USP Alumni Network

Name : Dr. Priya Chattier
Country : Fiji 

Why did you choose your field of study? In high school I was an Arts student and so when the time came for scholarship applications, I had limited choice or fields of study. Sociology was the only closed discipline that I could relate to in terms of my own interest and passion in social science research. Then I took Economics as my second major – just in case sociology didn't get me a job when I graduate  Now reflecting back on my chosen fields of study, I have no regrets!
Briefly reflect on your student life at USP?
I started at USP in 1995 with a Bachelor of Arts degree (double majors in Sociology and Economics) for which I was awarded two gold medals. And soon after my graduation in 1997, I was offered a scholarship in the discipline of Sociology to complete a Master of Arts degree. From 1998-1999 I stayed on as a graduate assistant in the department of sociology and completed my Postgraduate Diploma in Sociology in 1998 and Master of Arts (thesis by research) in 1999. Now reflecting back, I think USP laid the foundation for my solid career in academia. I had one of the best teachers in the discipline of Sociology and Economics in the late 1990s.
Not only that but I made met some great friends from other parts of Fiji and rest of the Pacific. I loved the Pacific feel to the campus life!! And USP offered a great learning environment for future leaders.
Greatest achievement[s] as a student  My greatest achievement would have to be when I scooped two gold medals for best graduating student in Sociology and School of Social and Economic Development in 1997.  It was a very proud moment for me as a student because my hours spent at the library finally paid off with an award!
Career Highlights since Graduation
Being headhunted and offered a job at USP as the Gender Studies Coordinator/Lecturer. After having worked in the United Nations Development Fund for Women (Pacific Regional Office in Suva) as the Research, Monitoring and Evaluations Specialist, going back to academia was like a dream coming to reality! In my role as the Gender Studies Coordinator, I was instrumental in designing and pioneering the first ever gender studies programme at USP. I am proud to say gender studies programme will always be in the handbooks of USP – and I left a great legacy behind! I feel very proud of this contribution to USP.
Now I am based at the Australian National University (ANU) as a Pacific Research Fellow in the State, Society and Governance in Melanesia program (SSGM).
Being involved and leading a national survey on gender and poverty which will be implemented by Fiji Bureau of Statistics in partnership with International Women’s Development Agency and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Suva, Fiji) and the Australian National University’s SSGM program. This study is part of Pacific Women Shaping Pacific Development Fiji Country Work programme and will be conducted this year. This survey will be the first in Fiji and the Pacific to measure poverty at the individual level instead of the household level measures of poverty.
Not only that, but I have recently been approached by the World Bank (Sydney office) to be part of Australia’s Pacific Seasonal Worker Program’s impact evaluation team as Gender Consultant. The impact evaluation will be completed in 2016/2017.
Who/what do you credit your success to? What inspires you? They say behind every man’s success there’s a woman. But I owe all my successes in life to my inspirational parents. Dad always pushed our limits – by encouraging us to persevere and work hard towards academic excellence. I still remember his words: “I don't have a cane farm and I am the breadwinner of the family. If my children can work hard and earn themselves a scholarship that will be the greatest gift of my life”. And those words stuck by me throughout my secondary school and university days. I was very lucky to be offered scholarships for both my BA and MA degrees at USP.
Also, I had great teachers at USP who continue to inspire me.
How do you think USP helped you in your career? Because I had an outstanding academic record for my BA and MA degrees from USP, I was offered International scholarships to pursue my PhD in Sociology at the Australian National University. And it was only after my PhD and through my position as the Gender Studies Coordinator at USP that my credibility for research was recognized in the donor community beyond Fiji. For instance, in the recent past, I have been involved in various research projects including an Australian Research Council research grant for Fiji-based fieldwork on Assessing Development: Designing Better Indices for Poverty and Gender Equity and was also a lead researcher for World Bank qualitative rapid assessment in Fiji informing the World Development Report 2012 on 'gender and economic choice'. I was also the National Consultant for AusAID Fiji’s Market Development Fund’s research project on gender and poverty in horticulture and tourism sectors in Fiji. These research experiences required me to critically evaluate gender relations, history of women’s movements and current discourses on feminist political economy and globalization in Fiji and the Pacific.
Describe any challenges you face to reach where you are today and how you overcame those challenges? There are a couple of them, which I would like to highlight here. Firstly, it didn't take me long to realize that a Masters Degree wont secure a tenured academic position at USP. So I was determined to find a scholarship overseas – which I did and was successful in getting international scholarships for my PhD from two Australian universities and in the end I chose ANU over Monash University in Melbourne. And even after my PhD getting an academic position at USP was difficult especially when departments were getting downsized. My brief stint at the UNIFEM Pacific Regional Office provided me with a great opportunity to work in the area of gender across the Pacific region. But soon I realized my PhD was being wasted and not put to great use- especially when international consultants get contracted by UN and regional bodies and even by local NGOs to do basic research on specific gender-related programmes.
But I always had a gut feeling that I was perhaps trained for academia. And soon after I joined USP as a Gender Studies coordinator, my credibility as a researcher shone when I started getting approached by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, AusAID and now DFAT and also other universities to collaborate on research projects in Fiji and the Pacific. For me it was a great moral boost and perhaps a slap on the face on those who didn't realize my potential!
Where do you see yourself in 10 years (career and/or personal goals)? The next 5 years I really want to establish myself as a Pacific expert on contemporary gender issues in the Pacific region. For this I would need to keep a good balance between academic publications and policy writing space. At present I am a Level B academic at the Australian National University but I do hope to go back to USP in the next 10 years as a Professor in Gender Studies!!
What advice would you give to current and future students of USP? Not to shy away from your dreams and passion in life. You only get one student life at the university – so make the most of it in a positive way that will take you into your future. One should always have a goal and focus to steer you away from distractions. Distractions are good but should be managed wisely! University education should be seen as a wholesome life experience of learning, making friends, and preparing well for the job market.
I didn't have the choice of field attachments – and sometimes it is of great value if you want to work in the multilateral and UN organizations. Or international student exchange schemes. They both provide a great platform for careers in international relations or regional organizations.


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