A FORMER Forres dress-maker has been named as Moray College’s Student of the Year, after picking up a first class honours degree.
Mary Whitson (53) was described as an exceptional and self-motivated student" by the college, after she overcame isolation and personal challenges, such as looking after her four children, following the death of her husband, and has recently gained a first class honours degree.
Mary, gave up a full time job as a dress designer to embark on her degree in natural and environmental sciences in 2008.
This was despite having to support three of her children into college and university and another at secondary school.
She remained committed to her course as well as finding time to mentor other students and be an ambassador for STEM, the science, technology, engineering and maths initiative which promotes skills to young learners.
She earned praise from Samantha Bright, Moray Science Festival Director and Programme Leader for Environmental Sciences Degree at UHI.
"Mary is a very determined woman," she said. "Throughout her studies she has consistently achieved very good marks in all her subjects, producing some outstanding work."
She said that Mary was also a student mentor who helped other students progress in their studies, willingly volunteering to be available if they needed another student to talk to.
"All staff, tutors, students and examiners who have met Mary, believe she richly deserves this award," she added.
Originally from Billingham in Cleveland, Mary studied textile chemistry at the Scottish College of Textiles in Galashiels and moved with her family to Forres in 1996. Her husband died in July 1999 leaving her with four children in primary education.
"The close proximity of UHI Moray College to my home enabled me to study for my degree while my children were still in secondary education," explained Mary. "It is wonderful to have my achievements recognised in this award. I am indebted to my family, friends, fellow students and academic and non-academic staff, both at Moray College and throughout UHI, for their encouragement and support during the past four years."
She said courses like this one didn’t exist in the 1970’s when environmental concerns such as climate change, pollution, and changes in biodiversity and ecosystems, were only just being recognised.
"The variety of modules allowed me to choose subjects that most interested me, such as microbiology and marine science and I was also able to integrate my knowledge of textiles," she said.
Mary wins £150 as the Moray College UHI student of the year and now goes through as a candidate for the overall University of the Highlands and Islands title, along with other winners from other campuses across the region.
However, she is currently looking for a job in the Moray or Highland areas and plans to go on to study for a Masters degree in 2013.