Auckland University Business School alumnus wins Fulbright award

22 June 2010

Former President of the Auckland University Students' Association, Dan Bidois, has won the inaugural Fulbright-Nga Pae o te Māramatanga Graduate Scholarship to study at Harvard University.

Fulbright New Zealand has partnered with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga – New Zealand's Māori Centre of Research Excellence – to offer a range of new exchange awards in fields of indigenous development.

In August, Dan will pursue a Master of Public Policy degree specialising in social and economic policy, and for his second-year project he will research solutions to address the educational underachievement of indigenous groups.

The 27-year-old, who was chosen from more than 2,000 applications worldwide, says when he found out that he had been accepted into Harvard he felt "gobsmacked."

"I applied to Harvard knowing that it was a dream of mine to go there, but I never thought that dream would turn into reality," says Dan.

"I owe my success to The University of Auckland, in particular to the support and encouragement of the academic staff, and also to the support of my family," says Dan.

For Dan, who is of Māori decent (Ngati Maniapoto), his road to university wasn't an easy one. At 15, unhappy and feeling disengaged with school, he dropped out. A week later he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer (Ewing Sarcoma), which meant undergoing several cycles of chemotherapy and an operation to save his leg.

Getting cancer was a turning point, says Dan. "It was a massive wakeup call and something, which got me thinking about what impact do I want to have? And what will I leave behind?"

Once recovered, he got a job in a supermarket. It was while working at the supermarket, where he completed a butcher apprenticeship, that senior managers saw Dan's leadership potential and encouraged him to study.

First Dan did some "bridging papers" at Manukau Institute of Technology – in order to get accepted into university, and once there he never looked back.

During his five years at The University of Auckland he completed a BA/BCom in Economics and Marketing and a BCom(Hons) in Economics, spent two-semesters on exchange at the University of California, Berkeley, was AUSA President and a University Council Member in 2006, and was the recipient of a Kelly Scholarship, Reserve Bank Scholarship, ING Graduate Scholarship and a University of Auckland Maori/Polynesian Graduate Scholarship.

Since graduating, Dan has worked as a consultant for Deloitte's consulting practice, and more recently he has been working as a researcher at the New Zealand Institute, a non-profit think-tank which generates innovative ideas to improve social and economic outcomes for New Zealand.

After Harvard, Dan plans to return to New Zealand to promote more effective solutions to New Zealand's greatest social and economic challenges. In the short to medium term he wants to work as a strategic advisor to New Zealand leaders, and in the long-term plans to be a public leader in New Zealand.

Director of Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Charles Royal says Dan is an outstanding young man who was a deserving recipient of the inaugural award.

"We were delighted to offer Dan this opportunity as we were to form the partnership with Fulbright New Zealand because it will enrich indigenous research."

The Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga and Fulbright New Zealand partnership was special as it will provide opportunities for scholars to engage in the area of indigenous research on a global scale, says Charles.