An exceptional, self-motivated student who overcame isolation and personal challenges to gain a first class honours degree is this year’s Moray College UHI student of the year (2012).
Mary Whitson (53), a mother of four from Forres, gave up a full time job as a dress designer to embark on her degree in natural and environmental sciences in 2008.
And despite having to support three of her children into college and university and one still at secondary school, she has 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.
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 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.
“Courses such as this 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.”