How did you get there?
I won this scholarship through a competitive process run in tandem with the admissions process, administered by Princeton University and the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.
Tell us about Princeton.
The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs specialises in public service. Academic life is a smorgasbord of public issues, whether it is economic development, entrepreneurship, urbanisation or poverty alleviation. I am an hour south of New York City. The school brings together economists, academics, politicians and social activists and provides an opportunity to discuss and debate domestic and global policy with them. Some we have heard from are Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman, former US President Jimmy Carter, and the Dalai Lama. John Nash - known best as the subject of the movie A Beautiful Mind -continues to walk around campus with maths papers in hand.
Where are your fellow students from?
A diverse set of institutions including the World Bank, the White House and various governments around the world. This creates a rich, diverse and international environment of policy dialogue and debate. It is incredibly humbling to be a part of that.
What area are you focusing on?
Policies related to urbanisation, a topic that has become much more important in recent times with the rapid growth of cities. The study of cities includes a diverse range of issues such as housing policy and land use regulation, poverty alleviation, transport infrastructure, migration, environmental challenges and urban reconstruction. These issues tend to be complex, challenging and also increasingly important to how we live.
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Many of the policy debates in New Zealand are closely related to these global urban trends, and mirror conversations on the East Coast of the United States. Examples include the debate around "zombie towns", road pricing mechanisms to fund transport infrastructure, or the causes and consequences of excessive house price growth. All of these issues are frequently debated here at Princeton. The role of house prices in the financial system is especially vigorously debated in the United States, as might be expected so soon after the global financial crisis.
Having studied cities globally, what do you think of Auckland's progress?
New Zealand's evolving urban governance models are breaking new ground. We will always be challenged by sheer distance to overseas markets and our small population size, but streamlined urban governance is an important way for our cities to gain a competitive edge. Auckland has certainly benefited from these changes, something I have only fully appreciated after studying other models of urban governance.
What's the aim of what you're doing? What qualification will you have when you're done?
My core motivation for the programme is to learn how public policy can be used to create a stronger, more competitive and prosperous New Zealand. The programme offers a unique view on how other countries are dealing with pressing social problems; the challenge is to think how these might be applied to a New Zealand context. I am working towards a Masters in Public Affairs, specialising in urban issues as well as financial policy and economics. The programme includes a three-month period working at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.
How did you fund this?
Princeton fully funds its students over a two-year period. It is a unique programme in many ways, and one that more people could take advantage of. The last time a New Zealander was admitted into the programme was in the 1990s, so the Princeton admissions team could be forgiven for asking where all the Kiwis have gone. The scholarship includes a living stipend for the duration of study.
You have family over there, yet?
I have been recently joined by my wife, Hannah, who has left her work as a house surgeon at Auckland Hospital to be here.