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aaron sayama, timor-leste, 2015-2016
Fulbright Scholar Aaron Sayama

Fulbright Year: 2015-2016
Country: Timor-Leste
Proposal Type: Fulbright-Clinton Fellowship, Public Administration
UGA Degrees: Bachelor’s in International Affairs and Linguistics (2010); Master’s in Public Administration (2013)
Hometown: Columbus, Georgia

Aaron Sayama’s Fulbright-Clinton placement will find him working in Timor-Leste as a Special Assistant in the Ministry of Justice. Tracing his parentage to the Mariana Islands (he is half-White and half-Chamorro), Aaron says he has long struggled to find a comfortable place in American society and to understand how the country’s bureaucratic institutions can become more responsive to people that fall outside of the black/white racial dichotomy.

“I believe America, as a pluralist democracy, actively works toward securing its promise of liberty, opportunity, and equality for all,” Aaron says. “I seek to demonstrate America’s efforts to show the world the multiplicity of experiences a pluralist democracy can accommodate. I can speak to America as a work in progress and can honestly address the complications surrounding an effective and representative democracy.”

Aaron is well prepared for his Fulbright-Clinton term. He has most recently served as a planning and policy development specialist for Georgia’s Criminal Justice Coordinating Council (CJCC), the state’s executive agency for criminal justice and victims’ services policy.

While with the CJCC, Aaron served as the program manager for several federal and state criminal justice programs, from gun and gang violence reduction initiatives to drug and alcohol treatment programs. His research has focused on systemic criminal justice issues, such as the submission of sexual assault kits in Atlanta, implementation of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, and pretrial reform in state courts.

He has also served as an intern at the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. There he helped develop programs for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who may require extra professional development as they apply for Senior Executive Service jobs.

While a graduate student at UGA, Aaron was an assistant for the Archway Partnership, conducting research and developing infrastructure plans for the Georgia towns of Americus, Dalton, and Hawkinsville. During his undergraduate days, Aaron was a UGA Honors student aligned with the Roosevelt Institute, the Center for International Trade and Security, the Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (CURO), and the Journal for Undergraduate Research Opportunities (JURO).

Aaron says his research in Timor-Leste will target the capacity of public and legal institutions in transitional states to carry out justice for both offenders and victims.

“I am most looking forward to exploring how Timor-Leste is developing administrative systems to support the rule of law,” says Aaron, who plans to pursue a Ph.D. in public administration at the conclusion of his Fulbright term. “I am also interested in exploring Southeast Asia and examining the lasting effects of European colonization within the region.”

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