"It's a great honour that what I've achieved has been recognised but not just for me, for all those people who have supported me throughout this.”
Desiree Elliott, BA (Hons) Sociology
Desiree believed her long-term illness would prevent her from ever completing a degree but with support from Staffordshire University she has graduated with first class honours and received a special award from the Vice-Chancellor.
Desiree Elliott, aged 60 from Meir, started a course with the Open University while working as an engineer but job and travel commitments prevented her completing it.
“It was something that just stayed with me and I always wished I'd finished it. But your life changes and I discovered I had a long-term undiagnosed illness and was really rock bottom.’” she commented.
However a friend studying at Staffordshire University as a mature student encouraged Desiree to give it another go: “My friend told me that he was loving his time at University and was getting all the support he needed to succeed. He said 'just go and ask because you can do it too'.”
Inspired by this, Desiree met with lecturers and secured a place on the BA (Hons) Sociology degree course. The tutors directed her to the University's Student Enabling Centre where Desiree found support to help her balance studying with symptoms of her condition including mobility issues and brain fog.
She said: “They just helped me so much, both from the technical perspective of giving me recording equipment and making allowances on times for getting to lectures, to providing me with Joan Deakin who was my mentor and she has been absolutely superb.” she explained.
Desiree flourished on the course and took part in a range of activities alongside her studies, volunteering as a student ambassador, helping to found the Sociology Society and working on the Staffs Fringe Festival.
She also volunteered in the community at the Trussel Trust Foodbank as well as local holiday clubs and youth groups.
In recognition of Desiree's outstanding commitment to personal learning and exceptional contribution to University life she received the Vice-Chancellor's award from the University.
“When they first told me I was absolutely shocked and I was a bit bemused about it all. But actually it's a great honour that what I've achieved has been recognised but not just for me, for all those people who have supported me throughout this.”
“It wasn't just the lecturers - it was also the people in student guidance, in administration, the people who work in the library and in the coffee shop.”
She added: “The doors that have opened for me because of the gift that I've been given here have just been wonderful.”
Having graduated with first class honours, Desiree is now working at a Foodbank and is setting up a community interest company to help churches with outreach work in communities.
“It's my mission if you like to try to make a difference and use the skills I learned at University. On the back of all the volunteering I've done, I've studied the theory of it and have a better understanding of the system and how agencies work so I just want to use that.”
Staffordshire University has a range of courses available through Clearing and extra staff have been drafted in to offer expert guidance over the coming weeks.
Find out how to speak with a Clearing adviser about starting a course in September at Staffordshire University here.
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