Among today’s graduates from Queen’s is a Midwifery Studies student from Lisnaskea who had a baby herself during her studies.
Brenda McCabe (32) will graduate with first class honours after completing the 18-month BSc (Hons) intensive course while heavily pregnant and also raising her four other children — Eoín (seven), Caítlín (six), Naoíse (four) and Darragh (two).
She submitted assignments early and took five weeks maternity leave from her studies to give birth to baby Ríona (now nine months) in September 2008.
Brenda said of her hectic schedule: “When at classes I had to get up every morning at six to travel a two-hour journey to Belfast, make the same journey home, see to my family needs and have my children in bed so that I could spend the rest of the night studying.”
She also completed placements in the Altnagelvin and Erne hospitals before and after the arrival of baby Ríona, travelling from as early as 5am to complete 12-hour shifts.
“Studying at Queen’s was challenging but so rewarding,” she said. “I was fortunate to have the help of a fantastic support network: my personal tutor Annette Taylor and placement mentors, sisters Anne-Marie McDonnell and Nora Cadden, and my husband, mother and parents-in-law.
“I originally studied my Nursing diploma at Queen’s in 1996 but I had always aspired to become a midwife.
“I was delighted to be accepted onto the accelerated Midwifery Studies degree, especially because Queen’s is so well recognised.”
Brenda is currently working as a midwife in Erne Hospital, Enniskillen, and is in the process of being trained to become a union steward for the Royal College of Midwives.
BBC journalist Orla Guerin is due to be awarded an honorary doctorate for services to broadcasting today — just days after also being awarded an honorary degree by the University of Ulster.
And two leading figures in the world of chemistry will be awarded honorary degrees from Queen’s later today.
Nobel prize winner Professor Gerhard Ertl from Germany and Queen’s University professor Emerita Ruth Lynden-Bell will be awarded Doctorates of Science for distinction in chemistry at a ceremony tonight.
Meanwhile, this afternoon’s graduation ceremony at Queen’s will see an aunt and niece graduate within minutes of each other.
Michelle Hamilton from Dundonald will graduate with a BA (Hons) in Early Childhood Studies, while her niece Rachel Pedlow from Moneyreagh will graduate with a BSc (Hons) Health and Leisure Studies degree.
Rachel is the daughter of Michelle’s sister Sharon, who will watch proudly as both walk across the stage of the Whitla Hall this afternoon.
Michelle said: “It was great studying with Rachel and it will be great graduating with her.
“As a part-time student, mum, wife and classroom assistant I found it tough juggling family life, work and studies.
“I didn’t face any of these obstacles alone, however, as Rachel was there for extra support around assignment deadlines and exams. She really got me through.”
Rachel said: “It’s been really good studying at the same time as Michelle. She kept me motivated which was good as I am rather laid back and it probably would have been left to the last minute without her.”