I research international education, international development and foreign policy – with a special focus on where these three elements intersect. International development scholarships are one of those intersections and they were the subject of my PhD.
My PhD is looks at all the different international tertiary scholarships the Australian government has offered to Pacific Island countries (and before that colonial territories) between 1948 and 2018. It is a history of scholarships, but also a history of international education policy in Australia. Because of the timeframe and the geographic region, the thesis also shows a different side of the process of decolonisation in the Pacific, and especially in PNG.
During the course of my PhD I also looked at how international education has impacted on Australia and Australians, and the organisations and individuals who have been involved in supporting international students in Australia over the decades.
There is very little research focused on the history of Australian government scholarships, and even less focused on the Pacific. I’m excited to contribute to the development of a growing field of research.
What first sparked your interest in your field and how has that interest lead you to topic of research?
I have worked in international education and scholarship management for my whole career. I did my Masters thesis looking at scholarships, but in the field of Development Studies – so it was contemporary rather than historical. Returning to do my PhD in History felt like returning to my natural home – I did my Honours research in History and I love it more now than when I started.
Why did you pursue a PhD/Masters/HDR?
I swore, when I handed in my MA thesis two weeks before my second child was born, that I would never go back to study. But I met David (my supervisor) after he read my MA thesis and he raised the possibility. I said no, but then I soon changed my mind. I was in the very fortunate position of being able to make the decision while keeping my toe in the water in my “non-academic” career – working and consulting – in part because of the support of my partner.
What has been the highlight of your candidature so far?
There have been a few – I have been able to travel to the USA (for an archive summer school), to Fiji for fieldwork, to PNG for a trip with the PNG Study Group and to Mexico for a conference. But I think realising how much my brain has changed over the course of my candidature – realising how much I think more critically now – has been a great feeling.
What has been the most unexpected moment of your candidature so far?
Well, Covid19 has certainly been unexpected! And having a planned archival trip delayed by bushfires and smoke…(hasn’t 2020 been fantastic) There have also been the great archival moments – finding great nuggets in various archives that you weren’t looking for. But I think I’d probably say seeing iguanas roaming the university campus and holding a baby crocodile in my hands while at the ANZSANA Conference in Mexico in February probably takes the cake!
Imagine an ideal world with no constraints. What would you be doing with your HDR/where would your HDR take you?
A colleague of mine teaches a subject called Education Diplomacy at the Middlebury Institute – I’d love to teach a subject like that, but do more research (so many potential research project bubbling in my brain) and help scholarship providers make their scholarship program designs better using the benefits of my historical research.
What do you do to relax and unwind after a long day of research/writing?
This year I was coaching my daughters’ U10 footy team, unfortunately we didn’t get a chance to play a game but I had great fun. Hopefully season 2021 turns out differently. I also enjoy cooking, and having weird wonderful and rambling conversations with my two kids.
Writing is big part in the HDR process. Do you have any rituals that help you get in the writing mood/vibe/mindset?
I am a procrastinator – but once I start writing I’m usually pretty good at getting things done. I have found daily word targets have helped me, the sense of satisfaction once I reach a target is really great for encouraging me to do more. I also listen to music a lot – what I’m listening to really depends on what I’m trying to do but my taste is all over the place!