'Belong, Believe, Achieve' is a series of profiles showcasing inspiring students and staff at the University of East London (UEL). Each week, we bring you a new story about someone achieving great things in our amazing community.
This week we are shining the spotlight on mature student Donna Morris Davidson who overcame her deafness to graduate with a first-class degree. Now pursuing her Master's in Public Health, Donna is full of praise for the support she is receiving from the UEL.
After gaining her first in Health Promotion and Public Health from the University of West London, Donna is delighted with the specialist help being provided by UEL’s Disability and Dyslexia Service.
She said, “I now have three helpers in the class – two interpreters and a specialist electronic note-taker to support me in my course. It was unexpected as I had one interpreter in my undergraduate course. Due to the challenging nature of an MSc, I am delighted with the support I have been getting so far.”
Donna was working in local government for nearly 30 years before deciding to return to education via an access course in nursing at CONEL College in Tottenham.
“I wanted a career change and my maternity experiences inspired me to go into midwifery,” Donna explained. “My colleague who started an access course elsewhere encouraged me to go for it.”
But obviously being a student with a hearing impairment comes with its own challenges.
“The communication barrier is one of the biggest challenges I face as a deaf person, and it can make or break my course progression,” said Donna. “The class seating arrangement is also crucial for full participation and engagement.”
Donna did not just overcome such challenges – she was one of the top three students in her group. Once at university, Donna’s support was increased to meet the demands of her degree.
While studying for her bachelor’s degree, Donna had one of her essays published and was also invited to be a keynote speaker at a conference for student midwives. It was during her second year that she decided she would study for a master’s.
“My time at uni had surpassed my expectations and I just wanted to stay in education,” she said. “When I saw what the Master’s of Public Health entailed, I just wanted to further my education and to increase my profile as a public health practitioner.
Having now finished her first term, Donna is very happy she chose UEL.
“I am encouraged to see inclusion and diversity at the University and it has been brilliant to work closely with the disability team to ensure that my needs are being me," she said.
“The standard of support has been upped as well, which I am so happy about because my postgraduate course is very challenging. But with the right support, I believe I can achieve what I set out to do at UEL.”
And Donna has a message for other students who may have disabilities that they fear would make higher education impossible.
“My studies over the past four years have proved that your disability should not prevent you from studying with the right support. The availability of the Disabled Student Allowance means that it is possible to study and achieve your goals.
I would encourage you to visit open days and you can choose which university is right for you. It can make a huge difference to your life, not just for disabled people but by enriching others around us.”