Meet the Arts Postgraduate Winner of Dan David Award

21 May 2010

University of Sydney student, Franklin Obeng-Odoom proves he is a scholar of exceptional merit and undeniable promise after winning the Dan David Award.

The Dan David Prize, an international enterprise endowed by the Dan David Foundation and headquartered at Tel Aviv University, encourages and acknowledges diverse interdisciplinary research in multiple fields.

The prize recognises creativity, excellence, justice, democracy and progress while promoting scientific, technological and humanistic achievement that will help advance and improve our world.

To continue the outstanding research for which laureates are acknowledged, each laureate donates 10 per cent of their one million US dollar prize money to graduate students in their respective fields, helping to foster a new generation of innovative and inspiring scholars.

This year, the University of Sydney's Franklin Obeng-Odoom was one of the twenty postgraduate students to receive laureate funding based on the quality of his research and exceptional potential.

As an international student coming from Ghana, Franklin learnt of the Dan David Award from an email distributed to all postgraduate students within the Faculty of Arts. He had no trouble finding three referees to support his application.

Franklin says that 'an academic prize such as this … becomes one important indicator of progress in [his] studies' and is indicative of his 'avid and continuing interest and work in local democracy.' 'March Towards Democracy'is the field in which Franklin won the award.

Viewing all research candidates as unique, due to their different interests and aspirations, Franklin strives to combine theory and practice along with teaching, research and academic administration.

The University of Sydney was Franklin's 'first choice for a PhD'. His preference was partly inspired by a Ghanaian intellectual who wrote a doctoral thesis on 'government policy and direct foreign investment in Ghana, 1957-1975' at the University in the 1980's.

Initially 'finding a supervisor in economics with an interest in cities', Franklin's chosen subject, proved difficult with economists tending to 'ignore the spatial and urban question.' However, Franklin found the work of the Professor Frank Stilwell in the Department of Political Economy (now in the Faculty of Arts) very interesting, prompting him to establish contact. Professor Stilwell was sufficiently impressed by Franklin's initiative and academic potential to invite him to come to the University of Sydney to do his PhD.

After arriving in Australia for the first time on August 11 2008, to commence his candidature, Franklin was initially intimidated by Professor Stilwell's impressive personal library. Nevertheless, in his first two meetings he received five of these books as 'introductory reading' and, since then, 'the student-supervisor relationship has grown from strength to strength.' Professor Stilwell was one of Franklin's referees for the award.

Franklin is quick to thank the University of Sydney for its broad institutional and financial support. He says 'the Faculty of Arts and the School of Social and Political Sciences [to which he belongs] has a strong assembly of people, students and academics, from departments such as Sociology, Anthropology, Gender and Cultural Studies and History, from whom [he] has learnt a great deal.'

Franklin's Department of Political Economy 'is a centre of "pluralist economics" that enables its students to benefit from different economic perspectives.' He praises the open door policy, 'which makes the department an accessible one-stop-shop for a variety of economic perspectives.'

Once Franklin completes his degree he hopes to pursue an academic career and learn from the corpus of knowledge on African cities. With the future of Africa lying in the socio-economic progress of its cities, Franklin aims to better appreciate their political economy and how they reflect global forces. Clearly, his outstanding research will pave the way for innovative thought and understanding in the years to come. The Faculty of Arts warmly congratulates Franklin on his achievement.

Article by Liz Schaffer.

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