Five Jamaicans awarded US Fulbright scholarships for doctoral studies

Five Jamaicans awarded US Fulbright scholarships for doctoral studies

Thursday, November 19, 2020

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TWO educators; an analytical chemist; a renewable energy consultant; and a clinical psychologist — these are the five Jamaicans who have been awarded Fulbright scholarships for doctoral study in the US for the 2020 academic year.

The Fulbright Program is the United States (US) Government's flagship international educational exchange programme, split into Fulbright Latin American Scholarship Program of American Universities (LASPAU) and the Fulbright Foreign Student Program.

Together, they provide opportunities for instructors at institutions of higher education, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study and conduct research for up to two years at diverse US universities.

The programme in Jamaica is administered by the US Embassy in Kingston.

In the 74 years since its establishment in 1946, the Fulbright programme has awarded 360,000 scholars from around the world. Jamaica has had roughly 1,000 scholars since 1962.

This year's cohort features vice-principal and registrar of Campion College, Lavare Henry; environmental and analytical chemist, Mario Christie; laboratory technologist/renewable energy consultant, L Nathan Henderson, former adjunct tutor with The University of the West Indies' Department of Government, Ralisa Dawkins; and clinical psychologist, Jodi Sutherland.


Described as the consummate teaching professional, Lavare Henry is vice-principal and registrar of Campion College. His Fulbright (LASPAU) Faculty Development award sees him pursuing doctoral studies and research in education with a focus on leadership and at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

He is driven by his personal ethos that, “a good and effective education system is essential for a prosperous and vibrant economy as well as a fair and just society”.

Henry's research work will focus on creating a realistic and effective framework for measuring value added elements of Jamaican schools at both the primary and secondary levels to build on what currently exists.

“A realistic and scalable template for measuring student progress will go a far way in improving our education system, school quality, teacher quality and student outcomes,” he says.


A woman with a passion for the mental well-being of others, Jodi Sutherland served as an associate clinical psychologist with the Ministry of Health & Wellness' North East Regional Health Authority. She is now pursuing a PhD in medical psychology/health research at the University of Rhode Island-Graduate School. Upon completing her degree, Sutherland plans to return to Jamaica to work as a research practitioner, advancing coping mechanisms for marginalised groups affected by cancer and HIV/AIDS. She also hopes to explore health disparities to expand health equity and improve health care outcomes among key populations.

“I'm excited to examine the interplay between biological, psychological and social factors in determining one's risk for the development of chronic diseases and later the resources needed to cope with same,” she says.


Ralisa Dawkins, a former faculty member of The University of the West Indies' (Mona) Department of Government, is shifting professional gears. She is undertaking doctoral studies in science and technology at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University-Graduate School.

Dawkins, who is legally blind, is driven to further dispel the belief that people with disabilities are unable to significantly contribute to the growth of a society.

“As a person living with a noticeable disability, I had to work hard to withstand the stigma and belief that persons with disabilities are not able to contribute to society,” she says.

Dawkins believes effort must be placed in understanding how mechanisms can aid such persons in being self-reliant, and therefore plans on conducting research in artificial intelligence and disability studies in an effort to help advance the lives of people living with disabilities in small islands developing states like Jamaica.

Dawkins has been described as one who stands out not because of her disability, but in spite of it. She consistenctly outperforms her peers and sets the stage to assume the responsibility of an outstanding scholar, researcher and leader in policymaking decisions.


Mario Christie, who is hailed as an outstanding researcher with commitment to the field of chemistry, is an environmental and analytical chemist. His LASPAU Faculty Development Scholarship sees him pursuing a PhD in environmental science at the SUNY, College of Environmental Science and Forestry.

The programme will be an intersectional study of water resources, involving how the natural environment impacts water resources and how people interact with water resources and the environment. This, he asserts, will allow for the identification of gaps within policy creation and implementation and communication with the public.

He envisions that his research will be anchored in the socioeconomic impacts of poor water resources management to compliment his technical expertise in water analysis, watershed assessments and risk mitigation to water resources.

“Access to water for health and sanitation is one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals and it is important for Jamaica to be able to assess the availability of natural resources with an outlook towards sustainable development,” Christie says.


Described as having the distinct ability to disaggregate challenging concepts into simpler and more easily understood components, L Nathan Henderson, a LASPAU recipient, is pursuing a PhD in materials science and engineering at the University of Central Florida. He is a former senior laboratory technologist in the Physics Department of The University of the West Indies, Mona, and a former teaching consultant with the Wigton Windfarm Renewable Energy Lab.

Henderson believes that growing up and living in a small island developing country that is blessed with a significant solar resource reinforces the need to utilise clean, sustainable energy sources for national development.

“The need for clean, sustainable energy is a major issue confronting the world now and is one of the most important material needs for effective national development,” he argues.

He will therefore pour his efforts into identifying storage methods to effectively distribute the energy produced through means such as solar and wind energy to positively impact energy costs for Jamaican households and businesses alike.

Photos: Courtesy of US Embassy Kingston

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