Native SWDC resident Madeline (Maddy) Hall has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship for graduate study in New Zealand. She plans to spend a year performing research at the University of Otago in Dunedin, and complete a master’s degree in Environmental Sociology. Her research will focus on a decision process for local sheep and cattle farmers.

This won’t be her first time in New Zealand, where she spent a semester abroad in 2010. On her spring break there, she worked as a farmhand mustering (herding), tagging, and shearing sheep in exchange for room and board. That’s where she learned about the decisions farmers face there about participation in the country’s carbon credits program.

Before that, these programs had just been something discussed in class, not with a farmer facing important decisions about his family business. She found that the farmer and owner of Te Hapu, a thousand-acre farm on the rocky coast of New Zealand’s south island, had done his homework when he showed her a folder of newspaper clippings on carbon credits. He was still unsure about whether to participate, and she became interested how farmers make such decisions. She plans to collect her research data by using concept mapping, a tool for mapping a person’s thought process to show how a person thinks about particular issues, options, and decisions.

She believes her research will be relevant in both New Zealand and the United States.

“Knowledge about farmers’ decisions to take part in these programs is needed in order to better design effective policies, and to ensure that they respond to farmers’ specific desires and needs,” she wrote in her proposal.

Ms. Hall is a 2012 graduate of the the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where she majored in environmental studies in the Sondheim Public Affairs Scholars Program. She attended DC public schools throughout her educational career and graduated from the School Without Walls in 2008. During the summers of 2006-07, she toured as a clown with the acclaimed Vermont youth circus group, Circus Smirkus, and was a featured performer in the Circus Dreams documentary.

Before college, her only international experience was visiting Canada, but she followed up her semester in New Zealand by working in Peru with indigenous people about mitigating climate change effects, conducting environmental research in Ecuador, and traveling South America. She attended the 2012 climate change conference in Doha, Qatar to gather more information about climate change impacts on indigenous peoples.

Ms. Hall is one of more than 1,700 U.S. citizens who will travel abroad for the 2013-2014 academic year through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program. The Fulbright Program is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government and is designed to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries. Funding is provided by the U.S. Department of State with support from  participating governments and host institutions, corporations and foundations in foreign countries and in the United States.

The program operates in over 155 countries worldwide. Since its establishment in 1946 under legislation introduced by the late Senator J. William Fulbright, the Program has given over 300,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists, scientist, and other professionals the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas, and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Recipients of Fulbright grants are selected on the basis of academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential.

Ms. Hall says she’s “really excited” about her trip beginning in January, as are many of her neighbors in River Park. Her family and friends in Southwest are looking forward to hearing more from her during her travels. The only qualm so far, she said, is her mother’s concern that she might “meet and marry a sheep farmer” and wind up staying there.  From her earlier itinerary, she doesn’t seem likely to stay in one place for long, though.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.