Our Most Recent Returnees


Sohie Lake Tahoe.jpg

Francis Hwang

The Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust Grant – 2018 Grantee

Francis reports back after completing his Master of Public Policy (MPP) at  the

Heller School for Social Policy and Management, Brandeis University in Massachusetts.

Complete report 

Sophie Davis

The Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust Grant – 2019/20 Grantee

Sophie reports back following the completion her my Master of Laws at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia. 

Complete report  

Jake in Chicago 2019

Jake in Chicago - A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC)

David Yi Hang Cheng visits the U.S.

Sailing on the West Coast!

Kate in Times Square, New York

Kate in Times Square, New York

Laura-Lee - "Pizza anyone?"

Laura-Lee - "Pizza anyone?"

Kate in Rehearsal

Kate in Rehearsal - NY Theater

Laura-Lee at the N.Z.  Mission in Ne

Laura-Lee at the N.Z. Mission in New York

Hugo at the American University, Was

Hugo at the American University, Washington D.C.

Jake Silby - The Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust Grant - 2019

Report following tenure at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC

"I wholeheartedly feel that my unique experiences while pursuing my MFA at SAIC have better
equipped me for a future in the art world.

Dear Trustees,
I am writing following my graduation from the Masters in Fine Arts, Photography program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) in May of 2019, in which the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust grant I received was used towards.
My graduate study experience at SAIC was incredibly rigorous, but altogether very positive in the development of my artistic practice. I learnt how to better equip myself with the tools to contextualize the work I make conceptually, as well as being offered multiple opportunities to work outside of my chosen medium.

This, of course, was not achieved alone. I was able to work with an incredible array of graduate advisors who overlooked the production of my work for the entirety of my degree, many of whom being very established artists coming from a diverse set of backgrounds. I owe a debt of gratitude to their mentorship and energy which guided my momentum and subsequent output. In
addition to this, my fellow MFA Photography students provided invaluable support and feedback throughout our time together, and I am now lucky to have friends for life coming from as far afield as Australia, Ecuador, China and all reaches of the United States.

While studying at SAIC I also made an effort to become familiar with the Chicago art scene. The obvious starting point for this is the Art Institute of Chicago -- a world renowned art museum with a vast and incredible collection of art from around the world that is easy to become immersed in. Having this museum as an easily accessible learning resource was a luxury I am truly grateful for. I did also enjoy exploring the opposite end of the spectrum, getting to know the local DIY art spaces that are often more eclectic and odd. The prevalence of these spaces in Chicago means the city lends itself well to more experimental and unhinged art practices.

The city of Chicago itself also has a lot to offer. Personally I find myself continually drawn to the architecture of the downtown area -- easily viewable by walking alongside the Chicago River, which bisects the city, or better yet taking the coveted Boat Tour of Chicago Architecture.
Chicago is also very much a town culinary excellence, where I’ve had a great time experiencing the cultural diversity of the city through its food, especially enjoying its selections of Mexican, Chinese, Korean and Pakistani cuisine. All of these exploratory activities, of course, are best done in the warmer months, as I can attest that Chicago winters are as bitterly cold as everyone
makes them out to be.

I wholeheartedly feel that my unique experiences while pursuing my MFA at SAIC have better equipped me for a future in the art world. Presently, I am planning to stay in Chicago for the next year, as I have been granted a twelve month work extension on my student visa. I have recently accepted two part time positions, one working as a Photography Studio Technician at the Chicago History Museum, and the other as an assistant to Artist Jonas Becker (a former graduate school advisor of mine). In addition to this I continue to work on my art practice in my spare time, and am currently preparing for an exhibition at an artist-run space here in Chicago later this year.

I hope to eventually bring these skills and experiences back to Aotearoa to share, with a goal of mine being able to teach at a tertiary institution, in which I would aim to foster a similar environment I had the privilege of being exposed to while at SAIC.

I am incredibly thankful to the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust for providing me with these funds to be used towards the furthering of my education. It has been a truly incredible experience I feel very lucky to have had.

Ngā Mihi,
Jake Silby

~~ // ~~

Matthew Dodd 

- The Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust Grant - 2018

Report following tenure at Harvard Law School 

"Reflecting on my time there, three features of studying in the United States stood out as particularly good."


