MORE than a year after she was determined as the winner, Sophie Bell has been presented with the 2021 Harper Ireland President’s Prize.
Sophie, 23, from Virginia, Co. Cavan, was selected to receive the prize during her final year at Harper Adams University, where she completed an honours degree in Agriculture with Animal Science.
Due to Covid-19, the annual Harper Ireland dinner and award presentation was unable to go ahead in 2021. But Sophie was able to collect her prize when she returned to Harper Adams for the annual Paddy’s Ball in March.
The President’s Prize is awarded to a final-year student for their outstanding contribution to Harper Ireland or the wider student community during their time at Harper. The prize is awarded by the Vice-Chancellor, and President of the Harper Ireland student society, Professor Ken Sloan.
In recommending Sophie to receive the award, the judging panel wrote: “Sophie is a dedicated and caring student, who has been an ambassador for the University throughout her studies.
“When asked about the value of Harper Ireland, Sophie expressed that it brings Irish students together, gives them a bond and a network of friends at home and here. Sophie has been committed to Harper Ireland from the outset and also actively immersed herself in student life at Harper, in the broadest sense.
“She has encouraged and influenced others to come to the university (at events and as an ‘online ambassador’). She took up rowing in her first year, along with hockey and rugby, and of course, she was an active member of Harper Ireland. Sophie feels that these things have made her into a “new person” and that she has experienced significant personal growth whilst studying at Harper.
“Having previously been quiet and shy she feels more confident and independent as a result of pushing herself out of her comfort zone by coming over from Ireland.
“Sophie hides her light under a bushel, she has thrown herself into sports, Harper Ireland, ambassador work, placement, and supporting others in doing the same.
“She doesn’t just represent Harper Ireland, she is a genuine ambassador for the University. A lovely and humble student who is very deserving of an award for an unsung hero.”
Responding to the win, Sophie said: “I didn’t really expect to win it, I’m very grateful for the award and I have really, really enjoyed my time at Harper – I am quite sad that it’s all over. I wish I could do it all over again.
“It was really uplifting to be recognised for my contribution to Harper. Of course, Covid was quite a struggle to adapt to during my final year but I am really looking forward to our graduation in the summer when we can all reunite!”
Determined to promote careers in farming, Sophie has embraced several opportunities to work with the media including articles in The Farmers Guardian; appearing on the front page of the Irish Independent Weekend Magazine with three other young women in the agricultural sector to talk about life as a young woman in the ag sector; and being interviewed for the Irish Country Living Magazine and various other social media opportunities, all of which she is grateful to have been a part of.
Sophie, who has an 18k-plus following on her own Instagram, showcasing her farming life, now balances farm work with a position in veterinary pharmaceuticals.
She said: “I’m working full-time off-farm in veterinary pharmaceuticals, and I am contract rearing heifers for a local dairy farmer on my own farm. I’ve taken a small bit of time off relief milking, which I have been doing for the Autumn and spring calving period, but I’d like to get back to it soon, but it’s hard to do everything I guess!”
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