The Watson Institute Experience: An Interview with Miarri Philipps

Nov 24, 2021
Miarri (top row, second from left) during the Watson Institute’s in-person gathering at Jane Miller’s house.

The Watson Institute Fellowship, a unique higher education program for social entrepreneurs, offers several full-ride fellowships each semester for gap year students, undergraduates, or recent graduates that include full tuition and housing. Fellowships are available in both the fall and spring semesters. There are multiple programs with different deadlines. 

We talked to Miarri Philipps, a current Watson Institute Fellow, to learn more about the program and get some application tips.  

1. What inspired you to apply for the Watson Institute Fellowship? 

I discovered the Watson Institute Fellowship from an email that I received from ProFellow. After reading the description I was immediately hooked and knew that I needed to be a part of this program. I became more inspired to apply for the Watson Institute Fellowship because I have always been passionate about social justice and how I can contribute to the reimaging process of new systems that are revolutionary. I have experience in both the nonprofit sector and entrepreneurship industries so I resonated with the mission and vision of the Watson Institute. The pandemic reminded us all of the injustices that existed within the country and the lack of attention and action that attempted to conquer or even lend a hand to solving these problems. I wanted the opportunity to be granted with the right resources and connections to make a small contribution to the areas that I was dedicated to. I hoped to gain adequate support to successfully launch specific initiatives of my venture. I was excited to be a part of a global cohort and learn and connect with individuals from around the world.

Miarri (standing, third from left) representing Watson at the Africa Summit as a Table Leader discussing Partnerships

2. What have been some of the most eye-opening moments during your fellowship? 

The most eye-opening experiences throughout this process are how enjoyable and meaningful that the assignments are. The assignment that I found the most intriguing was writing a grant from scratch during Funder’s Week. I was really able to immerse myself in this assignment, and I learned a lot about the grantwriting process. The classes are hands-on and encourage creative thinking, making the dialogue more inclusive because of the diversity of thought within the classroom. 

I came into Watson as a free-agent scholar, meaning that I didn’t have a venture and that I was willing to collaborate with another scholar to help them with their idea. After starting the program I was so inspired that I wanted to expand on a project that I had previously implemented, called Green Goddess.

 The typical week consists of  All Hands on Deck, a community check-in highlighting the highs and lows of the week. The core classes are Transformative Entrepreneurship- venture creation, Transformation Action- personal development, and Lab- business acumen and skill acquisition. We end the week with Master Courses,s which is a great way to learn from experts and ask questions about the work that they have done within their respective fields. 

I have had many unique experiences throughout my current time at Watson Institute. My top three would be being able to have an in-person gathering at the home of Jane Miller, who is a Board Chair for Watson and former CEO of Lily’s Sweets. I also appreciated being able to have an intimate braintrust with Mike Miles a  Board Member of Watson and a retired executive of Mircosoft. Additionally, representing Watson at the Africa Summit where I got to be a Table Leader and discuss partnerships was a wonderful networking opportunity, and I was able to strengthen my facilitation skills. 

Miarri with Audrey Miller, the Operations Coordinator, at Rocky Mountain National Park

3. What tips would you give others applying to the Watson Institute Fellowship? 

The application is a multi-step process. It is important to be transparent and detailed when explaining why you are interested in this fellowship. When explaining your venture, idea, or a problem that you want to work on during this time, it is important to provide as much knowledge about the topic as possible, as the more information you have the better understanding the team will have in regards to what you are trying to solve. Also, include why you are unique in addressing this problem and what would make you stand out from other applicants that may be addressing the same issues. 

Some interview tips I would give a prospective applicant who has been granted an interview is to be on time in a quiet setting. Dress appropriately for the interview, whatever that indicates within your culture. Be prepared to discuss your venture and passions. 

Last but not least, ask questions about the program beyond financial aid. Watson is looking for two types of candidates, those in the idea-stage or the prototyping stage, and the program is made for students who are looking to solve the world’s greatest challenges through the crossroads between entrepreneurship and impact. Students in this program are driven to action by a passion to make a difference while designing, validating, and launching impact-focused ventures. The second ideal candidate has a passion for a particular issue or set of challenges but is not sure how to tackle them. This program is built for students looking to launch a multi-layered career with impact at its core and provides training in business and entrepreneurship.

Miarri Phillips is a junior at Bowling Green State University with an anticipated graduation date of May 2023, where she is currently studying both psychology and sociology. She is a highly motivated individual passionate about social justice and has an intense drive to create change in areas that she recognizes. Miarri is actively involved in both her communities, starting with Rochester, New York, to her Ohio campus. She is a beacon for change and a natural-born leader taking on any task and amplifying others’ voices to see a more significant impact. Miarri was a Teaching Assistant and Cohort Coordinator for a Leadership Program. She has held several executive positions that educate others on the importance of active citizenship and civic engagement. She is notorious for her creative ideas and serves as the Outreach and Engagement  Chair for a nonprofit called Millenials 4 Environmental Justice. Phillips is also a Cities United Fellow, taking a public health approach to gun violence. Miarri has had four internships and is always looking to implement her experiences into stepping blocks for future generations after her. Her love for nature stems from attending summer camps that she attended as a young child, where she taught herself how to swim. She fell in love with nature and realized a connection to the outdoors. Miarri enjoys activities such as hiking, biking, and even ziplining. This is how Green Goddess was developed.

Interested in applying? Bookmark the Watson Institute Fellowship to your ProFellow account.

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