Alumni Stories

Seventy Years Ago

By Bruce Holloway, 1950 Fulbright Scholar

Speaking to the 2019 Fulbright Awardees

In late 1949 or early 1950 I saw an advertisement for Fulbright awards on a noticeboard of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute in Adelaide where I was working as a plant pathologist.  I had graduated with an Honours Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Adelaide, majoring in Botany and was doing a Master of Science degree at the time.  I had become interested in genetics, but at that time no Australian university had a Department of Genetics so study opportunities in this subject were limited.  A noted American botanist, James Bonner, had recently given several lectures at the University of Adelaide and I had taken the opportunity to speak to him.  He told me that his home institution, the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) was strong in genetics and my reading in genetics had included research workers from there.  I applied for a Fulbright scholarship naming Caltech as my preferred place of study.

In July 1950 I learnt that I had been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship which covered my travel, a Smith-Mundt award which provided living costs and a Caltech scholarship to pay tuition, all to cover a year’s study.  At that time there was no passenger shipping between Australia and North America, so I travelled by air, Adelaide – Melbourne –  Sydney – Fiji – Canton Island – Hawaii – San Francisco – Los Angeles using three different airlines.  This was a very exotic experience for me as international air travel at that time was uncommon and expensive.

I arrived in Pasadena early in September 1950 and enrolled for a Master’s degree.  During the next twelve months I was awarded a McCallum Foundation scholarship which covered all my living and tuition costs for another year, enabling me to complete a Ph.D. with a major in genetics and a minor in plant physiology.  When I decided to study at Caltech, I was unaware of the very high standards of entry.  Caltech had a total of 500 undergraduates and 700 graduate students and only took about 10% of applicants.  My fellow graduate students were all very talented and this was both challenging and stimulating.  Even more impressive was the high quality of the academic staff of the Biology Division at Caltech.  Of the staff there during my time, three geneticists, including my supervisor George Beadle, all subsequently won the Nobel Prize.

One of the interesting experiences during my time at Caltech was to find out I was required to register for military training.  It was the time of the Korean War and America had compulsory military training for males between the age of 18 and 26.  I needed to attend the Pasadena Draft Board and be issued with a Draft Card which I had to carry at all times.  At first I was classified 1A which meant liable to immediate call up.  I would be given two options – either join the US Army or leave the country immediately.  After a year or so, my classification was changed to 1F which meant I was less liable to call up.  When I was ready to leave the US, I had to get the permission of my Draft Board to leave the country and with my visa expiring, my money running out and my travel reservations made, I did receive such permission two days before I had planned to leave.

I returned to Australia in late 1952 to take up a Research Fellow position in the John Curtin School of Medicine at the Australian National University.  This was very early days for the ANU and I spent the first six months working at Fairfield Hospital in Melbourne waiting for the laboratories to be finished.  At the ANU I had the good fortune to be able to choose my own research topic, the genetics of the bacterium Pseudomonas, and this turned out to be a career long activity.  My experiences at Caltech had shown me the value of the American approach to research and I felt encouraged to initiate research collaborations with American workers.  This pattern continued throughout my career.  Over time, I had the good fortune to receive a number of visiting research invitations to various American universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley. After I left the ANU, I had positions at first the University of Melbourne and later Monash University where I was appointed Foundation Professor of Genetics. At both locations I had American scientists come to work in my laboratory.  For 14 years I was a consultant for an established biotechnology corporation in New Jersey.

Collaboration at a distance in those early years had problems that today simply do not exist.  There was no internet, email, Google, Skype or Microsoft Word.  Communication was almost exclusively by airmail.  Letters and manuscripts were typed by office staff.  A letter sent from either the USA or Australia took at least two weeks for a reply to be received.  International phone calls were prohibitively expensive and it was not until the 1980’s that telex became common and then it was good for only a few pages.

I firmly believe that my Fulbright grant created the opportunity for me to have an active and rewarding academic and research career.  My progress would have been more difficult without the connections that the grant enabled me to initiate over a long period of time with the American research and academic community.

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Navigating Beyond the Subject Matter

By David Rawson, 2016 Fulbright Scholar

With Former Harvard School of Education Dean Jim Ryan

Despite a steady stream of educational reform over the years, classrooms have not changed considerably from the age of the one-room schoolhouse of the 1800s. What have shifted—against a backdrop of unprecedented accountabilities—are the increased demands on teachers’ time. My own experiences in schools have raised questions for me around teacher sustainability and the need for teaching and assessment practices which might foster it. These questions, and my understanding that the transformative potential of education has always been at the heart of J. William Fulbright’s vision, gave rise to my Fulbright project.

My first days in the U.S. were spent alongside sixty other Fulbrighters from around the globe at a Gateway Program in Miami. Among the bustling crowds along the Port of Miami and the sidewalks overlooking the spectacular art on the Wynwood Walls, I found a like-minded group of people, and realised that the Fulbright program extends far and wide, and that I would be connected to this diverse and inclusive family for life. This “little bit of friendship,” in the words of the venerable Senator, set the scene for a remarkable year of exchange.

I didn’t realise at that time how much—in the middle of a Boston blizzard—I would come to crave that sun-drenched sand of South Beach. I had never even seen snow let alone trudged through it up to my knees. Climate aside, I quickly made my home in Cambridge, Massachusetts and learned a great deal about classroom pedagogy and teacher leadership from thought leaders in the field. The learning ran deeper than the lessons in the course outline. My grant enabled me to observe exceptional teachers creating rigorous and engaging learning experiences every day. Sometimes I was the learner, put through my paces as I grappled with unfamiliar concepts in organisational management and critical race theory. And sometimes I was a fly on the wall, watching from the back corner of the room as teachers developed affirming classroom communities with the provision for critique. Every day, I took note of the subtle manoeuvres that made the teaching look seamless and the learning an actual joy.

When the opportunity arose to visit classrooms and colleagues beyond Boston, I did. Thanks to the Gregory Swartz Traveling Grant, I flew to Illinois to visit Professor Mary Kalantzis, an Australian researcher working at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and herself a Fulbright alumna. I had studied Professor Kalantzis’ work in my undergraduate career, so meeting her was a highlight of my time in the U.S. I was treated to two days of meetings with half of the Education Faculty. They generously took the time to engage with me around my questions and ideas, and helped me to better understand the American educational climate. I was overwhelmed by offers of research collaborations and learned the true extent to the possibilities afforded by the Fulbright brand.

I should not have been surprised that others wanted to know my thoughts about education: it is dialogue, after all, that is at the heart of exchange. While I learned a great deal from my American colleagues, I was also encouraged to share some of what makes education at home unique. Under the mentorship of Harvard’s own educational assessment expert, Professor Daniel Koretz, I was even able to present a guest lecture in his Spring course about assessment in Queensland schools. Many of my classmates took hope from the possibility of an assessment future less shackled to standardised assessment.

My classroom at Brisbane Girls Grammar School benefits from all that I learned on my Fulbright grant. I now create the time and space to follow students down the rabbit-holes of their thinking, helping them to wrestle with their wonderful ideas. I have also focused on developing more robust and collaborative classroom discussions, less about me as the teacher showing what I can do, and more about students developing each other’s insights. I am a more confident teacher now, and one who recognises the centrality of relationships to any learning experience.

My exchange wasn’t all books and classrooms. I visited important revolutionary sites in Boston and Philadelphia, toured sacred lands with traditional landowners in Arizona, explored Washington D.C. with a Fulbrighter from Fiji, and even ran with the sled dogs under the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, Alaska. The vast array of possibilities that my Fulbright grant offered me were virtually limitless, and allowed me to grow not only in my capacity as a teacher, but also in my awareness of the world around me.

Looking back, I realise how close it all came to never getting off the ground. Teachers are taught to be selfless, and I had told myself that I would be letting my students down to chase after “a pipe dream.” Ultimately, I have come to realise that our students need to see their teachers chase after their goals and model a life of learning. My Fulbright year has been a fillip of sorts, motivating me to develop and propound a repertoire of practices that support my twin goals of student learning and teacher sustainability. More particularly, the year has reiterated for me that being an exceptional teacher—whether in Brooklyn or Brisbane—means recognising that the work extends beyond conveying subject knowledge. It means, just like many of my own teachers, inspiring young people to think for themselves, and creating opportunities for them to discover and pursue their passions wholeheartedly.

