs systems through case studies of programs located in Bangladesh, Tanzania, India, Thailand and Lesotho. Woskie, a College of Social Studies major, is one of only 40 students in the world to receive a Watson Fellowship this year. The fellowship, which includes a $25,000 stipend, offers promising college graduates a year of independent, study and travel outside the U.S. in order to enhance their capacity for effective resourcefulness, leadership and participation in the world community.

Her project, “Bringing Primary Healthcare Home: The Community Health Worker” is designed to understand the structure and implementation of CHW networks from a community perspective.

“I hope to learn whether CHW programs were implemented in collaboration with their patient population and what the nature of their communication strategies has been with their given communities,” Woskie says. “Second, I intend to explore how they address cultural understandings of illness and disease in their trainings, curriculum and ultimately in their day-to-day outreach. “

Much of Woskie’s research will be performed