School of Agriculture and Environment celebrates successful students within top ranked programmes

Thursday 26 October 2023

The School of Agriculture and Environment has named its top students of the year at their annual Agriculture, Horticulture and Environmental Science Awards Dinner last week.

Professor Paul Kenyon with the third year award winners from L-R: Stuart Dearlove (Earth Science), Ilyse Bates (Environmental Science), Alyssa Hayes (William Gerrish Memorial Award), Pippa Smyth (Animal Science), Harriet Halewood (Ag Science/Ag Business).

Last updated: Friday 27 October 2023

The top six students from Te Kunenga ki Pūrehuroa Massey University’s agricultural science, agribusiness, animal science, horticulture, earth and environmental sciences were named as over 200 people gathered at Palmerston North’s Convention Centre on Friday evening for the 30th annual awards evening.

The awards bring together students, industry partners and educators to celebrate undergraduate students and reward excellence inside and outside the classroom.

The awards focus on the university’s New Zealand number one ranked areas of agriculture, horticulture, animal science, earth science and environmental science - all disciplines that are crucial to the primary industries. Sponsors relating to these disciplines celebrated with students at the dinner.

The top awards for agriculture and horticulture were sponsored by Ravensdown, Ballance Agri-nutrients, Zespri, Beef + Lamb, and New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science (NZIAHS). The award for excellence in Earth Science was sponsored by Horizons Regional Council once again, while the excellence in Environmental Science award was sponsored by the Environmental Protection Authority for the first time, and Animal Science prizes were sponsored by Livestock Improvement Corporation (LIC) and Aviagen.

The William Gerrish Award is the top award of the evening, and is made possible by the Gerrish Family in memory of Bill Gerrish who championed an annual prize to recognise an outstanding Massey student in farm management. The student also needs to demonstrate a high level of personal integrity, intellectual curiosity, vision and social conscience.

This year’s William Gerrish winner was Alyssa Hayes, a distance Bachelor of Agribusiness student from Eketahuna, majoring in farm management. Alyssa has a keen interest in farm management as a result of helping out on her friend's mother’s sheep and beef farm and is looking forward to finishing her degree next year.

The top students this year in agriculture and horticulture were Harriet Halewood (Bachelor of Agribusiness, Rural Evaluation) and Harriet Barber (Bachelor of Horticultural Science).

Harriet Halewood was very happy to receive her award as she does not have an agricultural background. For her, the award is recognition that all her hard work has paid off and she attributes her success to her faith, friends and family.

“I am taking a graduate role with Quotable Value as a rural evaluator after I graduate. I am looking forward to getting out into the primary industries and the challenges it will bring,” she says.

Harriet Barber was unfortunately unable to collect her award at the dinner, and will be presented with it at a later date.

Animal science student Pippa Smyth was thrilled to take out the top award and enjoyed celebrating everyone’s success at the dinner. Pippa is completing her Animal Genetics and Breeding major in the Bachelor of Animal Science. She says she has enjoyed the mix of veterinary and agricultural science with the focus on animals within the degree which was established in 2019 and never considered applying for anything else at Massey. She will be completing some yearling preparation at Waikato Stud to get some initial experience over the summer before looking for new opportunities that the Animal Science degree will bring her.

Top Earth Science and Environmental Science students Stuart Dearlove and Ilyse Bates were thrilled to be the winners of their respective prizes. Both students have completed their degrees via distance and produced very high grades working from home. Ilyse says she was really pleased to be recognised after the hard work over the last three years and credits her organisational skills with her success.

“Being a distance student, you can be distracted by everyday life. You have to be organised with your time, dedicate time to your study, set yourself strict deadlines and achieve them. I have never ever asked for an extension, and I am very proud of that!”

She is joining engineering company WSP and moving to Taupō in March to start the next phase of her career.

Sarah Wilson took the Student Leadership and Service Award, of which she was nominated for by her peers. Sarah was president of the Massey Horticulture Society and is well known within the agriculture cohort. She works hard to promote positive stories of students in the primary industries, encouraging women in agriculture, as well as the incoming first years. Winning the award was special for Sarah who says it recognises the hard work that goes on behind the scenes of academic life.

“It’s not just about academic study, it’s important to go out meet people and make connections. It takes a lot of networking and other people to make a successful university career. Go ask questions and be curious,” she says.

Sarah used the skills she had developed to meet the employers at the awards dinner, including Horticulture NZ, KPMG and Zespri, to catch up with people she knew. The awards have proven very successful for her in the past as she was able to secure an internship with Zespri at a previous event. She has accepted a new role in global insights with Silver Fern Farms in the South Island after graduation.

Head of School of Agriculture and Environment Professor Paul Kenyon was especially delighted about the awards this year as it celebrated 30 years of the event and included the surprise presentation of his 2022 Research Medal by Massey University Provost Professor Giselle Byrnes.

Professor Kenyon says the dinner is the highlight of the academic year for the agriculture and environment staff and students.

“It was a wonderful celebration of all that they have achieved, and it was a great honour to present 26 students with academic, practical and leadership awards. It was also wonderful to have a review of the year from students Oliva Came and Olivia Doughty,” he says.

“This year’s event was particularly special as we were able to celebrate the contribution of Dr Kerry Harrington who has been involved in the awards throughout its 30-year history. In my acceptance of my research medal, I said it is not an award just for me but recognition of the research teams that I have worked with over the years, and that is true of the awards dinner too. It was great to be able to recognise Kerry’s dedication on this special evening.”

All prize winners are listed on the awards website here.

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