Agriculture, arts and science in the spotlight

11 September 2012

Jacqueline Rowarth

Professor Jacqueline Rowarth: The University of Waikato professor will give her Inaugural Professorial Lecture on 18 September.

Agriculture, arts and science - not a combination that readily springs to mind, but Professor Jacqueline Rowarth has made the links and will talk about them at her University of Waikato inaugural professorial lecture on 18 September.

Lost our way with science

“From the very beginning we’ve needed to secure food; that done, we have time for other things. The development of food production is linked to civilization. When people took up farming and put down roots, then what we think of as civilization had time to develop.”

Only we seemed to have lost our way, she says. “We’ve reached the pinnacle of food security and thanks to better health programmes and medical advances the world’s had a population explosion. It seems to me that in a time of plenty, arts and culture have thrived, but we’ve lost our way with science.”

Shaping the future with science

Professor Rowarth says she doesn’t understand why so many students study arts subjects when the jobs aren’t there when they graduate, or if they do get jobs, starting salaries are so much lower than for science grads. “Graduates in applied science and agribusiness are being offered salary packages of approximately $70,000. I’m not saying ignore arts and culture – I’m just advocating that we feed the soul outside work hours, because we need science and scientific research to keep our economy growing. We also need agriculture and agribusiness. We can shape the future by ensuring that we achieve the right components in education and in the workforce.”

Aware she may upset her colleagues in the arts with these statements, Professor Rowarth says the data are globally available and she’s happy to discuss. “We all want our children ‘to be happy’: that means encouraging them in to careers where they will be valued and can make a difference.”

Open to the public

One opportunity for discussion will be at her professorial lecture which is free, open to the public and takes place at 6pm on Tuesday 18 September at the Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts.

Dr Rowarth came to the University of Waikato this year from Massey University, where she was Foundation Chair of Pastoral Agriculture and Director of Massey Agriculture. She has also headed research programmes at the University of Melbourne and Unitec.

She is a frequent contributor to public debate on agriculture and agribusiness, science, education and leadership and was awarded a CNZM in 2008 for her services to agricultural science. She is a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science and a Companion of the Royal Society of New Zealand.