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U.S. Fulbright

Connecting Indigenous Communities: Native American Heritage Month Q&A

November 18, 2020

This Native American Heritage Month, we’re highlighting the contributions of outstanding Fulbrighters who live the Fulbright mission through the ways in which they express their identities and their goals. In this Q&A, Fulbright Student Alumni Ambassador Vince Redhouse shares his experiences in Australia, where he learned about the relationship between Indigenous communities and the law.

Vince Redhouse, 2015 Fulbright U.S. Student in Philosophy to Australia

Vince Redhouse, the 2015 Anne Wexler Fulbright Scholarship in Public Policy recipient, studied at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, where he completed an MPhil in Philosophy under the supervision of Robert E. Goodin. Vince’s thesis focused on the topic of political reconciliation between settler states and their indigenous citizens. In addition to his master’s program, Vince tutored for a course on Indigenous Culture through ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, was a Visiting Research Fellow at the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance, gave a TEDx presentation, and through support from both the ANU and the Lois Roth Endowment, visited Utopia, an indigenous community in the Northern Territory, where he was able to learn firsthand some of the issues Indigenous Australians face.


1. Tell us a little about your path to Fulbright. Who or what inspired you to apply?

Vince: My path was different than most. I am a first-generation college student and prior to my junior year of college, I had never heard of Fulbright! I was fortunate that one of my advisers recommended the program to me. There were two things that inspired me to apply: 1. An interest in the relationship between foreign Indigenous people and their settler colonial government; and 2. The opportunity to see if academia was right for me.


2. Tell us a little about your Fulbright research topic and project. What did a typical day as a Fulbrighter look like for you?

Vince: My Fulbright was for a two-year research degree: a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) in Philosophy at the Australian National University. My initial proposal was to examine and apply contemporary deliberative practices to see whether they could be used to dispel the false beliefs that societies hold about Indigenous peoples. What my proposal ended up being, however, was a normative evaluation of how political reconciliation could occur between Indigenous peoples and their settler colonial states. Ultimately, I argued that for political reconciliation to end legitimating settler colonial states, Indigenous citizens must be able to exit the process and reclaim their lands, should reconciliation fail or prove undesirable.

My research process was fairly routine: I commuted to my office(s) and did research at my computer most of the day. My university has an incredible tradition of taking tea twice a day, and I took advantage of that. It was a great opportunity for me to get feedback from professors and other students of all philosophical backgrounds in a friendly and casual environment. I also gave several research presentations, including a talk at the U.S. Embassy in Canberra and a TEDx talk, and was a pro bono tutor (i.e. graduate assistant) for an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander history and culture course taught by ANU’s Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research. I was also a visiting research fellow at the University of Canberra Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance. From time to time, I was also able to meet and discuss issues with indigenous leaders and activists throughout the country—even spending a couple weeks in a remote indigenous reserve—as well as with members of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Indigenous Affairs team.











Caption: Vince at TEDxFulbrightCanberra, and with former U.S. Ambassador to Australia John Berry.


3. How did your identity play a role in your Fulbright experience?

Vince: My identity as a Navajo was absolutely crucial to my Fulbright experience. A lot of the experiences I described above were available to me solely because I was an Indigenous person from the United States. The Indigenous peoples of Australia were just as eager to learn from me as I was from them! For example, I was invited to tutor a course in Aboriginal history and culture in order to share my experiences as an Indigenous person from the United States. Similarly, I was invited to spend time on a remote Aboriginal reserve, where I saw firsthand the impact of Australia’s Indigenous education policies. I was able to share my own experiences about U.S. educational approaches on Indian reservations.








Caption: Vince having dinner and hanging out with his philosophy friends.


4. What is your biggest takeaway from your Fulbright?

Vince: That indigenous communities across the world should be working together. We share so many historical similarities and are working to fight so many of the same battles every day. I truly believe that if we work together and learn from each other that we can do more than just persevere, we can thrive!


Caption: Vince (center back) sharing a meal with co-workers from the University of Canberra’s Centre for Deliberative Democracy and Global Governance.


