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Bard College Students Win Prestigious Watson and Davis Awards

L: Alexis Parra ’18; R: Wilmary Rodriguez ’18, photo by Lexi Parra
Two Bard College seniors have won highly competitive awards for international travel.

Wilmary Rodriguez ’18 has been awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, which provides for a year of travel and exploration outside the United States. The fellowship offers college graduates of unusual promise a year of independent, purposeful exploration and travel—in international settings new to them—to enhance their capacity for resourcefulness, openness, and leadership and to foster their humane and effective participation in the world community. Each Watson Fellow receives a grant of $30,000 for 12 months of travel and independent study.

Rodriguez, from the Bronx, is one of 40 students in the nation who has received this honor for 2018–19. Inspired by her own experience in the New York City foster care system and her passion for stories, Rodriguez will travel to Singapore, South Africa, India, and Costa Rica, where she will engage with children, families, and communities in the foster care system in order to explore how storytelling affects these systems and how these systems, in turn, influence peoples’ stories.

“My mission is not to change stories and lives but rather to explore them,” says Rodriguez. “I want to explore these countries with an open mind, open eyes, open ears, and open heart. One can always hope to cause some collateral good, but my mission is primarily exploration and not salvation.”

Alexis Parra ’18 has won a 2018 Davis Projects for Peace prize. Projects for Peace was established in 2007 through the generosity of Kathryn W. Davis, a lifelong internationalist and philanthropist who believed that today’s youth—tomorrow’s leaders—ought to be challenged to formulate and test their own ideas. Parra, who is from St. Paul, Minnesota, will receive $10,000 to spend the summer in her family’s home country of Venezuela, where she will work with a local arts collective to implement her project, “Truth in Image Making: Empowering Caracas’ Youth through the Art of Photography.”

Parra will facilitate a workshop for young Venezuelans to learn photographic techniques, explore new equipment, and discover how they want to represent themselves and their stories—not as they are represented in press coverage of Venezuela’s socioeconomic and political crisis but as they see themselves. The workshop will culminate in an exhibition of their photographs, and funds provided by the Davis prize will allow a local arts collective to continue Parra’s work beyond her stay in Caracas.

“Through exploring photography and the process of image making, interested youth will hopefully find their agency, further engage their creativity, and share their narratives in a time when the world is seeing them not as who they are, but as symbols of what the government or the crisis represents,” says Parra. “Not only will they combat this lack of representation, but they will cultivate a space for the storytelling and understanding which, in a time of crisis, are vital to peace building.”
Post Date: 03-20-2018