Graduate recognised as one of nation’s brightest young leaders

Samantha Law grew up in Moruya, on the Far South Coast of New South Wales. From a young age, she was involved in nippers and then, later, surf lifesaving at Broulee Surf Club. At the age of 17, she became the youngest ever female rescue crew member for the Westpac Lifesaver Rescue Helicopter Service.

So, when it came to choosing a future career path, it seems natural that Samantha would use her sharp mind and passion for mathematics and science to focus on the coastal environment. It didn’t hurt that her university of choice was located only kilometres from the beach.

Today (Tuesday 17 December), Samantha celebrated her graduation from the University of Wollongong (UOW) with a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and a double major of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

“I was really passionate about coastal engineering, and issues of sustainability and management,” Samantha said. “I grew up on the coast, and especially flying up and down the coast for work, I could see how pristine some areas were and the impact of urban growth on the coastline.

“Combining civil and environmental engineering for my degree allowed me to focus the different areas that contribute to coastal engineering.”

Samantha’s time at UOW has been incredibly rich and interesting, but also incredibly busy.

In addition to her double major, she has juggled an internship turned part-time engineering job at Wollongong City Council over the past couple of years, and there she undertook her Honours thesis on Coastal Asset Management.

For the first few years of her degree, she also continued her work for the Westpac Rescue Helicopter. The latter job, in particular, has helped hone Samantha’s sense of responsibility and leadership.

Earlier this year, Samantha was recognised as one of the nation’s brightest young minds as part of GradConnection’s Top 100 Future Leaders. Samantha was named the winner of the Jacobs Young Professional Award sponsored by the Jacobs Engineering Group. This award highlighted her leadership capabilities and her contributions to helping others. The prestigious awards feature successful and hard-working students who are having an impact in their chosen field.

Samantha said good leadership is about being a positive force and supporting fellow students to achieve their goals.

“Leadership means being a role model in your field but also it is about being able to motivate and encourage people around a common goal,” she said.

“The award really solidified my confidence in myself, that engineering is something I really want to pursue and I can be good at it.”

Throughout her time at University, Samantha has also played an active role in the UOW Football Club and the UOW Surf Life Saving Club.

In 2018, she was part of the UOW Rwanda Project, a team of students who travelled to the formerly war-torn African nation to help contribute to rural communities.

It was an “amazing experience”, said Samantha, who was part of the group who constructed a new classroom for Ruhinga Christian Academy.

“Travelling to Rwanda was really a highlight of my time at UOW. It was a chance to use the skills that I’ve learned to really make a difference. It really inspires you to work in that field to help others.”

That trip also inspired Samantha to explore more of the globe. Next year, instead of taking on a graduate role, Samantha will be taking to the road.

“My partner and I are going overseas, where we are going to work and travel and broaden our global understanding,” she said.

“We don’t really know where we will end up yet, but we are hoping to visit South East Asia including Nepal, India, Myanmar and then across to the Americas.”

After working so hard, and taking on so many roles, during her five-year degree, Samantha is looking forward to the chance to travel before delving into the field of coastal engineering. She is hoping to forge a career in coastal asset management.

What advice would she offer those who are about to embark on their own university adventure?

“I really recommend getting involved with UOWx and the clubs and societies on campus as much as possible. It is a great way to immerse yourself, expand your networks and skills, and grow as a person.”

Words by India Glyde. Original published on UOW Media Centre.