Tag Archives: Fulbright

NZ Fulbrighter Simon Todd’s exchange to Stanford

UC grad Simon Todd is using his 2013 Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Award  to complete his PhD in Linguistics at Stanford University, California. He shares his experience with us here…


What are you specialising in for your PhD?

Simon Todd, sudent profile portraits.

I am in my 4th year of study towards a PhD in Linguistics. My dissertation research concerns the connection between asymmetries in spoken word perception and asymmetries in rates of sound change in words of different frequencies.

I am combining computational modeling, psycholinguistic experimentation, and large-scale statistical analysis of the development of the New Zealand accent to show that common words are more easily understood than uncommon words when pronounced in an unusual manner, and that this can cause common words to exhibit changes in accent faster or slower than uncommon words (depending on the circumstances).

Why did you choose Stanford?

The only word to describe Stanford is “vibrant”, and I chose it because it seemed a great place to both study and live for five years. The Linguistics Department is small, so all of the students and faculty are in contact; this gives both a buzz of collaboration and a fun, supportive social environment, complete with weekly happy hour! The university is home to great resources for academic and personal life. And of course, California is beautiful, with constant blue skies, golden beaches, and forest hikes.

You are back at UC for a few months – what are you working on here?

Simon Todd at Stanfordv2I’m here working on my dissertation for three months. Because it involves a case study in New Zealand English, I have been lucky enough to get my undergrad advisor at the University of Canterbury on my dissertation committee, so I’m here under her supervision. We’re working together to complete the computational modelling component of the dissertation, which emerged from my work at NZILBB several years ago. I’ll also be collecting data from historical recordings of New Zealanders born between 1850 and the 1990s — the entire history of New Zealand English — which will feed into my dissertation as well.

How did your undergraduate study prepare you for postgraduate in the US?

Studying both Linguistics and Mathematics gave me a firm foundation for both theory and methods that I made use of immediately in postgraduate classes, and doing an Honours degree and working at NZILBB gave me valuable research experience that let me independently and confidently pursue research from the start.

Please share some memorable moments of experiencing American life on your Fulbright exchange.

Thanksgiving. Stanford is very generous and gives us a whole week off for the Thanksgiving break. I usually visit family friends who live north of San Francisco. Thanksgiving is all about family and food, and I’ve been very lucky to experience the warm family environment, complete with turkey, gravy, cranberries, mashed potato, beans, biscuits (which are like scones), and pumpkin pie. It’s kind of like Christmas, just a month early and without presents.

4th of July. I went with some friends and my parents (when they were visiting) to a concert and fireworks to celebrate the 4th of July. It was a lot of fun, and really impressive to see how patriotic people were singing their national anthem and how much effort they had put into the display.

Football. In my first week at Stanford, I went to a football game. It’s basically a giant party, full of food, drink, and lots of cheering. It’s just as well, because the game itself moves really slowly — gameplay is about an hour, but stretches out to about four hours due to the constant stopping. Even torrential rain couldn’t put a damper on the fun-loving spirit infusing the stadium!

Have you connected with many other New Zealanders while you have been the US?

Simon Todd in class at Stanfordv2Yes. We have a network of 30+ New Zealanders at Stanford and we get together every year to celebrate various holidays with BBQs, such as Waitangi Day and ANZAC Day. Last year, we formalised the group into an official Stanford Student Association, which has enabled us to reach even more new students as they arrive.

I’ve also been fortunate to be involved with the Native American Cultural Center at Stanford, who host indigenous visitors including Ngāi Tahu every year for the First Nations Futures Program. This has given me a chance to connect with Māori culture in the US, which has been a great taste of home.

I have been in touch with about half a dozen of the Fulbright NZ cohort in my first year went to Stanford, and were instrumental in establishing the New Zealand community there. There is also an office for the Institute of International Education in San Francisco and they put on events for Fulbrighters from all countries; I’ve been to a few of these events and met interesting people from all over the world.

Please finish this sentence: International education is important because it connects us to a world of opportunities.

Fulbright New Zealand General Graduate Awards are for promising New Zealand graduate students to undertake postgraduate study or research at US institutions in any field. At least six awards valued at up to US$31,000 (plus $4,000 travel funding) are granted each year, towards one year of study or research in the US. Applications close 1 August annually. 

UC’s latest Fulbright scholar

Annalise Fulbright scholarAnnalise Fletcher is a final year PhD student interested in speech production changes in older New Zealand speakers and people with neurological speech disorders. She is UC’s latest recipient of the Fulbright General Graduate Award for promising NZ graduate students to undertake postgrad study at a US university.

Eight of these awards are offered each year with a value of up to US$33,000 each! Annalise will use her scholarship to visit the US for six months, based primarily at Florida and Arizona State Universities.

Annalise’s research is pretty amazing. She uses acoustic analysis techniques to explore how voice quality, speech rhythm and vowel articulation change as a result of neurological injuries and disease. Her PhD examines how this information can be used to model speakers’ responses to treatment strategies.

Annalise was also recently awarded a Claude McCarthy Fellowship to present sections of her thesis in the US at various conferences. As well as this, her PhD studies at UC are funded by the Sir Beaven Doctoral Scholarship!

Annalise is an exceptional example of a UC student doing amazing research that will change the world. If you also see a future for yourself doing ground-breaking research in your field, check out the postgrad website to learn more about what options there are for you at UC. And make sure you see what opportunities are available on the UC Scholarships website!

PhD student and Fulbright scholar Emma Marshall recommends studying psychology at UC

Emma Marshall

Emma Marshall

Emma Marshall is a student who has worked hard and fully immersed herself in her academic experience at the University of Canterbury. She completed a Bachelor of Arts with Honours, and then went on to do PhD research in psychology, which lead her to an amazing American opportunity.

In 2012 Emma received a Fulbright scholarship of $25,000, funding her academic year at the University of Minnesota in 2013. Emma’s PhD research in psychology focuses on the impact of the Christchurch earthquakes on the relationships of couples. I spoke with Emma about her time in Minnesota, the progress of her exciting research, and her plans for the future.

When faced with the decision of which University in America to choose as part of her Fulbright scholarship, Emma wisely based her decision on which university would be most beneficial to her research. The esteemed Dr Jeffry Simpson of the psychology department at the University of Minnesota swayed her decision, with his specialty in interpersonal relationships. On her time at the university, Emma professed “it was fantastic”.

For her PhD research Emma chose to focus on the psychology of couples in relationships in the aftermath of the earthquakes, as “couples capture how people deal with trauma better than individuals”. She noted that couples are also an understudied area in psychology, as they are much more difficult to study than individuals. For more on Emma’s research so far, see this UC media release from July.

Since returning to UC from the University of Minnesota, Emma has coordinated and taught a 400 level psychology course, Intimate Relationships, as well as continued her PhD research. Emma loved taking the course, which she believes also benefitted her PhD work as “teaching sharpens your research”. Emma also intends to continue teaching psychology, as well as undertaking further research beyond the completion of her PhD, which will be around March.

Emma highly recommends studying psychology at the University of Canterbury, particularly to new students in 2015. Her go-to advice for all students in general is to “surround yourself with the best people, and you will emulate them”. Great advice coming from a UC student who has achieved so much!