I would like to report back after completing my Master of Laws (LLM) at Harvard Law School. Thank you very much for the support the Trust has provided me over the last year. I really appreciate it.  


For me, the benefits of studying in the United States were numerous.

First, studying a system (legal or otherwise) from afar invites more critical thinking about it. The shared history and superficial similarities of everyday life in New Zealand and the United States made differences all the more notable and intriguing, and led me to ask hard questions about both countries’ laws. I believe studying in an environment conducive to insightful self-reflection is a valuable thing.

Second, I found American legal education to be diverse (with options to take an extraordinary range of courses, from the highly theoretical to hands-on practical clinics) and interdisciplinary to a degree I had not experienced in New Zealand.

Third, living in a major business, academic and government hub meant I was exposed to an extraordinary number of visiting speakers from around the world. (To give a surreal example, Mark Zuckerberg was a guest lecturer for one of my classes.) I would highly recommend that future students get involved with the plethora of student organisations at American law schools, especially by inviting people working in their areas of interest to speak on campus.


I now intend to return to practice law, buoyed by the skills and friendships I have gained from studying in the United States. I highly recommend the experience to other New Zealanders considering studying law overseas. Perhaps the best piece of advice I can give to future students would be to embrace every opportunity you get to meet Americans and explore the country. Go to sports games and cultural events, or better yet take a road trip to understand how vast and diverse the country truly is!

~~ // ~~

David Yi Hang Cheng - The Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust Grant - 2018

Report following tenure at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA).

"My experience has also informed my future goals..."

 Hello NZAA members,
I have returned to Wellington after coming back from my overseas exchange at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). I learned a lot, not only academically and culturally, but also about myself and my goals. I wanted to express my gratitude to the
Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Trust for enabling the opportunity for me spend three months outside my comfort zone and have plenty of life-altering experiences. Without the support from the Trust, these experiences would not have been possible.


The purpose for my exchange was to study at an excellent academic institution and immerse myself in a completely different culture. I studied economics papers at UCLA, which was the highest rated public university institution in the United States in 2018 (beating out UC Berkeley). I was extremely impressed by the access that UCLA had to industry leaders. For example, I attended a Q&A panel with Jamie Dimon, the CEO of JPMorgan Chase. In a central banking class, I learned about the United States’ 2 per cent inflation target, and its origins in Arthur Grimes, a New Zealander. This opened my eyes to the impact that New Zealanders could make in the United States, and on the global stage.

I lived on-campus at UCLA and experienced the pinnacle of the ‘U.S. college experience’, from fraternities and sororities, to dining halls, the Spirit Squad and American football. It gave me an insight into how others lived their lives, and though some aspects were quite different, such as the United States’ strong affection for college sports, it was interesting to compare the differences in our upbringing and how that shapes our perspectives today. I found myself constantly explaining Te Reo phrases and Māori concepts (including trying to teach the song Tūtira Mai Nga Iwi). It made me appreciate how special New Zealand is, and has motivated me to incorporate tikanga Māori into my day-to-day, wherever I am.

Upon reflection, my experience has also informed my future goals. I attended MBA information sessions around Los Angeles and learned about some of the programmes different universities offered. These sessions have exposed me to the opportunities for further study in the United States and gaining admission to one of these programmes is firmly one of my medium-term career goals. Though living overseas has its challenges, I thought that it was surprisingly accessible and is also in my plans for the future.

My overseas exchange has not only provided direction for my goals, it has also given me the skills and experience to work towards achieving those goals. It made me appreciate my experience as a New Zealander and demonstrated to me how I can leverage my skills and experience to make an impact on the global stage.

I have grown personally and professionally over these past three months and have a newfound direction and purpose for the years to come. For this, I thank the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Trust for the impact that my overseas exchange has made.


~~ // ~~

A Kiwi on Broadway

Report from Kate McGill, an emerging New Zealand actor from Wellington, who was the recipient of a grant from the Tracey & Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust, to enable her to undertake an internship at the prestigious Tectonic Theatre Project in New York.

Kia Ora NZAA Members,

I am sitting down while the wonderful Wellington wind blows and rain pours outside and attempting to write to you and express my thanks for your support of three wonderful and life-changing months in the United States of America.

This trip would not have materialized without the generous support of the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Trust.