5. What impact did your research or studies make in your career and local communities?

Vince: My Fulbright experience has had a tremendous impact on my life. It spurred me to go to law school and focus on Federal Indian law, but it also encouraged me to redouble my volunteer efforts working with Native American youth in the southwest United States. Currently, I run a professional alumni mentoring and scholarship program for Native students at the University of Arizona. Since taking over the program, I’ve been able to recruit a larger alumni community to mentor Native students and raise more scholarship funds for our students. My volunteer work collaborates with administrators to create mutually beneficial policy, and my experiences in Australia gave me the confidence to navigate and advocate in that arena.


6. How can native/indigenous students be supported and included in international education?

Vince: Fulbright should be more persistent about reaching out to Tribes, Tribal colleges, and international Indigenous communities about Fulbright opportunities. These connections are important not just for promoting Fulbright, but also for helping Indigenous students once they are abroad. Although Fulbright played a role in helping me make connections with Indigenous peoples in Australia, those connections were always indirect (e.g., a Fulbright alumnus introducing me to someone). Given Fulbright’s expansive alumni network and name recognition, I would like to see it strive to make those connections more directly.

U.S. Fulbright

Success Happens in Concert, By Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados

May 30, 2012















I came to Barbados on a Fulbright grant to conduct a study examining the risk and health-seeking behaviors of incarcerated men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, St. Philip.  During my first trip to the prison, I was simultaneously excited and apprehensive.  I was apprehensive not so much because I was visiting a prison, but because I would be asking the men serving sentences there to trust me with their life stories and experiences.  I was anxious to see how they would react to my research questions which had taken months to prepare.  By the time I had been granted approval to conduct my research in the prison, I had developed a burgeoning appreciation for the impact my work could have.  After my first meeting with the HIV coordinator and prison psychologist, the two people who guided my direct involvement with the men in Her Majesty’s Prison Dodds, I was reminded of the importance of relationships – a lesson at the heart of my Fulbright experience.

Because of the HIV coordinator’s and psychologist’s support, the imprisoned men were curious and receptive to my work.  Everyone was curious to know who was the visiting American interested in learning about their lives.  While working in the prison, the HIV coordinator allowed me, along with some female graduate students, to lead discussions.  This helped me to build a rapport with several of the men whom I would later interview for my study.  

During the meetings before entering the prison, I spoke with experts from the Barbados Ministry of Health (MOH) and HIV/AIDS Commission, as well as the University of West Indies, Cave Hill.  From these conversations, I was able to connect the names I had researched in books and the Nation newspaper’s electronic archive with the people who were quickly becoming my friends, mentors and colleagues; from these relationships, I was able to build a network of colleagues who supported me professionally and socially.  

Nicole and Mikala, two consultants at the MOH, gave me an in-depth, crash course on qualitative research and provided articles on the how, why and when to use different research methods.  They also took me on tours of the island, invited me to dinner with their families and rescued me when a water main burst near my apartment leaving me without running water.  Several other colleagues opened up their homes and went out of their way to help me, so much so, that when I had discouraging meetings (i.e., my ideas got scraped and I had to go back to the drawing board), I was reassured by the knowledge that my friends would motivate me to push through my setbacks.

John Donne’s phrase “no man is an island, entire of itself” truly applied to my Fulbright experience.  I spent more than six months drafting, researching and thinking about the project I wanted to create, but applying for a Fulbright grant was not a solitary process.  My friends, colleagues and mentors (including the University of Chicago’s in-house Fulbright application review panel), gave their time and energy to ensure that my application materials were in good shape. 

Two years had passed after college before I applied for a Fulbright grant, and I ended up doing so because my best friend had also applied.  Relationships are, and were, central to making my Fulbright application successful!

My advice for applicants:

  • Imagine a project that reflects your interests and passions.  Take time to envision how your work will be conducted and what the results might be.
  • Seek support from professors, work colleagues and friends (particularly if they are Fulbright Student or Scholar Program alumni).
  • Think strategically about the in-country resources that will be available to you for your proposed research or as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant.
  • Apply with the assistance of a Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) whenever possible.  If your school has an FPA, speak with him or her about the application resources available on your campus.

Top photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados, standing on the cliffs at Cove Bay, St. Lucy, Barbados

Middle photo: Justin Hill, 2009-2010, Barbados (center), with his colleagues Nicole and Mikala from the Barbados Ministry of Health at the Vashti Inniss Empowerment Center, Saint Michael

To learn more about Justin Hill’s Fulbright grant, click here to watch his video interview and hear him describe his experiences.

