Historic Warwick hosts first ever graduation ceremonies

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The county town Warwick was the venue for graduation ceremonies for the first time as Warwickshire College Group (WCG) graduates celebrated at three ceremonies at St Mary’s Church and Old Shire Hall on Thursday 20 and Friday 21 October.

The graduands, who have spent the past few years studying at the Royal Leamington Spa, Warwick Trident, Rugby, Pershore and Moreton Morrell Colleges, donned their gowns, hoods and mortarboards at the Grade 1 listed Old Shire Hall before moving with family and friends to the ceremony at the 900 year-old St Mary’s Church. Following the ceremony they processed back to the courtyard for the traditional mortarboard throw. It was the biggest event to be held at Old Shire Hall and the Judges’ House following the relocation of the Crown Court.

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St Mary’s Church

Guests of honour and speakers at the ceremonies were Sarah Windrum, CEO of Emerald Communications, Leigh Morris, Chief Executive of the National Land Based College and Philip and Andrew Oliver, founders of Blitz Games and Radiant Worlds.

Angela Joyce, Group Principal and CEO of WCG said, “We were absolutely delighted to be holding graduation ceremonies in our county town of Warwick for the first time, with St Mary’s Church and Old Shire Hall providing a perfect setting for such an important occasion.

“This year was also a landmark for higher education at WCG as we awarded our first foundation degrees in Games Art and it was wonderful to see the graduates in their WCG red and gold hoods. This is just the start, as we will see many more foundation degrees awarded next year in a variety of subjects.

“For myself and all of our staff, today’s celebration is what everyone works towards – the success of our students and helping each one reach their potential. We are extremely proud of all of our graduates and wish them the very best for the future.”

The first graduate to receive the WCG foundation degree in Games Art was Chloe Fleetwood, 20, from Worcester. Chloe said, “Today has been great. I was a really artistic person growing up and liked playing games so I was always drawing characters from the games and trying to make up my own. When I found out I could study concept art and character design for games I knew that was perfect for me. The tutors have been really supportive, and the course is really challenging but that’s what I love about it!”

Sohail Batooli, 23, from Coventry achieved a BSc (Hons) Computing Strategy and Management. He said, “Since a young age I’ve had enthusiasm for computers but I also wanted to learn about the business side of things so this course combined both and enabled me to get the degree I was looking for.

“I really liked the close-knit community that students and staff have here – the tutors know all their students so well. I’m excited about today, but I was also a bit nervous as I had to give the student vote of thanks speech on stage, but overall I’m so happy!”

Eve Hurley from Long Itchington achieved her FdA Equine Studies through distance learning while working and looking after her son Carter, 5. She said, “I’m currently an English teacher but horses have always been my passion so that’s why I wanted to do this course. It’s been challenging – there are always other priorities – so I couldn’t have done it without the support of my tutors and family.”

Amber Taylor, 21, from Coventry achieved FdSc Veterinary Nursing and along with other graduates, swore a declaration on stage as they entered the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons’ Register of Veterinary Nurses.

Amber, who works at Emscote Vets in Leamington said, “The course involved spending two days at college, three at the vets which I really liked as you get to put the theory you have learned into practice straight away. I prefer the small animals side, as I’ve got a dog, Whisper and two cats, Summer and Milly. I’ve always loved animals and did work experience when I was at school and that really made my mind up to follow this as a career.

“It was a bit scary standing on the stage when we made our declaration, but I got quite emotional – I didn’t realise how much it meant to me. I’m now officially a Registered Veterinary Nurse and have accepted a job at Emscote Vets, but I know I’ve still got so much to learn and it all begins today.”

Vicky Burford from Leamington achieved a first in her BA (Hons) Business, Strategy and Management degree. She said, “I run my own business and wanted something that would work alongside that and give me insight into it. I have absolutely loved it and the best thing about the course were my tutors and fellow learners – I wouldn’t have wanted to do it anywhere else.

