Twice the success with 2022 Fulbright New Zealand Scholarship Awards

Wednesday 13 July 2022

Aya Morris and Leola Meynell are recipients in this year’s 2022 Fulbright New Zealand Scholarship Awards, which will see them take their research studies international.

Left to right: Leola Meynell, Professor Tracy Riley, Aya Morris.

Last updated: Monday 28 November 2022

Aya and Leola were honoured at a ceremony at the National Library in Wellington, which was hosted by the Honourable Aupito William Sio, Minister for Pacific Peoples and Minister for Courts. Professor and Dean Research Tracy Riley was present to support Aya and Leola as they received their Fulbright graduate awards.

A range of disciplines were represented at the ceremony, with grantees being set to take up their awards in person in the United States in the coming months.

The Fulbright programme is one of the largest and most significant education exchanges in the world. Fulbright New Zealand provides opportunities to promote academic excellence and mutual understanding through educational and cultural exchanges between New Zealand and the United States.

Aya and Leola have both expressed their gratitude for the Scholars@Massey programme, a peer support initiative for Massey scholarship holders that provides networking and development opportunities. The Scholars@Massey team made Leola and Aya aware of the Fulbright opportunities, and provided information sessions, application support, mock interviews, and encouragement that led them to apply.

Aya Morris

As a young parent living in the Far North District at the time, Aya Morris choose to study with Massey in 2003 after learning of the university’s strong distance learning option. In 2013, she graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Education Psychology in 2016.

Aya attributes her interest in environmental sustainability to her early life experiences living in one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s most economically deprived districts. She grew up in Kohukohu, a village located on the Hokianga Harbour, where she was 12 before mains electricity was connected to her home. Before then, Aya and her family lived with alternative energy, including a wind generator and solar panels, and kept livestock and planted fruit orchards and vegetable gardens.

In 2019, while attending the Festival for the Future, an annual summit on leadership and innovation for impact, Aya saw Professor Chris Gallavin talk about the new Masters of Sustainable Development Goals programme. This, along with the people she was working alongside at the Far North District Council, inspired her to continue her education, and she enrolled in the first intake of the programme.

“I returned to further education because I know that as a global community we will face major issues around climate change in the near future, including increased frequency of severe weather events and sea level rise. Environmental sustainability is a critical issue for the world today, and I believe that we all need to take action. I believe I have much to offer toward the development of strategy, policy, and practice in sustainable development.”

With her Fulbright NZ Science and Innovation Graduate Award, Aya will be researching sustainable development and resilience in coastal communities at Columbia University in New York City, as part of her Master of Sustainable Development Goals. She will be working with a team based at the Centre for Sustainable Urban Development, within the Earth Institute at Columbia Climate School.

Aya says she’s extremely grateful to be given an opportunity that will allow her to learn more about environmental sustainability and coastal resilience within a real-world context by working alongside experts in these fields.

“I’m looking forward to broadening my horizons, gaining a more diverse contextual understanding of the issues we face around climate change, and learning all that I can to assist with climate change mitigation and adaptation into the future. I hope to return home and put the knowledge I gain to good use in our local communities, where we face our own challenges in terms of environmental sustainability and coastal resilience.”

You can follow Aya on her Fulbright journey via her LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.

Aya Morris

Leola Meynell

Leola started her journey with Massey doing her undergraduate study on the Ōtehā (Auckland) campus, graduating with a BA in Psychology and History in 2012. After deciding to continue with postgraduate study, completing her honours (First Class) in 2017, Leola says Massey offered the most exciting research and supervision opportunities in her chosen field.

“My experience at Massey has been wonderful, combining creative research with scholarship support, and professional development opportunities. I’ve been able to work with an incredible group of women scholars in the School of Psychology, who have enabled me to undertake feminist psychological research on a range of critical issues, including my PhD research on the intersection of feminist, psychological, and environmental issues. I also did part of my postgrad via distance, and am now based on the Manawatū campus, so I have appreciated the flexibility Massey offers.”

After completing her master’s in psychology in 2020, Leola is now working towards a PhD in Psychology, and says she’s overjoyed to have received a Fulbright NZ General Graduate Award. With this award, Leola will be heading to the University of California, Riverside, to research how climate change is affecting women’s reproductive decisions.

“Climate change is happening all the time and it’s texturing our lives in complex ways. We need research which will help us to understand the psychological and emotional impacts of the environmental crises we’re living through.

“I’ll be working with Associate Professor Jade Sasser, who is globally one of the only scholars also undertaking research in my area. Specifically, I’ll be looking at how experiencing environmental traumas, such as wildfires, is affecting the reproductive decisions of women who live in California. This research will be part of a study within my larger PhD project based at Massey, where I am undertaking a feminist analysis of how climate change is affecting women’s reproductive decisions in the post-industrialised contexts of Aotearoa New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and the United States.”

Leola says her research goals tie into a broader concern for how climate change is both being addressed and ignored through policy and community action.

She says this is what makes California the perfect setting for her research, as it has one of the highest emission-producing economies in the world, yet in recent years has dramatically reduced emissions through implementing effective climate policies. It is also experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change, including wildfires and drought.

“I’m excited to learn more from the people who live there about how they’ve created this political will to address climate change. We are far behind in enacting these kinds of climate policies in Aotearoa New Zealand, and I look forward to developing understandings which will benefit our communities when I come home.”

Leola Meynell

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