Four students from Pershore have celebrated their graduation from the University of Worcester
Stephanie Hollings, Natalie Mottershead, Eleanor Rice and Meghann Heighton were among around 3,000 graduands who graduated in the historic Worcester Cathedral last week.
Stephanie, who earned a First Class degree in Forensic and Applied Biology, said: “Going back into education as a mature student was daunting but I feel overwhelmed and very proud of myself. Hard work really pays off.”
The 35-year-old has already acquired a job within the field she studied in quickly after finishing her studies and is currently working in toxicology.
As part of her degree, Stephanie worked with West Midlands Police for her dissertation on validating footprints within the police force and also volunteered with West Mercia Police’s forensic department all the way through her degree.
She was impacted as Covid-19 took hold across the country last March, but praised staff at the University. “As you can imagine the pandemic hit everyone hard and affected students across the country differently,” said the former Evesham College pupil. “I feel my cohort was lucky enough to have amazing lecturers that were always at the end of a virtual meeting or email whenever needed.”
Natalie’s degree was in Applied Health and Social Care. The 36-year-old said: “For 11 years I doubted my academic ability and put off topping up my foundation degree, I honestly thought I could not do it, and my confidence in academia due to Dyslexia was lower than ever. It took my employer’s belief in me to apply for the course, the amazing group of lectures and course leaders, and the outstanding dyslexia support from the University, all of which gave me a can-do attitude. I still cannot believe I have a full degree let alone a First.”
Riding the wave of her newfound confidence, she has applied for a Master's degree in Speech and Language.
For Natalie, the pandemic had implications in her work and studies in different ways. She home tutors a young person with Special Educational Needs and like every child at a difficult time the confusion of lockdown provided new learning challenges to navigate.
Meanwhile Natalie was balancing this with her home life alongside studying. “The time it took to read due my dyslexia became challenging and late nights became something of a regular occurrence. I personally found the online teaching effective. I had less distractions, I found the one-to-one time with the lectures a wonderful way to ask all the questions without feeling rushed. I did miss the group chats among friends when pressures of the dissertation and the pandemic increased.”
Eleanor, whose degree was in Primary Initial Teacher Education, is looking for a teaching position within a primary school. “I am excited to start a career in teaching. I believe that with both my professional knowledge and personal experiences I am in a strong position to support children to become the best version of themselves, encouraging a passion for learning and school life,” said the 36-year-old.
During the first lockdown the University shifted lectures to online. Eleanor said: “The cancellation of in-person lectures meant I needed to adjust my own learning style as I had always been someone who learnt better by ‘doing’ and through social interaction. This took time and meant putting in extra independent study hours to ensure I understood the concepts fully. The University provided us with online workshops which offered additional opportunities to expand our knowledge and professional development in addition to our online lectures and assignments.
“On reflection this experience did provide me with a valuable understanding of what it is like learning from home, I was able to put this to use during my teaching placement at the start of this year when schools were closed once again, and children were having a similar experience of learning from home.”
Meghann, whose degree is in Marketing, Advertising and Public Relations, is now working full-time for an art book publishing company in Worcester as their Marketing Assistant. The 22-year-old, of Wyre Piddle, hopes in the long term to work overseas in the advertising industry.
For the former Worcester Sixth Form College pupil, finishing her studies in the pandemic had advantages and disadvantages. She said: “I found being able to work from home I could focus more. The lecturers were supportive throughout the year, communicating well with the uncertainty of whether in-person lectures would continue after December, guiding us if we had any issues and helping us get the correct applications to complete our work to the highest standard. However, the lack of seeing lecturers and friends when the course finished added a disheartening element, as the restrictions made it hard to celebrate.”
The University’s Deputy Vice Chancellor and Provost, Professor Sarah Greer, said: “The class of 2021 showed remarkable resilience and determination in the face of some unprecedented challenges during their studies, due to very difficult external circumstances. They have all done so well in earning a degree from Worcester, through their hard work, perseverance and dedication. This should stand them in good stead as they move into their chosen careers. Our students who earned a First Class Honours should feel particularly proud of themselves – it is an outstanding achievement. Many congratulations to them and I wish them all the very best in their future careers. I would also like to thank our outstanding staff at the University, who went above and beyond to ensure that our students reached their full potential.”