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Best and Brightest on show at NSW Parliament House



29 May 2013

Best and Brightest 2013
From left: Best and Brightest event emcee and Honours graduate May Samali, with 2013 panelists Nina Ubaldi, Mekela Panditharatne, Cindy Chen and Will Thomas.

Despite driving rain, more than 100 Government and International Relations students, staff and alumni gathered to celebrate the success of four talented Honours graduates at a special event at New South Wales Parliament House last week.

At the fourth 'Best and Brightest' Showcase, the full range of the Department's Honours talent was on display, with diverse presentations on thesis topics from the 'Howard Battlers' to the Eurovision song contest.

Proceedings were formally commenced by the President of the Legislative Council of NSW, the Hon. Donald Harwin MP, himself a graduate of the Government and International Relations Honours program. Such notable alumni as ABC Election Analyst Antony Green, a member of the Department's External Advisory Committee, were also in attendance at the reception.

Joining the panel was Nina Ubaldi, winner of the University Medal for best Honours thesis and former editor of student newspaper Honi Soit. Ubaldi undertook joint Honours in the Departments of Government of Government and International Relations and Italian Studies to complete original research on the Lega Nord, a right-wing Italian political party, and their use of dialect as a form of strategic language politics.

Fellow Honours graduate, William Thomas, then gave insight into his study of the political influence of the so-called 'Howard Battlers', presenting surprising quantitative research on their force as a voting bloc. The recent Honours in Government and International Relations graduate is now working as a senior accountant at KPMG, having also completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of Sydney.

The third speaker of the night was Mekela Panditharatne, who shared her research findings on virtual newsgames Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas and Medal of Honor, and their potential to unsettle traditional news paradigms. Panditharatne previously discussed this unique study at a conference in Canada last year.

Rounding out the event was Cindy Chen, a former winner of the best delegate award at the 2010 Model UN Conference who now works for Adobe Australia New Zealand. Her lively argument examined Eurovision as a tool for nation branding, focussing on the Baltic state Estonia, who used the contest as a way to become more Western-facing and later gain EU membership.

Organiser of the now annual event, Professor Emeritus Michael Jackson, said the Best and Brightest Showcase aims to provide a platform to highlight such innovative Honours research.

"When members of the External Advisory Committee met and talked with students they were impressed by their poise and bearing and fascinated to hear about the research of the Honours students," he said.

"That experience led to discussion about how to showcase these students and give their work a wider audience. The result is the Best and Brightest showcase."

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Contact: Emily Jones

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