Elizabeth Gilmartin '12 Receives Watson Fellowship

March 28, 2012

Wellesley College senior Beth Gilmartin is one of 40 students nationwide to be awarded a prestigious Thomas J. Watson Fellowship for 2012-13.

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 resourcefulness, imagination, openness, and leadership and to foster their participation in the world community. She will receive a $25,000 stipend for her year of exploration.

Gilmartin, an economics major from Milton, Mass., drew inspiration for her project, “The Power of Education to Change Lives: An Exploratory Odyssey,” from her own life experiences. During an internship at the Dandelion School in Beijing, she worked with migrant children who faced inordinate barriers to acquiring an education. Their struggle reflected her own—and she became inspired to seek out more exceptional learning communities around the world.

“As a person with dyslexia who encountered great difficulties learning to read until I found my way into an innovative school for the learning disabled, I believe in the power of education to transform the opportunities of disadvantaged people,” she says.

Gilmartin’s first stop will be the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy in South Africa, before she moves on to destinations in South Africa, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, and the United Kingdom.

“As a Watson Fellow, I will traverse Africa, Asia, and Europe to seek out some exceptional learning communities that aim to help young people overcome the obstacles they face due to social stigma of the caste system, learning and physical disabilities, or gender discrimination,” she says.

The Thomas J. Watson Fellowship Program was established in 1968 by the children of Thomas J. Watson, Sr., the founder of IBM, and his wife, Jeannette K. Watson, to honor their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. The Watson Foundation regards its investment in people as an effective long-term contribution to the global community.

This year’s Watson fellows will travel to 74 countries to study everything from women’s bike movements to the human toll of ocean acidification.

As Thomas J. Watson, Jr. said, "I think that better leadership is what is going to bring the United States to a kind of realism as to what our problems are and how we may solve them." To find out more about the fellowship, visit http://www.watsonfellowship.org.