For the third time since 2014, a St. John’s University undergraduate has been awarded the prestigious Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship—a three-year, international internship program funded by the Thomas J. Watson Foundation.
“It was a little nerve-racking because I was the only freshman to apply for the fellowship,” said fellowship winner Johnny Wiley, a Government and Politics major from East Meadow, NY. “These are some of the top students in New York City, so it’s very gratifying to be selected.”
Johnny joins former St. John’s Watson winners Trevor Farland ’17C, a Government and Politics major who was granted a fellowship in 2014, and Sylvie Do-Vu, a Sociology and Anthropology double major who became a fellow in 2016 and plans to graduate in 2019. The fellowship was created to develop the personal, professional, and cultural lives of undergraduates from New York City partner colleges.
"Johnny’s dedication to fighting for social justice is the source of his drive to excel in school,” said David Rosenthal, Ph.D., Professor of Mathematics and Computer Science. As a member of St. John’s Watson Nomination Committee, Dr. Rosenthal worked closely with Johnny through the application process. “His desire to make a difference in the world has led him to an interdisciplinary approach to his studies, combining government and politics, sociology, and history. The JK Watson Fellowship is Johnny’s launchpad."
Each year, 15 fellows are provided with paid internships that are completed over three successive summers. The first internship must take place in New York City; the second can be anywhere in the US or abroad; and the final must be overseas. Fellows also participate in a variety of preprofessional and cultural activities and events.
Johnny has always considered himself a civic-minded individual. Before enrolling at St. John’s, he volunteered with a local voter registration effort, the NAACP, and a nonprofit organization that dealt with “zombie homes” in his community. As an undergraduate, he is involved in service-learning activities such as the Midnight Run.
“My dad used to say, ‘If you’re able to help someone along the way, then you didn’t live your life in vain,’” he recalled. “Throughout my life, I want to be there to help others.”
Through the fellowship, Johnny interned over the summer of 2017 at the international law firm Shearman & Sterling LLP. There, he worked on pro bono group cases involving wage theft, immigration, unaccompanied minors, and other areas. The experience helped to reinforce a lesson he learned at an early age.
“My parents always taught me you can do more with the law than you can with your fist,” he said. “Through my internship, I saw firsthand how to use the law as a weapon to fight for justice and promote social change.”