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Passion for living sustainably led Jess to study a Bachelor of Science

Jess Nesbit studied a tuition fee-free Diploma of Sustainable Living online to upgrade her work qualifications, but it turned into a gateway to studying a Bachelor of Science.


Struggling with undiagnosed Crohn’s disease as a child, Jess Nesbit’s schooling in Smithton was quite disrupted, especially during high school, as she dealt with frequent periods of chronic illness.

She left school in grade 11 and later, in her 20s, she moved to Launceston with her husband to be closer to medical specialists and eventually found a job working for the Launceston City Council as a weighbridge officer at the waste centre.

At the time she was simply looking for an income, but soon realised she was developing an interest in the broader environment and waste sector.

“It got me really interested in the environmental waste space, learning to do water sampling and things like that,” Jess said.

“I’d often thought about doing uni but I didn’t have the grades, and I didn’t think I’d cope with working full time and studying simultaneously.

“Then one day I got an email about two courses available to study through the University of Tasmania with no tuition fees, which were both part of the Diploma of Sustainable Living.

“To start off with I did the Sustainability unit and Science of Gardening and then I took a 12-month break. Later I saw that the Diploma of Sustainable Living was available to study with no tuition fees during COVID.

“The two units I’d already done would be credited, which meant I only had to do ten more to complete it. And I figured well, that gets me another qualification, maybe a pay rise down the track, so what have I got to lose?”

Graduating in 2021, Jess put her new knowledge to good use as home as well as at Launceston City Council, where she is now a Waste and Environment Officer, managing landfill compliance, monitoring groundwater and surface water, organics processing and monitoring the composting processes.

“We’re trying to move off the grid as much as we can. We have water tanks, a BioCycle system to recycle water onto the garden, solar panels, built a sunroom on the front of the house to try and capture as much sunlight as possible.”

After earning her Diploma of Sustainable Living, Jess Nesbit returned to study her Bachelor of Science, with a major in Sustainability.
After graduating with a Diploma of Sustainable Living, Jess Nesbit returned to the University of Tasmania to study a Bachelor of Science, with a Sustainability major.

Extending her expertise

She is justifiably proud of her career progress, as she learned everything on the job over many years, without having completed high school, and the diploma was the first relevant qualification she gained.

Then, she discovered she could study a Bachelor of Science with a Sustainability major at the University of Tasmania and jumped at the chance. A Support to Study Scholarship Package of $750 per semester and the South32 TEMCO Community Foundation Bursary of $1250 per semester also helped ease the transition to student life.

“Normally you need a science degree for the job I’m doing. In fact, all of my predecessors in this role have had science or engineering degrees. I was looking into what I could do next but didn’t think anything would suit because I wouldn’t be able to be on campus full-time.

“But now I’m doing a Bachelor of Science part-time with majors in Sustainability and Geography and Environment. The Sustainability major is all online, several units from the diploma are also credited, which took about 12 months off the bachelor degree, and I managed to fit the rest of the course in around my full-time job.

“I’m really disciplined with my studies and I already work from home one day a week as well, so I already have that mindset. I purchased extra leave through work that is put aside specifically for study, and the University is really flexible around my health needs, which makes a huge difference, too.”

Jess said the degree was part of a long-term plan, as it would help her to advance in her career, expand her knowledge and confidence in her field, and maybe lead to a new role in environmental regulation in the future.

You can also do a Sustainability major as part of any other bachelor degree that offers space for a second major, which can be created through your electives. Examples include Arts, Economics, Design, Agricultural Science, or Information and Communication Technology.