Summer Graduation Ceremonies - Monday 2 July

Summer Graduation Ceremonies - Monday 2 July

Today sees the beginning of the Summer Graduation Ceremonies.

The University would like to congratulate all of its students on their graduation day, and here are just a few examples of this year's outstanding student success stories.

Catherine Guthrie

Exam time for most students means late nights cramming ahead of the big day, but for Catherine Guthrie burning the candle at both ends is never an option.

The 21-year-old suffers from a rare metabolic condition which means over exertion makes her so ill she can require hospital treatment.

However this didn't stop the former Glen Urquhart High School student, who lives in Caiplich near Beauly, Inverness-shire, achieving top marks and she graduates today (Monday July 2) with a First Class degree in Law.

Catherine has Leucinosis, sometimes called Maple Syrup Disease, which means her body is unable to break down protein properly.

She said: "My condition means that it is crucial that I adhere to a strict low protein, high calorie diet at all times. I cannot drink alcohol and I have to be in bed early every night which makes for a rather unusual student life!

"It is quite a difficult illness to manage, especially when you are away from home for the first time. I was off, unwell, for more than a month during my first year and I had a few problems with managing the condition in my second year but I coped better in third and fourth years – though I did crash out at the end of my finals."

Catherine, who was awarded the Elphinstone Bell Scholarship for academic merit, says learning to manage her time properly and making good use of support enabled her to flourish.

"Because I can't stay up late to finish assignments or revise, I had to be very well organised to make sure I got everything done in good time.

"I also received brilliant support from the University's student support team which helped me in every possible way.

"They kept in close touch with the Law School to let them know what was going on when I was ill and to ensure I was able to catch up once I was better. These things, along with the support of my family, really made a difference and meant not only did I gain a degree but I achieved the best that I was capable of."

She will be watched when she graduates by mum Nicky, sister Laura and her grandmother Jenett, as well as Dr Ronnie Scott Brown, who funds the Elphinstone Bell award.

"Receiving the scholarship has made such a big difference to my time at University," Catherine added.

"I received £1,000 a year which was a massive help. Because of my medical condition it is difficult for me to spend time with big groups of people in places like the library as simple coughs or colds can lead to life threatening complications.

"Having the scholarship meant that I could buy some of the required books rather than having to rely on those in the library. I also frequently needed to go home to recuperate and with the scholarship I could afford the train fares. One of my goals is to reach a position from where I can help another young person as Dr Scott Brown has so generously helped me."

Catherine now hopes to return to the University to undertake a Diploma in Legal Practice.

Philip Glover

'Could do better' was a phrase ever-present on Philip Glover's report cards but 29 years after leaving school he has proved his teachers right, gaining a degree in law.

Philip (47) from Nethy Bridge near Grantown-on-Spey, says that as a schoolboy he was 'bright but lazy' and left with few qualifications.

Originally from Northern Ireland, he worked in public service for 18 years, before moving to Scotland in 2005.

He then took up a job in a call centre but could not rid himself of the feeling that he wanted to achieve more.

"I think I always harboured an ambition that one day I would achieve a degree but I didn't really think it would happen," he said.

"I thought I would need A-levels but I didn't have any. Then I heard about the access course run by the University's Centre for Life-Long Learning. I signed up and completed the course part-time in a year and from there I've not looked back."

Part of the access course involved legal studies and this sparked Philip's interest in the LLB.

"I'm so glad that I took that first step in returning to education," he added. "I have enjoyed my degree thoroughly and I would recommend taking the plunge to anyone who thinks they would like to return to education but is worried they have left it too late.

"It has been so fulfilling and it is a great feeling to know I've finally achieved my potential."

Philip credits the support of his partner Elaine in helping him to get through the course, which he balanced with a part-time call centre job.

She will be there to watch him graduate together with his parents Cecil and Mary.

"My mum and dad have waited a very long time for this moment," he added. "I don't think they ever expected to see me in a cap and gown but here I am proving that my teachers were right all along when they said I 'could do better'."

Bitten by the study bug, Philip has now been accepted to study for a PhD by research at Aberdeen, examining the law governing intelligence and covert evidence gathering.

Abigail Cowie

Abigail Cowie (22) from Aberdeen graduates with an LLB in Law with European Legal Studies and a job with Goldman Sachs as a legal analyst in their investment banking division.

After her graduation, Abigail will fly to New York for six weeks of intensive training before joining the firm in London in August.

Students who chose the European Legal Studies option undertake a year abroad and Abigail spent a year at the Vienna University of Business and Economics.

"I chose to go to Vienna because of the culture and beauty of the city but also because the university offered practical course which I felt would benefit my career path."

During her time at University she took part on various voluntary activities including working at a drop in centre and sitting on the children's panel, and she has been heavily involved in the Mooting society.

Jennifer Paton

When Jennifer Paton receives her degree from the University of Aberdeen it will be a familiar moment of pride for her parents, who both graduated from the institution.

