After Graduating… One year on

Looking back over the year, I have been taken aback with what I have achieved since completing my BSc (Hons) Psychology degree and graduating from Cardiff Metropolitan University in 2015.  I was lucky enough to have secured a position with the Office for National Statistics which was dependent upon my graduating with a 2:1 degree – which I did!

Upon starting the job I was wondering ‘Would my degree be useful for this job?’ and ‘Would this degree help me progress further?’.  The answer to the both questions was yes. When I started with the ONS I had a case of the statistical jitters. As it turns out, the experience was great and the ONS was an excellent stepping stone to starting my career in the right direction.

I worked in Methodology for the ONS.  This is the department that quality control all the methods used to gain the data and fix any problems that may occur. It was a demanding role and I had to use a variety of statistical methods that I learned from the research and statistics part of the Psychology degree. I then had to build up my statistical knowledge, for example to learn more about weighting and sampling. In addition I had to learn coding for specialist statistical software to be able to analyse and assess whether the statistics were correct or not. Another area that was important from the Psychology degree was report writing. In the ONS I was required to present my results in professional reviews and reports. As a student it is sometimes difficult to understand the importance of report writing especially when the deadlines come closer, however I found that I was in good stead to clearly communicate my findings.

I was proud to be able to work on a few important projects that influenced decisions within the Government. I was also keen to develop my skills and so I got involved with different groups including the Research, Analytical and Statistician Committee and the Positive Action Group. I was President for the Psychological Society at Cardiff Met and involved with the BPS which I feel gave me the confidence to be part of these ONS committees.

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

During my time at the ONS I was awarded a prize for Best Departmental Poster

As my time drew close to the end of my ONS contract I knew I had to start looking for another job or apply for a promotion. So I applied for a position within Ministry of Defence working for the Defence, Equipment and Support Group. I attended the assessment day having met the competitive job specification, and there were lots of psychologists there. Six weeks later I got the promotion with the MoD as Commercial Officer (Management Level) dealing with budgets of up to £14 million.

All in all, I found that all of the degree was relevant in my working environment. I use writing skills I learned from the degree as well as being open minded to different theories. The degree taught me good work management skills, which I needed on a daily basis due to the high demand of work. I also found that the Psychology degree helped me with my communication skills, which is essential in any job and helped me to get the promotion.

My advice for students is to start planning ahead. If you have the time, take the opportunity to get involved with committees and expand your work experience. Doing a degree with Cardiff Metropolitan University gave me this opportunity and the lecturers there gave me the chance to make my life a better one.

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Psychology BSc: Three years is not such a long time after all…

One of most recent graduates, Jed Clarke, was fortunate enough to work as Research Assistant with us briefly, and in chatting with him it seemed like a good idea to ask him to reflect on his time as a psychology undergraduate at Cardiff Met.

 

Looking back, I never would have thought that I would have achieved this much in the space of three years. The undergraduate degree has allowed me to explore concepts that now I love and find things in the world that I am truly interested in. My first two years in Cardiff Met were difficult but exciting. I took on a lot, including training with the Army Officer Training Corps part time. This involved going on exercises in the Brecon Beacons over some weekends and over summer. Support in my first year was always available, whether it was personal or academic. Being able to have a personal tutor during this period was excellent, as it meant that I could find my feet during the early stages of the degree.

Jed with the Army Officer Training Corps in the Brecon Beacons

Jed with the Army Officer Training Corps in the Brecon Beacons

One of the most valuable experiences I had was being able to work with Hafal charity as part of my work and volunteering module in the second year. Hafal provide services for people with schizophrenia and bi-polar disorders and I was able to get service-users involved in community projects such as gardening, and help them acquire new skills to be able to re-join the community after they had come out of hospital. On paper this seemed daunting, but it was only when I went to go and do it that I realised that they were just people with burdens (no matter what the films and TV programmes tell you).

