Transcript of Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship Information Session Recording

Zach Bubolo:

Welcome to the Jeannette K Watson Fellowship Information Session!

For many of you, this may be the first time you’re learning about the Watson Fellowship. So let’s start with eligibility.

To apply for the Watson Fellowship, you must be a first-year student or sophomore with at least 4 semesters remaining, You must also be a U.S. citizen or green card holder; be no older than 21 on Feb 15, 2023; and be up-to-date on your COVID-19 vaccinations (including the most recent booster.)

Lastly, you should also be pursuing a liberal arts subject in school. We consider many subjects liberal arts- for instance, psychology, biology, sociology, English, anthropology, political science. Even computer science, business, pre-med or pre-law students are eligible to apply.

During the fellowship we’ll be asking you to try new things and challenge the assumptions you have about your career path and the world of work.

Therefore, if you are in a specific pre-professional program such as nursing, speech pathology or pharmacy where the curriculum of the program is very defined and designed to prepare you for one specific career, the Watson Fellowship may not be the best program for you.

You’ll notice we said that the fellowship would be appropriate for premed and prelaw students even though they are technically on a pre-professional track. In fact, we have found that students in these fields are good candidates for the fellowship because they have great leeway in both what they major in, and the experiences they engage in during the summers. Oftentimes they become interested in new paths through the fellowship, and even if they continue on a medical or law track, they can still have tremendously interesting and diverse experiences through the fellowship that medical and law schools are very impressed by.

Another example would be business majors. If you’re studying business and for the next three summers you only want to work in investment banking, that’s great, but the Watson Fellowship may not be the best choice for you. On the other hand, if you’re a business major and you're interested in exploring many things – investment banking, consulting, social entrepreneurship, sustainable finance, analytics, or any other business field, then the Watson would be the right program for you because you’ll have the opportunity to try many different things through the fellowship.

Your Watson Campus Advisor is the person at your school who you can speak to determine if the Watson fellowship will be the best program to support your goals. They can also give you access to our application and guide you so you have a great experience applying for the Watson Fellowship. Your Watson Campus Advisor can also help you if you need special access to apply. Here are the emails of all of our Watson Campus Advisors, which you can also find on our website on the “partners” page.

Let’s take a few minutes to talk about the components and benefits of the Watson Fellowship.

The Watson Fellowship is a three year program that provides unprecedented opportunities to remarkable first and second year students to expand their personal, professional and cultural growth.

What if you weren't sure what career you were interested in?

What if you have an idea about your future, but you're not certain how to get there or if there are other options you haven't considered?

What if you wanted to explore different paths but were concerned about what it would take?

You may want to take some risks, build your confidence, broaden your perspective, and develop your potential - but you may also be wondering how to go about it and what resources you’ll need.

Consider if you had mentors who were invested in your success, access to established contacts at top organizations, career opportunities throughout the US and abroad, and funding to support you...

Would you be more likely to reach higher with regard to your personal growth, to try new professional paths, to explore new cultures?

Now imagine you have 14 new friends that are going through the same experience you are - attending seminars that build confidence, getting advice from experienced mentors, trying different career paths, working in New York City, throughout the U.S. and abroad, exploring new cultures...

This is the Watson Fellowship.

At the core of the fellowship are three paid summer professional experiences such as internships with top organizations.

During your first Watson summer, you’ll intern in New York City at a Watson partner organization and earn $7,500. You’ll have an opportunity to submit your internship preferences to Watson and work with an organization that will support your professional growth. You can find a list of some of our diverse internship partners on our website.

Sasha Burshteyn:

In your second and third summers, you can work anywhere in the U.S., or the world based on your interests. At least one of these summers must be spent abroad. You’ll earn $9000 in your 2nd summer and $10,000 in your 3rd summer plus roundtrip airfare to get you to the city you want to work in.

During your 2nd or 3rd summer, you may choose to work with a Watson partner organization, or you may identify another organization you have a specific interest in and use your Watson funding to work there. This is called self-initiating and we’ll show you how to do that.

