Caribbean and Latin American history, social justice, and a love of all immigrant populations are passions that fuel Keren Landron. A History major minoring in Government and Politics in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Keren was recently awarded a 2021 Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, a highly selective program in which winners are awarded three years of paid internships with leading organizations in the US and around the world.
A native of the Dominican Republic who immigrated to the US with her parents when she was two, Keren’s journey to the Watson Fellowship began when her advisor, Philip Misevich, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, suggested she might be a good fit for the program. He recommended her to Konrad T. Tuchscherer, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Department of History, and Director of External Scholarships and Fellowships.
“Keren has an immense appetite for knowledge and constantly seeks ways to satisfy her passionate interests. Her interests in Latin American and Caribbean history are rooted in a love of learning, but also in the intense emphasis she places on social justice,” Dr. Tuchscherer said. “She has a strong record of demonstrated leadership, including a research project designed to challenge the stereotypes of Haitian migrants within the Dominican community to which she belongs.”
Dr. Tuchscherer encouraged Keren to attend an information session about the program, but she never planned to apply for it, initially believing the competition too rigorous for her to succeed. “But if I didn’t try, then I would never know,” she stressed.
Keren was nominated for the Watson Fellowship by a committee of St. John’s faculty led by Dr. Tuchscherer and soon found herself meeting with the Watson Committee. She told committee members she possessed the flexibility to take on any challenge with which she was presented. On March 30, she received the happy news she won the fellowship. “It was the most amazing feeling.”
The Watson Committee gave Keren three organizations with which to interview: the New York City Emergency Management Department, the City of Miami Beach, FL, and the Aspen Institute in Colorado.
Currently, Keren is unsure which opportunity she will be offered, but believes it will likely be the Emergency Management Department since it is close to home, which is often the case for first-year Watson Fellows. There, Keren will likely be asked to provide copy for newsletters and announcements and will also shadow her supervisor. Because of COVID-19 protocols, most of the experience will be virtual, with the possibility of one day a week on site.
Upon arriving in the US, Keren’s family settled in Queens, NY, and when it came time to select a college, St. John’s was at the top of her list. “I didn’t see myself going away,” she recalled. “I love New York—why would I leave? I knew I would get a world-class education. My time here has been pretty amazing. I love being on campus. You really feel at peace here. It’s such a positive environment.”
Last semester, Keren volunteered at the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies (CLACS), teaching English to immigrants and non-English speakers. The experience, which Keren cites as her favorite thus far at St. John’s, caused her to reflect on the immigrant experience of her own family. “Having the opportunity to help people who came from the same situation as I did is so rewarding.”
Keren recalled an emotional experience with an elderly Dominican man who was grateful for the assistance she provided. “He said something that will stay with me forever. He said, ‘It’s so rewarding to see the younger generation of my people succeeding.’”
Keren hopes to combine her love of service and a desire to help immigrant populations and is considering obtaining a master’s degree in International Relations and then working as a research fellow for a think tank or an organization such as Human Rights Watch or the US Department of State.
“It has been so rewarding to give back and help, and, ultimately, that’s what I’d like to do: help as many people as I can. I feel like Watson will help me achieve that goal.”