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K-State Today

October 23, 2019

Q&A with Fulbright Scholar Davids

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

As part of the national Fulbright Scholar Program, K-State's Oz to Oz Fulbright Scholars Seminar brings senior research scholars to campus to build and develop international partnerships and friendships. Free and open to the public, Adam Davids will present an Oz to Oz Fulbright Scholars Seminar at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 23 in 118 Bluemont Hall. 

This Q&A with Davids gives the university community an opportunity to learn more about the scholar speaker and reinforces the importance of mutual understanding and education of diverse research topics.

What's your name, title and where do you work?

I'm Adam Davids, a proud aboriginal man from Australia and I work for a nonprofit organization called CareerTrackers. CareerTrackers was founded 10 years ago this month and has a vision to increase the representation of aboriginal and island people in the highest levels of corporate Australia.

Australia has never had a CEO of a stock listed company or even a C-suite executive and it's our vision to change that. We go to campuses and meet with students to learn more about them and their career passion and match them to an organization where we create a paid intern opportunity for their summer holidays so they build the skills, the tools and the networks to enter into graduate employment when they finish. The program provides a lot of leadership development and wraparound support to help them navigate university, navigate their internship and their company and ultimately become a role model for the next generation of students that will hopefully come behind them.

CareerTrackers is modeled on a U.S. program called InRoads, which has a huge legacy of developing minority leaders. It is a privilege to have such a proven legacy organization to follow. Hopefully, I can take a drop of the secret sauce and plug that into Australia.

How would you describe your field of study? Educational leadership? Non-profit leadership? Or something else?

To be really honest, unlike anything else it's probably those three words. Studying the racial wealth gap is not a new thing but what I see happening in the conversation around the racial wealth gap is that it is a deficit-based conversation. Meaning that there is this gap that exists and we have to bring poor helpless people up to everyone else's standard. We see that conversation happening in Australia.

There is a whole campaign called "Closing the Gap" campaign and every single year it gives us measures of aboriginal disadvantage and how much we need to get aboriginal people up to speed with the rest of society. I see that playing out here so I guess what I'm trying to do is to change the narrative of a conversation like this to a more appreciative conversation. To figure out what's worked and if we can figure out what's worked, let's do that more. This is what I would call an appreciative inquiry approach. I'm looking for not-for-profits of excellence that serve minority people and have a track record of doing so. For that matter, perhaps I might narrow it down to not-for-profits and there is a level of social entrepreneurship that sits in there. There's an element of educational advancement and career advancement as well.

How is the Fulbright scholarship helping you increase knowledge of this area?

The Fulbright Program has given me access to people that I probably wouldn't have had otherwise. The reception that I've had since I arrived has been fantastic. The type of insights that I'm able to get from these individuals have pointed me in the direction that I'm going and have anecdotally given me something that I think is quite special. Had I not been a Fulbright scholar, I probably wouldn't have collected.

What drives your interest in your research?

I reflect on a story from when I was younger. In the places where I grew up, to be a successful aboriginal, normally meant you were in sports. To bring prosperity to the community normally meant that you were going to go compete in the Olympics. There was this type of investment and support of aboriginal athletes so it's no surprise that we see people like Cathy Freeman win a gold in the 400 meters at the Olympics and a large array of aboriginal people of excellence in that arena. But we haven't seen that same scale in education and in professional employment and the C-Suite. So for me that kind of reflection is really what drives my interest in this kind of work, in CareerTrackers, in understanding InRoads, and what's being achieved here in the last 50 to 150 years because I think there's a blueprint in there for the world, for Australia and for other countries that are seeking to move forward a group of less privileged minority people who have been systematically disenfranchised. How do we move forward as a society?

You know, I might add another observation to all of that. The progress that we've seen can be somewhat deceptive. This is part of an informal conversation that I've had with a bunch of people. Perhaps we are seeing more Black faces on television now more than ever and we just had a Black president. I think there can be an overall sense that things are fine now and access is equal and we can let things be but it's simply not the case. I think there is a level of deception and we have to understand what that changes in our mentality to the type of investment and support that we are going to provide to programs and communities going forward. I can see that happening in Australia probably in the next decade. There may be a sense of deceptive progress.

What's the true measure of progress? I think that measures of educational attainment and jobs are fantastic but I've come to believe that as a result, the measure of wealth is an even truer measure of progress.

Why did you accept the invitation to visit K-State?

I love an exchange. I told myself that when I took the Fulbright, I would say yes to more things than I would normally. The stuff that I'm working on, I would just love to share with more and more people. I think the type of mission that we are on it should be of interest to the world. Coming out here to kick around a few ideas might be of mutual interest so even being very time poor — I'm on a four-month project — I really wanted to make this happen.

What is the final key message you hope people take from your visit?

I'm a fan of the appreciative inquiry approach than a deficit-based conversation. I think we have to view minority people as just as talented as anyone else and as deserving of an opportunity as anyone else and we have to look at that in a very fair manner. There has to be a change in narrative and I think we use the tumultuous times in our history to find an opportunity to galvanize a kind of mission that is going to help build prosperity for those who are underserved.

Professionals are really at the core of a broader change. If we look at the change agendas that have helped minority people move forward in the past, quite common among every aspect of those agendas have been minority professionals. I would highly encourage places like the U.S. and Australia to invest seriously in developing a pipeline for racial minority professionals as well.

The next Oz to Oz Fulbright Scholar speaker is Anna Ralph, who will present "Cyclones and Crocodiles: Tropical Medicine Challenges in Northern Australia" from 3-4 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 24. See the events section in today's issue of K-State Today for more information about her talk. A Q&A with Ralph will follow in Thursday's issue.