Students celebrate with graduation and celebration of success and achievement ceremony in Fort William

Students celebrated their academic achievements with friends, family, staff and guests of the college during a Graduation and Celebration of Success and Achievement ceremony on Friday.

Around 350 people attended the annual event at the Nevis Centre, Fort William, which celebrated the success of full-time students from the former UHI West Highland (now UHI North, West and Hebrides), who achieved their qualifications at levels range from access to postgraduate in 2022/2023.

The ceremony began with an academic procession led by Vicki Nairn, Interim Principal and Vice Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands (UHI), Principal and Chief Executive of the college Lydia Rohmer, members of the board of management and other guests lead by Piper Calum “Wee Cal” MacAskill – previously a student at the college’s music department. 

Greetings from the HRH The Princess Royal, Chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, were included in the programme for the event.

Lydia Rohmer, Principal and Chief Executive welcomed the graduating students and their families, many of whom had travelled from across the UK to attend the ceremony.  Ruby Ann Steigelmeier had even travelled back to the UK from US, since she had been unable to attend the ceremony last year due to Covid restrictions. 

Lydia urged students to make the most of their achievements and choices, saying: ”It is always a privilege to celebrate the efforts and the successes of our students at graduation. Today marks the end of your student journey with us.  For now, however, it is the start of an exciting new chapter for you.  With passion and hard work you can achieve anything and we hope your time with us opens many doors of opportunity for you.” 

Guest speaker this year was Duncan Shearer, Youth Development Coach with Inverness Caledonian Thistle Football Club.  Duncan shared with the audience his experiences as a professional footballer starting out, with a story of rejection from several clubs in his early career and a few light hearted reminisces from those days.  He described how he achieved an immensely successful professional career and represented his country at an international level through determination and the support of his family.  He encouraged the students to be true to their passions and to keep trying, no matter what obstacles they might have to overcome in order to achieve success in their chosen careers.

Musical items during the Ceremony came from Calum MacAskill, “Wee Cal”, and Emma Forman.  Calum graduated this year with an HND Music and specialises in traditional music, especially whistle and bagpipes.  Calum was also the Piper who led the Academic Procession at the start of the ceremony. Emma Forman also studied HND Music and, after entertaining the audience with a beautiful rendition of a song she had composed during her studies, received the Student of the Year Award for her course.  Emma now lives in Peterhead but is studying BA (Hons) Applied Music whilst based there.

During the ceremony, various special awards were presented including:

Overall Student of the Year, 2022/23

Overall Student of the Year: Carol Innes

Carol Innes is 35 and lives in Ullapool where she is mum to 4 children and worked part time in the High School as a Pupil Support Assistant – in her spare time, she also became one of the first female retained firefighters to be part of the Ullapool crew and is a volunteer coastguard.  She studied SWAP Access to Nursing during 2022-23.

Carol spent part of her early life in care, didn’t manage much main-stream education and ended her school days without being able to read or write.  So, in her twenties and already a young mum, she found a private tutor who, working as a volunteer, supported and encouraged Carol.  Her ambition was to join the ambulance service, but she realised she would need certain qualifications to do that.  Last year, she spotted an advert for our SWAP Access to Nursing course which provides a route into nursing for those who have been out of formal education for a few years and decided to apply.   As part of the course, she has also taken Highers in Care and Human Biology and has gained communications skills that she will need for further study.

Ashley McWalter, Child, Health and Social Care Lecturer said: 'It has been a pleasure to watch Carol grow in confidence and academic ability throughout the duration of the course. She managed her studies well alongside working, family commitments and a number of key roles within her local community. All the staff in the Health and Social Care department are proud of her achievements, well done Carol!' 

Christine Crook, Centre Manager at Ullapool college centre said: Carol was a really diligent student, she always just turned up and got on with it.  She has never met her other class mates but didn’t let that put her off.   I have no idea how she fitted in study alongside all of the other key roles she has in our small community.  It was a delight to help her on her way.”

Carol, who is continuing her studies at Stirling University, said: “There are times when I really struggle with understanding some words as I’m dyslexic and I know that it takes me a bit longer than some others to learn new things, but once I get it – I’m there!  I really want to pass onto my own kids that, no matter now bad life is, you can do anything if you really want to. The best part of all was being able to learn and feel I'm better than I actually think I am. I felt like a young child as in my brain was like a sponge and I took it all in and learnt so much which made me feel great in myself. Also sitting my exams in the High School, my place of work and showing the young students I work with day to day that even at my age you can get an education.”

