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University of Canterbury masters student Ash Lightfoot has been awarded a Fulbright — Ministry of Research, Science and Technology Graduate Award valued at more than $38,000.
Ash, who is currently completing an MSc at Canterbury, heads to the USA in July to study for a PhD in mathematics at Indiana University.
Ash was one of 10 promising graduate students nationwide to receive the awards which are targeted to support growth and innovation in New Zealand. Also receiving an award was UC alumni Paul Barnaby, who graduated with BE (Hons) in 2004. Nicola Shepheard, who graduated from UC with a BA (Hons) in 1997 and a Postgraduate Diploma in Journalism in 2001, was one of eight students awarded a Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award.
Ash said he was “quietly ecstatic and immensely honoured” to receive the award.
“The high calibre yet humbleness of the other Fulbright grantees and alumni whom I met in Wellington recently only compounded my sense of privilege for having received this award.”
Ash will spend the next five to six years studying for his PhD, focusing on algebraic and topological mathematics.
“I wish to train to be a mathematician, both as a researcher and teacher, and bring my new-found knowledge and skills back to New Zealand.”
He said he was looking forward to immersing himself in graduate life in the United States and getting to know other students in the faculty.
“As teaching is a passion of mine, I'm also looking forward to the responsibility of teaching undergraduates as part of my role as a teaching assistant. Outside of that, I can't wait to attend a Hoosiers game — be it baseball, basketball or football — they're all on a scale out of this world.”
Prior to starting at Indiana University, Ash will attend an IIE (Institute of International Education) Gateway programme at Vanderbilt University in Nashville for three days, with other Fulbright scholars from around the world.
He said the award, which includes US$25,000 plus travel expenses, will give him “a running start to get established in an on-campus apartment and buy my first laptop”.
Meanwhile, Paul is heading to Stanford University in California to complete a Master of Science degree in civil and environmental engineering, with an atmosphere/energy designation, and Nicola will complete a Master of Arts in Journalism, specialising in arts and culture journalism, at Columbia University in New York.
Paul said the Fulbright award was a unique opportunity to study in the US education system and he was looking forward to studying in “Stanford’s world renowned academic environment”.
“I am also looking forward to the US emphasis on student participation in academia and think this is well suited to my personality.”
Since leaving UC, Paul has worked as a graduate engineer for Transpower, an economic analyst for a British energy regulator and on a micro solar energy development project in Nicaragua.
“When I am finished my studies, I will be looking to pursue a career in a business- oriented role that enables me to actively contribute to the burgeoning renewable energy sector and to influence economic development of developing countries.”
Nicola, who is a feature writer for the Herald on Sunday, said she was “thrilled” to receive the award.
“I'd been accepted into the MA programme at Columbia, but was reconciling myself to the fact I would have to defer a year because I did not have enough funding. Suddenly, the Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award made it feasible – for which I'm hugely grateful.”
She said the nine-month programme was an advanced degree for experienced journalists who seek to deepen their knowledge of the craft and gain expertise in a particular subject area.
“Nothing like this is available in New Zealand,” she said.
“I'm only now realising the broader benefits, in terms of networking and recognition that a Fulbright award confers. The underlying principle of building understanding via educational exchange makes this award much more than a scholarship.”