Enkhnasan Nasan-Ulzii

Before travelling to Australia with her eleven-year old daughter to undertake her Master’s studies as part of an Australia Award scholarship, Enkhnasan had already completed a Bachelor Degree, and English language studies in Russia and in London.

“I studied physics for five years at the Ural State University and when I finished that I was planning to become a physics lecturer”, she said, “so I did a further year to gain my Master’s degree.”

In the meantime, however, she had decided that was not the right career pathway for her, so she travelled to London and studied English there - for three years. In 2001, she returned to Mongolia and joined the Mongolian Government.

In the Ministry, she worked in a section that was responsible for international and bilateral relationships, identifying potential relationships with other countries, and establishing Memorandums of Understanding. She also had responsibility while there for an 18-month UNFPA project on population and development.

The UN project encouraged her interest in population studies, so she decided to pursue a career in demography. And to do this, she eventually decided to apply for an Australia Award scholarship – and was awarded one in 2005.

Her course at Flinders University, between 2005 and 2007, was in applied population studies.

“We had identified a gap in skills in population studies in the Ministry, and I saw my planned studies at Flinders University as a way in reducing that gap”, she said. “I wanted to align my work with my studies – and vice-versa.”

The Australia Awards team in Ulaanbaatar was very supportive to Enkhnasan in helping her decide to apply for an Australia Award, and then in choosing the best course for her to undertake.

“They helped me all the way through,” she said

In Adelaide, Enkhnasan was particularly interested in building up her analytical skills – in finding ways to use data when developing policies. To help with this, she gained wide experience in a range of data management and analysis programs, such as SPSS (Statistical Package for Social Sciences).

“The statisticians at Flinders were very helpful”, she added, “and my previous studies and background in mathematics and physics also helped.”

Enkhnasan was fortunate to have had her previous position “held” for her until she returned. Back in Mongolia, she was soon promoted to a Senior Officer position (responsible for child policies), and in 2011 was appointed as Head of a Division.

Enkhnasan found that her studies in Australia had related benefits. She was better able to convey evidence-based messages, and to develop logical ministry issues papers; as an added benefit, she found that her written English had improved significantly.

Other newly-acquired skills included critical thinking, presentation, and project management skills. Her project management skills proved to be particularly effective when the Ministry was asked to nominate a senior person to liaise with UNICEF on a child-related project.

Her work with UNICEF mainly involves ensuring that Government of Mongolia policy development and budget policies can be “child-sensitive”.  It also involves planning for the future so that an appropriate level of resourcing is available for implementation of emerging children’s policies.

When first interviewed, Enkhnasan had been with the UNICEF project since January 2012 (as Chief of Social Policy), and her focus had been on results-based programming; ensuring clear milestones; and ensuring goals and objectives remain realistic.

In her particular situation, Enkhnasan’s Australia Award Action Plan remains particularly valid; it was a requirement for her application and is still part of her Ministry personal file.

“My Action Plan was pretty close to what happened”, she said. “But many graduates go into other jobs after graduation – some outside the Government – and therefore their Actions Plans may not necessarily be of much value.”

Her supervisor has also seen the value in her Action Plan, and in her new skills, with expanded expertise in the topic. However, her situation may be unusual, and she believes that DFAT needs to find ways in which returned graduates can be guaranteed a place – so that they can contribute to their government agency.

“Because I returned to the same area in the Ministry, management were interested in what I had learned”, she said.

And while her study period in Australia did wonders for broadening the knowledge of her daughter, there was a lesser impact on Enkhnasan’s personal development: “I had already studied abroad for six years in Russia and three years in England, so I’d already become more confident and self-sufficient”, she explained.

Enkhnasan stays in regular contact with her Flinders University Master’s supervisor. She participates in Mozzie events whenever time allows her to, and believes that the high profile of influential people who are Mozzie members can provide an excellent base for networking and for developing the nation.

Enkhnasan believes that the ADS “ripple-effect” can only work when the graduate’s supervisor or manager is genuinely supportive of the awardee. She argues that when graduates return, the Mongolian ministries must find ways to use their skills and thus to build the overall capacity of their agency.

“Ministries need to identify gaps in their human resource development needs and then encourage and support staff to study those areas to fill the gaps and meet the needs”, she said.

“Part of this is in ensuring that supervisors believe in action planning, and follow through, rather than doing it simply because they have been told to.”

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