This year, a passion to go global has given Wheaton College two more students with national awards. Selected from 700 candidates and 147 finalists, Adam Goldberg ’12 and Iraimi Mercado ’12 are the two out of the 40 national selected Watson Fellows for 2012-2013.
The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship is a grant supporting a one-year independent study outside of the United States for students with described “unusual promise”. The Watson Fellowship awards 25,000 dollars, or 35,000 dollars for those with a spouse or dependent children, to students to explore a topic that they have long been passionate about.
After participating in the Wheaton in Bhutan program in the first semester of his junior year, Goldberg ’12 found himself amazed by the culture and its emphasis on religion. In his project funded by the Watson Fellowship, he will study how Buddhism can be used as a vehicle to initiate social change. He plans to travel to Sri Lanka, India, Cambodia, and Thailand. The project also draws a parallel with what he learned at Wheaton through a self-initiated major in Conflict and Social Change.
“I learned most about myself [through the process]. The Watson requires that you reflect about yourself and explore what makes you, you. It demands that you ask yourself difficult questions and be unafraid to confront the honest answers,” said Goldberg.
Mercado seeks to use her Fellowship award to reward The Old Colony Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) in Brockton, MA by giving back to the youth community. She expressed that it was the YMCA that nurtured her ambition and ability to be successful. In her project, she will explore how YMCAs in different countries empower youth and the community as a whole.
She said, “As I wrote my personal statement, I learned a lot about myself and the different ways that I have grown over the years. I also learned that my journey has just begun, there is so much more that I want to do in the world.”
Both of the winners indicate that the Wheaton community has inspired them significantly. Roxanna Azari ’10, as a friend to Goldberg who also worked closely with Mercado, created a legacy of the Watson Fellowship at Wheaton. Inspired and encouraged by Azari, the two future winners decided to apply.
“Wheaton gave me the space and resources to develop my interests in peace and conflict, while helping me discover greater independence, both intellectual and practical. By the time I interviewed for the Watson, I was very familiar and confident in my abilities and experiences,” said Goldberg.
Mercado expressed that she had gained something quite different. “Wheaton enhanced my strength as a Watson applicant by helping me become stronger in my writing, verbal skills and critical thinking. I also believe that the opportunity to study abroad in Chile, the opportunity to grow as a leader and the supportive staff and faculty also strengthened me as a Watson applicant,” she said.
Currently, the two winners look forward to what the Watson Fellowship and life in general will bring them. While Mercado is considering working in public policy or going to graduate school, Goldberg hopes to continue pursuing international peace work. Although they have not yet set up long-term goals, they are sure that they will continue pursue their passion, wherever that may take them.