NEWS: Rice senior to receive prestigious Watson Fellowship

Rice University senior Jenny Wen is one of 40 students across the country awarded a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship. She will receive $25,000 for 12 months of world travel and independent study. Wen was chosen from 148 finalists culled from more than 700 candidates for the Watson Fellowship.

“This year’s fellows are a constellation of remarkable students whose ideas cross as many disciplines as national borders,” said Chris Kasabach, director of the Watson Foundation.

“For 45 years, this has been the hallmark of the Watson — a boundless year of purposeful, independent discovery that forever shapes a fellow’s view of themselves and the world around them.”

Rice is one of only 40 schools eligible to nominate students for the Watson Fellowship, said Caroline Quenemoen, Rice’s director of fellowships and undergraduate research.

“We’re grateful to the Watson Foundation for making it possible for our students to pursue their educational interests around the world.”

After Wen graduates from Rice in May, she plans to study female survivors of sexual assault in vastly different cultural, historical and social contexts to see how they navigate each region’s legal systems, cultural norms and health care resources to overcome obstacles and regain empowerment. She will visit Sweden, Turkey, South Africa, Indonesia, Japan and Peru to interview survivors, advocates, law enforcement and the survivors’ medical and legal counsel. She also will observe and participate in educational and awareness campaigns and lobbying efforts. She plans to share her experience via her blog and build a global partnership among advocacy organizations. After her Watson journey, Wen plans to earn an M.D. and a master’s degree in public health at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

“My dream is to become an obstetrician/gynecologist and a public health worker in an underdeveloped country,” said Wen, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in Rice’s Poverty, Justice and Human Capabilities (PJHC) program. “I want to serve underprivileged and battered women and implement initiatives that integrate the promotion of sexual and reproductive health, gender equality and advocacy against gender-based violence.”

Born in Beijing and raised in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., Wen came to Rice in 2009. On campus, she is an advocate for student health and wellness. She is the current co-president of Rice Health Advisers, a volunteer peer-education program on physical and mental health, and has been actively involved in Peer Academic Advisers, Orientation Week advising, the Student Association and government at her residential college — McMurtry College — which honored her with a service award two consecutive years.

The Thomas J. Watson Foundation was created in 1961 as a charitable trust by Mrs. Thomas Watson Sr. in honor of her late husband, the founder of IBM. The Watsons’ children established the fellowship program in 1968 in recognition of their parents’ long-standing interest in education and world affairs. More than 2,700 Watson Fellowships have been awarded.

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