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Stepping out to see the world

As I write this column, Dr Jessica Walker, one of the university's two Fulbright Scholars for 2012, is preparing to leave for 12 months of study at the United States Naval Academy. Our other recipient, Dr Sue Baker, is already in the US as a guest of Washington State University.

US Consul General (Melbourne), Frank Urbancic, recently spoke about the benefits of students studying overseas at a Fulbright reception in Hobart. "Whatever (your scholarly) pursuit I can guarantee you of this simple fact – travel is going to expand your mind and force you to deal with different realities, an experience which I think is absolutely invaluable."

Jessica and Sue are among 11 Tasmanians since 2007 to have benefited from a period of study abroad courtesy of a Fulbright Scholarship. They share a long tradition of international education for UTAS graduates through initiatives such as the Rhodes and Monash schemes.

Opportunities offered by such scholarships can be life-changing, developing the recipient both academically and personally, and broadening their horizons in a manner that is otherwise difficult to achieve. Relationships formed have enduring value that is of long term benefit to the individual, state and university, fostering a sense of identity across the world.

But by their very nature these scholarship schemes are highly selective, providing opportunity to only a few.

Open to Talent speaks to the interplay between our geographical location in Tasmania and our engagement with the world of education and ideas. I have written previously of the importance we attach to bringing the world to our island, enriching the intellectual, cultural and social fabric of our community through welcoming international scholars and students to our university. But we accept that there is more that we can do to bring Tasmania to the world – drawing international attention to the discoveries of our researchers, and increasing opportunities for our students to study offshore as part of their UTAS education.

We need to have the confidence to let our best students go, to let them develop overseas, and to welcome them back more highly accomplished than when they left us.

We are keen to seed opportunity, providing modest scholarships that make it financially possible for our students (and staff) to spend time at sister institutions across the globe, and have started discussions with the UTAS Foundation as to whether philanthropy might have a role to play here.

We must ensure that our programs are aligned with international curricula, facilitating student mobility via the transfer of academic credit. And, as always, we must imbue in our students those senses of aspiration and confidence that will encourage them to see the world’s best institutions as a logical destination.

Peter Rathjen

Published on: 19 Jul 2012 9:57am