A Tauranga woman is preparing for the "experience of a lifetime" after winning one of the country's top scholarships.

Melissa Derby, of Ngāti Ranginui descent, has been awarded a Fulbright-Ngā Pae o Te Māramatanga Graduate Award and will research race, ethnicity and indigeneity in the United States later this year.

The 37-year-old received the award at a ceremony at Parliament on June 18.

"It was such an amazing experience to have my family and friends attend, and it was a great opportunity to meet some of the US recipients too," Derby said.


The scholarship would allow Derby to study at Colorado State University and San Diego University for 10 months, where she had been given US$39,000 plus travel expenses to attend.

Derby said it was "unbelievably overwhelming and extremely humbling" to know her passion for ethnic studies was supported by Fulbright New Zealand and Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga, the Māori Centre of Research Excellence funded by the Tertiary Education Commission.

She will add to her impressive list of qualifications which include a Bachelor of Arts from Victoria University of Wellington, a Masters of Arts (Hons) from AUT University and a Graduate Certificate in Indigenous Studies from Columbia University in New York.

Derby was currently a Whāia Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga Scholar completing a PhD in Education at the University of Canterbury.

Derby and her three-year-old son, Te Awanui Derby, would travel to the United States in August.

"I'm looking forward to immersing myself in life in the US and making the most of every opportunity," she said.

Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga co-director and Fulbright-NPM Alumna Professor Jacinta Ruru (University of Otago) said this year's award recipients were impressive Māori scholars who were at the forefront of intellectual thinking.

"This is a life-changing opportunity for them to be further inspired and we're excited for them.


"Their work will strongly contribute to our vision of Māori leading Aotearoa New Zealand into the future," Ruru said.

Penelope Borland, Fulbright New Zealand's executive director, said Fulbright New Zealand was proud to partner with Ngā Pae o te Māramatanga in offering these awards and was delighted to provide Melissa with a tremendous opportunity to further her work and thinking in the United States.

Fulbright New Zealand Awards
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.

Approximately eight awards are granted annually, valued at up to US$40,000 (plus NZ$4,000 travel funding) for up to one year of study or research in the US. Students undertaking multi-year Masters or PhD degrees have the opportunity to apply for additional funding of up to US$30,000 towards their second year of study.