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Embarrassing Moments in (my) Fulbright History

By Eliza Howard, 2005 Fulbright Scholar

Receiving a Fulbright was—and remains—one of the proudest moments of my life. I am still grateful to those who chose me for this incredible experience, but to this day I still sometimes think that the committee got it wrong. Suffering from a massive bout of ‘imposter syndrome’, I initially thought that they had mislabelled the envelopes when I received my award. (I do realise that receiving the news by post dates me slightly, by the way.) But when I realised that I had in fact received a Fulbright, I was overwhelmed at the fact that perhaps they thought I was the type of person they were looking for.

The promotional brochures and website showed a more professional side of the award—pictures of lovely people meeting serious movers-and-shakers. In the end, I did collect some of these pictures myself. But there were many more moments of ‘What am I doing?’ and ‘What did I just do?’ Perhaps insights of my tales of woe will be helpful to those of you who initially think that maybe they picked the wrong person.

I left for my Fulbright experience (‘nerd safari’) ten months after receiving word of my award. By then, I had gone through the usual inductions, met the others in my year who I thought were terribly intelligent—far more so than me. But I also felt that maybe I did belong. After all, even though I wasn’t curing cancer, I was passionate about my topic area (nuclear non-proliferation policy) and was the type of person who would throw themselves into the Fulbright arena with a ridiculous amount of enthusiasm and energy. Little did I know how literally I would do this.

My first conference in my new hometown of Washington DC was held at the venerable Ronald Reagan Building at the International Trade Center. It was a major conference on nuclear issues with about 1500 attendees, all of whom had gathered in the foyer for a pre-conference stand-up breakfast on the first morning. I arrived when the room was buzzing with people. Many dark grey suits, some Very Serious Looking Babysitters with ear pieces, and their respective politicians and diplomats. 25-year-old me observed the scene from the top of a very tall staircase for a few seconds. Hands full, I started to descend.

All went well until I lost my footing about halfway down the flight of stairs. Tumbling onto my hands and then gliding as if I was on the world’s worst slip-and-slide, I managed to spill the entire contents of my folder and handbag over the stairs and floor. A silence descended around the cavernous foyer. When I looked up, realising that I had not been seriously harmed (but for my ego!) the attendees commenced their chatter, barely skipping a beat. I then realised I had fallen at someone’s feet. My eyes met his almost as if in a romantic novel. Almost.

‘Oh no…’ (Not the exact words that came to mind, but the most accurate I can publish here.)

As I weakly smiled up at Robert McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense, youngest ever president of both the Ford Motor Corporation and the World Bank, he literally rolled his eyes at me and walked away. So did his security detail.

Now in this post-thesis age I would have asserted my feminist self and berated them both for not helping me up. In those days, all I could think about was ‘thesis, thesis, thesis.’ And at that moment, I knew that I had blown any chance of ever interviewing Robert McNamara. My immediate consolation came, though, in the form of him being much shorter than I ever imagined.

All of this was dutifully recorded in the blog I kept at the time. Little did I know, the blog was also going to be the cause of some amusing hot water when the Washington Post Express highlighted my musings in detail a few months later.

For some time, my trivial insights on living in Washington DC had largely been ignored by the commuter version of the Very Serious Newspaper. But when the US government temporarily banned travellers from importing products with added folate, that’s when my Generation X faux-rage got the better of me and I had to say something. After all, Vegemite had added folate, and this meant the steady supply crossing the border to my mouth would eventually cease. I did in response what any blogger would do at the time, writing about my criminal inclinations in the wake of this absolute scandal.

“I am now a bootlegger!” I declared, as I invited the citizens of the District of Columbia to each try a sample of my newly illegal imports. After a significant increase of hits on my blog from unidentifiable sources in Virginia (cough, cough), to assuage my fears I made a quick visit to the one neighbour who refused to tell me exactly what they did for a living. They assured me that the feds were probably just having a laugh and not to worry. Fortunately, the Fulbright Commission in Australia also saw the funny side of this post and did not arrange to have my visa cancelled.

These laughable moments are two of the more ‘Strange’[i] incidents of my time as a Fulbright scholar. Although I still see myself as more of non-conformist, I feel no less a part of the Fulbright community. Advocating for the cause of international education and scholarship brings me immense pleasure, and I still enjoy mentoring new Fulbright scholars and greeting those from abroad. I hope this association is lifelong.

And in case you were wondering, nobody took up the offer to try my Vegemite.

[i] Only true United States history buffs will get this reference. See

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My Mythical Journey Around the World

By Elizabeth Hale, 1994 Fulbright Scholar

As a child in New Zealand I loved reading myths, legends, and fairy tales. I loved the idea of stories told, and shared, by ordinary people from around the world: the talking yams of African myth, the dragons of Wales, the Maori Taniwha, and the rainbow serpent of Australia.  They’re stories that have echoes in the landscape, explain how the stars came to be, and show the magic lurking within the mundane. And while I loved reading generally (especially novels) I studied languages at high school (Latin, French, German) drawn to them by an interest in other cultures, and an appreciation of the people who taught them.

When I went to university at the University of Otago, it was with vague thoughts of going into interpreting. But I got hooked on studying literature as a subject in itself, and on ancient languages—Latin, Anglo-Saxon, Old Norse.  I loved the curious stories from ancient cultures, and the way that they live on in modern retellings, adaptations, and allusions.  I also got hooked on nineteenth-century novels, their rolling sentences and exploration of the process of how we become the people we are.  I did a double Honours degree at the University of Otago, in English (1992) and Latin (1993).  And I wanted to continue my studies.

I liked the look of the American system, with its combination of course work and apprentice teaching before embarking on writing the dissertation, and so I applied to graduate programs in the US.  I was offered a four-year scholarship in the Department of English and American Literature at Brandeis University, in Waltham Massachusetts.  I also applied for a Fulbright scholarship through the New Zealand office, and was awarded one.  It covered my travel expenses and health insurance, which was most welcome, and perhaps more importantly gave me access to a network of other international students, and to some wonderful friendships.

At Brandeis, with the support of my excellent supervisor Susan Staves, I drew together my interest in classics and in nineteenth-century literature, and wrote my doctoral dissertation on the representation of classical scholars in nineteenth-century novels. I discovered a surprising amount of them in nineteenth-century children’s literature, and as I worked on the thesis I rediscovered my childhood enjoyment of myths, legends, folktales, and children’s literature more generally.  I started reading children’s literature seriously.

When I graduated, as well as publishing on topics in nineteenth-century literature, I also put together collections of essays on New Zealand writers whose work had inspired me as a young reader.  These books drew scholarly attention to previously under-examined writers, and also provided venues for established and emerging scholars to write in a new field.

Meanwhile I took a lecturing job in Australia, at the University of New England. It is a university that offers flexible study for students of all backgrounds—many of our students are first-in-family, are returning to study after raising families, or seeking changes in career, or are simply fitting their study into a busy work schedule.  I enjoy working with this diverse cohort, and am impressed by their commitment to study.

At UNE I found myself delighted by the vibrancy of Australian children’s literature, which is lively, quirky, funny, provocative, deep, and soulful. I started working with local writers and illustrators, bringing them on residencies to Armidale, the town where UNE is situated. Through my encounters with them, I discovered both how much I enjoy working with creative people, and how valuable it is to help promote and share the work of emerging creators.

Drawing these threads together—children’s literature, classics, creativity—is my current work as coordinator of the Australasian Wing of the Our Mythical Childhood project.  The project is funded through the European Research Council’s Horizon 2020 initiative (ERC Consolidator Grant); the leader, Prof. Katarzyna Marciniak (Faculty of “Artes Liberales”, University of Warsaw) had approached me to collaborate with her in 2012, based on our shared interest in classical antiquity as it appears in children’s literature.  The Our Mythical Childhood project is massive, involving five Universities, with team members in Poland, Australia, Cameroon, Israel, and the UK, who pursue individual tasks and shared work.

The shared focus of Our Mythical Childhood is developing a comprehensive online survey of global children’s culture inspired by Classical antiquity.   We find texts that retell elements of ancient Greek and Roman culture, summarize and analyse them, and publish our findings in the Our Mythical Childhood survey.  Entries are tagged by themes, dates, and countries, and the aim is to provide a comprehensive picture of the contemporary works of children’s culture that are presenting classical antiquity to young audiences. So far, the project has uploaded information about nearly 600 texts, including books, film and tv, games, toys, and more.  I oversee the Australasian wing, focusing as much as possible on material from the Asia-Pacific and the Southern Hemisphere.  You can see some of my thinking about what we find in my blog: Antipodean Odyssey: Explorations in Children’s Culture and Classical Reception.  

For this project, too, with my collaborator, Miriam Riverlea (Phd, Monash University), I am writing a Guide to Classical Reception in Children’s Literature, providing an overview of the field, and offering tips on how to navigate it: showing how children’s culture brings ancient into contact with modern, and shapes our understanding of the classical world.  Ask a classicist what sparked their interest in the subject, and chances they will say it was a childhood encounter with myth, history, archaeology, and more, through books, games, or tv shows that set them on this path.

As a young Fulbrighter at Brandeis, I didn’t know that my studies and scholarly life would take me on this path, or that my childhood interests would come roaring back in the way they have, so satisfyingly. The skills, connections, and encouragement I gained, however, have taken me on a Mythical journey around the world.

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A Scientist’s Creative Career Experiment

By Ariel Marcy, 2015 Fulbright Scholar

Ali, Ariel, and Kate at the 2015 Australian Mammal Society conference in Hobart, Tasmania.

The three of us trekked, stretching our legs after a lengthy car ride from Brisbane to Lamington National Park. I liked that the Park shared its name with the dessert traditionally used to welcome people to Australia. This trek was my welcoming to Australia by labmates and soon-to-be-friends, Kate and Ali. They were the kind of Aussies who wore hiking boots as regular shoes on an oppressive 35 degree (95 F) day.

This was one of the first things I noticed about them when I joined Dr Vera Weisbecker’s lab as a Fulbright Scholar. They were Honours students and together we were studying Australia’s bizarre mammals. Ali was asking, can a new lab technique improve brain evolution research? Kate was asking, why are there no flying kangaroos? I was asking, can Fulbright help me balance science and educational game design?

Trekking friends (L->R: Kate, John, Ali, Bec, Tash)

The trail flattened out and we took a water break. The conversation turned to US national parks, so I brought up California’s Yosemite.
“Huh,” said Kate, “I’ve never heard of that one.”
“Well,” I replied, “It’s most famous for Half Dome and El Capitan–”
“Oooooh! You mean Yo-za-mite!” Kate’s pronunciation rhymed with Vegemite. I laughed, “Oh, no, sorry, we say it, ‘Yo-sem-it-tee’!” And then everybody cracked it.

Playing Go Extinct! with the mammal curators of Museum Victoria in Melbourne

My career tracks west: a childhood obsession with bones and biology propelled me from Vermont to California. In California, I pursued my game design dreams with a successful Kickstarter for my board game about evolution, Go Extinct! This career aspiration to be a scientist who teaches science with games drew me west, again, to Australia. My Fulbright year would be the first time I would try to be a game-designing scientist.

My Fulbright research focused on Australia’s monotremes, the egg-laying mammals. Their egg-laying reminds us that all mammals evolved from a lizard-like ancestor roughly 312 million years ago. My specialty is measuring an animal’s shape, which both natural selection and development impact. I wanted to know if echidnas digging in soft soils were shaped differently from those digging in hard soils (natural selection) and if egg-laying (development) impacted this? In California, I had collected similar data on gophers, digging mammals that give birth.

Echidna bones in the Western Australian Museum collections in Perth

Despite the hiking boots worn to lab, my labmates and I did not do field work. Instead, we travel to museum collections where they concentrate the work of thousands of field biologists. I love museum collections. And I definitely did not complain about city-hopping to major museums across Australia! Once there, we trawl the enormous yet meticulous collections for our species. We scan their bones and this becomes our data. Our job as scientists is to communicate knowledge using these data with correctly applied analyses, most of which I learned from Dr Weisbecker.

While my research progressed, I tried to design a new card game about animal shapes and development called, Suddenly Cute. I wanted kids to wonder about egg-laying echidnas and flying kangaroos like our lab does. I made game prototypes in between collecting and analyzing data. Kate and Ali would try each one, giving feedback and encouraging me even when they didn’t work.

Ariel finding specimens in the Queensland Museum collections in Brisbane

By the end of my Fulbright, I had finished analyzing the gopher data but not the echidna data. This reflects the pace of science. Dr Weisbecker and I published the gopher digging paper the following year. Now, as a PhD student in her lab, I get to co-supervise an Honours student finishing the echidna project. As for balancing science with game design, I still pursue that elusive beast. As one example, a local design firm and I wrote grants to make a free online platform, DIY Go Extinct! Here, kids can create their own versions of Go Extinct! around Australian flora, fauna, and fossils.

As of 2019, my game design goal continues to be to finish a new science game. Again, connections made through Fulbright came through. In 2016, my host institution, the University of Queensland, did a press release on Go Extinct!, which led to media asking me to do a radio spot. Dr Weisbecker introduced me to her daughter’s school who were happy to let media record the Science Club playing the game. The kids rocked it. The spot played throughout Queensland and founders of a local game publisher heard it! They contacted me and after a few years of back and forth, I’m doing a sponsored, “Industry Placement” with them this year as part of my PhD. The opportunity has huge potential for artistic growth and for finishing that science game. It’s been a long haul, but I couldn’t be happier!

I don’t remember if we finished the Lamington trail that day in 2014. I do remember Ali teaching us to cook damper, an Aussie campfire bread cooked in a tinfoil right on the flames. We made way too much and experimented with jam, Nutella, and yes, Vegemite, for spreads. Today, we are scattered across the globe and we all have creative ways of pursuing science. Kate is doing a Masters in France and making a science podcast. Ali is fulfilling travel dreams in Canada and making wildlife art.

Fulbright was, for me, the most wonderful experiment. I was asking, can I become the scientist game designer I want to be? The experience gave me constructive feedback and confirmed my career aspirations. Importantly, Fulbright continues to support me after my scholarship and this has led to ongoing opportunities. I am also immensely grateful for the wonderful friendships. Fulbright allowed us to cross paths, may we always hike through our uncharted career landscapes together.

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A Journey to Oz*

By Gregory Alexander 2016 Fulbright Scholar 

Greg and his wife Mary at a “Hobbit house” during a visit to New Zealand

During my Fulbright I was a Visiting Professor at Macquarie University in Sydney and worked in the Australian Institute of Health Innovation. My Fulbright experiences have forever re-shaped my perspectives of environments, international issues, and cultures within Australia and beyond.

There are many benefits of being a United States Fulbright Ambassador to a far-away country. For example, before I lived in Australia I did not know the answer to the following question: What do the Grey Headed Flying Fox Bat, Wombat, Koala, and Dingo have in common? During my Australian visit, I learned many things about these species. I’ll share a couple of things. First, they are all unique animal species of Australia. Second, the Grey Headed Flying Fox Bat is a nocturnal ‘megabat’ averaging 3 three feet in width from wing tip to wing tip and has a diet of mainly pollen, nectar and fruit. This species is unique in that it has the head and body of a fox, but the wings of a bat. My first encounter with this species occurred during a nighttime stroll along a street in Sydney when one of the bats flew just above my head. At that first encounter, I did not know these megabats ate mostly pollen, nectar and fruit. You can imagine the rest.

Living in a different country, even for short 4 four month duration like my Fulbright, enables a person to experience the environment and culture of the country up close and personal. For instance, my research activities during the Fulbright included interviewing residential aged care administrators and conducting a survey about the use of health information systems in these settings in New South Wales, Australia. In a series of fortunate events, I was interviewed for a publication written by an editor of Australian Ageing Agenda an aged care services magazine. During the interview and subsequent publication I was able to describe my research activities and goals. I used the publication to leverage my recruitment contacts for the research study. As a result, I was invited to visit and meet with over 50 residential aged care administrators and their staff in facilities from four of the six Australian states including Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia.

