A mature student with an acquired brain injury has not only successfully completed three years of study at university, but graduated earlier this week with a first class honours degree.
Bernadette Syme, from Tullibody in Clackmannanshire near Stirling, came to Queen Margaret University (QMU) as a direct entrant from college, having completed an HND which allowed her to enter into second year of QMU’s BA (Hons) International Hospitality and Tourism Management course.
After suffering a brain haemorrhage in 2005, Bernadette endured a further six aneurysms in her brain with stents placed to treat them. Aspects of her learning have been impacted as a result, but with excellent support from the University’s support services and access to equipment and software to aid her education, Bernadette has excelled herself and graduated from QMU on Tuesday 9 July with first class honours.
“The University is really good at helping people,” said Bernadette, “especially with my disabilities. They’ve been there and helped me get where I am today which I am so, so grateful for.”
While at QMU, Bernadette benefited from the Apex Hotel Shooting Starts Scholarship which gives hands-on experience of every aspect of the hotel’s business. “The Apex Scholarship provided me with the opportunity to learn how a hotel works from the inside, and how all the different departments come together as one,” she said. “That was a fantastic experience to learn all of that.”
Bernadette was also awarded the Lord Forte Foundation Scholarship which carries with it a financial award of £2,500 to support her during her final year of study at QMU. She said: “Up until fourth year, I was working while I was studying but thanks to the Lord Forte Scholarship, I had peace of mind having the financial aid behind us. That helped me to get such a high mark in my dissertation because I could focus solely on my education rather than working, so it was a real honour.” The high mark in her dissertation helped Bernadette secure the Dakota Award for Innovation in Hospitality Dissertation.
In return for all the wonderful support and experiences she’s had at QMU, Bernadette has gone out of her way to give back to the institution. As a Peer Assisted Learning leader, Bernadette has offered support to other students who’ve come to the University via similar educational pathways. She has also served as a Direct Entrant Facilitator, speaking to prospective direct entrant students to answer questions and offer reassurance.
“The best thing about Queen Margaret University is how everyone comes together to help each other,” she said. “Both lecturers and students come together as a team and we help each other, so that nobody struggles.”
This is not the end of Bernadette’s journey with QMU; she will be staying on to undertake a master’s in International Management and Leadership later this year.
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