Magda Maaoui, France
PhD student, 2016
Columbia University, NY
« The Fulbright fellowship has been a very important highlight in the first year of the inspiring journey initiated during my PhD studies in Urban Planning at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. This journey would have never been possible without the help and support of staff members from both the French-American Foundation in Paris and the Institute of International Education in New York. I am so grateful to the way they made themselves available: they were always helpful in providing me with clear instructions and timely guidance whenever I needed it. This fellowship came as an enhancement to my current doctoral research which strongly focuses on French-American comparative work on housing policy, neighborhood planning and the construction of socially just large metropolitan cities thanks to city-level and state-led good governance. As part of my academic training, I was also able to gain exposure to the resources that make the city of New York a unique hub with a tradition of critical inquiry and commitment to social change. Beside the challenging and fruitful classroom work and collaboration with my cohort of classmates, I strongly benefited from the proximity with the case studies I wish to analyze, and the bustling academic and urban planning local scene.
Thanks to the resources and time allotted to me by the Fulbright fellowship, I was also able to devote more of my time to promoting the initial results of my doctoral training, engaging more in extracurricular activities related to civic engagement and social justice, and learning more about how to navigate the many networks that make up my academic and professional field, in New York City and in the larger East Coast. I was for instance able to present papers at conferences both in the United States and in France. I was then granted with the Arthur King Peters Award, which allowed me to go on a research field trip to Washington, D.C., in order to further explore the federal institutions and spaces that are linked to my area of study and research focus. I was also able to share my experiences as a Fellow as a speaker on a Panel for incoming Fulbrighters at the Institute for International Education. Lastly, thanks to the Fulbright fellowship, I could engage more systematically with an ongoing online project I am curating, titled « Just Spaces », through which I interview women engaged in urban planning, design and architecture-related fields and ask them about their upbringing, career path and representations about being a woman, working in such a field, and contributing to the making of spaces that aim towards more social and spatial justice. This project can be read at https://www.magdamaaoui.com/justspaces.
I am truly grateful for this award, and this has to be inscribed in the larger frame of my experience as a PhD student at Columbia University. This campus and all the people it hosts have been so important in helping me carry on with the first year of my PhD training. It has been a blessing and a repeated source of energy and companionship. It has been a landmark as I was trying to tame the unknown of a new set of intellectual, social, practical and financial parameters this new chapter of my life represents. As an official Alumni of the French-American Fulbright Commission, I hope to carry on being an active member of an institution which encourages us to address complex real-world problems and blend critical theory with hands-on practice, with constant commitment to social justice. By granting me with the privilege of being a Fulbright fellow, you showed me how to constantly try to reconnect my education with the larger society, challenge the conventions of learning and citizenship and reunite the culture of scholarship with the culture of change-making. For this, I am truly grateful. »