Remaining in a new and different country for an extended period of time on a Fulbright also enables a person to get up close and personal with relevant issues that are impacting the country, issues that may also be important to the United States. Some issues will not be as apparent to someone who does not live in the same countries.  As part of the Fulbright experience, Fulbrighters are encouraged and supported by the organization to attend a Fulbright Orientation Program and a Presentation Dinner. During my Fulbright, this event was held in the Australian Capital Territory, the Federal Capital. The event was held to honor, present, and profile the year’s Australian and American Fulbright Scholars. There was a divergence of issues presented by the scholars. For example, one scholar was conducting foreign policy analysis on the national action plan on women, peace, and security; another postgraduate scholar was conducting environmental science and biology research with Aboriginal rangers who are learning to manage an invasive tree species from Florida called the pond apple that devastates wetland habitats. The diversity of problems which are being addressed provides a unique perspective of the country in which the Fulbrighter is residing, in this case Australia.

The Fulbright experience provides scholars and students with a mechanism to explore and build international relationships anywhere in the world. The selected experience can have either a teaching or research focus or both, depending on the region travelled to and the international contacts supporting the Fulbright. My Fulbright was purely research. I had made contacts with scholars in Australia who were conducting similar research as I was stateside. These contacts were invaluable as I organized my letters of support and began to contemplate the research project I would conduct while in Australia. In my research preparation, I had to acquire Institutional Review Board approval from two Universities including the Australian University where most of the work was conducted, but also from the University in the Midwestern United States where I normally reside. Interestingly, but not surprisingly, human subjects protections in research are important to both countries; although, the process for acquiring approval was slightly different on each university campus.

Outcomes of the Fulbright have exceeded my expectations. During the Fulbright I worked with two other experts on a book which was released in July 2018 titled: An Introduction to Health Information Technology in LTPAC Settings. The book includes an international chapter which includes some descriptions of findings from the Australian residential aged care interviews. I have several peer reviewed journal publications in review illustrating the research results discovered during the Fulbright. I gave four presentations about research innovations in older adult housing, as part of a Fulbright extension that I received titled the New Zealand Aging Lecture Series. After returning home, I have also served as a Fulbright Ambassador giving short lectures about my experience and details of research outcomes at various sites here in the United States. I continue to serve the Fulbright organization which supported me by conducting regional peer reviews of grants for future Fulbrighters.   I have also accepted my first PhD student who is visiting the United States while completing a Fulbright, she is from Ghana.

These outcomes and experiences have provided a great deal of personal and professional satisfaction for me. After my Fulbright was completed, I met dozens of Fulbright Alumni as part of an international network of scholars and students who had also achieved great outcomes building international collaborations in research and teaching. Building international collaborations is a great way to explore similarities and differences of environments, international issues, and cultures of our world. The Fulbright organization provides a mechanism to access these opportunities. I highly recommend this mechanism for scholars and students interested in building international relations.

*Edited version of “A Fulbrighter’s Journey,” in the Western Journal of Nursing Research, Volume: 40 issue: 12, page(s): 1731-1733. Available at

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Fulbright Friendships

By Michelle Rourke 2017 Fulbright Scholar and Shruti Gujaran 2016 Fulbright Scholar

In Baltimore in 2018

The power of the Fulbright Scholarship to further the careers of individual recipients is recognizable in every Scholar’s personal story. Our separate journeys are easy to trace. The professional connections we made during our placements are extremely valuable and the counterfactuals about how our careers might have turned out without the Fulbright Scholarship are individually comprehensible.

What is harder to comprehend is how every Fulbright Scholar’s intercontinental friendships contribute to an unquantifiable but genuine public good. Every single relationship forged by a Fulbright Scholar during their placement adds yet another node to a robust global network of people with diverse ideas and values, from different countries and cultures. These relationships add up to more than the sum of their parts and they contribute to meeting Senator Fulbright’s vision for the Scholarship:

“the Program aims … to bring a little more knowledge, a little more reason, and a little more compassion into world affairs and thereby to increase the chance that nations will learn at last to live in peace and friendship.”

In an age of hyper-connectedness where it is easy to form digital connections with people from all over the world, we may be tempted to discount the value of face-to-face interactions. Real-world relationships educate us about others and ourselves, they challenge our preconceptions and they create enduring bonds in ways that digital interactions cannot. For each of us, the Fulbright Scholarship has facilitated numerous interactions and opportunities for genuine understanding and friendship. Senator Fulbright recognized that these connections are not only valuable to the individuals involved, but also to society as a whole.

Fulbright Scholars are unlikely to express this sort of global sentiment when we describe our individual Fulbright experiences. It is difficult to explain or quantify the social benefits of the Fulbright Scholarship, and it seems arrogant to assume that our individual experiences contribute to some broader societal benefit. But after seventy years, it is impossible to deny that the personal relationships forged because of the Fulbright Program play a greater role in society than we can fully grasp as the individual beneficiaries of these Scholarships.

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Protecting Indigenous Children: A Tale of Two Legal Systems

By Marcia Zug, 2017 Fulbright Scholar

With my daughter Wila at the Canberra Balloon Festival

As a child I was captivated by stories of life on the American frontier. Through these stories I imagined taking a covered wagon across the Oregon Trail, living in a little house on the prairie or striking gold in a California boom town. What I didn’t spend much time thinking about were the millions of Native Americans affected by this westward expansion. As I grew up, I learned this history, but I still understood it as something that happened in the past and had little relevance to modern day people or politics. It was only upon reaching university that I finally began to understand that many of the Federal Indian policies I had come to associate with an unenlightened past, were still occurring in the present. This realization had a profound effect on me. My desire to help address these injustices is what led me to my current position as a law professor at the University of South Carolina where I write on federal Indian policy with a particular focus on laws protecting Indian families and tribal sovereignty.

A large portion of my academic research focuses on a federal law known as The Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA). The ICWA was passed in 1978 in response to the decades-long government practice of removing Indian children from their families and tribes and placing them in non-Indian homes or institutions. The ICWA was enacted to reduce these unjustified removals. Some of the most important provisions of the Act are the requirements that Indian children are placed with family or tribal members before other carers are considered, that significant efforts are taken to prevent permanent separation, and that the majority of Indian child custody cases are decided by tribal as opposed to state courts.

Indian tribes, advocates and scholars widely agree that the ICWA is one of the most significant pieces of federal Indian law legislation ever passed. The Act has kept thousands of Indian children with their families and helped ensure these children grow up connected to their families and culture. Consequently, given the success of the ICWA, it is not surprising the other Indigenous communities, particularly those with a similar history of family separation have repeatedly expressed interest in importing ICWA. Australian Indigenous advocates in particular have long sought to enact an Australian version of the Act. My Fulbright project was to explore the feasibility and desirability of enacting such a law. In January 2018, I arrived at the University of Canberra to research this question.

Indigenous Australians and American Indians occupy very different legal positions. Accordingly, although the ICWA, has been highly effective in protecting American Indian families this alone did not ensure an Australian version of the Act would produce similar results. The goal of my research was to figure out how the Act might need to change to comply with the Australian legal system and what the effect of these changes would be on the Act’s effectiveness as well as its general acceptance. This research was particularly timely because, as I learned shortly after my arrival, the Australian Parliament is currently considering proposals to relax Australia’s adoption laws and these new standards could apply to Indigenous children.

In the United States, American Indian tribes are treated as limited sovereigns. This means they have significant authority over internal matters, such as child welfare and custody decisions, but only narrow authority over most other matters. Many of the ICWA’s requirements are based on a recognition of this sovereign right to make decisions concerning the care and custody of tribal children. However, Australia’s Aboriginal communities do not enjoy recognized sovereignty. Consequently, to evaluate the feasibility of an Australian ICWA I needed to determine how the ICWA’s assumption of Indigenous sovereignty, particularly the provisions requiring transfer to tribal court, could work in Australia.

