25 November 2021

More than 1,500 University of East London (UEL) students toasted their academic success at the University's winter graduation ceremonies on 25 November in front of loved ones, friends and University staff.

Students from the Royal Docks School of Business and Law; School of Health, Sport and Bioscience; School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering; School of Arts and Creative Industries; School of Education and Communities, and School of Psychology graduated at ExCeL London, near the University's Docklands Campus.

Professor Amanda Broderick, vice-chancellor and president, reflected on the extra challenges the Covid-19 pandemic has thrust on graduates.

She said, "You have made it in a collective act of determination that has been an inspiration to your academics, friends and colleagues.

"Each one of you has a story of your unique journey at the University of East London. And yet you are all joined together by one larger narrative. Of accomplishment against the odds. Of resilience in challenging circumstances amidst the pandemic.

"The emotions you feel today have an extra sheen with your hard-won determination. You have so much to celebrate and to be thankful for with your families, friends and peers."

Graduates throwing hats

Graduates are urged to keep striving

The University also recognised three accomplished individuals with honorary doctorates.

Boxer Lawrence Okolie was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Sport. In 2014, Lawrence enrolled at the University on the high performance sports scholarship programme.

His achievements in the ring include holding two WBO cruiserweight titles.

He told students that "everyone has the power to change the world - so push on and keep striving".

Mr Okolie said, "Everyone here today has shown great resilience, perseverance and great character to get a degree. I want everyone here to know that you're not only capable of getting to this point, as there is so much more out there in the world for you to go out and achieve."

Professor Roger Flanagan was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Engineering. He is an ambassador for construction education and the construction industry in general and gives support to UEL as an honorary visiting professor. 

He said, "I feel humbled because I'm not a footballer, I'm not famous. I'm the son of a bricklayer from Ireland. Education changed my life and my perspective on the world and I will always be eternally grateful for that. It made me realise that the future is in your hands. And you will get out of life what you put into it. You can make a difference. Background doesn't matter. The only thing that matters is you."

Detective Chief Superintendent Marcus Barnett, borough commander of Hackney and Tower Hamlets, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Criminology

In February 2021, the first students were welcomed onto the new Police Constable Degree Apprenticeship Programme (PCDA), in collaboration with the Metropolitan Police and the force's learning partner, Babcock International Group.

Det Chief Supt Barnett said, "There is nothing special about me at all. I've done the job that I've loved. I’ve achieved progress and success along the way because I've given it my all. I worked hard and tried to make every day better than the last. I've had many highs and lows during my career. The pinnacle has been leading such a fantastic team in two vulnerable and vibrant boroughs, Tower Hamlets and Hackney."

He cited one growing aspect of his role, "My affiliation and embryonic work with the University of East London. As we look at the new learning pathways and future generations of police we need to make sure candidates get the best insight and start to their careers. I am determined to do whatever I can to give something back and help. Thank you to UEL for this great honour today."

Applied Positive Psychology and Coaching Psychology master's graduate Amrita Sen Mukherjee reflected on some of the unexpected trials she had to overcome while undertaking postgraduate study.

During a speech during one of the day's three ceremonies, she said, "When we take decisions to embark upon postgraduate learning we often do so in a measured way. We make calculated decisions which allow us to consider how we are going to manage such a huge undertaking alongside juggling other commitments and responsibilities.

"Little did I know that when I braved the decision to undertake this master's, that I would be contending with a global pandemic, that my well circumscribed diary spaces were to be replaced with my children's school online timetable.

"We made it. With all the trials, tribulations, difficulties and challenges – we have reached the other side of the rainbow collecting experiences, knowledge, learning, joy, relationships, friendships and with all these gifts. I am hopeful that in our onwards journey from UEL, our futures hold great potential."

Ana Joyette graduated with a BA Hons in creative musicianship. She said, "I feel a massive sense of achievement getting this far with all my family and children who have supported me. It has been a lovely way to celebrate. The music at the start of the ceremony really moved me. I will be supporting creative women and mothers in music as a result of this course. I was also really proud to be the 'Outstanding Student' of my institution, so it has been a very special celebration for me."

Graduates enjoyed post-celebration festivities with friends and family at ExCeL London, as well as events at the University's nearby Docklands campus.

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