During my degree I especially enjoyed modules related to cognitive psychology and research methods and statistics. There was something exciting about being able to discover first-hand how another person’s brain functions, and so when it came around to choosing what I wanted to do for my final year project I was immediately overwhelmed by the options available but I did have some ideas. It was only when I met up with my supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn, that all the pieces fell into place. I had already taken an interest in schizophrenia, and I knew that Deiniol specialised in Schizotypal traits, so after some negotiation my topic ended up being about context processing in schizotypal and depressive traits (don’t let that put you off!), and it proved to be one of the best experiences I have had. Not only was the research literature enjoyable, but conducting the research in the labs was a thoroughly gratifying experience.  I was able to meet other third years properly and meet first and second years who came in to do take part in my experiment. Deiniol was a great supervisor, and Geraint Davies and other lecturers made the process personal, and much easier to deal with.

During my third year I decided that I wanted to do more research, so I decided to take on a placement for work and volunteering module working with the Digital Literacy Project part time throughout the year. This involved conducting focus groups to explore how students engage with technology when at Cardiff Met. This was particularly exciting because this was going to be included in a journal article, something I couldn’t let pass!

After I had written my dissertation, I was offered a summer position as a Research Assistant with Deiniol and Andy Watt to develop a new learning task. This was phenomenal, as this is the kind of experience that future employers/course directors would be looking for on a CV. I spent my final month at uni conducting more research, and I enjoyed being able to work in the labs for more time, as I felt my project wasn’t enough!

I have now been accepted onto an MSc in Research Methods in Southampton, something I would have only dreamed about achieving.

Jed testing some of the equipment in the PARC

Jed testing some of the equipment in the PARC

The support from the department has been outstanding, and the staff clearly have a passion for their subjects. They have tutored, taught and supported me through a character defining period and I wouldn’t have come this far without them. The degree has had some lows as well as highs, but that is to be expected during such a time in a person’s life.

My advice to students that are coming onto the course — or even who are already on the course –would be that “you get what you give”. Grades don’t necessarily reflect ability, but rather how much effort you put into understanding the content and the processes involved in writing, such as critical evaluation. The myth of “I’m naturally not good enough” seems to be common amongst students, and you need to be able to challenge that throughout your degree. Don’t be put off by joining extra-curricular activities, as this will only serve to increase your motivation and better your uni experience. There is enough time in the day to work, relax and party. The challenge is being able to balance all three! I would also recommend taking on the Work and Volunteering modules, as this would enhance your CV and provide you with excellent life experiences, something that I am very grateful for. Opportunities will come, but it is your responsibility to go out and find them. I am sad about leaving Cardiff Met, but I am now anticipating a new journey laid out for me in the coming year.

Jed’s supervisor, Deiniol Skillicorn has this to say:

Jed has worked hard during his three years, and clearly made the most of the opportunities in front of him.  I was lucky to supervise Jed with his level 6 project that examined contextual processing abnormalities in schizotypy and depression.  It was a challenging project but Jed had a willingness and commitment to tackle these challenges.  This enhanced his learning experience by further developing independent thinking and problem solving skills.  These skills were put to the test when Jed joined us for 4 weeks as a research assistant working on a project to develop a learning paradigm for use with people who have a diagnosis of schizophrenia.  With the demands of level 6 study out of the way, Jed flourished in this new role.  I took great delights in seeing one of our undergraduates develop and grow over the three years of his degree and then apply these skills as an independent researcher on this short project.  I wish Jed all the best in his future and hope that our academic paths cross again. 

If you would like to find out more about our Psychology BSc (Hons) Programme please have a look at: www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/psychology


Psychology BSc Dissertation: A Gratifying Experience

It’s a strange time of year. Things feel like they ought to slow down for the summer, but it doesn’t work quite like that. As students finish their exams and coursework the process of marking then awarding grades takes place, with the important aspect of letting students know how they’ve done. This is obviously especially a concern for final year students as they come to the end of their degrees, and want to see how they’ve done. As staff, while we are marking and entering grades, there is delight in seeing how well students have done and recognising how much they have learned with us.