Initially, I feared the changes that would have to be made to an Australian ICWA were so drastic that they would inevitably outweigh the Act’s benefits. Nevertheless, as I continued to explore this issue, I began to see how the necessary changes could be implemented without “ruining” the Act and how these changes might actually make it more effective. To reach this conclusion I began to think about Indigenous child protection in ways independent of indigenous sovereignty and to explore legal justifications different from those traditionally used to support the Act in the U.S. Ultimately, I concluded that an Australian version of the ICWA is both legally and practically feasible.

I hope that my research will help Indigenous advocates in Australia as they work to protect Indigenous children and families. However, I also believe my Fulbright research may prove relevant in the United States. The ICWA is currently under attack. In October, a Texas district court judge declared the Act racially discriminatory and unconstitutional. This Texas case ignores more than forty years of judicial precedent yet, there is a good chance the decision will be affirmed. If that occurs, the traditional arguments justifying the Act will no longer be sufficient. New arguments will have to be put forth, arguments like those supporting an Australian ICWA.

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Ripples in Spacetime

By Sylvia Biscoveanu, 2017 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar

Holding a baby kangaroo at the Australian International Gravitational Observatory in Gingin, WA

At this moment, the space you occupy is shaking from a background of gravitational radiation. You are being stretched and squeezed in all directions by gravitational waves from the most distant reaches of our universe. Gravitational waves are ripples in the fabric of spacetime caused by the violent acceleration of extremely massive astrophysical objects, but you don’t have to worry about getting ripped apart by gravitational radiation anytime soon; by the time these waves reach Earth, the spacetime distortion they cause is less than the diameter of a proton.

Because these signals are so weak, it takes an extremely sensitive instrument to detect them. The Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory (LIGO) consists of a pair of 4-kilometer-long, L-shaped lasers that use the characteristic interference pattern of the laser light to detect when a passing gravitational wave has squeezed one arm and stretched the other. The LIGO Scientific Collaboration announced the first direct detection of gravitational waves from a merging pair of black holes two years ago, exactly one hundred years after they were first predicted by Albert Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity. This was such a monumental discovery that the scientists who first designed the experiment were awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2017, while I was serving as a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar at Monash University in Melbourne, using LIGO data to study the gravitational wave background.

This background arises from the overlap of many gravitational wave signals that are too weak to be detected individually. An individual black hole merger would go undetected if it’s not close or massive enough, but a chorus of them scattered throughout the universe would produce a persistent hum that might be loud enough for the detector to hear. Together with colleagues at Monash, I worked on implementing the optimal method for detecting such a binary black hole background, developing the tools to run the search and experimenting on mock data. Merging black holes won’t be the only source contributing to the gravitational wave background, though. This background could also be cosmological, a relic of the turbulence in the early universe immediately following the Big Bang. The cosmological contribution would be much weaker than the astrophysical contribution from binary black holes, making it even more difficult to detect. While at Monash, I worked on developing a method to search for and measure both of these contributions simultaneously, a project that is still ongoing.

My time at Monash served as an introduction to many of the techniques I will need throughout the rest of my PhD, which I have just started at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. During my ten months in Melbourne, I learned so much not only about Bayesian statistics, gamma-ray bursts, stochastic backgrounds, and signal processing, but also about how to guide my own research and pose compelling research questions on my own. I have made invaluable connections with other researchers at Monash and in OzGrav: The ARC Centre of Excellence for Gravitational Wave Discovery, and these are collaborations I plan to continue now that I’ve returned to the US.

I also had the opportunity to share my passion for gravitational waves with the broader community. I organized a series of outreach activities for local year 10 students, teaching them the basics of gravitational wave data analysis and interferometers. I gave song to that chorus of merging black holes with my supervisors, Dr. Eric Thrane and Dr. Rory Smith, on ABC’s The 7.30 Report. I presented a TEDx talk on gravitational wave backgrounds in Canberra. Together with another postgraduate student at Monash, I started a mentoring program for women in physics and astronomy at all stages of their careers, from undergraduates to faculty, bringing over one aspect of my undergraduate education that led me to ultimately pursue a career as an astrophysicist.

In addition to my research on gravitational waves, I was also able to pursue my passion for music. I played violin in the Monash Academy Orchestra, gaining exposure to the works of Australian composers under the baton of top Australian conductors. It was quite a shock having to ask my stand partner about crotchets, quavers, and breves during my first orchestra rehearsal, since we use different musical terms in the US! These opportunities allowed me to give back to the community that became my new home, and I have taken many aspects of my Australian home back to the US with me—13 boxes of Tim Tams, lifelong friendships, new professional connections, and a deep appreciation of the intradepartmental collaboration at Monash that made me feel so welcome.

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Making Memories in Australia

By Michelle Meade, 2013 Fulbright Senior Scholar

Our memories, and the memories we share with others are a critical aspect of daily life. My research focuses on understanding how memory works and what factors influence what we remember. More specifically, I’m interested in understanding how our individual memories are influenced when we remember with other people. We frequently collaborate with others on memory tasks: friends and families reminisce together about past past events, students work together in the classroom, and older adults rely on each other to remember critical details. Of course, not all groups are equally successful when they collaborate. My research examines why collaboration disrupts individual memory in some settings and enhances individual memory in other settings (i.e. when individuals remember a greater amount of accurate information when working with a partner than when working alone).

In 2013-2014, I received a Fulbright Fellowship to conduct research on social memory processes at the Department of Cognitive Science, Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. Macquarie is an international leader in social memory research and hosts a unique community of scholars working on this topic. The opportunity to work directly with scholars at Macquarie University was invaluable and has been both professionally and personally transformative.

While at Macquarie, I participated in a range of research related activities that included developing and implementing research experiments, planning and writing grant proposals, and learning strategies for career advancement and mentoring. Together with my Australian colleagues, we conducted experiments to identify underlying processes that predict collaborative disruption and success across laboratory and real world situations. One exciting application of our work was to examine the effects of collaboration on older adults’ memory in a variety of situations. Understanding the factors that differentiate successful from disruptive patterns of collaboration in older adults has important scientific implications and can lead to tangible benefits for older adults and their families.

Additionally, my time at Macquarie established a long term international collaboration between myself at Montana State University and researchers at Macquarie University. Since the completion of my Fulbright, I have continued to collaborate with my Australian colleagues on numerous grant proposals and research publications, including an edited book on collaborative remembering (“Collaborative Remembering: Theories, Research, and Applications” published by Oxford University Press in 2018). Since my visit, we have sustained a steady exchange of students and faculty across universities, as two Montana State University students have enrolled in the Macquarie University PhD program, and multiple graduate students and faculty from Macquarie have visited Montana State for research visits. The sustained international collaboration has greatly impacted my professional development as I continue to learn new ideas, methodologies, and mentoring skills that I have been able to teach to my students and channel into new research projects.

My Fulbright experience was also personally transformative. I was fortunate to spend an entire year in Sydney (I combined the senior scholar award with a sabbatical from Montana State) and my time in Australia impacted my life in meaningful and lasting ways. The opportunity to live in another country for a year fostered my sense of curiosity and also pushed me to be more self-reflective. My husband and daughter accompanied me to Australia, and our family experiences deepened our connection to the culture. For example, my daughter spent a year in the Australian public school system which allowed us insight into the culture and society that extended beyond my experiences at the university. Sydney is a beautiful and cosmopolitan city and we all really enjoyed the change from our small hometown of Bozeman, Montana. We had an amazing time in the city, and also enjoyed travelling, exploring and learning together, and our time in Australia continues to influence our perspective. I am extremely grateful for my experiences as a Fulbright fellow, and my time in Australia was both professionally and personally transformative.

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Finding the Balance

By Michael Raitor, 2017 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar

Nearly one in three adults over 65 will experience a fall in the next year. Falls often result in long-lasting health effects that significantly reduce an individual’s quality of life. Fall-related injury is not only devastating on a personal level, it has widespread financial effects in both the U.S. and Australia. Fall-related injuries are estimated to cost the U.S. healthcare system over $30 billion (USD) annually. As our global population continues to age, reducing the frequency and severity of fall-related injuries is essential to enabling older individuals to live fulfilling lives while minimizing the cost to healthcare systems.

