Ngati Awa scholar Natalie Ramarihia Coates is to continue her studies at Harvard University in the US thanks to a Fulbright Award.
She is studying indigenous law and human rights there and is due to complete her studies in June 2012.
The scholarship is sponsored by Nga Pae o te Maramatanga - the Centre of Research Excellence - which supports research relevant to Maori communities.
Ms Coates's mother, Christine Coates, says the family was astounded to know she had gone for the award and even more astounded when she got it.
She says the scholarship will go a long way towards meeting the cost of studying at Harvard, where the fees for a year's tuition are $US80,000 ($98,000).
She says her daughter was encouraged to apply for the award by her lecturers at Otago University.
Waiariki MP Te Ururoa Flavell says the opportunity to attend such a prestigious school is every top scholar's dream and Ms Coates should be congratulated for making that dream a reality.