Young Alumnus of the Year

Dr Cooper Schouten

man holding honey comb

"A lot of people believed in me and put a lot of support and effort into fostering my career. They gave me a chance, and I think that's something we can draw from the democracy of the beehive: It's not about the queen bee; it's about everyone working together equally for the greater good of the colony."

Dr. Cooper Schouten’s academic journey began in 2012 at Southern Cross University, where he embarked on a mission to create positive change. He completed three degrees, starting with a Bachelor of Environmental Science, followed by a Bachelor of Science with Honours (First Class) in 2015, and culminating in a PhD in Agricultural Research for Development in 2019. It was during these formative years that his deep-rooted passion for sustainable agriculture, community development and beekeeping began to flourish. 

Today, Dr. Schouten holds the position of Director for Southern Cross University's "Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods" and Honey Bee Research and Development Centre (HBRC) of Excellence. These roles are committed to enhancing education, research, and capacity-building within the beekeeping industry in the Pacific Islands and Australia. Under his leadership, the team has achieved an astounding 80% success rate in grant applications, securing over $10 million across twelve projects.  

Cooper's research output is also notable, with 13 peer-reviewed publications from 2019 to 2023, often in collaboration with esteemed international researchers. 

One of those publications looked at controlling Varroa mites using non-chemical methods. Varroa is the leading cause of colony losses globally and is expected to progressively kill around 95% of Australia's feral honey bees within three years. Cooper emphasised that thanks to the support and belief of Southern Cross and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), it has allowed him to tackle critical problems, such as the Varroa mite. 

"All these years of investment through SCU, ACIAR, and the industry believing in what we're doing, it means that we've got people like myself and others who have the technical skills, knowledge and passion for solving some of the problems we have, like Varroa."  

However, Cooper's impact doesn't stop at research. His passion extends to teaching Regenerative Agriculture to more than 250 students over the past two years at Southern Cross University. His dedication to teaching has resulted in a sustained overall unit satisfaction of 94.1%. 

"I'm very passionate about teaching; I love learning who students are, where they're going, what they want to do, and what their aspirations are," Cooper shared. 

When asked about his plans for the future, Cooper has no intention of slowing down, with ongoing projects in Fiji, the Solomon Islands, and Papua New Guinea set to occupy the next four years of his buzzing life, in addition to continuing his teaching endeavours at Southern Cross University. 

"A lot of the work that I'm doing is not just because of my own enthusiasm," Cooper reflected.  

"It's because a lot of people believed in me and put a lot of support and effort into fostering my career. They gave me a chance, and I think that's something we can draw from the democracy of the beehive: It's not about the queen bee; it's about everyone working together equally for the greater good of the colony." 

In the buzzing world of beekeeping and agriculture, Dr. Cooper Schouten is leading the way towards a brighter, more sustainable future for all. 

2023 Alumni Impact Award Recipients

Alumnus of the Year, Ben Newton OAM

After graduating from Southern Cross in 2010 with a Bachelor of Psychological Science with Honours, Ben went on to win a gold medal at the 2012 summer Paralympics and was honoured with an Order of Australia Medal in 2014. Ben now works as the Queensland Paralympics High Performance & Development Coach (Wheelchair Rugby) where nurtures talent and inclusivity within the sport.

Learn more about Ben
Ben Newton

Young Alumnus of the Year, Miranda Luby (dual recipient)

Nominated as an award-winning author, journalist, and copywriter, Miranda’s work spans renowned publications to inspiring novels, showcasing her passion for mental health and conservation issues. A role model for young adults, she inspires and empowers through her talks and workshops where her dedication to community service and impactful storytelling shines through.

Learn more about Miranda
Miranda Luby

Young Alumnus of the Year, Dr Cooper Schouten (dual recipient)

Cooper has completed three degrees including a PhD at Southern Cross. He is the Director of Bees for Sustainable Livelihoods research group and oversees several programs promoting education, research and capacity-building within beekeeping industries in Pacific Island partner countries and Australia. He also teaches into the Regenerative Agriculture program at the University.

Learn more about Cooper
Man with bee honeycomb

International Alumnus of the Year, Dr Sara Shashaani

Completing her Bachelor of Applied Computing at Southern Cross in 2010, Sara is an esteemed researcher in climate-induced learning and prediction. As Assistant Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering at North Carolina State University, she aims to contribute to sustainable solutions and support vulnerable communities.

Learn more about Sara
Sara Shashaani

Early Career Alumnus of the Year, Mitch Lavelle

Mitch is a mechanical engineer at Gilmour Space Technologies, leading provider of Australian-made launch vehicles and satellite platforms. The company is on track to launch its Eris rockets and G-class satellite platforms into Low Earth Orbits soon and Mitch is the responsible engineer for the first stage main tank, as well as the entire second stage of the Eris Block 1 vehicle.

Learn more about Mitch

Community Impact Alumnus of the Year, Evangeline Wood

Evangeline recently completed a Bachelor of Laws with Honours and is also a volunteer firefighter and Founder and President of Coolamon Community, a group dedicated to connecting Aboriginal mothers with culturally safe healthcare.​ Evie started Coolamon Community in 2021 and the group has since delivered more than 400 Coolamon cribs to First Nations mothers.

Learn more about Evangeline
Evangeline Wood

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