Academics and Research

Junior public policy major back from Fulbright institute in Scotland

Ryan Carson spent three weeks at the Fulbright Summer Institute in Scotland. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carson

Ryan Carson spent five weeks at the Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute. Photo courtesy of Ryan Carson

Ryan Carson, a junior majoring in public policy and international studies, recently joined nine other American students for the five-week Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute, hosted by Dundee and Strathclyde universities. A 2012 Boettcher Scholar, Carson is campaign coordinator for DU’s chapter of GlobeMed and a member of the Pioneer Leadership Program (PLP) and the University Honors Program. He also has interned in the office of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. In fall 2014, he will be studying economic development in Ecuador as part of the University’s signature study abroad program, Cherrington Global Scholars.

Carson shared some of his experiences and offered his take on the Scottish independence referendum, scheduled for Sept. 18, with the University of Denver Magazine. His remarks were made before a poll showed the “Yes” on independence campaign passing.


Q: The Fulbright Scotland Summer Institute is a fairly new program — just in its second year. What appealed to you about this particular opportunity?

A: Someone in the PLP posted a link to the application on one of their Facebook pages, so I clicked through it and thought it was really cool. I haven’t traveled too much, and that’s actually one of the things they’re looking for. I’ve always wanted to see Scotland in particular because I’ve got a lot of family ancestry back there. So I said, “That’s perfect, I might as well throw my name in.”


Q: They were looking for people who hadn’t been to Scotland before?

A: Yes, for all of the Fulbright summer institutes, they’re looking for people without much travel experience. And particularly for people who haven’t spent time in the U.K. So no one on my trip had been to Scotland before.


Q: You were there in an interesting time — during the run-up to the referendum on Scottish independence? Any thoughts about that?

A: I definitely learned a lot about it. I didn’t know too much before [I got there]. Everybody has an opinion about it, and most people will tell you [theirs] pretty openly. As a public policy student, it was really interesting to consider some of the questions, [including whether Scotland will continue to use British currency, whether it will be a member of NATO and how it will manage its economy]. We got to meet with a lot of people from the government and some people from the [independence] team. So we definitely heard both sides.


Q: Do you have a prediction as to what voters will decide?

A: I don’t think they’ll go independent. I think they will in my lifetime, but not this vote, if the polls are right. … I will say the momentum is in favor of the “Yes” campaign though — if there was more time. Actually, one of the interesting things is that if you look at some of the other polling, polling that’s looking about more than a ‘yes-no’ divide, and just talk about “would you prefer devolution [of more powers to the Scottish government] to nothing,” a large majority of the people would like to see more power in Scotland. But there’s just a lot of uncertainty about what would actually happen if they were to become independent.


Q: What did the Fulbright Summer Institute consist of?

A: Every day, Monday through Friday, we’d either have a couple of lectures [on everything from Scotland’s form of government to its economic challenges] or we’d go out and see some historical site or museum. We spent the first half of the trip in Dundee, and the second half was in Glasgow, and in the middle of that were a few days in Edinburgh. On the weekends we had free time, so we traveled up to the highlands or spent some more time in Edinburgh.


Q: From the public policy perspective, did you encounter any ideas that intrigued you?

A: We had a really great lecture with a professor of public policy at Strathclyde University, who talked to us partially about independence and mostly about the whole devolutionary process they’ve been going through. And then we met with some civil service members of the Scottish government, and they talked us through the process behind the white paper they wrote on behalf of the government on why voting yes was a good idea. That was interesting for me, because you wouldn’t see something quite so political coming out of our bureaucracy. Their government — it’s set up differently, so it makes a little more sense. But you wouldn’t see the Obama administration putting out political leaflets that are mailed to all of the people.


Q: Are you going to follow the independence referendum from your study abroad perch in Ecuador?

A: Yes. I’ll find somewhere with WiFi and hang out that day to get the results.


Q: One of the themes of the summer institute was innovation. Tell us how that was covered.

A: We talked a lot about the historical legacy of innovation in Scotland, which wasn’t something I knew a ton about: the Scottish Enlightenment with David Hume, Adam Smith and all these great figures. … They were one of the first countries to be pretty much fully literate. They had that early [Protestant] reformation in the 1500s with John Knox and those people. They wanted everyone to be able to read the Bible, so the education system became open to everybody. They like to contrast that with England, and Oxford and Cambridge, which may be a little more elitist. But everyone I talked to is really proud of this tradition of public education that’s available to whomever works hard and wants it.


Q: Did you learn to play the bagpipes? Just a wee bit?

A: We went to the National Piping Centre on one of our last nights, so I heard about the history of them. But I can’t play — at all.









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