From lockdowns to caps and gowns

15 JUNE 2021

From lockdowns to caps and gowns

Charles Sturt University’s 2020 agriculture graduates are fresh out of university but already making a difference in the real world. They reflect on what study was like in a global pandemic and finally being able to attend a graduation ceremony.

Receiving an education in 2020 looked a little different with the global COVID-19 pandemic forcing a shift to online learning.

Charles Sturt University students were still able to complete their degrees but were sad to learn there would be no on-campus graduation ceremony, considered to be a rite of passage for any university student.

But as the world starts to regain some normality and the University has enforced health precautions to keep staff, students and visitors safe, that is about to change.

Bachelor of Agricultural Science graduates Mr Brenden Lydford, Ms Samantha Beswick and Ms Ella Corbett are spread across the country and already making a difference in their chosen fields. But all three could not pass up the chance to return to the Wagga Wagga campus to attend graduation.

Mr Lydford grew up in Parkes and moved to Dubbo to complete high school.

He chose to study agriculture at Charles Sturt in Wagga Wagga to benefit from state-of-the-art facilities and a link between academia and industry experts.

The news last year that graduations were cancelled due to COVID-19 disappointed Mr Lydford, but he said safety was the first priority.

He even managed to find a silver lining during the pandemic.

“As a positive take on this, 2020 was a year a bumper harvest was experienced across the regions, which was ideal to help the agricultural community,” he said.

“We got to feed the world through the COVID-19 pandemic.”

He said Australia’s island status and world-class health practices means graduations are now able to he held on campus.

“This allows for the excitement of being able to celebrate four years at Charles Sturt University and the completion of a special moment in any university graduate’s life,” he said.

“Graduation is integral in forming those final connections with university life and then being able to apply them in a professional career setting.”

Mr Lydford is currently employed as a Production Graduate at Kilcoy Global Foods as a member of the Future Leaders Program in Southern Queensland.

He is using the knowledge he learned in his degree daily by working on strategic projects for a company that owns the largest grain fed beef processing plant in the Southern Hemisphere.

“I call my degree a tool in the tool box that has been developing all my life,” he said.

“I have landed myself in a position I have been working towards for an extended period of time.

“I want to truly leave a mark to improve the agriculture industry for the benefit of future generations.”

Classmate Ms Samantha Beswick has moved back to her home state of Tasmania to work as an agronomist but said she could not miss the opportunity to attend her graduation ceremony.

“It was disappointing not to be able to attend our graduation last year … we did not get the opportunity to celebrate our achievements with our classmates,” she said.

“I was really excited to see my course mates and celebrate all we have achieved over the last four years.”

Ms Beswick’s family held a small gathering as a makeshift graduation ceremony in December, but she said attending the on-campus ceremony with her classmates is a rite of passage she is excited to participate in.

Bachelor of Agricultural Science graduate Ms Ella Corbett grew up in Mullengandra, an hour south of Wagga Wagga, where she completed her degree with Charles Sturt.

She commenced her degree with intentions of improving the agriculture industry and its practices. She is currently working as an animal technician at SunPork in Toowoomba, Queensland.

“I have always wanted a job in research and I was lucky enough to get one straight out of university,” she said.

“The livestock research environment is one where you have to know a broad range of information about a certain topic to understand the results and Charles Sturt University has shown me how to find those answers and be confident in my knowledge.”

She said Tuesday’s graduation ceremony was a long-awaited final celebration between classmates.

These students are among 551 graduates from Wagga Wagga and Albury-Wodonga that will graduate at Joyes Hall in Wagga Wagga from Tuesday 15 to Friday 18 June. They are expected to be joined by more than 1,600 family members and friends.

Media Note:

For more information or to arrange interviews, contact Nicole Barlow at Charles Sturt Media on mobile 0429 217 026 or

Photo caption: Charles Sturt Bachelor of Agricultural Science graduates (LtoR) Mr Brenden Lydford, Ms Samantha Beswick and Ms Ella Corbett.

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Wagga Wagga Agricultural Science Charles Sturt University