International Space Law Expert
Dr Maria Pozza is an Otago International Studies alumna specialising in space law. After completing her M.Int.St. with distinction, Maria attained a PhD in international law and policy in outer space, working in both the Faculty of Law and the Department of Politics. In 2013 Maria secured a visiting fellowship at the Lauterpacht Centre for International Law at the University of Cambridge. Maria is now working as New Zealand's first space lawyer specialising in space law. She now deals with corporate law at Lane Neave, Christchurch, and offers specialist legal services in space law.
Of her fellowship at Cambridge, Maria says…
“I was so fortunate to have secured one of the fellowships. I made some great friends and I was really fortunate in the opportunity to network with people who are really far ahead in the field of international law. These are major scholars in international law, both in practice, academic and scholarly contribution. It was fantastic.”
The day of her successful presentation, she says, was “an amazing day. I felt extremely lucky and fortunate to be sitting on the panel with experts in the field of both space policy and space law.
It was really phenomenal and I can’t speak highly enough of the time [I] spent at Cambridge.”
Her study path at Otago was an unexpected one but she found the ‘hidden gem’.
“When I first came to New Zealand, I wasn’t entirely sure what I’d be doing, so I decided to cross-qualify as a barrister and solicitor in New Zealand.” Maria needed to take six component courses in order to qualify as a barrister and solicitor. She found that while doing this, there wasn’t any ‘guiding structure’ in place, and that studying by herself for 12 hours a day in the law library was a very solitary experience.
Maria took the exams and passed all of them within the short period of a year. She enjoyed the research component of her studies and so after exams decided to undertake a Masters degree. With no idea what she would like to write 40,000 words on, she instead looked into coursework MA’s – and came across the Master of International Studies.
“I cannot praise that course highly enough – it is the hidden gem of Otago,” she says. The M.Int.St. is composed of coursework and a 20,000 word dissertation. During the course, Maria became well acquainted with the Department of Politics staff, and she says that the course changed her life when it came to research. The in-class debates were brilliant, and “the lecturers were fantastic.”
In coming up with a topic, Maria realised that with her combination of interests in space, international law and international relations, she could research arms control in space. This became the focus of her PhD. She completed her Masters with distinction, and was awarded a PhD scholarship.
Maria notes that she was very fortunate in having Otago shape her early career.
“I learned so much here at Otago,” she says. Networking, working collaboratively, and teamwork were all part of her time here. Aside from her coursework, Maria was also extensively involved in other University activities. She served as an OUSA postgraduate representative, New Zealand Political Studies postgraduate representative, and Department of Politics PhD representative. She served on the Supervisor of the Year Awards committee for at least three years, and was a member of the Otago Foreign Policy School committee for four years. Maria also organised the national postgraduate Power and Politics conference in 2012.
“I’ve had so many opportunities made available to me at Otago,” she says. Maria notes that due to these opportunities and the people she met at Otago, she was able to develop skills that she didn’t know she had – and she is grateful that staff were so generous with their time and wisdom, shaping her early career.
Highlights and interesting memories of Otago…
"I have so many fond memories of my time at Otago. I made so many friends and I learned so much… We had great lecturers as well. Everyone that I’ve met here has been such a pleasure - people were so kind to me as well. Otago is a really supportive environment, especially for postgraduate students.” As the PhD representative for the Politics Department, she also helped to organise social events, and helping to establish the colloquium for Politics students was another highlight. Working in a team was also something she enjoyed. “There’s a lot of camaraderie… people want to work together and do good things”.
Maria also has great memories of standout lecturers at Otago:
Among them, she mentions Professor Philip Nel and Professor Robert Patman of the Politics Department. Not having taken any undergraduate papers at Otago, she says, her experience of lectures all comes from the M.Int.St. course – and all the lecturers, she says, were equally good.
She has many personal highlights…
Finishing her PhD within three years, beating her own timeline, and being awarded the Lauterpacht Fellowship at the University of Cambridge’s Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. “That was extremely prestigious,” she says. “Honestly my mouth fell open.”
Maria was also the recipient of several other awards during her time at Otago. Her successes thus far have been outstanding, and she hopes that her studies and many other activities here will help to establish her further as an expert in her field.
** The March 2015 issue of the University of Otago Magazine features another International Studies alumna who is working in the field of Space Law.