During my U.S. Fulbright Postgraduate Scholarship, I spent nearly one year at the University of New South Wales (UNSW), in Sydney, Australia. My work at UNSW focused on developing technology to prevent fall-related injuries in the elderly. I was fortunate enough to work with a team of researchers with a broad set of academic and professional backgrounds. The principle investigator of my research project, Professor Nigel Lovell, is a leader in the fields of neuroprosthetics, telemedicine, and fall detection. Professor Lovell’s previous work made large contributions to increasing the duration and quality of life for elderly people by enabling them to “age in place” in their communities rather than needing to move to a nursing home so they could be monitored for falls. Detection of a fall after it has occurred is incredibly important to ensure the user receives the medical attention they need as soon as possible. Accurate and fast fall detection is important, but is ultimately limited in its effectiveness because the user still falls and is potentially injured before the system is activated. That is where my Fulbright project comes in.

My Fulbright project was part of a new wave of medicine that is just beginning to take shape: preventative medicine. It may seem strange, but until recently, medicine was primarily damage-control, trying to repair or replace a part of the body already diseased or damaged. Rather than trying to detect when someone may have fallen and been injured by a fall, my Fulbright project began to lay the groundwork for preventing the fall altogether.

As with any highly ambitious scientific endeavor, developing the tools for preventing fall-related injuries has been filled with intermittent success and failure. It was in these periods of recovering from research setbacks and pivoting our strategy that the uniqueness of the Fulbright program truly struck me. Every time I would speak with members of the Fulbright commission to update them on my work and how we were making progress while refining our strategies, they were behind me 100%. There is an unfortunately accurate saying in academia, “publish or perish.” Not once did I feel that applied to me while on my Fulbright. Instead, I felt I had the support to dig into the research, ask the hard questions, and, frankly, take the time to do the research well. Having the support to slow down, reflect on my research and carefully lay plans for future work has been invaluable to me. This time to reflect and plan in Australia played a major role in the breakthroughs we had while I was in country and has been hugely influential in my research interests since completing my Fulbright Scholarship.

In addition to a hugely impactful professional experience, Fulbright was a profoundly life-changing personal experience. The Australians I met while living in Sydney and my cohort of Postgraduate Scholars helped me grow in ways I never would have imagined and are undoubtedly life-long friends. While in Sydney, I frequently met some colleagues from UNSW and their normal workout crew of about 20 people at 6 am for training on the beach and then an ocean swim as the sun rose. We would wrap up the morning chatting over coffee about everything from their adventures backpacking across the U.S., to how investment banking differs in Australia. These coffee sessions taught me all about various aspects of Aussie life, values, and slang, which many of the group took a special interest in teaching me. As a stranger in a foreign land, I was forced to reflect on the social customs I took for granted in the U.S. and to grapple with the reputation of being an American abroad during a controversial time in our history. These early morning chats were some of the most challenging, humorous, and enlightening conversations I had in Australia, and were an essential component of my Fulbright experience.

One of the most precious relationships I formed in Australia was with another Fulbrighter who was also based at UNSW. On the weekends we would often meet up to go into the city together, take hikes, and occasionally fly to a different city in Australia to explore there as well. During one memorable long weekend, we flew to Tasmania, summited several mountains, and returned to the mainland via Melbourne so we could spend some time with other Fulbrighters as they showed us around their city.

As a testament to the strength of my personal and professional relationships formed during my Fulbright, neither have ended since I’ve returned to The States. After completing my Fulbright, I took a trip to Japan with another Fulbrighter and a friend we had made in Sydney. Additionally, I am still coordinating research efforts with my host lab at UNSW. I am unbelievably fortunate to have been awarded a Fulbright to Australia. My Fulbright has had profound impact on my life both personally and professionally, and I wait anxiously to see how the experience continues to influence me in the years to come.

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From Music Tutor to University Leader

Professor Bebbington conducting the Conservatorium Choir at the University of Adelaide while still as Vice Chancellor

By Warren Bebbington, 1976 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar

Becoming a Tutor in music at the University of Melbourne in 1974, when I had just graduated with my bachelor’s degree, soon filled me with more questions than I had answers for. In those days, music training in Australian conservatories mostly followed dated British models, and opportunities to do specialist postgraduate study were limited. I soon hungered for advanced study abroad. Exploring the course options in Europe and the USA, I noticed that many of the texts I had used in my undergraduate course were written by musicologists teaching in New York; so having successfully obtained a Fulbright award, and with a travelling scholarship from Australia, I set out for “The Big Apple,” where I enrolled for a PhD in Musicology.

The USA was then—and will remain for many years to come—the world’s leading centre for first-class university research and graduate study, attracting front-rank researchers and graduate students from across the globe. During the three years I lived there, I took graduate classes at Columbia University, Queens College and the City University of New York Graduate School, attending lectures by many distinguished figures, ranging from composer John Cage to anthropologist Margaret Mead and playwright Eugene Ionesco. I studied specialisations scarcely taught in Australia then—Schenkerian Analysis, Twelve-tone Theory, Musical Paleography and Iconography, Aesthetics and Music Criticism—as well as taking a practical course in Orchestral and Choral Conducting of a kind unknown in Australia. I became Research Assistant to the revered authority on early music Professor Gustave Reese, working on revising his books. Academically, it was everything I had hoped for; and as well, New York City was for a musician an education in itself: aside from its museums and galleries, I soaked up world-class live music at the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic, I heard the greatest performers of the day in concert, and saw many famous artists who had never toured Down Under but appeared regularly in New York. All in all, it was a transformational experience.

After three years I felt bristling with the benefits of an American graduate education, and ready for academic employment again. As my scholarships expired and my money started to run out, I was offered a very junior position in New York’s leading music school. But because of the Fulbright visa requirement that, on completion of my study program, I returned to my own country for two years, I had to decline the New York post. At first I chafed at this; but later I came to understand the importance of William Fulbright’s vision of spreading first-rate American learning and research skills to other countries. For returning to Australia did enable me to make a prominent contribution to the academic life of my country: in 1979 I became a lecturer at the ANU School of Music, a few years later I was proud to be invited back to the University of Melbourne as Dean of the Conservatorium—where my studies had begun years before—and later still I was privileged to become Vice Chancellor at the University of Adelaide. My experience in the US continued to inform my judgement and perspective of educational matters throughout my tenure in those positions.

The Fulbright played a pivotal role in my education. My father had been a dairy farmer, and later a storeman and packer; he raised his family with limited means, and I was the first in the family to go to university. My parents’ ambitions for me had been modest, and unquestionably, I could not have studied in the US without the Fulbright award, nor had such a rapid path to positions of academic leadership later on. Through the Fulbright Host Family scheme I also made lifelong friends with an American family. I am immensely proud of being a Fulbright alumnus, and continue to recommend the scheme to anyone with an interest graduate study in the US.

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Next Door to Sputnik; Alongside Armstrong in Spirit!

Elisa Evett as Yelena and Paul Grimwood as Astrov in Chekhov’s “Uncle Vanya” – May, 1966

By Paul Grimwood, 1965 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar

Sputnik was launched in the early sixties. I went to Cornell University in 1965, under the banner of Fulbright, to do research into spacecraft re-entry problems. Part of our context was the moon race. For instance, I came from home to my lab to watch Armstrong’s moon landing.

Mine was just one of the contributions of many to the grand space efforts.

I was a Fulbright Scholar from 1965 until 1970. A long time ago!

It is true that the money from the scholarship, along with teaching and research assistantships from Cornell University, made it possible for me to complete my doctorate at Cornell, and be a post-doctoral fellow for a year. I value that.

At the same time I value the principles that William Fulbright espoused in establishing the scholarships. In particular, I value the notion that the scholarships foster learning  and educational experiences that lead on to pursuits in the broader career of the Fulbright Scholar. There was no restriction on the Scholar’s journey. There was simply encouragement that the Scholar contribute to his or her community, and perhaps that could be in the Scholar’s homeland.

