Freyberg scholar: Niamh O’Donnell

30/08/2022 News

Niamh O’Donnell was the recipient of a 2021 Defence Freyberg scholarship worth $23,000 toward her Master of International Studies at the University of Otago.

During her studies she developed a research report on The United States’ Alliance System in Northeast Asia: An Examination of the Onshore vs. Offshore Balancing Debate. Her research investigated what US strategy was best suited to Northeast Asia in the current geopolitical environment, including case studies of US onshore balancing in Japan and South Korea and wider implications for New Zealand.

Niamh is currently working in Government and looking forward to graduating this month (August). We asked her a little more about her studies and experience as a 2021 Freyberg Scholar.


When did you first become interested in security issues?

I first became interested in security issues in my first year of university when I took an introduction to international relations class. The fast-paced and ever-changing nature of international studies drew me in and continues to fascinate me to this day. 


How did you choose your research topic?

It took me a long time to narrow down my research topic. I knew I was interested in researching Indo-Pacific security issues due to their effects on New Zealand national security. My interest in US foreign policy eventually helped me narrow down my research topic.


What did you learn along the way?

My research found that the United States’ most effective way of maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific is to continue its onshore, forward-leaning presence in Japan and South Korea.

Aside from my research, the experience of studying towards a Master’s was an amazing opportunity to challenge myself, engage in fulsome conversation with like-minded class mates, and study security issues at a deep and comprehensive level. It has certainly equipped me with skills that are invaluable to my career. 


How did you find out about the scholarship?

I found out about the Freyberg Scholarship by pure chance. I had recently attended a conference where some Ministry of Defence (MoD) staff spoke. Interested in career opportunities with MoD, I later scrolled through the website and came across an advertisement for the Freyberg Scholarship. The rest is history!


About the Freyberg scholarships

Up to $50,000 in scholarship funding is available each year to encourage postgraduate study in areas relevant to national security. Applications for the 2022 scholarship close 1 October.

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