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Graduate success stories

Each year during graduation, we celebrate those graduates who have gone the extra mile to achieve their degree.

Families take photos with graduating York St John students outside York Minster.

Every student has a story to tell. Hear from our Class of 2021.

Be inspired by our incredible students and hear more about their journey here at York St John University. 

Jump to a profile:

Audrey Manyika, Occupational Therapy BSc

Graduation student in gown in front of minster

I moved to England from Zimbabwe in 2005. I was drawn to Occupational Therapy because I wanted to make a positive impact on people’s lives and York St John offered me a fantastic course to do my training.

Throughout my degree, life threw many obstacles at myself and my family. My husband became terminally ill, which was very tough on my two lovely girls. I am proud to say that not only did I keep going with my studies, but I found my OT training and my tutors helped support me through the hard times. The things I was learning affected my ability to deal with challenges and to ask “what can I do?”, rather than feel powerless.

I am proud of my story, the positivity I implement into my work and life, and I am especially proud to be an ambassador for York St John. I am excited to start a career in community work and, even though my time as a student has come to an end, I visit the University allotments to participate in the OT departments refugee project. The journey I have been on shone a light on how much I have to give and the resilience inside of me.

Ashleigh Glover, Spanish BA and TESOL

Graduation student in gown in front of minster

Before attending YSJ I was in sixth form doing A-levels in Spanish, Psychology and Biology. I studied BA Spanish and TESOL and graduated with a First Class. YSJ appealed to me because it was local, and I was already familiar with the city. The campus was smaller than most other unis and so it felt more personal and less intimidating.

The main obstacle I had to overcome was finishing my degree during Covid. I was stuck in Spain when the pandemic started as I was on my year abroad, then I had to finish my third year and write my dissertation.

I learnt so much during the three years at York St John, but I mainly appreciated the life lessons, learning to live alone and be independent and organise my time. In my course I loved learning about linguistics, phonetics and phonology became my favourite branches of linguistics. There were so many highlights but I'm most proud of finishing my dissertation during Covid.

I am currently studying MA Forensic Phonetics at the University of York. My BA at YSJ introduced me to the basic concepts of phonetics which led me to my current path. In the future I would like to either continue learning about my field through academic research or work in the field of forensic speech science.

John Cutting, Fine Art BA

Student in gown and cap in front of York Minster

I enlisted at the age of 17, serving in the Royal Engineers before back-to-back tours of Northern Ireland. My time in the military had a major impact on me, and I live with complex PTSD.

I made my first piece of art about six years ago and began to channel my own life experiences through it. After exhibiting in several small shows, I enrolled as a mature student in Fine Art at York St John University.

York St John is great because of its family environment. I was able to put up with the challenges and continue with my course. It made all the difference to me. If I'd been somewhere else, I wouldn’t have been able to put up with it.

My PTSD has turned a corner. I can do things with my mind that I couldn’t do six months ago. I can look at something and change its colour, I can visualise things cut into sections or rearranged, like a lamppost with a knot in it or a barrel split into sections like a chocolate orange.

When I started my Masters I found a new level of confidence. I felt like I was home, somewhere that I could just be normal. I know if I have a problem I can go and see any one of my tutors and they’re not going to judge me. It makes a big difference, you need to feel that.

My work is being shared and installed more widely now after gaining public recognition. I exhibited at the successful ‘Through Soldiers Eyes‘ exhibition, and I will be exhibiting at York Open Studios this year, York’s biggest visual arts festival. You will also see my work in the York St John Creative Centre.

Kathryn Hall, Executive MBA

Student in gown and cap in front of York Minster

Before I began my degree apprenticeship I was working for LabCorp as a Senior Manager in the Portfolio Management Office. I did the Executive MBA and got a distinction.

I chose my course as I wanted to improve my general business acumen so that I could understand more about how our business ran. York St John offered me the face-to-face time with other people on the course at the London Barbican campus. It was really helpful to discuss the topics with people working in other sectors to get different perspectives.

We did a lot of personal reflection on leadership styles which not only helped me to learn more about my own style but also helped me to learn how to better interact with others. The course also gave me a lot more self-confidence and helped to develop my own personal brand.

The highlight for me was the group work where we had to develop and pitch a product to secure funding. It was great to see what we could achieve as a team playing to each other’s strengths. It was great working with other people on the course and fun making our video pitch.

I currently work as a Strategy and Business Partner. I wouldn’t be in my current role if I hadn’t done the MBA. During the course I realised that I really enjoyed business strategy and have a talent for breaking this down into an actionable roadmap which is what I am doing now for the client partnerships team.

Unfortunately, due to COVID we had to move to online learning during early 2020. This meant that suddenly we were all juggling challenging work commitments, lockdown, home-schooling etc. The lecturers at YSJ were very supportive and quickly adapted the course content for online learning. They made themselves available for support and moved deadlines where necessary to ensure we got through the content and stayed on track.

I’d like to continue to grow in my current role for now and look to work more with the corporate strategy group in the near future. Eventually I would like to own my own business.

Samuel Cogdon, Film Studies BA

Student in gown and cap in front of York Minster

Before starting university I took a gap year. Whilst I took a year out from education a lot of my school friends attended university in York. I decided to visit York St John as part of an open day, since my friends enjoyed their time there.

I originally enrolled to study Music Production but, realising this was not the right course for me, I transferred to Film Studies the following year. As one of my primary passions in life is the arts, film felt like the most obvious choice having studied film in some capacity at school and having excelled in the subject in the past.

Throughout my time studying I struggled a lot with my mental health, partly due to underlying issues and the pandemic. Overcoming this wasn’t easy, but my tutors and the support team at the University effectively assisted me. As a result, I achieved First Class Honours despite the issues I was faced with.

Whilst studying I developed my writing skills massively. I have gained many transferable skills in that department, be it writing professionally or writing with an aim to appeal to an audience unfamiliar with film scholarship. Completing my course and achieving the grade I did gave me a lot more confidence in my work and its value to myself and others.

I currently work with a subsidiary of the NHS as part of the vaccine effort in the logistics department of the main vaccination centre in Newcastle.

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