Robyn Elizabeth Nicolay, MSc Agroecology student and recipient of the Clyde Higgs MSc Scholarship (Awarded by the Elizabeth Creak Charitable Trust).
“As a new mother to a little boy, not having to worry about finances and knowing your future in a respected field is secure, makes me more confident in my studies and as a parent,” says Robyn, from Pietermaritzburg in South Africa.
“I want to have a career in research, so a postgraduate degree was the next logical step. I was made aware of the Clyde Higgs scholarship by the Harper Adams Development Trust and applied.
“I also loved the story behind Elizabeth Creak, her Uncle, Clyde Higgs and their farming background both in England and in the foothills of Mount Kilamanjaro, giving the impression that there was a personal element to the scholarship itself,” says Robyn, 30.
Robyn brings a wealth of experience to her course. “I have been in the agricultural industry, either studying or working, for 11 years, always wanting to expand on what I already know. I have worked in dairies as well as doing trial work with fruit, vegetables and larger crops such as potatoes and maize.
“Before leaving South Africa, I also worked on the technical side of pasture and cover cropping seeds, working in the field mostly with dairy and sugarcane farmers. This really interested me as I saw first-hand how alternative approaches to soil protection though muli-species cover cropping and grazing impacted greatly on not only farming production but the health of the soil too.”
A deeper interest in sustainable agriculture and ecology was inspired by an exchange programme to Norway in 2015. “I was studying for a few months, introducing me to the idea of ecologically based agriculture and the many different ways we can reduce the impact on our environment. I have since held on to that interest, and found an MSc in Agroecology a fantastic course combine these topics. I hope to continue on to a PhD in the future, promoting food security and enviro-friendly agriculture.”
Robyn has a range of interests outside her studies, from agricultural to musical. “I hope to develop as a dairy breed judge in the future, but aside from this I enjoy horse riding, tennis and love cooking and baking for friends and family. I also play the Upright bass and played in the Pietermaritzburg and Durban City Orchestra when I was in South Africa, as well as playing in concerts with some well-known South African musicians.”
Things have changed in Robyn’s life recently, however – not that it’s likely to hold her back. “Now that I am a mum, my time is spent very differently! Personally, I have a Nike attitude: just do it. I love getting involved, am extremely intolerant of negativity and a great believer in making things happen for you, regardless of your situation,” she adds.