SMU senior heading to the Philippines on a Fulbright

Denver Morrissey Nicks has devoted his academic career to studying minority rights. Starting in June 2007, the SMU senior will continue his studies at the University of the Philippines as a Fulbright Scholar.

Denver Morrissey Nicks named Fulbright Scholar
Denver Morrissey Nicks

The political science and international studies major has been awarded the prestigious national fellowship to examine the Philippine system of representative government, whose 1987 constitution ensures seats for women, indigenous peoples and other historically underrepresented sectors.

“I want to learn how Sectoral Representation affects debate and political participation in the Philippines,” says Nicks, who is a Hunt Leadership Scholar and Vaughn Foreign Service and International Affairs Scholar at SMU. “Unlike in the U.S., these officials are elected at-large, so they don’t represent just their districts. This system also is interesting for the U.S. because, while we have a magnificently diverse country, we haven’t always recognized it –– and our government certainly doesn’t reflect it.”

During his 10-month Fulbright fellowship, Nicks, who is fluent in Spanish, intends to interview representatives to the Philippine lower house and members of the smaller Philippine political organizations, in addition to doing university coursework and research at the congressional library.

Associate Vice Provost and History Professor Dennis Cordell is working with Nicks on an International Studies distinction paper on the Western Sahara, where the local Sahrawi people have resisted Moroccan domination for over a generation. “Denver is a serious student, devoted to understanding some of the world’s complex social and political challenges –– from Washington, D.C., to the Western Sahara to the Philippines,” Cordell says.

Nicks spent fall 2005 in Washington interning with Texas Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson and returned to D.C. the following summer to work with the Inter-American Foundation on development grants for Latin America and the Caribbean. At SMU, he served as vice president and president of the SMU Democrats, and he founded the Committee on Darfur, which works to keep pressure on elected officials to support a peacekeeping force in the Sudan.

“I have a strong belief that society as a whole benefits from a diversity of perspectives and the well-being of all sectors,” says Nicks, who also was awarded a Teach for America position in New York City this fall. He will defer that position until after his Fulbright.

About 1,200 Fulbright fellowships are awarded every year to American students and young professionals for study, internships or service abroad. In the last 30 years, 30 SMU students have won fellowships through the national merit-based competition, which emphasizes leadership, academic excellence and commitment to mutual understanding. Learn more at

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