Given the ongoing public health crisis, you may be wondering if you can work in person or travel during the fellowship. At Watson, the health and safety of fellows is our top priority. As the COVID pandemic has evolved, so have our policies on in person work experiences and travel. With safety precautions in place including vaccinations, outdoor activities and masking, this summer fellows had opportunities to work in person, remotely or through hybrid arrangements, and to travel in the U.S. and abroad. As the public health situation changes the Watson Fellowship will remain both vigilant and flexible ensuring that you will get the most out of your fellowship experience while staying safe.

Let’s start by looking at a few examples of internships that fellows completed the past few summers:

  1. Working on documentary filmmaking at an award-winning media company in New York City
  2. Engaging in environmental activism in Alaska
  3. Working in investment banking and learning about sustainable finance in the UK
  4. Supporting immigrant communities through the mayor’s office of immigrant affairs
  5. Writing policy briefs on the state of healthcare in New Delhi, India
  6. Supporting women-owned businesses through microfinance at the Grameen Bank in Bangladesh
  7. Organizing human rights campaigns in London at Reporters without Borders

Other leading organizations that Watson Fellows interned with this summer include:

  1. The International Rescue Committee,
  2. Bloomberg,
  3. the Museum of the Moving Image,
  4. The Justice Centre Hong Kong,
  5. the NYC Mayor’s Office of Criminal Justice,
  6. And many others.

Another component of the fellowship is our seminar series which you will participate in each Friday during your first Watson summer, and on five Saturdays during the term time.

Our Watson seminars are interactive workshops that will give you a chance to explore your interests, identity, and values; and create a plan for your future in a supportive and collaborative environment.

Next is our cultural program. With our health and safety plan in place, this summer fellows attended a series of in person events that expanded their cultural potential. They learned African drumming and archery, cooked Lebanese food, attended a Broadway play and had a great time learning to sail up the Hudson river.

In addition to three paid summer internships, Watson Fellows are also provided additional funding to further their professional and cultural development through a $2000 Discovery Fund experience.

You can propose research, fieldwork, or an independent project-- you can attend a conference or even start an entrepreneurial venture. One of our fellows used her Discovery Fund and traveled to Greece during her winter break to develop her journalism skills by writing about the refugee crisis. She’s the managing editor of a magazine now! Fellows have also used their discovery fund to explore yoga practices, to meet with organizations in New Zealand that support community development and to create a podcast for Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation.

Next, throughout the fellowship you’ll benefit from the support of mentors invested in your success. From Watson staff, to internship supervisors to your Watson journal reader who you’ll correspond with throughout the summer, this personalized mentorship will support both your personal and professional growth.

And lastly, during your fellowship experience you’ll be learning alongside 14 other ambitious students in your Watson cohort, each with unique ideas and interests from one of our 12 NYC partner colleges. Like the Watson cohorts that came before you, you will become each other’s strongest source of support and friendship.

At this point, you may be wondering how you get selected for the Watson Fellowship?

Here are the 9 qualities we seek in a Watson Fellow. Let’s go through each one so you have a clear idea of what our selection criteria are:

High Standards: Do you pursue excellence in your communications and your performance at school, work, and extracurricular activities? Do you demonstrate strong flexibility and follow through?

Ambition: Do you have the drive to pursue expansive personal, professional and cultural experiences? Do you seek out knowledge about the things that interest you?

Openness: Do you welcome new ideas and points of view? Are you open to self-inquiry?

Desire to explore diverse cultures and new professional fields

Are you open to experiences that allow you to explore new cultures, professional fields, and career paths?

Willingness to act on feedback: Are you willing to incorporate feedback about your performance and interactions?

Leadership: Do you have the ability or potential to assess a situation, develop an approach and build a sustainable solution?

Ability to work in groups: Do you demonstrate inclusivity as you engage others to move an idea or issue forward?

Integrity & Accountability: Do you have strong character, take responsibility for yourself, and have a commitment to positive social change?

Strong academic record: There is no GPA minimum for the Watson Fellowship, however fellows should have a solid footing in their academic pursuits.

Those are our nine selection criteria for the Watson Fellowship. We’ve put all of the definitions of our selection criteria in the FAQ section of our website. We encourage you to review the definitions again and consider them as you complete your Watson application.

