ICYMI: Inverness College UHI graduates reap rewards
THE achievements of almost 350 students at Inverness have been recognised at graduation ceremonies.
Students celebrated successful completion of a range of qualifications including higher national certificates and diplomas, undergraduate degrees, honours degrees and postgraduate programmes.
Dr Gary Campbell, vice principal (strategic developments) of the University of the Highlands and Islands, presided over two ceremonies for students graduating from courses in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Business and the Faculty of Science, Health and Engineering.
College principal Professor Chris O’Neil said it marked the culmination of months, or even years of hard work for students.
“I am very proud to be a part of this moment,” he said.
“We work hard to ensure our students leave us with the knowledge and skills to succeed in their chosen career and I wish them all continued success as they embark on the next chapter in their lives.”
The guest speaker was Brian Griffin who recalled his rise from factory worker to one of the most influential photographers in the music industry, shooting album covers and publicity shots of people such as Elvis Costello, Iggy Pop and Queen.
Among the students graduating were Inverness husband-and-wife team Debbie and Jay Delonnette who have five children and balanced full-time work with full-time study.
Mrs Delonnette (40), a principal housing officer with Highland Council, graduated with a BA (Hons) in Health and Social Welfare, while her husband, also 40, a former assistant store manager, graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Architectural Technology.
“I never believed I could have achieved this and it’s given me lots of self-confidence and opened up lots of opportunities,” said Mr Delonnette, now a CAD technician with Property and Land Surveys.
Alastair Watt, a former poker room manager in London, received a BCs Computing (Networking) with a distinction.
The 40-year-old, of Nairn, returned the Highlands where he worked as a portable appliance tester before deciding to study computing at the same time as his wife, Jane – now an a teacher at Auldearn Primary School – returned to study Professional Graduate Diploma in Education Primary at North Highland College UHI.
“Inverness College UHI has had a massive positive influence on my wife and I – it’s an experience we will never forget,” said Mr Watt who is now self-employed as an IT consultant, working with Lifescan since January.
Fiona Young (39), from Culloden, was the first student to graduate from UHI’s’ MSc advanced nurse practitioner qualification.
The advanced nurse practitioner in Raigmore Hospital’s emergency department completed the course on a part time basis over two years.
“I am hoping that others will follow my example and realise it is possible to achieve this with hard work and support from the tutors at the university as well as family and friends,” she said.
“I have two children and both my husband and I work full time, but the course is very accessible for people who have other commitments.”
South African-born Aniéle Viljoen-Steele, who graduated with a first-class BSc (Hons) in psychology, said as a mature student it had been important to prove to herself she could achieve her goals.
She enrolled on the course after moving from London to the Highlands in 2012 with husband Pete for a better quality of life.
“I would encourage everyone to have the courage to challenge themselves because running away from fear, means you leave opportunity at the back door,” said the 38-year-old of Cantray, near Dalcross.
Latvian Evija Laivina (40) started her journey at Inverness College with an English for Speakers of Other Languages programme and ultimately graduated with a first-class BA (Hons) Contemporary Art and Contextualised Practice.
Having won photography awards, the mother-of three, who lives in Inverness,has her own studio at the city’s Creative Academy.
“I chose to study at Inverness College because I wanted to integrate into society here in Scotland and studying art had been a dream of mine since I was little,” she said.
Andrew Skinner, who was released by Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club from a full-time contract six years ago, graduated with a first class BSc (Hons) in Sport and Fitness.
During the final year, he was involved in developing and delivering a programme for primary schools in conjunction with Sport Scotland and Active Schools.
“That was a real highlight in my final year,” he said. “The children loved the programmes – you could see the impact we were having.”
Classmates Jamie Catoe and Edward Brown studied for a BSc in Architectural Technology and ended up as business partners in Catoe/Brown Architectural and Landscape Design Studio whose mission is to improve the perception of architecture in the region.
Mr Catoe, a former garden designer from Inverness, said: “I planned to do one year to brush up on my skill set but I found the course and its contents so good, I decided to stay on to do the full honours degree.”
Celebrating a first-class BA (Hons) in Drama and Performance was Inverness actor, director and youth theatre worker Ryan Thow (24) who is now trying to establish a theatre company to promote professional theatre in the Highlands.
“It took hard work, time and collaboration to achieve my degree, but it’s been amazing,” he said.
“I recently created and performed a one person show as part of my studies, which I was lucky enough to tour around the Highlands and Islands.