I emphasise that the Fulbright Foundation was remarkably unrestrictive in the administration of the scholarships, and that  was appreciated. It is also true that one requirement placed on me in travelling to Cornell from Australia was that I travelled by train from the point of entry to the US to Cornell, close to the eastern seaboard. At the time I railed against the requirement. I wanted to reach Cornell and to get on with things there. It took me years to recognise how valuable it was to be introduced to the US community this way. I later chose with my wife to travel across the US by car. Each experience built on the other. In quiet times of reflection much later in my career, I wondered how much that trip influenced my appointment as chief executive of the Australian Railway Research and Development Organisation, and as Director General of Transport in N.S.W. I doffed my hat to William Fulbright.

The period I spent in the US as a Fulbrighter, 1965 – 1970, was a memorable time for many reasons. Some related to my personal life. Some related to my academic life. Some related to the happenings in the US and, more broadly, the world.

1968 was a tumultuous year!  Bobby Kennedy was assassinated. Martin Luther King was assassinated—on my birthday and two days before the light of my life and I were married. About that year Afro-American students, only weeks after the disturbances at Kent State, rebelled on campus at Cornell.  Cornell, wisely in my view, chose to seek a new way forward.  They instituted a Constituent  Assembly.  In my view it was designed to release the pressure and to find a way forward for all its students. As a delegate to this Assembly—elected by my peers—I became a contributor to Cornell’s future governance. Even at the time I had no doubt that Fulbright values influenced me.

The Vietnam war was a constant in our lives. There are many dimensions, even for me. One personal one lives on. I would come down from my dorm to get breakfast at a nearby restaurant. “Two eggs over easy, toast and coffee” was my standard order. I was a regular. So, too, was Daniel Berrigan, a Jesuit priest. As a protest, with his brother, also a Jesuit, and their colleagues, he poured blood over the files of conscripts to the Vietnam War. They were nailed for it. Our conversations: “Please pass the salt, Dan”.

It was not simply a time of momentous events. Personal actualisation and fulfilment had their places. For instance, I continued developing as an actor. I felt good about being able to work with the people brought in to the summer-stock activities. It was fun to be a meat baron in one of Brecht’s plays! Sure.

And I came to have more insight into Fulbright. I give to him insight that acting, being able to bring a character to life, is immensely valuable in establishing rapport  in negotiation in any field.

I confess to a peccadello! I had neglected to alert my Professor that I was continuing with my acting. Perhaps you can appreciate my feelings when, as Dr Astrov in Chekov’s Uncle Vanya, the curtain opened and I saw from the stage my Professor and his wife. He later suggested that I had a choice to make: research or the theatre. I chose both.

My time at Cornell was, in my view, remarkably developmental for me. I do recognise that, to an impartial observer, it may appear to be remarkably mundane. Even now I smile. I think Fulbright would have been satisfied to have many whose experiences were/are as remarkably mundane as mine, thanks to him!

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A professional, personal, and family experience like no other

By Tim Carey, 2017 Fulbright Northern Territory Scholar

Being awarded a Fulbright Senior Scholarship enabled me to spend four months at the Center for Behavioral Health Innovation (BHI), Department of Clinical Psychology, Antioch University New England. The University is a very small postgraduate university of approximately 1000 students. The Department of Clinical Psychology is one of five departments at the University and offers a Doctorate of Clinical Psychology. The University has a very strong and explicit social justice focus with many messages on noticeboards about the importance of equality, acceptance, and understanding.

It was a privilege to spend time at BHI learning about the work that they do. They are a small center led by two of the faculty members of the Department of Clinical Psychology and six other staff. They partner with organisations in rural and underserved communities helping these organisations to establish systems of ongoing monitoring and feedback in order to promote the effectiveness of the services they deliver. During my time there BHI staff were working with schools, health centres, and philanthropic organisations on various projects. The evaluation context in the US is quite different from Australia with the Federal Government in the US mandating that a proportion of funding (commonly 20%) for services and programs be allocated to the evaluation of those interventions. Funding for BHI largely comes from this requirement.

While working at BHI we developed a project to investigate the factors that might be important in establishing and sustaining ongoing monitoring and feedback within an organisation. I interviewed 15 people from organisations with whom BHI had partnered at some time over approximately an eight year period. The people I interviewed had different roles within the organisations from leaders to service providers but they all spoke emphatically about the value of evaluation. They explained that, through ongoing monitoring and evaluation, they could make sure that the help that was being delivered really was experienced as help by the service recipients. They also emphasised the importance of having buy-in from the leadership of the organisation and of embedding systems within daily routines so that “the right thing to do is the easy thing to do”. Unanimously, interview participants spoke of the importance of the data they collected in terms of being able to engage with communities, communicate with funders, and “tell stories that touch people’s hearts as well as their heads”.

As a complementary aspect to my project I was fortunate to be able to speak with Dr Richard McKeon, who is Chief of the Suicide Prevention Branch of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Like the people I interviewed, Dr McKeon emphasised the importance of collecting data and basing program decisions upon the data that are collected. Dr McKeon argued strongly that having data to highlight an issue can become an important way of persuading people that something needs to be done and to answer basic questions.

The work at BHI and the learnings from the project I conducted have important policy and practice implications for service delivery in remote health settings of Australia.

In addition to the work at BHI I had the opportunity to participate in the Oz to Oz program at Kansas State University. I was hosted by their Master of Public Health program and got to meet senior university personnel and learn about some aspects of their approach to public health. Their public health program is interesting because it is not delivered within a medical program or department. While I was at Kansas State University I delivered a colloquium titled “Defining Health: Issues and solutions”. I provided a related colloquium back at Antioch University titled “Health as Control: An organising principle for the biopsychosocial model”. These speaking engagements enabled me to discuss ideas from my recently published book “Patient-Perspective Care: A new paradigm for health systems and services”. A further invitation to speak to residents and students of the Family Medicine Residency at the Eastern Maine Medical Center and to staff of Acadia Hospital in Bangor, ME allowed me to explore these ideas in greater detail with a talk titled “Improving Health in Rural and Remote Contexts with Patient-Perspective Care”. Further teaching opportunities arose with three classes provided in the Brief Psychotherapies course of the Doctor Clinical Psychology program at Antioch.

I was fortunate to have my family accompany me to Keene, NH for the duration of the Fulbright Scholarship. I think we benefitted just as much personally as I did professionally from the time we spent involved in the community life of Keene. It was wonderful to experience occasions such as Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas in the US with new-found friends and their families. Among other things, we picked blueberries and apples, carved pumpkins, turkey trotted at our son’s elementary school, trick-or-treated around the neighbourhood, and did some snow tubing. We also discovered that the saying “I’ll be there with bells on” originated in New England and we had many interesting discussions about New Hampshire’s state motto: Live free or die.

It’s an enormous privilege to become a Fulbright Scholar and tremendously humbling to be a part of the legacy Senator Fulbright started more than half a century ago. There was a real sense as I was undertaking the Fulbright Program that I was “living the dream”. There wasn’t ever a point when I wanted the dream to end. I still don’t. Thankfully, as a Fulbright Alumni, the dream can live on.

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Teaching machines to play fair

By Daniel McNamara, 2016 Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar in Computer Science

I had the good fortune to visit the Machine Learning Department at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh as a Fulbright Postgraduate Scholar in 2016-17. During my eight months there I had the opportunity to learn from a technically brilliant group of academics and students who are designing algorithms that will shape the future.

As part of my Fulbright program, I participated in an Enrichment Seminar on Civil Rights in the United States. The seminar was held in Atlanta – birthplace of the Civil Rights movement and to this day an important centre of African-American political activity. More than 100 Fulbrighters from around the world heard from African-American leaders and activists, visited the Civil Rights Museum and Martin Luther King’s tomb, and ran a story-telling workshop at a local school.

Fulbrighters ran a story-telling workshop for Atlanta school students as part of an enrichment seminar on Civil Rights in the United States held in March 2017. Photo credit: Christopher Nagel.

