Harvard calling for two UTS Fulbright Scholars

30 March 2017

Two UTS graduates are Harvard-bound after being awarded prestigious Fulbright scholarships.

Two UTS graduates are among 31 Australian scholars who will be undertaking postgraduate studies at Harvard University in the United States as recipients of this year’s Fulbright Scholarships.

Alison Whittaker

Alison WhittakerLaw graduate Alison Whittaker (Bachelor of Arts in Communications (Writing & Cultural Studies Bachelor of Laws 2016) is the recipient of the 2017 Fulbright Indigenous Postgraduate Scholarship, while Arjun Bisen (Bachelor of Business (Honours) 2009) has received the 2017 Fulbright Anne Wexler Scholarship in Public Policy.

A Gomeroi woman from the regional town of Gunnedah in NSW, Alison will be embarking upon a Master of Laws (LLM) program at Harvard University thanks to the scholarship, where she will be exploring similarities and tensions in the enforcement and development of Indigenous lawmaking alongside emerging responses by Indigenous women against gendered violence.

"A Fulbright is an opportunity to extend and share reciprocal knowledge across the Pacific Ocean to Turtle Island (North America) in a time where collaboration between First Nations lawyers, scholars and thinkers is urgent and exciting," Alison said.

"The Fulbright lets me contribute to this, and to emerge from the program with perspective and a clearer vision for what is possible between law and Indigenous peoples, and what must be done. I hope this will make me a better practitioner, researcher and advocate for my mob.”

For Alison, the scholarship caps off a string of recent achievements which has included the launch of her debut poetry collection Lemons in the Chicken Wire in April last year, and she was also announced as the joint winner of the Judith Wright Poetry Prize for New and Emerging Poets in March.

Alison was also the inaugural recipient of the UTS Faculty of Law's Equity Scholarship and in 2015 was named the National Indigenous Law Student of the Year by the Federal Government.

UTS Indigenous law researcher Associate Professor Thalia Anthony predicts that Alison will make a global impact.

"She is already an accomplished writer and contributor to academic debate, with books and articles published in creative and intellectual fields," Associate Professor Anthony said.

"Alison worked with me on a project to enhance cultural competence at UTS Law (and) made an invaluable contribution that resulted in a co-authored a report that seeks to set the tone for engaging Indigenous perspectives in Law for years to come.”

"Alison's time studying in the US will poise her to become a leader in her field of study and research on Indigenous justice.”

Arjun Bisun

For Arjun Bisun, currently an Australian diplomat based in Cambodia, the scholarship will see him study a Master in Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy Centre.

He plans to research China’s relationship with “weak states”, the impact this relationship has on security in the Indo-Pacific region, and possible responses by Australian and US governments.

From left, 2017 Fulbright scholarship winner Arjun Bisen with Associate Prof Bronwen Dalton of UTS Business School and 2016 Fulbright scholar Dean Jarrett.

Arjun also wants to explore opportunities presented by emerging technologies and advances in behavioural sciences to improve the implementation of Australia’s foreign policy and deliver development outcomes.

Associate Professor Bronwen Dalton describes Arjun as “a sincere and compassionate person, motivated by a deep commitment to social justice”.

“There’s no doubt Arjun has the potential to make an outstanding contribution to the development of smarter foreign policy, and aid and development policy and practice, and significantly contribute to Australia’s future.”

Arjun’s Honours thesis looked at best practice in the microfinance sector in the Asia-Pacific. Microfinance is an economic development tool, with small loans being provided to people without access to traditional forms of finance. They might use the loan to purchase seed for a crop or other small business inputs, for example.

Associate Professor Dalton says Bisen applied his knowledge of microfinance by starting a project that helped Nepalese villagers pay their school fees by synchronizing loan repayment schedules with seasonal crop returns. “These changes resulted in a dramatic increase in enrolments in some schools,” she says.

In his Cambodia posting, Bisen has been involved in engagement in areas such as human rights, trade, disability aid programs and private sector development.

Presented by the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, 48 scholars (31 Australian, 17 American) officially received their Fulbright scholarships at the 2017 Fulbright Presentation Gala Dinner at Parliament House in Canberra in March.

Photo credits: Alison Whittaker by Jesse Taylor Photography / Arjun Bisun photo by Hoc Ngo