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Student story

Jess Holland

20 July 2023

"Geography has given me a global view of the world..."


Bachelor of Science in Geography

Undergraduate Geospatial Technician, WSP Opus

Jess' passion for earth and space sciences has led to her rewarding studies, and aim to change the world.

"Throughout my life I have heard about climate change and other challenges life on Earth faces. I wanted to be able to tackle these challenges so that future generations are not left with a dying planet," she says. "Geography provided me the opportunity to gain a holistic view of the world by touching on many different topics."

Wanting a degree that would get her out into the field, Geography was the ideal subject to examine the physical world and its impact on our daily lives.

"It is fascinating to see what we have been learning about in the lecture theatre out in the real world. Christchurch is positioned so that short excursions mean we can see the processes and features we learn about in our local communities. This immersion in the material we learn is fantastic for furthering your understanding."

The flexibility of her Science degree was what made her choose to study Geography at UC.

"Geography is great in how many electives you get to take each year. Being able to get advice and recommendations from Student Advisors for papers I didn't know existed has helped me shape my degree into what it is today. So far, I have found Anthropology, Statistics, Management, Geology, Antarctic Studies, and Water Resource papers have helped me gain a better understanding of the content in my Geography papers."

One of her new discoveries through the Geography programme is Geographic Information Systems (GIS), which Jess hopes to pursue in her career.

"The skills I have learnt in this area allow me to efficiently analyse spatial data and then communicate my findings in a visual format. I like how GIS is a skillset that you can apply to your other interests. I am enjoying learning about natural hazards and their management strategies."

Her enthusiasm for Geography has led to a number of scholarship awards throughout her time at UC for her academic results, including a Leigh and Judith Pownall Prize in Geography, an Arcady Hall Fresher Faculty Scholarship for Science, and a Leigh and Judith Pownall Scholarship.

By far the best experience Jess has gained from her degree was summer work experience at WSP Opus. This eventually led to a role as an undergraduate Geospatial Technician in their water and wastewater team, creating and analysing maps for clients using GIS.

"This is a great way to experience being in the workforce, and you will be able to apply your knowledge in ways you couldn't imagine," she says. "Before this opportunity I did not realise how many different career paths there was for a Geography degree. Whilst WSP Opus is an engineering consultancy company, there was at least ten people with a Geography degree on my floor. It was great to experience possible career paths I could take and receive mentoring from senior employees to help plan my future."

As such, Jess intends to become a geospatial analyst when she finishes her degree, and work in areas of hazard management and prevention. "With climate change causing challenges in the future I believe working in this area I will be able to provide many people with a better life," she says. 

Outside of study, Jess also has a work role at the Christchurch School of Gymnastics. Here she was part of creating a new cheerleading team for children and is now the head coach. At UC, Jess is a member and secretary for UCheer, UC's cheerleading team.

"Being able to continue my extracurricular activities whilst at university was a large incentive to come to UC," she says. "This team has been a great opportunity to meet students in all stages of their degrees, as well as travel the country to compete."

"Having the Rec Centre on campus is super convenient for quickly being able to get some physical exercise in between lectures."

Jess says that her overall experiences at UC have helped develop her personal and academic abilities to challenge environmental issues.

"I appreciate how Geography has given me a global view of the world. It can be easy to focus on your immediate environment, but by learning about the interconnectedness of Earth and its systems, I believe I am a better global citizen."

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