John Monash Scholarship winner sets her sights on Warwick

Jess Coldrey with the Governor-General of Australia, His Excellency General the Honourable David John Hurley AC DSC (Retd) at the scholarship presentation ceremony, Australian Government House, 2021

Monash University final year Bachelor of Arts (Human Geography) and Bachelor of Visual Arts student, Jess Coldrey never thought she was the type of person who would be awarded an academic scholarship. After receiving an email suggesting she could be eligible, she took the leap and applied.

“When I first heard about the John Monash Scholarship, I knew it was the opportunity I needed to realise my dream of studying at the University of Warwick and becoming a humanitarian engineer.”

Jess was awarded the ‘2021 Victoria Government John Monash Scholarship’. Awarded annually by the John Monash Foundation, the John Monash Scholarship recognises excellence and leadership in outstanding Australian graduates  to support them with their postgraduate study overseas at another of the world’s best universities.

“From those first moments of signing up for the information webinar, I didn't believe I could do it”, says Jess. “But I kept picturing myself with the scholarship in the future and asking my future self what she did to get it. The first thing she said was, “I went to the webinar, wrote down everything, and then reached out to everyone I could to get help”.

Jess used her initiative and made contact with a number of people at Monash and Warwick, including Professor Ken Sloan, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Senior Vice-President (Enterprise and Governance), Monash University.

“I knew Monash and Warwick had a relationship through the International Conference of Undergraduate Research (ICUR), Reinvention and the student exchange program, but following my chat with Professor Sloan I was pleased to learn more about the alliance between Monash and Warwick,  and how both universities have a very similar ethos,’ says Jess. “Interestingly Professor Sloan also held a previous role as the former Registrar and Chief Operating Officer at Warwick so this really enriched my understanding of studying there.”

Reflecting on her decision to apply, Jess said that what stood out to her about the John Monash Scholarship was the idea that anyone can be a leader.

“Their focus on embracing differences and supporting young leaders in creating their own paths gave me the confidence throughout the process to own my story.”

And Jess clearly stood out from the pack. With a passion for humanitarian engineering, she aspires to become a thought leader in her field.

“Humanitarian engineering is a field with a huge potential impact that Australia is currently lacking,” Jess explains. "I believe there are currently many gaps in the Australian engineering sector, and a more human-centred approach to civil projects could help tap the underutilised potential of infrastructure
to support sustainability and community needs.”

Jess says it was during her third year at Monash that she discovered the Master of Humanitarian Engineering with Management at the University of Warwick.

“I was presenting ‘From Art to Engineering: New Applications for Plastic Waste’ at ICUR when I heard about the course and I knew it was the perfect next step for me. Combining my passions for sustainability, creativity, and engineering with my art and social science background had always been a challenge,
but reading about the course gave me a sense of direction and motivation.”

Jess’s vision is to combine humanitarian engineering with her social science background, creative problem solving, and sustainability leadership in the engineering sector to reimage the field of infrastructure, and says Warwick is going to help her get there.

“Completing this one-of-a-kind course with the John Monash Scholarship’s support will equip me with ground-breaking specialist knowledge to help deliver large-scale sustainable infrastructure projects that reimagine sustainable development in Australia and the Asia Pacific.

Her dream is to become a global leader in sustainable infrastructure, managing city-scale projects with cutting-edge technologies and sustainable materials.

Jess says that by structuring projects to empower local communities and showcase sustainability innovations, she believes projects could create more positive legacies for generations to come and catalyse sustainable change across new contexts.

“I aspire to lead this change in our engineering industry to improve our national policies, business operations, and capacity to provide foreign aid. I plan to develop a Multi-Disciplinary Institute for Sustainable Futures in partnership with an Australian university to foster creative cross-disciplinary  collaboration towards the Sustainable Development Goals.”

We wish Jess the very best of luck with her studies at the University of Warwick.