Upon arrival in New York, New York, I was met with the end of the Summer heatwave: Full, sweaty subways, the city alive with outdoor music and theatre, lots of food and high fashion. I set about trying out the famous NY style pizza, going to Broadway and off-Broadway shows, and plunging into Central Park to making a short film.

I went to the States to experience life there – to see how an artist from New Zealand would fit in the big melting pot that is America and to learn about different forms and approaches to making theatre. My first challenge was to spend a little under two months in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where I soaked up the Midwestern lifestyle and participated in a wonderful community theatre program – PikNik Theatre Festival. The second part of my journey led me to New York City, New York to intern with the world-renowned theatre company TECTONIC THEATER PROJECT.

I had four days before my internship began, which were highly productive and lots of fun: I was asked to review a New Zealand show in the NY International Fringe Festival. I sat in on a screenplay reading in Greenwich Village with acclaimed NZ actors: Claire Chitham, Michelle Ang, James Stewart and Morgana O’Reilly. I saw the beautiful Frick collection, went out to Staten Island, bumped into Mickey Rourke while out for a drink with a friend and got taken to the famous SoHo Clubhouse.

Then week two began and so did my month-long internship. Tectonic Theater Project makes theatre that often comes from true stories. They are well known for manipulating and using unique and interesting forms to enhance their work theatrically. I applied for an internship with them, to gain more insight into verbatim theatre, to observe their approach to devising/making theatre, and also be part of how a large theatre company operates – as that opportunity is, unfortunately, not available in New Zealand.

Upon arrival on day one, I was told I would be assisting Directors Moises Kaufman, Leigh Fondakowski and stage manager Samone Weissmann for the entire rehearsal process for THE LARAMIE PROJECT and the epilogue THE LARAMIE PROJECT: 10 YEARS LATER. I was thrilled. While I did have to get coffee, print scripts and run general errands, I also got to observe Broadway stars, new talent and a magnificent director at work. Just observing was exciting and taught me so much. You can imagine my surprise when one of the key actors Kelli Simpkins’ show in Chicago got extended and I was asked to fill in for her three days a week, take comprehensive notes which I sent to her, and still do all the other ‘intern’ jobs. I don’t think they had any idea that I had any acting training, so it was wonderful for them to have someone who could keep rehearsals moving, but even better for me, because I got great feedback and advice, learnt a swell General American accent and series of provincial accents, and was getting to perform with and in front of superb arts practitioners.

This experience has given me confidence to attempt to use theatre to respond to what I see in my community and in the world. I found a wonderful quote which encapsulates what I feel I have learned in the last few months “The arts are more than mere entertainment… they should also be the vessel which houses the conscience of a nation; ask the difficult questions others would rather leave unasked… so it is left to artists to ask the relevant question” – Robin Soans.

The internship was a great success. I learnt so much and made an impression on the company. I am thrilled to say that Tectonic have offered me a job coming on tour with them, in the role of understudy and stagehand. If visas and plane tickets come through, I head off in three weeks.

Before then, I am meeting up with Wellington theatre managers to discuss the development of my own verbatim piece and a solo show manipulating a real story into fiction through theatrical form. Regardless of what happens; what was set up to be a highly educational trip has affected my career in an extremely positive way.

Not only that – I feel enriched in the broader sense, more cultured. I have met Americans from all walks of life – Republicans and Democrats, rich and poor, from all different States – I’ve been exposed to education, arts, racism, freedom, suppression and a culture I didn’t fully understand but now have a sense of.

Without the generous support of the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Trust and NZAA, I would not have been given these opportunities and experiences. You have made it possible for me to have a future in the arts both home and internationally. I thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Nga mihi nui,

Kate McGill

~~ // ~~

Letter From America

Received from Laura-Lee Frings, who received a grant to undertake an internship at the NZ Mission to the UN in New York in late 2015.

Dear NZAA members,

Someone once said to me that in New York City two things disappear quickly: time and money. I can confirm, that both indeed, go very quickly.

As my time in New York City draws to an end, I want to share with you all a little about my trip, as it is due to the generosity of the Tracey and Marjorie Simpson Memorial Trust that I have been able to come to the USA and have so many wonderful experiences.

