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Bard College Senior Wins Prestigious Watson Travel Fellowship

Mark Primoff
 Image Credit: Lexi Parra
Bard College senior 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, imagination, 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.

Wilmary Rodriguez, from the Bronx, New York, 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. Rodriguez hopes to form deep connections in these communities. Once trust is established, she plans to lead writing workshops, and as trust deepens, share her story and inspire them to explore their own.

“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.”

Over the past several years, 18 Bard seniors have received Watson fellowships: Harry Johnson ’17 and Jordana Rubenstein-Edberg ’17 (2017–18); Annie Trowbridge (2015–16) Jose Agustin Sanchez (2013–14); Daniela Anderson (2012–13); Jeremy Carter-Gordon (2011–12); Tallesin Gilkes-Bower (2010–11); Christopher Herring and David Martin (2008–09); Gabriel Harrell and Kathryn Newman (2007–08); Christophe Chung and Jonathan Helfgott (2006–07); Yishay Garbasz and Nguyen Nguyen (2004–05); Emily McNair and Vincent Valdmanis (2003–04); and Miya Buxton (2002–03).

A Watson year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations, abilities, and perseverance through a personal project that is cultivated on an international scale. Watson Fellows have gone on to become international leaders in their fields, including CEOs of major corporations, college presidents, MacArthur “genius” grant recipients, diplomats, artists, lawyers, doctors, faculty, journalists, and many renowned researchers and innovators.

For further information about the Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program, visit or contact the foundation at or 212-245-8859.

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This event was last updated on 03-30-2018