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Future leader awarded prestigious Robertson Scholarship

Universities New Zealand | Media release

1 May 2018

Jia Dua

An exceptional young woman who wants to make a difference by working on the ethical complications arising from technology has been awarded the prestigious Robertson Scholarship to study in the US.

Jia Dua, aged 18 from Lynfield (Auckland), will take up her scholarship to study at Duke University, a leading private university in Durham, North Carolina.

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program was established by American philanthropist Julian Robertson, and funds young leaders each year from around the world, including New Zealand. The Program is valued at about NZ$100k per year for up to four years, and covers the scholar’s study, living and travel costs. Scholars also participate in summer internships, research or international community projects.

Jia attended Lynfield College where she was deputy head girl in 2017. Gifted in advanced physics, calculus, computing and web design, she was among the top students academically in her cohort throughout high school, receiving four NZQA Scholarships, including an Outstanding Scholarship in Geography. She mixes her passion for STEM subjects, with a love of the arts—singing in the National Rockquest; national finalist in the Play it Strange songwriting competition; and slam poetry. Jia also won the Auckland Impromptu Cup in debating, among other debating accolades.

Robotics has been an interest for several years. As well as winning national and international robotics competitions, Jia helped establish a Robotics Mentoring Programme at Lynfield College to give students an opportunity to explore what sparks their interest by tinkering with different aspects of robotics in a friendly and supportive environment.

In 2015 she was chosen by then Mt Roskill MP, Phil Goff, to be his Youth MP, and became involved with the Youth Parliament. Since then she has worked to involve more young people in political decision-making processes and to create a stronger platform for youth to have their voices heard on pressing community issues.

“For youth motivated to catalyse change but lost in the drudgery of politics, it’s easy to feel dwarfed by the magnitude of social problems. I’m impassioned in my role as a Youth MP because I believe that being informed is an impetus to being influential,” says Jia.

“Patient, inclusive, and relentlessly enthusiastic: these are the words that define my own mentors and the words I aspire to embody as a leader in STEM. My own achievements are a byproduct of the generosity of others, so I hope to lead by giving back, especially to those underrepresented: fighting against the biases and undermined opportunities that currently anchor science. Our talented female scientists belong at the frontlines. I aspire to lead with strength, advocacy, and action to get everyone there.”

John Taylor, Chair of the Robertson Scholarship Selection Committee says, “Jia is a very talented all-rounder, with strong leadership instincts and abilities that will enable her to give a lot to, and to gain a lot from, the Robertson Scholarship Leadership Program.”

In New Zealand, applications for the Robertson Scholarship are administered by Universities New Zealand. More information on the scholarship can be found at


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