“I’m feeling very proud of myself today – I did it part-time which is challenging but having less time can help you focus! I left school with hardly any qualifications and always wanted the degree, so I’m going to bask in the glory of this but I have also got my eye on a Masters!

“To anyone considering doing this degree I’d say do it, don’t be frightened by it. It’s been the best thing I could have ever done.”

Connor Ogilvie, 21, from Rugby achieved a HNC in Electrical Engineering. He said, “I’m a Maintenance Engineer at Butcher’s Pet Care and after completing my apprenticeship, my company have put me through the HNC which is great. I did one day a week at college which means you can apply what you learn straight away. Today has been briliiant.”

Judith Mudzamiri from Coventry was celebrating achieving her FdA Counselling (Person Centred). She said, “This has been my dream for 46 years! I like working with people and find it so fulfilling, to be part of a community that helps people get to where they want to be. I currently volunteer at the Lighthouse and Terence Higgins Trust in Coventry and the course has really helped me with this. It gives you the energy, drive and confidence so it’s really fantastic.”

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Games Art Graduates L-R Harry Thomas, Jacob Rogers, Mike Acosta (Course Leader) Philip Oliver, Andrew Oliver, Chloe Fleetwood, Benjamin Thomas

Philip and Andrew Oliver were guest speakers at the final degree ceremony. Philip said, “Today has been absolutely brilliant. It was amazing to be asked to speak at the graduation and shows how far the games industry has come and that it is really respected now.

“We were delighted to congratulate the students awarded foundation degrees in Games Art which just weren’t around when we started. They have fantastic careers ahead of them in an industry which has lots of jobs available and which is truly creative and fun, as well as hard work! We like to think they are carrying on a great Warwickshire tradition from Shakespeare – he was the entertainment medium of his age, and now its games!”

Andrew said, “We were really proud to be part of this special day. Our speech had the theme ‘Life is like a video game’. These graduates have just finished their game tutorial, now they’ll need to navigate the challenges, decide their path, take some risks but whatever happens, don’t give up. If they go the wrong way, crash or get stomped on, I hope they’ll pick themselves up and get right back in there!”

Leigh Morris, a former student at Pershore College, spoke at the second degree ceremony, with students graduating in Equine, Horticulture, Animal and Veterinary Nursing. He said, “As an ex-student I was absolutely delighted to be invited speak and present the certificates and awards at the ceremony in Warwick last week.

The ceremony was held in a wonderful setting, with a packed audience of proud parents, friends and tutors. A great occasion to mark the end of their studies and, for many, the start of their working land based careers.

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In my speech, I gave the students a few ‘top-tips’ for their future careers, including ‘Take pride in whatever you do’ and ‘You can and should aim to make a global difference’. Now in my relatively new role as the first Chief Executive of the National Land Based College, I am inspired at the potential to far greater engage all sectors of land based industry in training and education and am looking forward to working closely with Angela Joyce and her team.”

Sarah Windrum, CEO of Emerald Communications said, “”Having been involved with the college group on their advisory board, I was delighted to be asked to speak at the WCG graduation ceremony and really enjoyed the whole experience.

“It was wonderful to congratulate the graduates on stage, and, as a passionate advocate of women in technology, I was delighted to see Lucy Reynolds winning the tutors’ prize in computing.

“I wish all the graduates the very best in their careers and hope that they all feel that they can become the role models of the future.”

WCG offers higher education courses in a wide range of subjects through full time, part-time and distance-learning. For more information, go to www.warwickshire.ac.uk.

About Association of Colleges West Midlands

AoC West Midlands promotes and supports the interests of 38 general further education, sixth form and specialist colleges throughout the West Midlands region. The West Midlands is a diverse region and our colleges reflect this diversity. From small specialist colleges in rural locations to large inner city establishments, colleges reflect the needs of their local environment. Working closely with employers, learners and the local community, our 38 member colleges offer a broad range of flexible learning opportunities for individuals at all levels. They aim to give local people the skills they need for success and prosperity, tackling barriers to learning and providing opportunities that meet the needs of individuals and employers
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