10 September 2020

A psychology graduate who undertook research into the potential impact of reproductive health disorders on students to tackle the stigma around menstrual health discussions, was among those honoured as part of our Class of 2020 virtual celebration this week.

Jackie Kennedy, who studied the BSc (Hons) Psychology part-time at the University of East London (UEL), was prompted to research the topic in her dissertation having faced personal struggles with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), a cyclical, hormone-based mood disorder.

While estimates vary, there are suggestions that PMDD affects 3-8% of people of reproductive age - millions of people worldwide.

Jackie works full-time at UEL and enrolled on the programme in 2016 as part of her professional development. However, she became incredibly ill with PMDD in January this year and struggled in all areas of her life, including the completion of her studies.

Everyone at UEL was so supportive to me, both as a member of staff and a student.  I'm pleased to say that my symptoms are now being managed and I'm almost fully recovered,"

Jackie Kennedy, Mum and  first in Bsc (Hons) Psychology, said.

One of the key takeaways from her study was the desire to see increased awareness and understanding, to remove the stigma and get students to talk about issues faced by many people.

"With diversity and inclusivity at its heart, I believe the University of East London is well placed to make menstrual health a mainstream topic and raise awareness to support our students. I hope to take this further with the help of the relevant student services," she said.

As a single parent, Jackie said her degree "certainly used all of my time management skills". The most rewarding aspect of graduating, she said, was "hearing my daughters tell me I'm a strong female role model; they're so proud of me. I think that beats getting a first to be honest!"

She thanked Dr Irina Anderson, principal lecturer at the School of Psychology, who supervised her final year project, who was "so supportive with my health issues and through the difficulties of studying during lockdown."

"I really enjoyed Dr Anderson's Level 6 module Psychology, Identity and Society which looked at many of the issues that have been in the news this year. Also, every lecture with Dr Richard Ralley was really good fun and really got you thinking about some of life's big questions."

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president, University of East London, said, "We are incredibly proud of Jackie's commitment to raising awareness around an issue affecting millions of people worldwide, as part of her dissertation and in her future plans, and of her being such a great model to her daughters and others considering returning to education."

The first person in her family to go to university, Jackie said she really enjoyed her experience as a student and the opportunity to make great friends. She is "pleased to be setting an example to her family," who hosted a socially distanced graduation ceremony for her recently.

"The virtual celebration this week was a great opportunity to congratulate my fellow students," she added.

Related topics