One of our recent graduates recently completed writing a blog for us. Owayne worked really hard as a student, and took the opportunities that the programme offered. It is great to see how he engaged with the programme and to know what he plans to do now.
I recently graduated with a 1st class degree in Psychology from Cardiff Metropolitan University, something that from the outset I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams. My University experience began in August 2012, when I decided almost on a whim to visit the UCAS website and see if I could access higher education through the ‘clearing’ process. I was uncertain as to whether such access was possible, because I had achieved very little in college academically. I had studied Maths (grade E) and Design Technology (grade U) three years prior, evidently and my motivation was poor. After college I focused on working with children with additional learning needs, and these experiences taught me the significant role that Psychologists play in understanding developmental conditions. Owing to this, despite it being completely new to me, I decided to apply for Psychology as a subject – without having any other real plan or direction in life. I was accepted onto the Foundation in Social Sciences, which had a pathway leading to Psychology.
So there I was, ready to begin university a few weeks later in September, with a history of poor grades, and little or no understanding of the subject I was about to pursue. Therefore, it would be fair to say that when compared to many of the other people starting on the course I was not in the best of positions. However, like everyone else, I quickly realised how interesting Psychology is. When I went to the effort of reading around the various modules I had assignments for, I found it was a tolerable and even rewarding way to spend my time. One of my favourite things about Psychology is how the information you learn can relate to and be applied to real life. This is especially true of when attempting to understand the behaviours and opinions of other people. I also found that other people tend to view Psychology as a particularly interesting subject, and this increases when the matter of conversation involves the research that is conducted.
As I progressed through my first year at University, I learned that, despite past shortcomings, anyone is able to succeed so long as they choose to take an interest. Psychology is fantastic in teaching people this idea from the very outset, that is how humans learn. I feel students should be taught this much earlier in their education. Theories on how humans remember information (great for exams), how they are motivated, and perhaps most importantly, how belief that learning is always happening helps us to develop and grow our brains further (it causes us to be more effortful) is helpful to understand how we learn. I found this to be of particular importance, because I attribute my success in university to the effort and time I put into the work I handed in. However, we came to understand that putting our best into our assignments not only improved the grades we attained, but also advanced the skills and writing techniques we needed if we were to get 70+ (a first) in the long run.
To summarise, thanks to Psychology at Cardiff Metropolitan University I have a goal for my future that before I could never have even dreamed of. This year I will be gaining experience as an Educational Psychologist Assistant whilst I apply to a doctorate course in Educational Psychology. Not only is this career path very well paid, but I will also be able to continue to work with people with Additional Learning Needs, and even support them on a much larger scale, which is something I always thoroughly enjoyed. By accessing the support that is available from the tutors and various other services, my career path was offered something I had not previously thought possible – a fresh start.
It is hard to believe that it has been four years since Owayne joined our Foundation leading to BSc/BA in Social Sciences course, and three since he transferred to the BSc (hons) Psychology course here at Cardiff Met – my memory is so fresh that it seems like only yesterday!
Owayne’s determination, to work to the best of his ability in his studies, was obvious from the start. A testimony to this dedication is the fact that he won the British Psychological Society prize for Best Performing Student at his Graduation. This prize was very well deserved, along with his first class BSc (Hons) Psychology degree.
His innovative approach to his work often revealed an ability to integrate his learning effectively across different psychological perspectives. Owayne’s motivation and intellectual capacity demonstrate the potential for successful research in a postgraduate study – I look forward to hearing from him when he gains his PhD in Educational Psychology!
However not only has he been outstanding in his commitment to his own studies over the last four years, but I also know that he played an integral role in encouraging and supporting his peers throughout this time.
Owayne is a credit to this university and I have no doubt that he will succeed in his future career. It has been both a pleasure and a privilege to have been his personal tutor during this time.
We have been offering volunteering opportunities within the BSc (Hons) Psychology programme for a number of years, and have rapidly expanded the number of organisations that we work with in the last four years. The placement opportunities offered in the second and third year provide students with work experience and helps them develop other practical skills that supplement and support the academic side of the programme. Hannah Rowlands recently published a guest blog (http://studentblogs.cardiffmet.ac.uk/a-day-in-the-life-of-a-third-year-psychology-student/ ) about her routines at Cardiff Met, which made us think it would be interesting to ask if she would write something more specific for us. Here is her blog about volunteering:
I chose to study psychology at Cardiff Met primarily because of it is applied nature. This course stood out to me as it allows its undergrads to develop a range of important employability skills. These skills are developed through the vast range of placement partners on offer!
