Celebrations for July 2011 graduates

Celebrations for July 2011 graduates

Come rain or shine Aberdeen's newest graduates laughed and cheered as they celebrated their successes.

Whether it was with a glass of Pimms or a cap toss the new graduates marked the end of years of study before they embark on a new adventure in their lives.

As the week draws to a close, here are just some of the stories from this week’s graduation.

Aberdeen is certainly the place to meet your future partner as Sarah Cordiner and Dee Allen met their fiancés here and are looking forward to their nuptials.

Sarah Cordiner

Sarah Cordiner (21) graduated on Monday July 4 with an LLB Law degree, just days ahead of her wedding to her fiancée who she met at the University of Aberdeen and who will also graduates this week.

Sarah, from Aberdeen, met Ben Traynor (22), who graduated on Thursday July 7 at 6.30pm with a Bachelors in Education, on her second day at university and they got engaged last summer.

They met through the Christian Union and had the same group of friends together throughout University.

Sarah also met her future bridesmaid at Crombie Halls when they lived together in first year and Fiona Gibb graduated on Wednesday July 6 with a degree in Psychology.

Sarah said: “It was such an exciting few days for us as we both graduate and get married.”

Sarah and Ben will marry on Friday July 15 at Gilcomstoun South Church before their wedding reception at the Marcliffe.

Ben and her parents watched her graduate as she became the first in her family to don a cap and gown.

Sarah will enrol in the University’s Diploma in Law in September and Ben will take up his probationary post at Port Errol School in Cruden Bay where he will teach a primary 5/6 class.

Her parents Alan (58) and Elaine Cordiner (55) and future husband spent  the day taking photos together before a meal at the Marcliffe.

Dee Allen

The University is the place to meet people and fall in love as Dee Allen who graduates today demonstrates – she met her fiancé during the second year of her studies.

And 30-year-old Dee is following in her mum’s footsteps as she also met her partner at the University where they were both working at the time in the Geography department.

Dee, who graduates with an MA (Hons) in English, met fiancé Kevin McDonald (29) on October 28, 2009.  The couple, who are both from Aberdeen, are getting married in October this year.

Kevin graduated from the University last year with a first class degree in Mathematics and is now in undertaking a PhD at the institution. 

Dee has juggled her studies with a part time job at Robert Gordon University as well as planning her wedding, which will take place at King’s College.

She has handmade all her wedding invites, orders of service and plans to bake her own wedding cake.

Dee tried to fulfil her duties as wedding planner in the summer so that she could concentrate on her studies during term time.

Dee will be the first person to graduate in her family – something her mum is very proud of.

Dee said: “It will be a very sentimental affair as both our families are heavily connected to the University. I met my fiancé here, just like my mum met my stepdad.

“I lived at Thom’s Place in Old Aberdeen for a number of years as a child. I would often walk past King’s when there was a wedding on and can’t believe I am lucky enough to have my own wedding ceremony here.”

Jenny Adams

While many of our students live nearby, some show extra dedication to their studies by travelling great distances every day, and Jenny Adams is no exception.

When Jenny Adams graduated on Tuesday July 5 with a First Class Bachelor of Divinity degree it will have been a marathon journey. The degree is one for which she commuted for four hours a day, travelling over 560 miles a week, to get to and from the University of Aberdeen.

Sometimes the 40-year-old from Elgin would take a 90 minute train just to attend a one hour class - so much of her coursework was completed on the train.

Jenny also balanced her studies and extensive travel with her role as mum to Scott (13), Alan (11) and Euan (8), as well as with her placements, as required by the Church of Scotland for her desired career as a minister, at Lossiemouth, Fochabers and Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.

Despite all this Jenny has been awarded the Burgess prize for the best dissertation, 3 Christ's College prizes for Systematic Theology and shared a Christ's College prize for Practical Theology.

Her husband, David (48), was a great support picking up a lot of the responsibilities at home, as Jenny left very early or arrived home late after attending classes at the University.

Jenny admits it has been hard, sometimes missing out on the school run or helping with her sons’ homework because she spent much of her day travelling.

She said: “I perhaps had quite a different student experience from my class mates as I could not get involved in University life beyond the classroom because I lived so far away.

“However, because I could not just quickly nip home it helped me to make friends on campus with my class mates.”

Jenny took a career break from the telecommunications industry where she worked as a software engineer for ten years, after having her third son. It was during this period she received her call to the Ministry and she enrolled at the University of Aberdeen.

When she was growing up Jenny attended St. Laurence Church in Forres, is an elder in St. Giles’ & St. Columba’s South Church in Elgin, and now she is looking forward to taking up her probationary placement in nearby Fochabers (Bellie Parish Church) after her graduation.

