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Pacific coup for University of Waikato scholars

Pacific coup for University of Waikato scholars

Two former University of Waikato classmates are the only New Zealanders selected to take part in a programme aimed at addressing new and emerging threats to the Pacific region.

Rhodes Scholar Briar Thompson and Fulbright Scholar Lora Vaioleti, both graduates of the University of Waikato and classmates during their studies, will join three other scholars - two from the Federated States of Micronesia and one from Hawaii – on the Pacific Security Scholars programme.

It is run by the Emerging Science and Technology Policy Centre, in partnership with the Hawaii-based Pacific Islands Society and the Center for Australian, New Zealand and Pacific Studies at Georgetown University, Washington.

The programme acknowledges a number of “new and emerging security challenges” for the Pacific, from mitigating the threat posed by emerging technologies to addressing the myriad of climate change challenges.

It works with academics, business leaders, societies and governments to help address these challenges head-on.

“Our Pacific Security Scholars help fill key gaps in research and provide invaluable strategic insight into how these challenges must be met,” the organising groups say.

The scholars will research and write about the policy implications of four emerging security issues in the Pacific Islands region, under the guidance of expert mentors on traditional and non-traditional security issues.

Their work will be published alongside some of the world’s most influential thought-leaders on Pacific affairs and will also be presented to the diplomatic missions of the 2014 Pacific Islands Forum.

Lora says she has begun research for her first assignment and believes the programme provides a rare opportunity to be closely mentored by highly regarded experts in the field.

“The calibre of the mentors in this programme is impressive, and this experience will be an invaluable progression of my work in the Pacific as I look towards a PhD in Human Security and resilience in 2014” she says.

Briar says she is looking forward to extending her knowledge of the different topics.

“It'll be a good challenge for me to learn more about, and keep up to date with, a range of security issues that I haven't had much exposure to before. Although some of what I have studied has overlap with security issues, I haven't previously delved into many of the topics we will cover in this programme, so I hope it will extend my knowledge of those topics.”

“I hope the programme will complement my studies on the Master of Public Policy programme at the Blavatnik School of Government at Oxford University and help me continue to have a Pacific focus.”

The scholars will work on the same assignment to start with, which is around emerging science and technology and their possible impacts on Pacific Island states.

They will be mentored by Eddie Walsh, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Australian and New Zealand Studies at Georgetown University.

Briar Thompson is a Rhodes Scholar pursuing graduate study at Somerville College, University of Oxford. She has completed an MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, in which her thesis focused on how the protection needs of those vulnerable to displacement linked to environmental stress might be provided, with particular reference to Pacific small island states. In 2013-14, Briar will be reading for the Master of Public Policy at Oxford’s Blavatnik School of Government, where she intends to continue relating her studies to the Pacific region.

Briar Thompson

Lora Vaioleti is a Fulbright scholar who recently worked in a leadership development and strategy role for the Global Islands Partnership (GLISPA). She is particularly well suited for this program; having led national, regional and international research projects on Pacific security, migration and climate change. A continuing research fellow for the Center of Unconventional Security Affairs at the University of California, Irvine and the Indigenous Maori and Pacific Adult Education Charitable Trust, she maintains a particular interest in the latent value of traditional Pacific social practices to increase human security and social resilience to both abrupt and long term climate change effects. Ms. Vaioleti received a Masters of Management with a concentration in Sustainability from the University of Waikato

Lora Vaioleti


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