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NPM-Fulbright Maori scholars graduate from Harvard

Fellow Fulbright-Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (NPM) Graduate Award recipients Dan Bidois and Natalie Coates are among the newest Harvard University graduates. The award enabled the two Maori scholars to attend the prestigious US university, which they say was a life-changing experience.

Dan (Tainui, Ngati Maniapoto) was the inaugural recipient of the award in 2010. Dan, who comes from Auckland, dropped out of school at 15 years old to work as a supermarket butcher before later completing Bachelors of Commerce and Arts at The University of Auckland. Natalie (Ngati Awa, Te Arawa, Tuhoe, Ngati Hine) was the 2011 recipient. She grew up in Te Teko in the Bay of Plenty and went onto study law and Maori at the University of Otago.

The Fulbright-NPM Graduate Award is granted for advanced academic study in the US. Only one award is given each year to a graduate student whose area of study fits within one of NPM’s research themes. The successful applicant must show academic excellence, leadership potential and the ability to be a cultural ambassador for New Zealand. Applications for the next Fulbright-NPM Graduate Award, to study or research in the US in the 2013-2014 academic year, close on 1st August 2012.

Natalie graduated with a one-year Master of Laws with a focus on human rights and social justice issues, while Dan completed a two-year Master in Public Policy, specialising in economics and finance. Both say their time at Harvard was rewarding professionally and personally.

Dan enjoyed the chance to travel widely, and made it a priority to get to know American culture and share his culture, organising Waitangi Day celebrations in his school both years.

“Apart from the obvious financial support, this award gave me a stronger sense of pride in New Zealand and in being Maori,” he says.

For his second-year research project, Dan worked with the New Zealand Ministry of Education to develop a new funding system for early childhood education. The aim of this project was to reduce the growth in early childhood education expenditure by government, while working to improve participation rates among M?ori and Pacific families.

Dan’s studies have led him to be appointed as a policy consultant in the Private Sector Development Division of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), based in Paris. He says once this contract finishes late 2013, he will return home and hopes long-term to be an economic leader, either in business or government.

Natalie says her time at Harvard was one of the most rewarding experiences of her life, not only in terms of being intellectually stimulating and challenging, but also from a social and personal perspective.

“The law programme brings together 180 students from 62 different countries from totally different backgrounds. I had the opportunity to go to Thailand with the Human Rights Clinic and spend some time in a Burmese refugee camp. This was incredible and I learnt the extent of the suffering some people are subjected to in the world. Being part of a project aimed at helping to alleviate some of that was extremely rewarding,” she says.

Natalie says it was humbling to receive the graduate award. “The Fulbright name carries a lot of mana that is recognised internationally, and for me, it was even more significant and special because it was the joint NPM-Fulbright award. It is a great honour to be acknowledged for showing promise and the ability to contribute to M?ori development in the future.”

Natalie recently returned to New Zealand and accepted a law lectureship offer from The University of Auckland.

The Fulbright-NPM Graduate Award is one of three exchange awards offered under a partnership between NPM, New Zealand’s Indigenous Centre of Research Excellence, and Fulbright New Zealand. For more information and to apply visit www.maramatanga.ac.nz

Nga Pae o te Maramatanga (NPM) is one of New Zealand’s seven Centres of Research Excellence and consists of 16 participating research entities and is hosted by The University of Auckland. NPM conducts research of relevance to Maori communities and is an important vehicle by which New Zealand continues to be a key player in global indigenous research and affairs. Its research is underpinned by the vision to realise the creative potential of Maori communities and to bring about positive change and transformation in the nation and wider world.

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