Emmanuel ‘Chuxx’ Onyia

Emmanuel ‘Chuxx’ Onyia (23) has hopped, skipped and jumped his way to success at the University of Aberdeen.

A four-time Scottish Universities Champion in the triple jump, the young athlete graduated on Wednesday July 6 with a BSc in Sports and Exercise Science.

Emmanuel said: “The thing I love about the triple jump is the challenge. It requires speed, agility, balance and power.  It’s not a sport you can learn in a year or two.  It takes over 10,000 hours of training to get good at it.”

As the Scottish Champion Emmanuel has finished as a finalist on three occasions at the British Universities Championships and currently holds the University of Aberdeen triple jump record.

As an outstanding student athlete, Emmanuel received the University of Aberdeen Future Fund Sports Bursary.

“The great facilities at Aberdeen Sports Village played a big role in my experience,” he added. “With the help of the university’s Alumni Sports Bursary scheme, I managed to juggle training and competing with full time study and part-time work.

"The bursary has been absolutely brilliant.  It gave me free ASV membership, access to physical therapists and allowed me to get some great training. The strength and conditioning staff - Donald Pirie and Jackie Davidson, and the university athletics coach - Eddie Mckenna - helped pair me with my current coach Bob Mason who’s already trained a commonwealth medallist.  The bursary helps athletes compete on national and international level.”

In the near future Emmanuel intends on focusing on his athletics and will be training full time in preparation for the 2014 Commonwealth Games, where he hopes to represent Scotland.

Looking into the future after his athletics career, Emmanuel plans to work with children and hopes to focus on battling the childhood obesity epidemic.

“Childhood obesity is on the rise in Scotland, the UK and the world and that is something I’d like to change.  I’ve seen from personal experience how overweight children suffer and it would be nicer to get everyone healthier and fitter.”

Our teachers are a clever bunch as many juggled responsibilities outside their degrees.

Barry Donaldson

Barry Donaldson’s love of teaching was inspired by Aberdeen’s late Annie Ingils MBE, and as the twenty-three year old graduated on Thursday July 7, with a first class Bachelors of Education (Hons) he plans to use her love of drama and storytelling in his new teaching post.

Barry, from the Orkneys has juggled his studies with his role as a storyteller and dramatist.

He has toured round Aberdeen with the city’s reading bus where he created an animation and drama for children of Sheena Blackhall’s Millie.

He said “I take the traditional or the new and try and make the story come to life.

“I believe by getting the kids involved in a drama it makes the stories more meaningful or relevant to them.

“Drama provides a stimulus for the pupils and makes the stories come alive.”

Barry has previously worked at the University’s Word festival running workshops on literacy as a performance piece, including a performance entitled ‘Chapel Horror’ for teenagers.

He ran a family event which saw children exploring the University campus using their imagination to create stories around campus landmarks.

Barry has worked on a teenage production with a Kenyan director at Aberdeen’s International Youth Festival.

All of this has seen Barry successfully joined the Storytelling Directory as a professional storyteller.

He will continue to use his drama skills over the summer when he directs ‘Summer of Horror’ with the Scottish Youth Theatre for primary school children.

He plans to spend the day with friends and family. He will take up his probationary post in Langholm Primary School in Dumfries and Galloway.

Morag Christie

When Morag Christie (34) of Aberdeen began her degree she had no idea what how eventful the next few years of her life would be.

From a young age she dedicated her life to working with children.

A nursery nurse she began her degree six years ago and is graduating today with a BA (Hons) in Childhood Practice.

At the same time as Morag began her degree, she and her partner decided to open their hearts and home to children in need by becoming foster parents. 

Soon after they began foster carers, the couple provided respite for a four year old boy.  He is now ten and a half and in the process of being placed with the couple permanently.

Morag’s family life continued to be active as she got engaged in 2006 and married the following year.

She has had two children, one in 2008 and another in 2010 and faced the challenges of working, raising small children and studying head on.

Morag grew up on a farm in Aberdeen and will be the first one in her family to graduate from university.

After taking some time off Morag would like to return to the University of Aberdeen to train in child psychology. 

Alison Johnston

Alison Johnston (22) returns to her Gaelic roots when she graduated on Thursday July 7 with a 2:1 Bachelor degree in Education with electives in Gaelic.

Alison, decided to take the opportunity during her degree to learn more about the Gaelic language and its culture because her maternal grandmother was a fluent Gaelic speaker from the Isle of Harris.

Alison said: “When deciding my electives at University, I chose Gaelic and Gaelic Culture because despite coming from Northumbria I have always felt close to Scotland.

