Top honour for graduate who ignored advice she shouldn’t go to uni | UniSC | University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia

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Top honour for graduate who ignored advice she shouldn’t go to uni

Told she wasn’t “university material” in high school, Belgium-born Liesbeth Borburgh never anticipated more than a decade later she would receive the highest academic honour for a graduating student from a university on the other side of the world.

That comment, and a suggestion that she ‘find something more suitable’, triggered an 11-year odyssey that eventually led Liesbeth to the University of the Sunshine Coast after working with horses and following the polo championship circuit across Europe and Australasia.

At a USC ceremony this week, Liesbeth was presented with a University Medal for achieving a near perfect grade point average when she graduated with a Bachelor of Environmental Science, specialising in spatial ecology.

“Some of us may have a clear idea of their future and some of us may not have any idea and that is okay,” said Liesbeth, who reflected on her unexpected and inspiring journey in address on behalf of fellow science, technology and engineering graduates at the ceremony.

“In the years I spent travelling, I gained confidence and my curiosity heightened, I decided to go to university anyway, shaky but determined,” she said.

“I just hoped to pass when I started and when my first grade was a distinction and my second a high distinction, I was stunned. And over time I actually felt like I belonged.

“Slowly I started to forge a pathway towards my interests and discovered an interest in geospatial analysis.” 

Liesbeth said those skills and knowledge are now the foundations for her future career, after gaining a graduate position with the Department of Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment in Canberra.

“My current rotation is within water compliance across the Murray Darling Basin and for my following rotations I will aim to further develop my spatial skills with the option of regional placements at location such as Kakadu and the Australian Antarctic Division.”

Liesbeth attributed her success at USC to “hard work, sacrifice at times, not settling for ‘it's okay’ and surrounding myself with people that would push for more and better too”.

Her advice to her follow graduates was to recognise that they had been given the privilege to graduate university entering a world full of possibility.

“While gaining insights into research, industry and government during our studies, one other thing is clear. We graduands in science, technology and engineering can use our knowledge and skills to create enduring change if we collaborate and imagine a world that we want to live in.

“Yes, it is a very confusing world, yet maybe we can give it some sense. Real change happens one step at a time, so be brave and believe in what you bring to the table, however small it may seem at the start.

“Remember the fellow students and teaching staff that believed in you and motivated you as you start your new life. Or maybe remember the people that doubted you and prove them wrong.”


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