During my time in New York I have been interning at the New Zealand Permanent Mission to the United Nations. It has been a wonderful experience to work for the Mission. It makes me incredibly proud of my country, and this is largely owed to the staff at the mission whose continual hard work and integrity contribute greatly to the excellent reputation that New Zealand has in the UN.


In terms of day-to-day life, in my first two months I lived in Stuyvesant town in the East Village, a quiet oasis from the bustling city. I fell in love with the East Village, it oozes vibrancy and life, and I found it incredibly hard to move once my sublet finished. I am currently living the ‘real Manhattan life’ – I now live in a windowless room in the Financial District! Although it’s not my beloved East Village, it’s New York none-the-less.

If I was to tell you what I have done over the last two months you would need a day to read it all. I have taken every moment I have had to enjoy my time in the USA. In order to keep it short, and entertaining, I have created my own ‘top ten list’ of my experiences so far. On my return, I will bore anybody who would like to hear more with the finer details!



  1. Sitting in Security Council during leader’s week –mere meters from Sarkozy, Obama, Brown and others.

  2. Walking the New York neighborhoods – I walk to and from work every day taking different routes (I even walk like a New Yorker now).

  3. Outdoor concerts in Bryant Park.

  4. Being a part of the hectic Prime Minister’s visit to New York in September.

  5. New York pizza – I could eat it every day.

  6. ‘Obamanisation’ – seeing the impact that the Obama has had on US policy and position in the UN, and of course seeing him deliver his climate change speech – this was truly moving.

  7. My long weekend in Washington DC.

  8. Experiencing the comradery between kiwis in America.

  9. Meeting the locals – New Yorkers don’t deserve the reputation they have; I have found them to be extremely friendly and polite people.

  10. The Metropolitan Museum of Art (closely followed by the Frick Collection and Moma). How could anyone ever get bored in this city!

Again, I wish to extend my thanks to the NZAA for your generosity and support. I look forward to seeing you all soon.


Kind regards


~~ // ~~

A Kiwi in D.C.

Received from Hugo Ludbrook, who received a grant from the NZ American Trust Funds towards his study at American University, Washington DC.

Greetings from America,

The purpose of my trip to the United States was two-fold, to study International Relations at a top notch institution and observe the US Presidential elections.  American University in Washington DC has really impressed me so far. I am taking four Senior-level courses in their School of International Service, they are: Israeli Politics, International Financial and Monetary Relations, Energy Politics, and The United Nations. These courses are proving to be thoroughly interesting and taught by world class lecturers.

Classes here are much smaller and run in more of a seminar-style fashion which allows for a lot of debate within the class which is always lively. What I really like is that at the start of each class we spend 20-30 minutes talking about current events which are related to the course. I find this extremely useful as we apply what we are learning in class to the real world.

The US Presidential election is proving extremely interesting to observe. Simply having the ability to actually talk with Americans day-in and day-out about their views on the issues which the presidential candidates are talking about is proving invaluable to my understanding of the US political system. The ability to go to talks on campus – I saw Newt Gingrich give a brilliant analysis of the elections. In particular I have enjoyed seeing the strong movement in Washington, DC which is demanding representation in Congress and the Senate. Their slogan is: “No Taxation without Representation.” It continues to baffle me that at the heart of world democracy these citizens do not have a voice.

People are shaping this election as the “election of the century”, so I am trying to embrace everything and anything of relevance so that when I look back on my time here I can talk in depth about this particular election campaign.

One of my lecturers tells our class each time we meet how lucky we are to be living through and observing a financial crisis. To a certain extent he is right, it has been absolutely fascinating watching the crisis unfold before our eyes over the past month or so, and more recently seeing the bailout plan go through Congress. In my class on International Financial and Monetary Relations we spend about half the lesson simply talking about the credit crisis, the bailout plan, and the effects it will have on the world economy. We are watching history unfold, and although it has the potential to have detrimental effects on the economy it is nonetheless fascinating to observe and attempt to comprehend what went wrong, and what needs to be done to solve it. This could potentially be a turning point in human history, and so to be here in the middle of it is an experience I will never forget.

So yes, I am loving my time here. I am meeting great people, not only American, but people from all around the world. I am making the most of my time here and know that it is going to have a huge impact on me for the rest of my life.

Yours sincerely,

Hugo Ludbrook