“This was not only because my grandmother spoke Gaelic and I have Gaelic speaking relatives in Harris but also because I wanted the challenge of learning something new which I could use in the classroom.

“My tutor, Margaret Maclver, teaching fellow at the University of Aberdeen, was very supportive, giving me encouragement and time outside the classroom to ensure that I reached the standard needed to teach children through the Gaelic Learners in the Primary School initiative.”

Her newly acquired language skills also brought an international dimension to her placement at Tarland Primary School, in Aberdeenshire, which has a Gaelic language section.

Through her interest in the Highland Clearances, Alison realised that there would be Gaelic speakers in the Nova Scotia region of Canada so emailed schools to see if they would be interested in twinning.

A partnership was established with a primary school in Nova Scotia which had a Gaelic speaking teacher.

There then followed webcam sessions between the schools as they sought to learn from each other.

Margaret MacIver said: “Through her studies and her own determination, not only has she re-established Gaelic back into her family a few generations on but she has also ably demonstrated the very rich and added dimension that choosing Gaelic as her Elective subject within her Initial Teaching Education programme at Aberdeen University, can add to her teaching career.”

Alison spent the day with her family who have travelled from the Isle of Harris to see her graduate.

She will start her probationary year at Rosebank Primary School, Nairn, in August.

The loudest graduation of all was from the medical school. Their cheers for each other could be heard all over campus.

Emily Arthurs

Emily Arthurs (28) graduated Friday July 8 after overcoming personal difficulties to achieve her degree in Medicine on top of her previous Bachelors degree in Science.

Repeating the final year was hard, but rather than see this as an obstacle, Emily decided she would take this opportunity to gain experiences she had not had the chance to do before.

She went from being an occasional runner to winning a 10k race after setting new goals and training hard and winning the most improved runner award in the University’s running club.

Emily, originally from Dublin, feels being in class with a new group of people gave her the chance to meet new people and widened her circle of friends.

Emily feels it was the support of the athletics club and her friends which really helped her to stay positive during a challenging time.

“My friends were really great in helping me adjust to an unexpected situation.

“My friend, Joanna Buchan was such a tower of strength to me and people such as Professor Keenan, Dr Elizabeth Hennessy and Professor Maggie Cruickshank were so supportive throughout this year.”

Emily also juggled a challenging degree and athletics with a part time job at the university in catering services.

Her parents Mary Arthurs (56) and Hugh Arthurs (60), who have been immensely supportive of her, were thrilled to watch her graduate and enjoyed time with her on King’s lawn after the ceremony.

She looks forward to starting work at Western General Hospital in Edinburgh.

Stuart Braithwaite

Saving lives on land and sea—Stuart Braithwaite (31) of Aberdeen, a long-time volunteer for the RNLI lifeboat crew graduated on Friday July 8 with a MBChB (bachelor of medicine and bachelor of surgery). 

Stuart first graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering, but when he began volunteering with the Aberdeen RNLI seven years ago, his experience changed his life.

He said: “I didn’t know anything about medicine when I left school, but the more I learned about medicine from working on the lifeboat the more I was sure that medicine was my calling.”

The Aberdeen RNLI volunteers respond to emergencies at sea and go to up to 150 miles off shore to rescue people in distress.

After a few years working as a development engineer and volunteering, Stuart took the plunge and returned to university for his medical degree. 

Despite being a full time student, Stuart has been the 2nd Mechanic on the All-weather Lifeboat (ALB) and crew on the Inshore Lifeboat (ILB) and is a member of the RNLI Flood Rescue team. He juggled lifeboat training and rescues with his studies throughout his whole time at university.

Stuart said: “The RNLI has been a really important part of my studying medicine. It’s been a bit difficult sometimes, but if I was available to go and rescue then that’s what I did. The guys and the crew completely understood it. I don't think I'd have made it through without the support of some of my fellow crew members. We’re a tight knit group. You learn a lot from working as a team in hazardous situations. It’s a really good distraction from medical school which can be very intense.”

During his medical elective he travelled to Alaska where he lived and worked with the US Coast Guard in Alaska at air station Sitka. He worked as a medic on the rescue helicopter and conducted research.  He said, “It was great to be part of a search and rescue unit on the other side of the world – especially in such a challenging environment. It was a fantastic experience from both a medical and a search and rescue point of view.”

During his placement at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness Stuart joined the Inshore Lifeboat Crew at North Kessock RNLI. 

He will be returning to Inverness for a year placement and is then returning to Aberdeen.

He is going to continue to crew on RNLI lifeboats in Inverness and Aberdeen. He said: “My plan is to carry on and give as much time as possible to the life boats while being a doctor as both jobs are very important to me.”

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