We asked Daniel Carr to reflect on completing his degree and his final year project, which won this year’s prize for best project:

Last week, after months of anticipation, I was informed that I would be awarded a First Class Honours Degree in Psychology! Among the emotions I felt (relief, pride, joy), I was also overwhelmed with gratitude – gratitude for having had the opportunity to undertake study at Cardiff Met.

My experience of studying Psychology at this university has always been a positive one. The teaching staff are knowledgeable and passionate, easy to follow during lectures and available to answer questions in person or via email. I found all the staff to be very personable, and I have only positive remarks to make about each lecturer individually. In particular, I could not have wished for a more suited supervisor to help me with my final year project, Dr. Jenny Mercer. Jenny’s knowledge, guidance, and friendliness encouraged my progression throughout, and I shall be eternally thankful to her for this.

Daniel Carr Dissertation

To become a practicing Psychologist has been my goal since I first pursued started in the university. Though my desired area of practice has changed (mainly due to learning about so many different topics within psychology) my passion for the discipline has only grown, and I am thrilled to be continuing my studies this year as I pursue a Masters in Health Psychology. My decision to stay at Cardiff Met was an easy one. After my experiences here as an undergraduate, I would not even consider study at another institution, and have full confidence that my development and transition into a practicing Health Psychologist will be guided by the lecturers I have grown so fond of. I would without a doubt recommend Cardiff Met to anyone wishing to study Psychology, and am humbled by the opportunity to have been taught by such admirable and accomplished individuals.

After Dan mentioned the support from his supervisor, Jenny, we had to ask her about how Dan had done:

Dan’s project was an Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) study entitled ‘The Lived Experience of a Fashion Model’. I have to say that Dan was a delight to supervise because he came to me with a clear idea of what he wanted to look at – the experience of being a model. However, on a practical note he also had links in the industry – which is an important point when selecting a project – you may have grand ideas, but have you though through how you might access potential participants? The other thing (which he does not tell you in this blog) is how hard he worked. He read a lot background literature, some very challenging papers about the principles behind IPA, and was very organised (even getting ethical approval before the beginning of the final year). Also Dan was always prepared to ask me lots of questions, often coming to see me with a long list (don’t be afraid to challenge your supervisor at all times!).

Your dissertation is an opportunity to explore in more detail a topic which you select and are interested in; it allows you to demonstrate the research skills that you have acquired during your degree. It is hard work, but it can also be the most rewarding part of your studies. So as you enter the summer vacation start to plan and think of potential ideas….you never know, it could be you writing this blog next year!


Graduation 2014

Cardiff School of Health Sciences Graduation took place at the Millennium Centre in Cardiff Bay last week.  The 16th of July 2014 was a day that many students and their families had looked forward to for several years!

The ceremony began at 10am with Psychology BSc students processing towards the end of the ceremony.  We were proud to award 100 BSc (Hons) in Psychology to our 2014 cohort of graduands; each had worked very hard over the course of their studies and it was wonderful to see everyone in their academic gowns.  The BSc Programme Team were also very pleased to award Tasmin O’Donnell the British Psychological Society Undergraduate Award for the best performing student and James Clay the British Psychological Society Welsh Branch Student Prize for best dissertation.  It was excellent to see so many students graduate, especially after such a good year.

Students and guests outside the Wales Millennium Centre

Students and guests outside the Wales Millennium Centre

As well as the undergraduate programme we also saw one student graduate with an MSc in Lifestyle Psychology, three students graduate with an MSc in Health Psychology and nine students with an MSc in Forensic Psychology.  Postgraduate prizes were awarded to Rhiannon Lewis (Award for best postgraduate dissertation in Psychology) and Karen Ozzati (Award for the best academic progress made by a student at postgraduate level) who both graduated with an MSc in Forensic Psychology.   It was also the first year for a cohort of students from the Health and Forensic Practitioner Programmes to graduate; we saw one student awarded a Postgraduate Certificate in Practitioner Health Psychology and five students awarded a Postgraduate Diploma in Practitioner Forensic Psychology.  These programmes have been warmly received by the practitioner communities and we hope to see many graduates from these programmes in the future.

