Ms Alex Watson-Deal’s academic excellence in agriculture (ag) has been recognised by being awarded the prestigious 2021 Agricultural Science Medal Prize within the Charles Sturt Faculty of Science and Health.
This prize is awarded to the most outstanding graduating student in the Bachelor of Agriculture or the Bachelor of Agricultural Science (Honours) Integrated Honours courses at Charles Sturt University who achieves the highest course Grade Point Average (GPA) with a minimum GPA of 5.5.
Alex is looking forward to applying the skills and knowledge she acquired during her degree to support farmers in rural communities as they adapt to the challenges associated with climate change.
A graduate in Agricultural Science at the Charles Sturt School of Agricultural, Environmental and Veterinary Sciences in Wagga Wagga, Alex was born in Melbourne and grew up in the large rural town of Hamilton in south-western Victoria.
It was her love for rural Australia and the camaraderie of small, country communities that quickly embedded a desire to build a career that would one day support the people in these areas, particularly farmers.
“My favourite subjects in school were all science-related but it wasn’t until I took a gap year and worked in the Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions (VIC) that I knew which direction I wanted my career to take,” Alex said.
“Working in agricultural research confirmed I wanted to combine my two loves – science, with country Australia.”
Alex is one of more than 3,890 students conferred in December and one of more than 9,390 students to graduate from Charles Sturt in 2021.
Alex overcame the challenges during her final year of study that were associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I hate studying online and really enjoy going to class and interacting with my classmates and lecturers,” Alex said.
“But I knew I had to keep going, so I set aside time to get the work done.”
Despite the difficulty experienced during her final year, Alex graduated with honours, with a GPA of 6.38, and encourages anyone considering university education to not hold back.
“I would say ‘go for it’ as there’s so many services and people ready to help with any issues you have with finishing up with your qualification, and it is so rewarding and worth it when you get there,” she said.
Having completed her degree with distinction, Alex is currently working in a harvest job and plans to travel around Australia next year working in a wide range of jobs in rural areas.
She hopes to use the knowledge and skills acquired through subjects that covered more sustainable agricultural practices, such as soil treatment, to assist farmers with daily farm activities.
“There is now a great focus on soil health and a move towards reductions in cultivation, a practice now widely used on many broadacre farms,” Alex said.
When it comes to research and moves towards new, innovative sustainable practices, one subject that made a particular impression on Alex was ‘Food environment and culture’.
“This subject touched on some different viewpoints, such as regenerative agriculture,” Alex said.
“We heard from guest speaker Charles Massy who wrote the book ‘Call of the reed Warbler’ and that was very interesting to hear those different perspectives.”
Alex hopes to form trusting relationships with growers and farmers as she travels around Australia next year to assist them with becoming more sustainable and with environmentally friendly practices in the face of climate change.
“I expect my travels will broaden my perspective on agriculture in Australia as I have only experienced agriculture in southern Australia,” Alex said.
“The communities, climates, soil, isolation and attitudes of people in different areas of Australia vary widely and this will all impact their ability and desire to adapt to environmentally friendly practices.
“We all know there is no one size fits all approach for our country, which is large and diverse when it comes to sustainability, and having a greater understanding of what is achievable, needed and financially viable will give me a more informed perspective heading into the workforce.”