Algorithmic decision-making and fairness

Joining the dots between seemingly disparate subjects – the latest technical developments in machine learning and the political struggle for racial equality in the US – I became interested in the challenge of ensuring that decisions made by machines are fair. This has become an important and rapidly emerging field of research which is attracting attention from scholars in machine learning, law, philosophy and other disciplines. And everyone else – whose lives are increasingly influenced by decisions made by algorithms – are keenly awaiting solutions.

Machine learning systems are now widely used to make all kinds of decisions about people’s lives – such as whether to grant someone a loan, interview someone for a job or provide someone with insurance. There is a risk that these algorithms may be unfair in some way, for example by discriminating against particular groups. Even if not intended by the algorithm designer, discrimination is possible because the reasoning behind the algorithm’s decisions is often difficult for humans to interpret. Furthermore, artefacts of previous discrimination present in the data used to train the algorithm may increase this tendency in the algorithm’s decisions.

An interesting example is the use of recidivism risk scores, which are commonly used in criminal sentencing in the United States. The news organisation ProPublica investigated one widely used system, COMPAS. The investigation showed that black defendants received higher risk scores than white defendants. Furthermore, the risk scores made different kinds of errors for defendants of different races. Black defendants were overrepresented among the false positives: people who were given a high risk score but did not re-offend for the next two years. Conversely, white defendants were overrepresented among the false negatives: people who were given a low risk score but did in fact re-offend.

Baking in fairness

To remove or minimise discrimination effects caused by the use of machine learning systems, fairness may be ‘baked in’ to algorithm design. This approach benefits users of such algorithms, particularly those in social groups that are potentially the subject of discrimination. Moreover, as rapid technological progress drives disruptive social change and in turn resistance to such change, such design decisions will be required to maintain the ‘social license to operate’ of companies using the algorithms.

Incorporating fairness into algorithm design also has a role to play in the effective regulation of algorithms. For example, fairness is considered in the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, which comes into force this year. Paragraph 71 of the preamble states:

In order to ensure fair and transparent processing … the controller should…  secure personal data in a manner … that prevents, inter alia, discriminatory effects on natural persons on the basis of racial or ethnic origin, political opinion, religion or beliefs, trade union membership, genetic or health status or sexual orientation.

The thorny question remains: how do we define fairness? Machine learning researchers are now joining a discussion previously led by philosophers and legal scholars. A seminal study led by the Harvard computer scientist Cynthia Dwork proposed two notions of fairness. Group fairness means making similar decisions for one group compared to another, while individual fairness means making similar decisions for individuals who are similar. The two notions of fairness are potentially in tension: group fairness promotes equal outcomes for each group regardless of the characteristics of the individuals that make up the groups, while individual fairness provides individuals who are similar with equal treatment regardless of their group membership.

Transforming data to achieve fairness

Machine learning algorithms learn from previous examples. One approach to ensuring fairness is to transform the data accessed by the algorithm. The idea is to remove information about group membership (e.g. gender, race) from the data to protect particular groups from discrimination. However, it is typically not as simple as removing a single column in the data, since it may be possible to infer group membership from the other columns. A classic example is the historic practice of ‘redlining’, where decision-making based on loan applicants’ neighbourhood was used as a proxy for racial discrimination.

Machine learning methods such as neural networks may be used to transform data so that membership of a particular protected group can no longer be inferred. For a given data transformation, it is possible to quantify the extent to which it improves group fairness, as well its impact on individual fairness and the usefulness of the transformed data. This kind of guarantee can allow a regulator to approve the transformed data prior to its use in decision-making. Even if the decision-maker attempts to discriminate against a particular protected group, their ability to do so will be limited because the required information has been removed by the data transformation.

Code-ready fairness

Traditionally, fairness has been ‘codified’ in rather general terms in our legal system, and enforcement has relied upon a common understanding of fairness across society. But computers lag behind us on qualitative reasoning abilities. Our new challenge is to provide definitions of fairness that are precise enough to be embedded in computer code.

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From Upwey to the USA: A wonderful professional and personal journey

By Matthew Clarke, 2017 Fulbright Professional Scholar in Non-Profit Leadership

Over the last decade, 400 natural disasters have killed more than 100,000 people and affected a further 120 million annually. The international community provides tens of billions of dollars to assist local communities impacted by these humanitarian emergencies. Increasing the professionalization of leaders and managers of humanitarian disasters is critical to ensure the most effective recovery of communities and countries as well as the most efficient use of resources.

I was extremely fortunate to be awarded the 2017/8 Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership in order to better understand how the humanitarian sector works in the US and share the work occurring in Australia at the Centre for Humanitarian Leadership (CHL) – a joint initiative of Deakin university and Save the Children Australia.

My Fulbright program was split over two sites. The first location was Boston, whilst the second location was in Washington DC. Both these locations allowed me the opportunity to work alongside an array of institutions and individuals that have expertise that directly touches upon the work being undertaken at Deakin’s CHL.

Whilst in Boston, I spent time at Tuft University’s Feinstein Centre for International Affairs and the Harvard Humanitarian Academy. Both academic institutions provided opportunities to better understand how the CHL at Deakin might evolve over time. The Feinstein Centre has been in operation for 25 years whilst the Harvard Humanitarian Academy is less then 10 years old. Both institutes undertake research and teaching. Whilst at both institutions, I was able to discuss the need for the CHL to develop its own research agenda and seek advice as to how this might occur. Members from both institutions were very keen to assist and provide expert advice and support. It was also evident from visiting these two centres and observing their teaching that the teaching programs at the CHL are world class. This means that when seeking international collaborations and partnerships in this sphere that we can do so with confidence and knowledge that we are actually adding value. During the second phase, I was in Washington DC, I was hosted by the Humanitarian Business Group within Save the Children US. Given Deakin’s very strong relationship with Save the Children Australia, it made sense to extend this existing institutional relationship by spending time with US colleagues. In addition to meeting a rage of humanitarian workers and leaders at Save US, I was also able to make contacts with colleagues in an array of other aid agencies, including Mercy Corp, World Vision, Relief International as well as USAID and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies. Across these meetings, I better understood the humanitarian sector in the US and possible opportunities for cross-country work.

Over the course of my 25-year work career, I have not had such an experience that equates to this Scholarship. In addition to the length of time away from ‘normal’ duties, which has allowed a certain level of refection and planning, the Fulbright scholarship has brought me into contact with people I would normally not be able to access. This access has increased the information I have been able to receive and heightened the level of conversation I have been able to participate in. I now have a list of contacts in the Humanitarian sector that I can now confidently draw upon in the ongoing development and building of the CHL. During the three months away, I have been able to assess my professional career and the impact I have made and the impact I would like to make in the future. I return to Australia even more sure that the work being undertaken at the CHL is valuable and of world class. I return wanting to extend its influence and its impact within the humanitarian sector.

Separate to these professional experiences, I have been very fortunate to have had my family with me over the course of the Scholarship. This was perhaps the main reason I was able to consider applying for the Scholarship. Had they not been able to accompany me, it would have been impossible to spend this much time away. We had the most wonderful experiences as a family – from Christmas in New York, to a weekend at a snow resort, to visiting historical Civil War battle sites to attending NBA and NFL games to watching our 9-year old daughter step onto an iconic yellow School bus each day on the way to school! Of course, not all experiences where positive: all our children required additional immunization shots to be eligible to attend School. We found our way to the local health clinic and the two younger children received their needles without incident. However, soon after our 17-year old daughter received her needle, she stood up and promptly fainted – She fell face first onto the floor! There was blood everywhere as she had split her nose open. As I cradled her (trying to avoid the blood), our 9 year old daughter then fainted. So, I was holding one child, whilst my wife held another. Very soon we were surrounded by 6 paramedics and some very concerned health clinic nurses!. Seeing inside an ambulance and emergency ward was not high on our ‘to do’ list, but all ended well with the 17 year old fronting up to School the next day – with two black eyes!!

All of these experiences have been remarkable and only possible through the generous support of this Scholarship. It has changed the way I understand my own professional sector, but just as importantly it has enhanced my entire family’s understanding of the US and the relationship between our two nations. It has been career and life changing.

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