Each course also recognised its own Student of the Year:

  • NPA Construction Skills SCQF5: Samara Noreen McCormack
  • NPA Construction Skills SCQF5: Kevin Simon Murphy
  • NC Health and Social Care SCQF6: Charlotte Elizabeth Webb
  • NC Child Health & Social Care SCQF5: Kyrah Jane Burr
  • NQ Early Education & Childcare Level 6: Coreen Michaela Mulvey
  • SWAP Access to Nursing: Carol Innes
  • NC Computing with Digital Media SCQF5: Jamie Connor Smyth
  • NC In Art & Design Progression SCQF6: Gracie Elizabeth Buchan
  • NC Beauty Care And Make-Up SCQF 5: Jemma Antonia Donaghy
  • NC Creative Industries (Art, Design, Textiles): Aimee Padley
  • NC Creative Industries SCQF 6: Jamie Dean McKeown
  • NQ Countryside Skills Level 4: Tracy Victoria Keenan
  • NQ Aquaculture Marine & Maritime Skills Level 5: Adam James Kennedy
  • NQ Outdoor Leadership Level 6: Laura Rebecca Blythe
  • NQ Outdoor Adventure Level 5: Cormac Payne
  • NC Prof Cookery & Hospitality SCQF5: Rachel Ann Beveridge
  • NC Professional Cookery SCQF6: Ewan David Young
  • NQ Countryside Skills with Ranger Training SCQF5: Robbie James Mackay
  • NQ Access To Nursing SCQF 6: Anna-Lee MacRae
  • HNC Music: Michael Ian Burns
  • HNC Textiles: Sharon Lorraine Murphy
  • HNC Photography: Sherrel Halliday
  • HNC Social Services: Hannah Louise Wilson
  • HNC Childhood Practice: Amy Jane Maclean
  • HNC Digital Design & Web Development: Elspeth Jane Leigh-Williams,
  • HNC Computing: John-Michael Jacques Sinclair
  • HND Music: Emma Claire Forman
  • BA Hons Marine & Coastal Tourism: Angus MacDonald Hulbert
  • BA Hons Adventure Tourism Management: Shelby Elizabeth Ann Hewlett
  • BSc Adventure Performance & Coaching: Rowan Andrew
  • BA Hons Adventure Education: April Heggie

Special Awards from Industry – Presented by Adam Robertson, Head of Curriculum

Esther Marcos won the Springboard Award

  • Springboard Bowl: Esther Marcos - Achievement in Professional Cookery
  • Strathmore Tourism Award: Ewan Young - Achievement in Hospitality
  • Mallaig Harbour Authority Award: Angus MacLean
  • Scottish Qualification Authority Local College Award: Tracy Keenan
  • Outward Bound Trust Award: April Heggie

HISA Awards presented by Shannon MacCallum - Students' Association Depute President

Sporting Full Blue Award: Matiss Robertson has been representing UHI in the cycling category for the past three years. Matiss, who is graduating this year from the School of Adventure Studies has competed in national level events. Some of his achievements include 2nd at the Scottish National Hill Climb last year and becoming the Scottish Student Time Trial Champion winning in St Andrews at the start of this year, he also won the 2023 overall Scottish Student Cycling points league.” 

Sporting Half Blue Award: Tiandra Anderson was awarded her Half Blue for her achievements in downhill mountain bike racing. Although fairly new to the sport, Tiandra achieved great results and placed regularly on podiums. She ended the season with second overall in the women’s category for the sport in Scotland and is sitting second in national ranking. Tiandra is also now a sponsored athlete after an intense first season racing.

Shaun Escott presented the Above and Beyond Staff Award by Shannon MacCallum, Students' Association Depute President

HISA Staff Award: “Above and Beyond” Shaun Escott

Shaun is usually to be found in Mallaig, though he lives and works part of the time in our Portree centre.  He delivers the Maritime and Aquaculture Skills NQ course and the Shipping and Maritime Operations NC Level 6.  Shaun was also highly commended in the “Most Engaging Online lecturer” category. Speaking about his award, Shaun said: “I was both surprised and delighted to receive this award from the student body at UHI. It is a reflection of the hard work and effort put into supporting all the students at Mallaig not just by myself but also by my colleagues, lecturer Tommy Dunn and Centre Manager Jane Henderson. We work together both as a team and with the local community to ensure that the students get the best possible start in the Maritime industry or to enter further higher-level study.”

Photography on the day was provided by    Alba.Photos: view online gallery