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Ross-shire UHI graduates join colleagues whose big days were delayed by pandemic for special celebration


By Alan Shields

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BA Childhood Practice graduates Shelle Duncan-Kidd and Ailsa Sugden.
BA Childhood Practice graduates Shelle Duncan-Kidd and Ailsa Sugden.

ROSS-SHIRE students who graduated during the pandemic were amongst those finally able to celebrate the milestone occasion at UHI Inverness.

Around 500 people attended the celebration at the campus to honour those who secured qualifications in absentia during 2020/21 due to restrictions.

The university held online celebratory events and published online graduation brochures during lockdown but wanted to provide an opportunity for them to attend an on-campus event for a retrospective celebration.

Sanda Kodimah graduated from UHI Inverness in 2020 with a PDA Health and Social Care – Administration of Medication and now works for Centred, a mental health charity in Inverness.
Sanda Kodimah graduated from UHI Inverness in 2020 with a PDA Health and Social Care – Administration of Medication and now works for Centred, a mental health charity in Inverness.

During the event the graduates received a congratulatory scroll and had formal graduation photographs taken in their academic gowns.

Shelle Duncan-Kidd from Inverness graduated with a BA in childhood practice in 2020 and is now a senior community children’s worker, supporting families with additional support needs across the Highlands.

PGDE Primary graduates Emily Mackenzie of Inverness and Sorcha Shepherd from Invergordon are now probationary teachers.
PGDE Primary graduates Emily Mackenzie of Inverness and Sorcha Shepherd from Invergordon are now probationary teachers.

Shelle said: “I loved studying at UHI Inverness, and it definitely helped me stand out and I get quite a lot of compliments about how good my practice is.

"Although it has been a couple of years since I graduated, it has been amazing to come back and celebrate with everyone.

"There are some people in my class that I never met, due to studying online, and we have come from all over to be here, so it is great for us to finally meet up as a group.”

Jade Hutchison, Alina Ben Larbi, James Reilly, Laura Baumgarten and Shannon Diack.
Jade Hutchison, Alina Ben Larbi, James Reilly, Laura Baumgarten and Shannon Diack.

Shelle’s fellow childhood practice graduate Ailsa Sugden from Strathpeffer was pleased to be able to return to the campus to celebrate.

She said: “I was due to finish my degree in 2020 but I had to defer because I caught Covid that March.

"I was hospitalised for a short time and took 12 weeks to recover at home. I was really ill and was left with long Covid and asthma.

"The staff and lecturers were very supportive and understanding and I was able to complete my studies the following year.

"I now work as a senior early years practitioner at St Joseph’s Primary School in Inverness and was one of the first to be appointed to that position in the Highlands.”

PGDE Primary 2020 graduate Fraser Szymborski-Welsh with baby daughter Sula. He now teaches at Dochgarroch and Tomnacross primary schools.
PGDE Primary 2020 graduate Fraser Szymborski-Welsh with baby daughter Sula. He now teaches at Dochgarroch and Tomnacross primary schools.

The graduates were welcomed back by Principal Professor Chris O’Neil who told them he was delighted that he could at last congratulate them in person.

Former Inverness HISA president George Gunn of Brora graduated BSc (Hons) Geographyin 2020 and now works as a Climate Change Strategy Officer at Moray Council.
Former Inverness HISA president George Gunn of Brora graduated BSc (Hons) Geographyin 2020 and now works as a Climate Change Strategy Officer at Moray Council.

He said: “You, our graduates of 2020 and 2021 showed extraordinary dedication in extraordinary times.

"With little warning you adapted your studies and overcame unique obstacles that no other generation of students has faced.

"You demonstrated resilience, determination, and flexibility in unprecedented circumstances, and I am in no doubt that those are valuable strengths that will serve you well now and in the future.”

David Laszkiewicz of Inverness graduated with BA (Hons) Business Management with Marketing in 2020 and now works in digital marketing.
David Laszkiewicz of Inverness graduated with BA (Hons) Business Management with Marketing in 2020 and now works in digital marketing.

Ruth McFadyen, UHI Inverness President of Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, said: “The graduates of 2020 and 2021 have been an absolute inspiration to all our students, and I know they are going to go on and do some great things.”

Connor Wright of Inverness who gained his BA (Hons) in Literature in 2021.
Connor Wright of Inverness who gained his BA (Hons) in Literature in 2021.

This year’s graduation ceremony will return to Eden Court Theatre in September.

BA Childhood Practice graduates Gillian Morrison of Inverness, Cat Mackenzie from Kirkhill and Margaret Smith of Nairn.
BA Childhood Practice graduates Gillian Morrison of Inverness, Cat Mackenzie from Kirkhill and Margaret Smith of Nairn.
Architectural technology honours degree graduates Calum McNeill, Marcel Ulas and Jamey Campbell reunite to celebrate.
Architectural technology honours degree graduates Calum McNeill, Marcel Ulas and Jamey Campbell reunite to celebrate.
HND Sports Therapy graduates Jo Abernethy and Lidia Kuzma from Inverness celebrate together.
HND Sports Therapy graduates Jo Abernethy and Lidia Kuzma from Inverness celebrate together.

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