Paul Burnaby from Motueka received a 2009 Fulbright New Zealand Graduate Award to complete a Master of Science degree in Civil and Environmental Engineering, specialising in renewable energy integration, at Stanford University in Stanford, California.
Discovering I had been selected for a Fulbright-Ministry of Research, Science and Technology award can aptly be described as complete euphoria (not to mention disbelief!). In my case, the Fulbright award allowed me to focus on understanding the challenges of a sustainable energy future, an issue I had been exploring over previous years in both developed and emerging economies. The opportunity to wholly focus on the plethora of issues, and to do this as part of a rich cultural experience, was terribly exciting to say the least.
I applied to a selection of colleges to undertake a masters degree, and was fortunate enough to be selected for my top choice, Stanford University. Stanford has a particularly strong focus on sustainability issues and offered a rigorous interdisciplinary approach. Even though my masters was in engineering, I was able, and encouraged, to approach my interests from policy, financial, and economic perspectives – drawing on the ideas and motivation from the world-class faculty in each subject area.
Some of the most valuable (and unforeseen) parts of my experience were the opportunities within the wider Stanford and San Francisco Bay Area communities. For example, I was able to assist in organizing an electric vehicle rally, select speakers and topics for the weekly Stanford Energy Seminar, and work with a promising Silicon Valley start-up to promote infrastructure markets. A particular highlight was attending a Q&A session with US Energy Secretary, Steven Chiu, exploring aspects of US energy policy. I found that the only limitation to my involvement was the number of hours in a day!
Having recently returned back to New Zealand, I am now focused on maintaining momentum in energy investment and entrepreneurship. I am currently working with Bank of New Zealand in their energy team, while plugging in to the small, but burgeoning, New Zealand entrepreneurial space.
Paul discusses his exchange experience further in this video recorded for EducationUSA during his time at Stanford: