Ramona Sulifoa.

Ramona Sulifoa.

I’m delighted to announce that Ramona Sulifoa of Apia, Samoa has been awarded a Fulbright scholarship to pursue a doctorate degree in agricultural sciences in the United States.

A tropical agriculture specialist, Ramona earned both her bachelor and masters degrees at the University of the South Pacific after conducting extensive field research in the Solomon Islands.

She is currently the Program Assistant for the U.N. Food & Agriculture Organization in Apia. Before that, she worked for Samoa’s Ministry of Agriculture as well as the University of the South Pacific.

Those of you who have heard me speak more than once almost certainly know that I am a big booster of the Fulbright Program. Established in 1946 by the United States Congress, the Fulbright is intended to increase international understanding and advance the interests of peace and stability by sending American students overseas and bringing foreign students to America to study. It provides an extraordinary opportunity for students to advance their educations and enhance their careers in powerful ways.

As I described at greater length in a previous post, approximately 310,000 students and academics — 116,900 from the United States and 192,800 from more than 155 other countries — have studied abroad on Fulbright scholarships thus far. Each year the Fulbright Program brings approximately 1,800 more international students to colleges and universities in America.

Samoan Fulbright candidate Ramona Sulifoa doing research on canarium nuts in the Solomon Islands.

Ramona Sulifoa engaged in research on canarium nuts in the Solomon Islands.

In 1948 New Zealand became the fifth country to sign up for the Fulbright Program with the United States, and more than 1,400 Kiwis have already studied at American universities on Fulbright grants. Although Samoans living elsewhere have received Fulbright scholarships in the past, the Fulbright Program has not been active in Samoa itself. Last year we succeeded in changing that.

Samoa is now formally included in a South Pacific Island Nations grouping with several dedicated Fulbright scholarships each year. We will annually solicit applications from accomplished Samoans interested in pursuing graduate study in the U.S., and I am confident that we will regularly see grants awarded to Samoan candidates. Ramona is our first awardee but will certainly not be our last.

Ramona with children in Malatia Province in the Solomon Islands during her  research for her Masters in Agriculture.

Ramona with children in Malatia Province in the Solomon Islands.

In a complicated, interconnected world with complex problems, there is no better investment in our future than building intellectual capacity and training creative problem-solvers. The great beauty of the Fulbright Program is that it stimulates a flow of talent and energy that enriches debate, increases quality of life, and spurs economic activity in both the U.S. and students’ home countries, a quintessential win-win.

If you are a Samoan citizen living in Samoa and would like more information about the Fulbright Program and how to apply, please contact my colleague Charlina Tone at our Embassy in Apia.