U.S. Fulbright

The Role of the Spanish Constitutional Court in Shaping Immigrants’ Rights in Spain, By Cris Ramón, 2008-2009, Spain

May 11, 2011

In September 2008, I arrived in Madrid to study the legal rights of immigrants in Spain.  Much like Ireland and Italy, immigrants’ rights have become a major political and legal issue in Spain given the recent growth of its immigrant population.  For my Fulbright project, I analyzed the legal impact of seven sentences that the Spanish Constitutional Court issued against the Ley Orgánica 8/2000, a reform of Spain’s main immigration law.  The reform, which was introduced by center-right Partido Popular in 2000, stated that immigrants could not exercise certain constitutional rights such as the right to public assembly.  In 2007, the Court declared these provisions unconstitutional because they deny individuals Constitutional rights guaranteed to all.

My research focused on determining whether these sentences prompted legislators to further expand immigrants’ rights in additional law reforms.  I interviewed immigration attorneys, law professors, politicians from Spain’s main political parties, and non-governmental organization and labor union representatives.  I intended to understand how judicial and political concerns had shaped the original law.  I discovered that while legislators fulfilled the Court’s mandate to remove the unconstitutional provisions, political concerns regarding the Spanish economic crisis led them to restrict other fundamental rights to control the influx of immigrants.  In other words, political factors continued to limit immigrants’ legal rights despite the Court’s efforts to expand them.

In addition to my research, I worked with six fellow Fulbrighters, also studying immigration in Spain, to organize a conference titled, From Emigration to Immigration: Seven American Perspectives on Immigration in Spain.  It was a success on several levels.   We had a standing room only crowd, and an engaging discussion took place about how the United States and Spain can help each other improve their ability to assimilate immigrants.  Planning and executing this conference was definitely one of the highlights of my Fulbright grant!

The most fulfilling aspect of my time in Spain, however, was that my appreciation of immigrant aspirations, like those that inspired my parents to move to the United States, deepened based on conversations that I had with Spaniards I met and with whom I worked.  Since most probably hadn’t previously interacted with the American son of Salvadoran immigrants, these interactions became an opportunity to explain how my family’s story reflected the common immigrant aspiration to move to the United States in search of a better life.  Some Spaniards shared their own family’s emigrant history during and after the Spanish Civil War.  These conversations helped me to understand how powerful shared or similar experiences can be in connecting people.  My Fulbright grant has not only helped me feel more connected to Spain’s history of emigration and immigration, but also to my family’s own story.

Two pieces of advice for applicants pursuing study/research grants:

  • You’re a young professional with no immediate plans to attend grad school?  Apply!

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program welcomes applications from all individuals who are U.S. citizens and have at least a bachelor’s degree or equivalent, including young professionals who aren’t in grad school or currently enrolled in an academic program.  If you want to carry out research in a specific country, review the Fulbright Country Summaries to see if the country to which you’re applying prefers applicants who haven’t completed a graduate degree.  Also, make sure to get in touch with your alma mater to find out if they would be willing to assist with your At-Large application. Many college and universities will also accept alumni applicants for the on-campus competition.

  • With a little effort, finding a host affiliation is absolutely possible.

Fulbright applicants without a research affiliation in their chosen country can be creative about finding one.   My undergrad professors and I did not have any academic contacts with law professors in Madrid, so I went through the faculty sites of every major university in Madrid and emailed a copy of my preliminary proposal to professors specializing in immigration law.  I received a response from my future advisor, Diego, within 24 hours.  While this specific approach won’t work everywhere, it is one of many possibilities for making contacts abroad.

Photo: Cris Ramón, 2008-2009, Spain (top row, right) with six fellow Fulbrighters who collaborated on the From Emigration to Immigration: Seven American Perspectives on Immigration in Spain conference: (Top row, left to right) Jesse Feinberg, Marisa Diaz, Oscar Perez de La Fuente (Professor of Philosophy at the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid), Alexandra Hinojosa; (Bottom row, left to right) Nicole Nfonoyim, Peter Holderness, and Michelle Dezember.

Questions for Cris about his Fulbright experiences?  Feel free to email him at