Hence I chose to do the second year option Work, Volunteering and Placement module. Through this module I could apply for a range of placements Cardiff Met offers, such as placements in clinical settings to charity based community projects. There were so many to choose from and I was really unsure of which direction to head in but eventually I applied for Safer Wales Inclusive Service. This involved one-to-one and group sessions with a focus of encouraging positive lifestyle choices to the service users at risk of sexual exploitation. During the course of this placement I was given the opportunity to complete mentoring training. This consisted of a day’s workshop going thorough all aspects of mentoring, and afterwards we were expected to complete a booklet to evidence our understanding. These were then marked by our supervisors at Safer Wales and we were informed if we had passed the course. This helped me a lot on my placement when advising and mentoring the service users, and will aid me in the future on other projects.
The placement supervision consisted of the placement provider completing an assessment grid evaluating my personal employability skills. Additionally, I had to complete a placement incident report. The focus of this was to evaluate my response to an incident of my choice that occurred during the course of my placement. I had to justify the reasons for my behaviour and what I would do differently in future to respond to a similar situation.
Due to the rewarding nature of this placement I also applied for extra volunteering at Whitchurch Hospital through a charity called Student Volunteering Cardiff. Throughout the volunteering I worked with adults who had an acquired brain injury. This was a really interesting experience as working in a clinical setting allowed me to see the difficulties the patient’s face when having mental health issues.
As you can imagine both of these volunteering programmes helped me to develop many key skills, like working in a confidential manner in professional settings, understanding appropriate ways to communicate with both professionals and service users and my confidence and ability to lead activities with service users. These skills will prove important in my later career in psychology. With this in mind I would definitely recommended anyone to get involved in the amazing number of placement partners Cardiff Met has to offer. Not only will it help you develop important skills and be great experience for your CV, but most importantly it is really rewarding and helps you see psychology applied in the real world!
We think it is great that Hannah recognises how she is developing and building skills. The Module Leader, Alison Walker, added this:
Community based placements offer students the opportunity to apply their learning in a range of contexts and gain valuable experience for their CV, whilst at the same time learning about the issues that impact on the local community. The model used by the department means that students are supported through the application process and are provided with 1:1 support for their individualised assessments. It’s great to see how Hannah recognises how she has developed skills in professional contexts.
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.
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.
In the spring term of 2012 the Department of Applied Psychology ran a volunteering fair for students. The idea was to bring in third sector organisations so that students could find out about different volunteering opportunities. It went well, and while chatting about it later someone had the idea that we could build on the fair by having a full day that would include information for each level, keynote speakers and, of course, the volunteering fair. At the end of February, we held our third undergraduate conference, with attendees from all years and the Foundation in Social Sciences Programme too. We seem to have come a long way in four years.
The day started at 1030 with around 300 delegates in the main hall. Dr Dan Heggs introduced the day, before a brief talk by careers, and then the keynote speaker, who had come all the way from Aberystwyth University. Saffron Passam talked about her doctoral research, looking at employability and identity. Saffron started with outlining a brief history of employability considering a shift in thinking from a focus on the unemployable, to the idea of a career and improving productivity as part of human capital, before introducing the idea of the protean worker who has choice, skills and is flexible. Saffron then talked about the findings from her research, looking at what employability means for students completing degrees. Saffron’s talk was an excellent way to start the day, with a focus on skills and how they can be seen but also as a way of thinking about how psychology can be used to understand and grasp complex issues. Saffron’s enthusiasm and care for her topic shone through, and that was really appreciated by all.
The year groups then went their different ways, for sessions that would help them prepare for the next level of the programme, and also to later meet volunteer partners over lunch at the fair. For students already volunteering it was an opportunity to see other areas of work, and for those considering where they might like to gain experience they could see a number of our partners. There was also an opportunity to find out about Erasmus exchanges and applied projects with partners.
The final session of the day included presentation from Rachel Roberts and Stuart Abbott about the Healthy University initiative, and was followed by the keynote talk by Dr Debbie Clayton entitled Psychology Isn’t Just About Reading Minds. These two showed how we all need to be able to recognise our skills, and to be able to work together to improve our environments. Debbie talked about COAL (http://www.cardiffmet.ac.uk/health/research/Pages/Center-for-Outdoor-Activities-and-Leisure.aspx) and her research in outdoor activity showing how outdoor and green exercise, linking how psychology students have the skills and knowledge appropriate for helping meet policy agendas for the Welsh Government’s Future Generations Act (http://gov.wales/topics/people-and-communities/people/future-generations-bill/future-generations-act-video/?lang=en).
Catherine Harrison from Career Development Services said ‘Being part of the conference and having an information stand at the employability event was a great way of meeting students, talking to them about work experience opportunities and making job applications.’
The presentations at the beginning and end of the day offered an opportunity to critically reflect on the purpose the day, programme and skills gained through it. As always, thanks need to go to Alison, Helen G., Nick, Leanne E., and Shamima, and staff and especially students for helping out on the day. We look forward now to next year!