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Practical advice from our Fulbright alumni PDF Print E-mail

What does a Fulbright scholarship entail?

We spoke to Tessa Boyd-Caine and David Ireland about their Fulbright experience and best tips for handling the logistics...

In 2013, Tessa Boyd-Caine (now CEO of Health Justice Australia) was one of two inaugural recipients of the Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership. Tessa spent four months in the United States researching issues around how not-for-profit organisations can strengthen and lead the trust and confidence in which the sector is held.

As Deputy CEO of the Australian Council Social Service (ACOSS) at the time, Tessa found the support of her organisation invaluable and essential to undertaking the Fulbright. Here she shares her best tips for current applicants and scholars considering the logistics of the scholarship:

Tessa Boyd-Caine 1.  "The Fulbright Professional Scholarship in Non-Profit Leadership is a rare opportunity to step away from the day-to-day and immerse yourself in a learning and development opportunity. You can’t do it (or yourself) justice if you are also juggling your day job. And you shouldn’t have to. In my case, the stipend with the scholarship meant I

could take leave without pay from my job, leaving my employer free to backfill me with a replacement. I did a two week handover with my replacement at the beginning, a one week hand-back at the end, and for the rest of the time I was blissfully free to engage in my Fulbright work and the experience of living in the USA.

2.   "The support of your organisation will go a long way to enabling the most out of a Fulbright experience. From providing a reference, to supporting the time I needed away from the office during the Fulbright, through to valuing my ongoing engagement in Fulbright activities afterwards, I had strong support from my employer and this was really helpful. But this doesn’t only go one-way; ideally, your organisation should benefit too. I brought value back into my organisation with my newly-developed expertise from the issues I examined during my Fulbright; I extended our organisational networks; I had suggestions about new ways to tackle challenges within the organisation, from the time I had spent embedded in other organisations; and I was much more focussed on how to support and lead my colleagues.

3.   "Don’t underestimate the time you might need to step back from the day-to-day of your job before you are really ready to engage in the Fulbright opportunity. I was fortunate to be in the position where I had not taken leave for some time and so could take a break between finishing up in my job and commencing the Fulbright. This turned out to be invaluable as a way to decompress and meant I was in the best headspace to throw myself into my Fulbright experience, once it commenced."

Fast forward to 2018 and David Ireland is going through a similar experience with his Fulbright Scholarship.

David leads a busy life as an adjunct Professor at the University of Queensland Business School (UQBS), board member at several NFP and for-profit organisations, and the Chief Innovation Officer at ThinkPlace, a leading strategic design and innovation consultancy.

Of the experience, he says: 

David Ireland

"The Fulbright experience was amazing; to have the time to think deeply about the nature of the challenges underpinning some of the world’s most pressing and urgent challenges was incredibly useful. The people I met, the books and papers I read, and the work that I’ve done has

given me fresh perspectives on what we can do to make positive and sustainable changes to our world, and work towards intergenerational wellbeing.

In addition to an incredible amount of new knowledge and insights into why we have the world we have, I’ve built a wonderful network of connections here. I’ve also got to explore my own position in the world and think about what I want to do with my time on Earth. It’s also been a wonderful experience for my family. We’ve built some great friendships while we’ve been here, and it’s been a real eye opener for my young kids."

Here David shares his approach to the application and planning stage, and how to make the most of your time in the U.S.

"For prospective applicants, my first piece of advice is ‘yes, go for it!’.  My follow up pieces of advice would be:

1.   Don’t be overly prescriptive about your project and approach. While you can be specific about intended impact, you’ll meet so many amazing and thought-provoking people, that you will inevitably be pushed into new areas of exploration and new methods of exploration. Embrace this and it will take you places you didn’t expect.

2.   Talk to as many people as possible. The combination of being in the U.S. together with the Fulbright brand will open many doors. So, get knocking.

3.   Don’t stress early on about divergent thinking. The time to think deeply about a topic without the pressures of daily delivery is amazing and will open your brain to new opportunities. Embrace that time, and don’t rush into convergent thinking. Focus your project on how you can change the world, not just what can you do that is interesting."


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