Watson Fellowship Taps Three John Jay Students

Watson Fellowship Taps Three John Jay Students

Watson Fellowship Taps Three John Jay Students

Three John Jay students — sophomores Jasmine Awad and Lisa Nishimura, and freshman Alexandra Shoneyin — have been selected for the 2017 cohort of the prestigious and highly competitive Jeanette K. Watson Fellowship program.

Awarded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation, the fellowships provide New York City undergraduates with three consecutive summers of fully-funded internship opportunities with leading nonprofit, for-profit, government, and law organizations. Coupled with workshops and seminars, the fellowships allow students to pursue a wide range of academic and personal interests to develop their personal, professional and cultural potential.

Watson Fellow Jasmine AwadAwad is a Criminal Justice major and Human Services minor who said she’s excited to explore her identity professionally, personally and academically. “I’m extremely excited, because I wanted to apply freshman year, but was discouraged because of how prestigious it is – I didn’t think I was good enough,” she said. But Awad was encouraged to apply by her close friend, 2016 Watson Fellow Kadeem Robinson.

Awad is an Honors student, a Student Council representative, and soon-to-be treasurer of the Youth Justice Club, where she advocates for juvenile justice awareness on campus.  She aspires to go to law school and has a special interest in cases involving wrongful convictions. “In 10 years I can picture myself in a courtroom, but it’s important to stay open. Go after all of your goals no matter what they are,” she said. Awad will start off her fellowship as the President’s Intern at the Institute of International Education.

Watson Fellow Alexandra ShoneyinAlexandra Shoneyin has yet to declare a major but is leaning toward English and Philosophy because, in her own words, “I feel like it’s a better lens to look at social issues in the world and learn more about myself.” Shoneyin plays guitar, is curious about filmmaking and rejects the idea of declaring what she wants to do with her life at such a young age.

“I think the Watson Fellowship gives people the power and the confidence to do whatever it is they want to do,” she said. “It’s like I’m at the bottom of the ladder and Watson is the ladder and my goals are on top. It gives me that extra push to pursue other opportunities.”

Shoneyin said her selection for the fellowship may have had something to do with how vulnerable she was in her application. “I went to a predominantly white high school and I thought I had to preserve my blackness,” she said. “I was angry, but I decided that I need to have an approach that unites people and creates discussion instead of violence and divisiveness.”

She insists on maintaining an attitude of openness in terms of how to pursue her social justice goals. “I want to create some sort of change,” she said. “It could be through law or policy, which could involve going to law school, or it could be through creating music that is social justice-oriented. It could also be though film or art, which helps people to heal and learn more about social issues.”

Shoneyin will serve as an education intern at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Both Shoneyin and Awad hail from Staten Island.

Watson Fellow Lisa NishimuraLisa Nishimura is currently a Criminology major, but is planning to create her own major through the CUNY B.A. program. She aims to study the Asian diaspora and Latin America, inspired by her experience being raised by a single Japanese mother in Manhattan’s predominantly Dominican neighborhood of Washington Heights. “People called me ‘China,’” she said, “and I didn’t grow up with my father [from El Salvador], so I never felt like I could own up to my Latina identity.”

At one point, Nishimura and her mother were homeless. “It’s a miracle that I’m still alive today,” she said. “It’s had a great impact on me because I know what it fees like to not have the tools or resources to succeed in the world. So I want to give back to my community and those who feel like they’re alone.”

Nishimura is president of the Women’s Empowerment Society, and said she wants to start a new multiculturalism club at John Jay to bring people together to talk about the experiences of being multiracial.

“For me, Watson is very unique in the sense that they push you out of your comfort zone,” she said. “You can try a field that you would never have thought of getting into and broaden you perspective. What I want to get out of this fellowship is a better sense of who I am as a person and how I identify myself.” 

Nishimura will start off her fellowship as a Culture and Inclusion intern at Foote, Cone & Belding, an advertising agency.