In addition to your contact information and a list of your extracurricular activities, this year, we have three relatively short essays on our application. Let’s go through them briefly now. But, we’ll be having another webinar on November 2nd and 3rd that you are welcome to attend where we will give you lots of tips on completing our application. To register for one of these sessions visit our website.

Zach Bubolo:

The first essay is 500 words. The prompt reads:

Take some time to research and identify a real, not widely known organization anywhere in the world working in a field or on an issue of deep intellectual, professional or personal curiosity to you. Write a cover letter to the organization. Include why you’re interested in them and why they should hire you as an intern based on your experience, skills and studies.

For this essay, you’re writing a cover letter to an organization introducing yourself and asking for the opportunity to intern with them. Avoid selecting organizations like the U.N. that everyone knows. Show us you’ve done some research to find an organization that most people haven’t heard of before; but one that’s doing great work in a field you’re interested in. It could be in another city or another country. Then write about why you are interested in their work and what relevant experience you can offer them; that could be classes you’ve taken, clubs you belong to, volunteer work you do, a job you had, or even a hobby you are passionate about that is relevant to the work they do. If you’ve never written a cover letter before, visit your campus career center and they can show you how.

The second essay is 250 words and reads:

Tell us a meaningful story about yourself from the past year or two that demonstrates one or more of the qualities of a Watson Fellow.

For this essay, go back to the definitions of our selection criteria on our website and pick one. Describe a specific example from your life that demonstrates how you embody that quality. It could be a time you used your leadership skills to accomplish something that would not have happened without you, or an example of openness when you changed your mind about an important issue after hearing a different perspective, or a time you pursued an experience that allowed you to explore a new culture.

Our final essay reads:

What are two distinct career paths you can see yourself pursuing in the future? For each career path, imagine yourself 10 years from now and briefly describe what your role is and a significant accomplishment.

This question asks you to imagine two different paths your career might take and what you might accomplish in 10 years. Think about an interest you have now and a career it could lead to. Then imagine yourself 10 years from now. What role would you have? What would you hope to have accomplished by then? What impact would you have wanted to make? Then do it again with a different interest and tell us about an alternative path you might take. You’ll have to be concise with your response since this essay has a 150-word limit.

In addition to your essays, to apply for the Watson Fellowship, you’ll need 2 recommendations. One of your recommenders should be a professor from your college.

If you are a first-year student and you have not had time to form a close relationship with a college professor yet, you may ask a teacher from your senior year of high school to complete the recommendation form.

Your other recommender can be someone else who knows you well recently like an Academic Advisor, work Supervisor, or Coach. Family or friends should not be recommenders.

In addition to your recommendations, you’ll need to submit a Resume, Transcript, and Photo.

Here are the steps to apply for the Watson Fellowship.

Email your Watson Campus Advisor and get access to the Watson application. Here are your Watson Campus Advisors. Remember, you can find out their contact information anytime by going to the “partners” page of our website.

Work with your advisor to complete the application. If you want a sounding board for ideas about your essays, or you’re wondering who you should ask to be a recommender, your advisor is a great person to ask. They won’t write your application, but they have tremendous experience advising students who are applying to fellowships like the Watson, and they want to see you succeed.

Next, choose recommenders and send them a link to their recommendation form.

Complete your application by your school’s internal deadline. Here are the deadlines for your schools. This is the date you need to have your application completed and submitted to your Watson Campus Advisor.

Your Watson campus advisor along with a committee on your campus will interview students who have successfully completed the application and they will nominate 4 students to Watson. Watson will interview all four nominees for a place in the fellowship. Interviews happen in March.

Remember: Your Watson campus advisor can answer any other questions you may have about the application and your school’s nomination process. The better they get to know you, the better they can help you.

This concludes our general Watson info session. On November 2 and 3 at 5:30 we will hold another session that focuses on completing the application including essay tips and samples. Both sessions will be the same, so choose the one that’s most convenient. Visit our website to sign up. We highly recommend that you attend.

We wish you a lot of luck in their school year and pursuing your own personal path, hopefully through the Watson Fellowship. We look forward to reading your applications and getting to know you better. Good Luck everyone.

End of Session.