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Case Study

Rachel Lawson

Newcastle, UK

BSc (Hons) Sociology

Studying at the University of Sunderland truly is life-changing for Rachel Lawson, and has provided her with the opportunity to study in an academic environment at a time in her life when she believed that she was not suited for higher education. Soon after graduating, Rachel got employed as an intern with Sunderland City Council where she focuses exactly on what she wanted - a job focused on equalities.

The University of Sunderland was not only close to home for me, but I had also found it to be a university that wanted the best for its students, and were supportive of their students and recognised all had the potential for success regardless of their identity, background or previous educational experiences. I had also attended a couple of open days there as I searched for the best university to study for my abilities, and the University of Sunderland became one of my top choices.

The Sociology course offered at the University of Sunderland was the most appealing to me, focusing on a variety of social problems that had various influence and impact at a local, national and global level, and covered a wide range of social theory that was always the most interesting side of sociology for me during my time in at sixth form. The lecturers also came across as passionate and enthusiastic about the subject of Sociology and wanted to share that with their students.

I had finished sixth form with only two A Levels, and on results day, I discovered I had not enough points to apply straight onto a university degree. I was considering taking a gap year and finding a way into employment within that time, yet I had also received a place at a university that was away from home, and I would need to complete a final A-level at that university before I could be accepted onto their sociology degree. Neither of these options were particularly appealing to me, and I wanted something more immediate.

Having visited the University of Sunderland for some of their open days and the positive impression I had of the University, I believed they would have an opportunity for me to study that was not only closer to home, yet also progressive and regain confidence in my own abilities and in education. During clearing, I made contact with the University and was re-directed to the course leader of a new degree course beginning the September/October term of 2014.

I had enough points to have a place on the BSc Social Sciences, which entailed a foundation year that would then transition into one of four Social Sciences degrees, one of which was Sociology: the subject that I wanted to study at an academic level. Since the moment I applied for the course I’ve never looked back and is absolutely responsible for the success I have achieved at the University graduating with first class honours, and my internship at Sunderland City Council.

BSc Social Sciences allowed me to learn about a variety of identities covering LGBTQ+, faith and belief, ethnicity and disability, which has become incredibly useful in my current internship as a Partnership Equality and Engagement Officer at the Sunderland Partnership with Sunderland City Council.

During my time on the BSc Social Sciences (Sociology) degree, the commitment, passion, and enthusiasm of the lecturers was consistent from the open days I attended, lectures, seminars, all the way to graduation, and even as a graduate the continued support and interest of the University to make sure I continue the level of success I have already achieved.

I absolutely would recommend the University of Sunderland to anyone who wants to have the university experience and expand their skills and knowledge of a subject that is of interest to them. The fact that the University of Sunderland offers a range of degree courses, and various ways of entry to begin the journey of studying a degree, regardless of the life experiences or age of an individual.

All students receive the support they require, are treated fairly and with respect in all lectures and seminars, and therefore able to put in the effort to achieve their full potential, expanding their skills and knowledge, and widen their career opportunities.

I would also encourage all students to make use of the variety of services available to you during your study at the University of Sunderland, and can be accessed 3 years after graduation. Without access to Sunderland Futures, the University’s careers service, the months after my graduation I would never have found the internship with the Sunderland Partnership at Sunderland City Council. Without this service, I would not have attained a suitable job position so soon after graduating.

I am an on a one-year internship at Sunderland City Council, working for the Sunderland Partnership as a Partnership Equality and Engagement Officer. I never expected to be in a job position so soon after graduating from the University that was exactly what I wanted: a job focused on equalities. The community Engagement aspect of my internship has introduced me to a variety of people, predominantly based in Sunderland, working with a range of partners, not-for-profit organisations and charities, and individuals who are involved with the communities of Sunderland, covering LGBTQ+, BME, Disability, Interfaith and the Armed Forces.

This has allowed me to learn more about the issues affecting different communities and even built on the knowledge that I gained during my time at the University, yet also new knowledge of communities I had little exposure to beforehand, the Armed Forces a key example. Through this side of my work I have also been able to build networks with new people and organisations, some of whom have been welcome to the idea that I can spend a day shadowing in their organisation to learn more about how, in particular, equalites are maintained within their workplaces and/or the Sunderland Community.

One experience I have completed so far was a day shadowing with the Northumbria Police Community Engagement Team for Sunderland and South Tyneside who the Sunderland Partnership work with regularly on a range of projects and initiatives.

Future career aims I have is to keep going on my career journey in equalities. Through my internship I have learned more about the equality roles in my directorate and how equality within the workplace is measured, maintained and improved when necessary, and it is this side of working in equalities that has become appealing to me and that I would potentially want to pursue in future jobs, whether that be with Sunderland City Council if the opportunity arose or with an organisation in the North East region.

Studying at the University of Sunderland truly is life-changing, and has provided me with the opportunity to study in an academic environment at a time in my life when I believed that I was not suited for higher education. I never could have predicted that I would graduate with first class honours, and without studying BSc Social Sciences (Sociology) I would not have discovered my interest in equalities, the range of skills and talents I have and to be confident with them, or received the support and guidance that has without a doubt helped me to get into the position I am in today, working in an equalities based internship so soon after graduating from university."

Published 31 May 2019

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