Sarah Dixon, member of the Scotland women’s rugby team, graduated with an MSc Sports Coaching at the University of Stirling today, just before flying out to Moscow to play in the Women's Rugby Sevens World Cup qualifying tournament in Moscow.
“The rest of the team flew out today,” says Sarah, “but I’m flying out tomorrow morning, early. I won’t even be able to celebrate with a glass of champagne!”
Born in Lancashire, Sarah started playing rugby league there but played rugby union when she moved to Stirling to study for her BA (Hons) Sport Studies in 2004. After completing her degree at Stirling, she returned a year later to start her MSc.
“I got a job at Stirling as a graduate assistant, working with high performance coaches, and studying for my MSc came with the job,” says Sarah. “I was interested in the intellectual side of coaching and benefitted from working with some very experienced coaches here.”
It was only this year that Sarah achieved her residence qualification to play for the Scottish national team but she has already played for Scotland in all Six Nations games. Now she is part of the team competing for a top five place in Moscow to qualify for the Women's Rugby World Cup Sevens there in 2013.
Sarah is dedicated to her chosen sport and set up the women’s team at Stirling County: “Nothing beats putting your body on the line for others - rugby is the ultimate team sport.”
A postgraduate student from Korea, Sunghee Park, received her PhD today, having researched the effect on elite athletes of retiring from sport, either willingly or through injury. As a member of the Korean national women’s tennis team from 1990 to 2000, this is a subject on which she, and many of her friends, have extensive knowledge.
Between 1995 and 2000, Sunghee participated in all grand slam tennis tournaments, including the Australian, French and US Opens and Wimbledon. She also played in the Sydney and Atlanta Olympic Games.
“My first degree was in Sport Psychology,” says Sunghee, “and there was little emphasis on the wellbeing of athletes. For my PhD I have been working on athletes' career transitions as they move towards retirement, examining what happens to them when they take the decision to leave their sport.
“I go home to Korea next week, where I hope to develop an education programme to prepare athletes for their career transitions, while also helping them to develop a good life balance.
“But I have mixed feelings about going home as I like living in Stirling – it’s a peaceful place with lots of history and lots of beautiful countryside. It has been a special experience.”
Over 1400 students from the University graduated in four ceremonies on 27 and 28 June, each ceremony being followed by a garden party by the shores of Airthrey loch at the heart of the campus.
Families and friends unable to attend the ceremonies in person were able to watch the graduations live on the University website.
The University Chancellor, BBC’s Today presenter Dr James Naughtie, presided over the graduation ceremonies, capping every one of the students as they received their degree certificate.