Jennifer, 21, from Golspie, Sutherland, collects a First Class Honours degree in Law following in the footsteps of mum Fiona, who has a French degree from Aberdeen, and dad David, who graduated in Zoology.

The pair met as students and Jennifer said keeping up the family tradition makes her achievement all the more special.

"I've enjoyed my time at Aberdeen enormously and it's great to follow in my parents' footsteps – though I'm the first in the family to do law.

"I now hope to return to do the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice and then to undertake a two-year traineeship to become a solicitor."

During her time at University Jennifer served as Law Convenor for the Aberdeen University Students' Association, was a student senator and stood on various law school committees as a student representative.

David Lessels, Senior Lecturer in Law said: Jennifer was an outstanding student who demonstrated academic excellence while also devoting significant time and energy to representing students within and outside the Law School. A very successful career undoubtedly lies ahead of her."

Jennifer secured a merit scholarship based on her academic achievements at school when she began university and said the extra support had enabled her to dedicate more time to her additional roles.

She said: "The scholarship meant that I did not need to work during term time, though I did throughout the holidays.

"This allowed me the time to become a student representative and to serve on a broad range of committees, all of which took up a great deal of time.

"It was hugely rewarding and it is a great feeling to know you are doing something to help when others are having difficulties and bringing about changes to make the student experience even better."

Jodie Chandler

Jodie Chandler (22), from Bridge of Don, has balanced her studies with her role as student director of Casus Omissus- The Aberdeen Law Project.

The Aberdeen Law project, which provided legal advice to the family of Claire Morris to have her killer's name removed from her headstone, seeks to provide free legal advice to those who cannot afford a solicitor and offers students the opportunity to gain real life experience of practising law.

The Law Project runs various initiatives which seek to promote the legal profession within the community. For example, law students provide a "mock trial" scheme in primary schools and carry out employability skills workshops with inmates at HM Prison Aberdeen.

Jodie said: "The Aberdeen Law Project hugely helped my employability. I gained practical experience from dealing with clients but also developed leadership, management and business skills in my role as student director.

"We are the only entirely student led law clinic in Scotland therefore the students' experience is somewhat unparalleled."

Jodie, who has been offered a traineeship at Paul & Williamsons LLP, will continue to work at the Law Project over summer before starting the Legal Diploma at Aberdeen in September.

Anita Wong

Anita Wong (22) from Peterhead graduates today, with an LLB (Hons) in Law with economics and a depth of work experience already under her belt.

Anita worked in Policy, Planning and Governance at the University as part of the University's nationally recognised internship programme.

This was followed by a spell with the career mentoring programme where she developed her employability with a commercial lawyer who gave her tips on the application and interview process as well as a chance to make much needed contacts with the legal world.

Her summer will be equally jam packed with further experience at Stronarchs LLP and Matthew Cohen and Associates where she will gain further understanding of life as a high flying lawyer.

Anita said "The University, as well as providing many opportunities to develop my employability skills through its programmes, has also helped me by means of the various law fairs, and because of its strong links with businesses in all sectors, I have had the chance to network with a variety of people, both legal and otherwise.

"My favourite experience at uni was getting involved in mooting, which I thoroughly enjoyed as it enabled me to develop my legal and public speaking skills, and it definitely gave me the wish to stand in court in the future."

Anita hopes to undertake the diploma before embarking on her promising career.

Four Mature University of Aberdeen Law Students Graduate

For four University of Aberdeen law graduates, today's ceremony marks the end of a long educational journey they have undertaken together.

Arlene Elder, 37, Morag Evett, Davy Reid, 41, and Nicky Webster, 38, began the HND in legal studies at Aberdeen College together in 2006.

The group then decided that they all wanted to continue their legal education and enrolled at for the LLB at the University on completion of the two-year course.

Arlene, from Newtonhill, says the support network which came from studying together for so long has helped to ensure their success.

She said: "Doing a law degree is tough and having friends around you to share things with when you are finding things difficult is a great help.

"Being a more mature student those early days on the campus were quite nerve-wracking. You worry about how you are going to fit in so having some familiar faces in the lectures was a big help.

"In the end though, there was nothing to worry about and I felt quite at home. Despite being hard work, it has been a wonderful experience."

Davy, who lives in Fettercairn, also says his achievement would not have been possible without the support of those around him.

"I've been very fortunate to enjoy great support both at the University and between the four of us, and at home.

"Undertaking a degree is a big commitment and it has an impact not only on the person studying but all those around them.

"Without the support of my wife Debbie, who took over all of the day-to-day tasks at home and looking after our son Donan during busy periods like exam time, I would not have been able to gain my degree."

Nicky, from Sheddocksley, Aberdeen, said having others around her keen to embark on the LLB had given her the push she needed to go for a degree.

"At first I did not contemplate university but I enjoyed the course so much that I started to think about it and found out that Davy, Arlene and Morag were also considering doing the LLB, so thought 'why not, it's better to try than think what if'. Knowing there would be others there from the course made the decision easier."

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