UQ Graduate of the Year driven by a passion for agriculture

20 Sep 2021
Jessie Harper
UQ's 2021 Graduate of the Year, Jessie Harper

University of Queensland Bachelor of Agriculture (Hons) graduate, Jessie Harper, has been announced as the 2021 UQ Graduate of the Year, awarded by the UQ Alumni Friends.

It’s yet another major achievement for the young agriculturalist, who previously received a University Medal, was Valedictorian of the School of Agricultural Science and received several Dean’s Commendations for Academic Excellence in every semester of study.

Ms Harper was initially inspired to pursue a career in agriculture while growing up in rural Queensland, at her family’s small beef cattle farm in the Lockyer Valley.

“Growing up in a regional community really instilled a passion for agriculture, and an appreciation of where food comes from,” Ms Harper said.

“My fondest childhood memory is visiting my grandparents’ farm, picking and eating fruit from the trees, eating Grandma’s cooking, and playing with the animals – pet dogs, sheep, cattle, parrots and chickens.

“These were extremely formative experiences, shaping my passion for agriculture, and really showing me the importance of family and community.”

Ms Harper is now continuing to pursue her passion for agriculture, undertaking a PhD at UQ on a prestigious Westpac Future Leaders Scholarship.

She said her time with UQ’s School of Agriculture and Food Sciences has been invaluable in her academic journey.

“The School teaches a large array of courses in chemistry, biology, statistics, economics, and agricultural production systems,” Ms Harper said.

“Importantly, we were given an opportunity to attend a study tour in Indonesia, which opened my eyes to a global perspective of the importance of agriculture and food security challenges.

“The technicians, support staff, lecturers and professors have helped me gain new skills and knowledge, enabling me to face future challenges.

“And I’m also grateful for the opportunity to tutor both undergraduate and masters’ courses at UQ, helping improve my communication skills and allowed financial stability while studying.”

Ms Harper hopes to inspire the next cohort of agricultural students as she enters the next chapter of her agricultural science career.

“Agriculture is a multidisciplinary science that offers a vast range of employment opportunities, where we can take on the major challenges that face the world, including food security, climate change and farmer livelihoods,” Ms Harper said.

“For us agricultural students, it’s important to gain experience in different areas including animal production, soil science, plant breeding, agronomy, horticulture, and extension and especially in field work.

“I suggest all students take all of the opportunities they can to learn new skills and engage with the people that inspire them – don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for help from your peers or mentors.

“And make the most of your time at UQ’s Gatton Campus – you’re part of a small-but-impressive cohort, allowing you to form some meaningful connections.”

Read the full list of 2021 UQ Alumni Award Winners.

Media: Dominic Jarvis, dominic.jarvis@uq.edu.au, +61 413 334 924.