St Andrews students reach for the stars as graduation celebrations begin

Monday 12 June 2023

St Andrews physics students were amongst those reaching for the stars today, alongside a Fife woman whose internationally-renowned contribution to astronomy was recognised with an Honorary degree.

Professor Anneila Sargent, who was brought up in Burntisland, was awarded a Doctor of Science (DSc) in recognition of her major contribution to astronomy.

Professor Sargent, an alumna of Kirkcaldy High School and Edinburgh University, has enjoyed a high-profile career as an astronomer in the United States, including being President of the American Astronomical Society and Chair of NASA’s Space Science Advisory Committee. She is currently the Ira S. Bowen Professor of Astronomy Emeritus at the California Institute.

Amongst those marking their academic success in the University’s Younger Hall were graduates who had undertaken MA and BSc General degrees, as well as degrees from the International Education Institute (IE), the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland (RCS), the School of Philosophical, Anthropological and Film Studies, and the School of Physics and Astronomy.

Joseph Brennan, from the Lake District, celebrated gaining a First in a five-year integrated Masters (MPhys) in Astrophysics. Joseph, who hopes to have a career in the space industry, is pictured celebrating with girlfriend and Student Ambassador Patricia Helpap, from Bavaria.

Romanian-born Maria Sandu, who moved to Scotland after falling in love with the country, celebrated her graduation success with her eight-year-old son Edan and husband Iordan.

Over the past four years, Maria has juggled studying part-time for an MA (Gen) in Combined studies with a full-time job as an Aviation Officer at Edinburgh airport and looking after three young children.

Describing gaining her degree as “an amazing achievement”, Maria said she could not have done it without the support of the University’s Lifelong Learning team.

She explained: “I found the programme on social media and immediately went for it. Coming from a different country with a completely different study and grading system I was a bit worried, but the Study Skills Programme helped me a lot. The summer before my first year I attended the Study Skills course for a few weeks and that gave me essential information which helped me throughout the following four years.

“Everyone was very helpful, answered all my questions and emails, and I have received a lot of support. During the Covid pandemic, the University quickly switched to distance learning and adapted to a very difficult time. I didn’t miss out on my studies and all the teachers were amazing at delivering the lectures via Teams. After Covid, the option of distance learning was kept and I could either attend classes online or travel to St Andrews.

“As a mom of three children and working full time, getting a degree at St Andrews University feels like an amazing achievement. The possibility to choose from a variety of modules kept me focused every semester. My favourites were History, Social Anthropology and Psychology. I believe this program is amazing, particularly for people in full-time employment and families, it works perfectly around that, giving you the flexibility you need, as classes are in the evenings. Ultimately, studying at St Andrews helped me have my current job and progress forward on my career and improve myself, and I have learned so much from the amazing teachers I have had throughout the last four years.”

One of the last pandemic graduates to finally make it back to St Andrews in person celebrated her graduation today.

St Andrews ‘Super Saint’ Sophia Rink (pictured right) was able to mark achieving an MLitt in Romantic and Victorian Studies two-and- a half years after having to endure the “heart-break” of graduating virtually due to the Covid pandemic.

The Canadian is one of 73 students from the Classes of 2020 and 2021 who finally took to the stage in the Younger Hall to receive their degree certificates in person. Sophia, from Saskatoon in Saskatchewan, had been due to graduate in December 2020. While this wasn’t to be, graduating virtually offered the opportunity to be part of the Reflective Saints photography campaign, which gave postgraduates the chance to give their perspective on studying during lockdown. This has also led to Sophia featuring in St Andrews ‘Super Saints’, a photography series celebrating the diversity of the University community.

Describing her time in St Andrews as being a “dream come true”, Sophia said she knew from the minute her Masters application was accepted that it would be a special experience. She said: “It really was meant to be; I had an amazing time, met wonderful people and completed an MLitt dissertation I’m proud of. I’d studied abroad previously and had some travel experience, but St Andrews opened my heart to the world in a new way.”

Ahmanni Recchi (above left), from Perugia in Italy, celebrated obtaining an MA (Hons) in Social Anthropology, wearing an Italian wreath.

Husband and wife Mulyano Putra and Baiq Yunia Eka Diana Putri (above centre), from Indonesia, celebrated their graduation with baby Maryam having both been awarded an MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

MA (Hons) Philosophy graduate Luna Guan (above right), from Beijing, in traditional Chinese dress.

The University piper led the academic procession along North Street and into St Salvator’s Quad.

University Principal and Vice-Chancellor Professor Dame Sally Mapstone FRSE led the procession of new graduates into St Salvator’s Quad, flanked by the University’s mace bearers.

New graduates take part in the traditional procession around St Salvator’s Quadrangle.

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

Category Student experience

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