Meet Charles Sturt University agriculture student Erika Heffer.
Erika grew up by the beaches of the Central Coast, before relocating to country New South Wales with her family while she was in high school. Although she’s not from a farming background and had never been exposed to the agriculture industry, she fell in love with the land. By the end of high school, Erika had one goal: to combine her love of agriculture and English by studying a Bachelor of Agricultural Science with Charles Sturt.
The path to Charles Sturt
Erika applied to Charles Sturt at Wagga Wagga through an early offer program and was made an offer before she received her HSC results.
“It’s a great scheme where they [universities] look at your Year 11 results and your high school teachers’ recommendations, and make an offer based on your passion and potential,” Erika said.
“I was accepted to another university as well, but I wanted to learn about agriculture in southern New South Wales because that’s where my passion for agriculture started.”
The uni experience
Erika’s time at uni placed her in good stead for her future career aspirations – especially when it came to blending practical experience with academic theory.
“I found getting out into the paddock to be the most valuable practical element, mostly because it gave me tangible examples of best practice. In addition to performing our own experiments, we spent time ‘tearing apart’ journal articles and learnt to think critically. Now, when I am listening to agronomists, trainers or researchers, I can recognise whether their methods are rigorous, and consequently, whether they are making sound observations.”
Hands-on agriculture learning
Hands-on learning formed the cornerstone of Erika’s experience at Charles Sturt, and readied her for the working world.
“During my Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree, I took every opportunity of agriculture-related work that I could; work experience on a Boer goat stud in Gunnedah, in a Pleasant Hills shearing shed and five different ag-related casual jobs later, I had some experience under my belt and was raring to go.
“Undertaking my fourth-year practicum with FarmLink Research was particularly valuable. The knowledge and experience gained from studying and learning on the job about extension and building professional networks helped me hit the ground running for my grad position.”
Erika graduated with a Bachelor of Agricultural Science degree and is now living her dream of working in the rice industry, after landing a graduate position with the Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia (RGA).
“I was employed straight out of uni based on my exam and assessment results, and my practical experience.”
Achieving agriculture greatness
Aside from being accepted into the RGA graduate program, Erika has recently been named as one of eight 2018 Royal Agricultural Society of NSW Rural Achievers.
As a Rural Achiever, Erika will participate in a 12-month program that provides a range of networking and professional development opportunities, including a seven-day behind-the-scenes experience at the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show and a number of official functions.
The overall winner will be announced during the 2018 Sydney Royal Easter Show.
Erika was thrilled to be named a finalist.
‘‘I was so excited when they called,’’ she said. ‘‘It’s quite hard to find leadership programs based on your passion, but with this program, it doesn’t matter what industry you’re from.’’
When asked whether she would recommend the agriculture degree to others, Erika declared: “Yes, a thousand times yes. I already have recommended the degree to people I’ve come across who have a passion for agriculture. The best thing about a Charles Sturt agriculture degree is that you graduate with a solid scientific foundation to join any agricultural industry.”
See how far our agriculture courses can take you.