It was an absolute pleasure to receive an offer to study at university. My school, Movilla High School, did not have a sixth-form year, so I studied at nearby Glastry and Strangford colleges to complete my A levels. Only a handful of students from my school made it to sixth form, and then to university, so it was a privilege to be accepted to Stirling. Living and studying in the ‘heart of Scotland’ was an opportunity for a new adventure I did not want to miss.
One Northern Irish Social Sciences graduate has made lasting memories at Stirling and has been inspired to continue working in the sector, helping to build relationships between universities and alumni just like her.
Having secured a place on the competitive Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Europe Graduate Scheme, Lesley Dugan is set for a move back to Ireland to begin her professional career as a CASE Graduate Trainee at Dublin City University Educational Trust.
Originally from Newtownards in County Down, Lesley was one of just a small number of students from her high school accepted to university.
After changing her course to study Sociology and Social Policy in her first year, Lesley was captivated by the subject of social justice.
Lesley said: “During my course, the importance of reducing barriers for students from a wide range of socio-economic backgrounds, who want to access education and attend university, was a subject that really struck a chord with me. This inspired me to become involved in fundraising work within the University and to help students access additional support during their studies. For my dissertation, I had the opportunity to explore the social factors around same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland, which was a particularly memorable and valuable experience.”
Lesley worked on the Alumni team’s telethon fundraising campaigns for three years-running, and was named top caller each year. This year, she raised 20% of the total amount donated to The Stirling Fund, which awards small grants to student community activities which enhance the student experience on campus.
"My degree gave me a broad skill set by combining sociological theory with research skills, which I found particularly useful when drafting cases for support in fundraising and for updating donors on the impact philanthropy has on key issues."
She was then selected to sit on The Vice-Chancellor’s Fund panel, responsible for deciding which student causes should receive a financial contribution. The fund of personal contributions made by the University Principal is donated to a range of projects each year, to enhance life for the student body.
Throughout her final year, the 22-year-old worked with the Alumni team to help the University re-establish links with alumni around the world.
Lindsey Donald, Head of Alumni Engagement at the University, said: “Over the last three years Lesley has helped find some of our ‘lost’ alumni and raise funds for the Stirling Fund, through her role as a student telephone fundraiser.
“Lesley formed strong bonds with our alumni community and is an outstanding ambassador for the University. She is supportive, adaptable, charismatic, dependable and a real team player. I am delighted she has been selected for the CASE graduate training programme!”
Lesley also received help from Student Support Service during her four years at Stirling.
She said: “I was assessed for dyslexia for the first time when I came to university and, to my surprise, found I had the learning difficulty. The Student Support team assigned a study skills tutor and proof-reader for me, and made special arrangements for my exams. I was also given access to new technology and software that helped me overcome any struggles I experienced when I was writing. All of this support made a big difference and helped me improve my writing at university.”
Lesley established the University of Stirling Archery Club and, in addition, regularly participated in kayaking, paintballing, mountaineering and karaoke-singing in her spare time.
Reflecting on her Stirling experience, Lesley said: “I will remember Stirling as a place where I really embraced an exciting new way of life, and where I had the space to develop and grow into the confident individual I am today. I have met so many ambitious people and I hope my ties with them will last a lifetime.”