Inside the Wales Millennium Centre

Inside the Wales Millennium Centre

We also saw one of our PhD students process and receive her doctoral degree.  Dr Honor Young received her PhD for her thesis entitled ‘The attitudes of teenagers towards unprotected sex and pregnancy’.  Dr Young will be familiar to many of our students as she taught throughout her studies and is now working at Cardiff University.  Congratulations to Honor!

Graduation 2014 Booklet

Graduation 2014 Booklet

Congratulations to all students from the Department of Applied Psychology and CSHS students who graduated last week!  We hope you continue to keep in touch and inform us of your ongoing achievements, of which we are sure there will be many.


Graduation 2013

Last week staff attended the graduation ceremony of our 2013 graduates.  The ceremony is a highlight of the year for staff – a time to celebrate the work of our graduates and a very enjoyable way to mark the end of the academic year.  The ceremony was held on the morning of the 10th of July and the weather was glorious. 

It was wonderful to see our students in their graduation gowns, accompanied by family and friends.  The ceremony was held in the Wales Millennium Centre at Cardiff Bay which proved, once again, to be a breathtaking location for such an important day. 

Graduation at the Millenium Centre 2013 

The staff in the Academic Registry did a wonderful job of ensuring the day ran smoothly, resulting in a day of celebration for students and their guests.  Dr Dan Heggs presented the degree candidates to Prof. Tony Chapman, the Vice-Chancellor and Principal of Cardiff Metropolitan University, and all of our graduates received their degrees with grace and dignity.  A special mention must be made of Kate Crompton who also was awarded the British Psychological Society Prize for Best Performing Student. 

Post-Graduation Celebration

After the graduation it was time for celebration and staff were able to meet with a few students after the ceremony – although most were making the most of the sunshine outside!  It was lovely to be able to meet family, partners and friends who have supported students through their journey at the Department of Applied Psychology.  We hope that our graduates all enjoyed their day last week and that it provided a memorable and celebratory end to the undergraduate degree. 


Graduation

 

Academic staff met recently as formal Examining Boards in order to award degrees and consider the academic progress of students this year.  These boards were supported by our Administration Team and by Registry who deserve thanks for working so hard during this very busy time of year. 

The final Award Boards considered over 100 final year students and we were very pleased with the outcomes.  Several of our students were awarded Firsts and the majority of students were awarded well-deserved 2:1s and 2:2s.  Overall the standard of work produced by students was very good, with many students having a very successful final year of study.  Results were posted on the 19th of June and were celebrated by staff and students afterwards in the PARC.  Jake Dorothy earned the prize of Best Student following a very successful three years study at Cardiff Metropolitan which culminated in a richly deserved First.  Hannah Senior was awarded the prize of Best Student Project for which she was awarded an ‘A’ following a qualitative investigation into the experiences of seasonal care workers. 

Staff then met to consider the first and second year students.  Again we were very pleased with the results overall, with some very good students progressing to their next year of study.  We are already looking forward to seeing final year projects from our second years. 

The culmination of the academic year was on the 11th of July at the Wales Millennium Centre where our final year students graduated!  It was very rewarding for staff to see students celebrate three years of hard work and to meet students’ families.  It was clear that our students and their families are very proud of their accomplishments… and rightly so!  Once again, from all the psychology staff – CONGRATULATIONS TO OUR GRADUATES OF 2012!

 

As a successful academic year draws to a close, we are already planning induction week for September and thinking about the next year.  We are pleased to offer students high quality teaching and support, which will continue to be developed and at the centre of our programme over the next years.