Published on 07 July 2021
Being a Sunderland Harrier has certainly helped Lauren Flaxen run her busy life - from part-time teaching and completing a business degree to raising her two young children as a single parent.
But all that resourcefulness and determination to balance her time, literally running between classes, work, and home, has finally paid off as she graduates from the University of Sunderland today with a First-Class Degree in in Business and Human Resource management.
“It’s been a huge commitment, but I managed to apply myself and was determined to achieve a long-standing ambition of achieving my degree,” says Lauren, 37, from Fulwell. “Running has always been a big part of my life and helps in so many ways, some days I would literally pull on my running gear, drop the kids off at school then sprint to classes on campus and back. On top of all that I continued to work as a supply teacher and in a travel bureau, making sure there was always an income.”
Lauren had a varied career before joining the University in 2018, working from the age of 16, she completed an Education Certificate at Sunderland College in 2008, and worked for Sunderland City Council in Pennywell, she set up an anti-social behaviour team with Durham County Council, then worked for a training company in Sunderland. She then decided the time was right to take a different direction and apply to study a degree.
She chose Sunderland due to its reputation for its business programmes and the campus was also on her doorstep.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made, and has given me so much confidence,” explained Lauren. The tutors have been amazing and incredibly supportive; I made sure I never missed an assignment deadline. I really learned how to apply myself and now hoping to work within a Human Resources setting but will continue my teaching work right now.”
Lauren’s two children Meadow, aged seven, and Will, aged five, have also been part of her journey, supporting their mum when she needed to study, and even following in her running shoes after recently completing the Sunderland 3K Challenge.
“They’ve been amazing, and I think seeing their mum applying herself has inspired them to work hard at school and hopefully go university in Sunderland themselves one day. I’d love that!”
One of Lauren’s biggest challenges has been, continuing her work and studies, while home-schooling during lockdown, but she says she found the university accommodating when she needed support.
As a result of that support, she was inspired to help others and took on 56-mile running challenge for those affected by cancer, the gruelling 44U Challenge in March this year.
“This year has been a pretty tough year,” Lauren said. “So, I decided I wanted to give something back to people who are going through cancer treatment as well as pay tribute to those who have sadly lost their lives to the disease.”
Lauren, was joined on the run by her boyfriend Andrew Fowler and dedicated every four-hour block to a family who have been affected by cancer, dropping off something special on their doorsteps along the way.
The couple raised almost £4,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
Dr Derek Watson, Associate Professor in Cultural Management in the Faculty of Business, Law and Tourism, said: “Lauren’s academic achievement and contribution at the faculty reflects how our students can excel and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
“As evidenced in Lauren’s case, we provide our students not just with the academic underpinning but with a portfolio of global employability exposure to ensure that they are commercially attractive to employers offering careers with progression.”
Although there will be no physical graduation ceremonies at the Stadium of Light this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, Lauren was determined to celebrate with her family, hiring a cap and gown and paying a visit to campus that has given her so much.
Read more about Sunderland’s graduation celebrations here: https://www.sunderland.ac.uk/class-of-2021/