Elise Wood reflects on her scholarship experience as a 2017 Westpac Future Leaders Scholar.
There are a number of important questions to ask when deciding to undertake postgraduate studies. First, there’s the big one – what do I want to study and why? More than anything this decision must be driven by passion. What makes you tick, what are you curious about, how do you want to make the world a better place? After working for a few years on policy problems, my answer to this emerged. I found a deep passion of cities and wanted to understand how they could be built, revitalised and managed to create more inclusive and sustainable places to live.
The second big question is of course where should I study? Answering this was pretty easy for me. I was drawn to UNSW for its world renowned Built Environment Faculty, strong industry links, and the opportunity to explore the ever-dynamic Sydney as a live-in laboratory urban planning.
And then there are a myriad of questions relating to how. How will this fit in with my life and career? How will I support myself throughout the process? And how can I get the most out of my postgraduate experience? My answers to these questions came in the form of a once in a life time scholarship – the Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship.
The Westpac Future Leader Scholarship is a comprehensive scholarship that supports you in studies and personal development. On top of financial support covering fees, living costs, equipment, conferences, and adding an overseas component to your studies, Future Leaders Scholars also participate in a bespoke Leadership Development Program, and join a community of other talented and driven Westpac Scholars as part of the Westpac 100 Scholars Network. Each year 17 scholarships valuing up to $120,000 each are awarded across Australia. Recipients are chosen based on their past experiences and vision to shape Australia.
Receiving this scholarship has completely transformed my postgraduate experience. In a field as broad as urban planning, the Westpac Scholarship has afforded me the flexibility to explore different parts of the planning profession. This has included attending conferences in Australia and overseas, where I have learnt from leading voices in my field and been exposed to new ideas. I’ve also been able to initiate projects with peers, and change jobs to find work that aligned with my interests.
My fellow Westpac Scholars have been an important part of my studies. While we come from a variety of disciplines – neuroscience, law, agriculture, medicine, and engineering to name a few – we’re united in our desire to excel in our fields and make an impact in the world around us. Our catch-up coffees and interstate reunions have been a source of support and motivation, and a key point of reflection – to zoom out from our particular area of study and to see a bigger picture.
Choosing to apply for this scholarship two years ago is one of the best decisions I made. If you're planning to undertake postgraduate study, have a passion for your field and a vision to contribute to a better Australia, you should apply today.
Applications for the Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship are now open. Click here for information on key dates and how to apply.