Meet conservation and land management graduate James Stewart, who was awarded a Dean’s Award for academic excellence at Charles Sturt University.
A student of the Bachelor of Applied Science (Parks, Recreation and Heritage), the twenty-eight year old says that he was “a little bit shocked at first” but is grateful for the recognition of his hard work.
“Getting this award has been really encouraging as it shows that I can achieve and do well,” he said.
James’ determination to excel is a quality that has kept him going throughout his studies all these years.
James entered the field relatively late compared to others – he had worked in agriculture as a farm hand for a period of time before deciding to build a career. At 24 years of age he enrolled in Bendigo TAFE’s to study conservation and land management, and steadily progressed into certificate IV and diploma levels.
“I applied to Bendigo TAFE to build skills necessary to enter university – it was a great decision as I think I wouldn’t have been able to cope this well at university without prior knowledge from TAFE,” he said.
“Bendigo TAFE provided a friendly learning environment with plenty of encouragement and support from teachers, colleagues and peers. It helped me manage my self-esteem and anxiety issues, something that I was concerned about when enrolling. In particular, my course allowed me to be outdoors a lot, which was great for my mental health – sort of like ‘bush therapy’.”
According to James the practical aspects of his TAFE studies played a big role in nurturing his passion and getting him ahead in the field.
“I’m a hands-on person so TAFE was great for me. I went out to the field nearly every day and worked with my hands and the material in front of me. Teachers were also amazingly skilled with real world practical experience – they’ve been in the industry for decades and have learnt more than I will ever know,” he said.
“During my diploma years working with industry partners allowed me to make really good contacts – I worked on a few projects within the community which were featured on the newspaper three times. Right after the diploma I was even offered a job as a project fire-fighter for Parks Victoria at Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park.
When James began university he found that the credits from his TAFE studies allowed him to take a whole year off the bachelor course. He also acquired numerous scholarships to help with finances.
He has a strong message for others who are keen to pursue a future in conservation and land management.
“If you’re really passionate and believe in what you’re learning you can excel in this course – Bendigo TAFE can provide you with the skills to achieve your dreams. It’s really helped me get to where I am,” he said.
“You’ll have to work the hard miles and volunteering is key to getting recognition in the industry. Don’t be scared to ask questions and reach out to your teachers and colleagues. Everyone has something to bring to the table and we can help each other learn.”