Berea College students Maria Alejandra Hernandez Diaz ’22 and Hunter McDavid ’22 have been named Thomas J. Watson Fellows.
The 54th Class of Watson Fellows was selected from just 41 private colleges and university partners across the United States. This year, 42 students were selected from a national pool of finalists in an extremely competitive process.
Each Watson Fellow receives $36,000 for 12 months of travel and college loan assistance as needed. Following their year abroad, Watson Fellows join a community of peers who provide a lifetime of support and inspiration. Berea College’s Fellows will travel to various continents to explore topics about which they are passionate.
During her Watson year, Diaz will explore “Plants as an Element of Cultural Identity” in Tanzania, Egypt, India, Indonesia and Colombia. She will engage with ethnobotanists, healers and botanical centers to understand the role of plants in different national identities. Awareness of connections in her own native Nicaragua sparked Diaz’s interest in identity formation.
McDavid will study “Nature-Based Interventions for Public Health” during his Watson year. He will spend three months each in Scotland, Japan, Australia and New Zealand as he studies the ways societies engage with nature in an effort to treat chronic diseases and mental health-related ailments.
The Watson Fellowship provides a year of international discovery for select graduating college seniors in any discipline. This year’s class comes from 21 states and eight countries.
Nearly 3,000 Watson Fellows have been named since the inaugural class in 1969. Berea has averaged one winner per year since becoming a Watson School in 1988.
A Watson Year provides fellows with an opportunity to test their aspirations and abilities through a personal project cultivated on an international scale. 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. Through one-of-a-kind programs, and more than 100 global partnerships, the Foundation 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.