At a time when closed borders seem to dominate the news, academic exchange supported by the USA-run Fulbright Program continues to promote international collaboration and cultural understanding.
This year, UTS celebrates two alumni Fulbright Scholarship wins.
Bachelor of Business (Honours) alumnus Arjun Bisen is the recipient of the 2017 Fulbright Anne Wexler Scholarship in Public Policy. Bachelor of Communication and Bachelor of Laws (Honours) graduate Alison Whittaker (who’s also an academic in the Faculty of Law and Centre for the Advancement of Indigenous Knowledges) has received the 2017 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship.
For Bisen, currently working as a diplomat in Cambodia, the Fulbright Scholarship represents “a life-changing opportunity” to study a Master in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School in the USA.
“It gives me the chance to interact with renowned thought leaders, the space to unpack problems I’ve worked on as a foreign policy practitioner, and the resources to support my efforts,” he says.
“Navigating geopolitical power shifts in the Indo-Pacific region will be a central challenge for Australian diplomacy in the coming decades. I plan to research these dynamics and hope to propose practical responses to these challenges.”
For Whittaker, who finished her undergraduate degrees last year, the scholarship represents the next step in her academic journey.
“Having now learned the technical guts of Australian law, what I needed was more of the big picture; the dynamic and conceptual perspective,” she says.
“I had spoken to other Indigenous students who had gone to the States to study law, and when you examine the contexts, shared and distinct, between Indigenous Australians and Native Americans it’s clear we have much to learn from each other. It is crucial for us to share perspectives and expertise – especially on nation-building and treaty law as Australia now moves into treaty talks.”
Whittaker, a Gomeroi woman, will use the scholarship to complete the Harvard Law School’s Master of Laws program. It will, she says, enable her to continue researching contemporary forms of Indigenous lawmaking and its relationship to Indigenous self-determination and gendered violence.
While both Bisen and Whittaker forge ahead in their ambition to become future-ready leaders, these awards also represent huge personal achievements closer to home.
Says Whittaker, “The Fulbright Program is incredibly generous – but so is the 23 years of support I’ve had from my community up to now. I hope this will make me a better practitioner, researcher and advocate for my mob.”
Bisen agrees. “The scholarship also means a tremendous amount to my family who could not have imagined this when we moved to Australia in 1992. It has not always been an easy journey for us, so such opportunities are ones to savour!”