Graduates return to campus for special celebration

Former students of UHI Inverness who graduated during the pandemic attended a special event at the weekend to celebrate their academic success with their families, fellow graduates and staff.

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BA Childhood Practice graduates Shelle Duncan-Kidd and Ailsa Sugden reunited for the on-campus Graduation Celebration. Credit: Paul Campbell

Around 500 people attended the Graduation Celebration at the Inverness Campus on Saturday, 11th June to honour the graduates of 2020 and 2021 who had graduated in absentia during Covid-19 restrictions.

UHI Inverness had held online celebratory events and published online graduation brochures in 2020 and 2021 to mark the achievements of graduates but wanted to provide an opportunity for them to attend an on-campus event for a retrospective celebration.

During Saturday’s celebration the graduates received a congratulatory scroll and had formal graduation photographs taken in their academic gowns.

The attendees enjoyed welcome drinks and a marquee buffet reception. The programme of entertainment included a surprise flash mob by Street Struck Dance from Inverness and Nairn, sketches by local artist and caricaturist, Alex Emel, and music by DJ Scott Mackenzie.

The graduates were welcomed back to UHI Inverness by Principal Professor Chris O’Neil who told them he was delighted that he could at last congratulate them in person.

He said: “You, our graduates of 2020 and 2021 showed extraordinary dedication in extraordinary times. With little warning you adapted your studies and overcame unique obstacles that no other generation of students has faced. You demonstrated resilience, determination, and flexibility in unprecedented circumstances, and I am in no doubt that those are valuable strengths that will serve you well now and in the future.”

Ruth McFadyen, UHI Inverness President of Highlands and Islands Students’ Association, said: “The graduates of 2020 and 2021 have been an absolute inspiration to all our students, and I know they are going to go on and do some great things.”

Shelle Duncan-Kidd from Inverness graduated with a BA in Childhood Practice from UHI Inverness in 2020 and is now a Senior Community Children’s Worker, supporting families with additional support needs across the Highlands.

She said: “I loved studying at UHI Inverness, and it definitely helped me stand out and I get quite a lot of compliments about how good my practice is. Although it has been a couple of years since I graduated, it has been amazing to come back and celebrate with everyone. There are some people in my class that I never met, due to studying online, and we have come from all over to be here, so it is great for us to finally meet up as a group.”

Shelle’s fellow Childhood Practice graduate Ailsa Sugden from Strathpeffer was pleased to be able to return to the campus to celebrate.

She said: “I was due to finish my degree in 2020 but I had to defer because I caught Covid that March. I was hospitalised for a short time and took 12 weeks to recover at home. I was really ill and was left with long covid and asthma. The staff and lecturers were very supportive and understanding and I was able to complete my studies the following year. I now work as a Senior Early Years Practitioner at St Joseph’s Primary School in Inverness and was one of the first to be appointed to that position in the Highlands.”

This year’s graduation ceremony will return to Eden Court Theatre, Inverness, in September.