Meet Institute of Mathematics prize-winner Heather, who loved her time at Herts and was determined not to let her sight-loss become a barrier to getting fully involved with student life and achieving a first-class degree.
|Current job role||Data Science and Analytics Advisor for GHD|
|Year of graduation||2022|
|Course of study||BSc (Hons) Mathematics with Placement Year|
Studying at Herts with a disability
Heather hadn’t planned to go to university straight after A-Levels as she lacked the confidence. However six years ago she lost the majority of her sight and wanted to find her independence again. This was when she decided she needed a challenge and a new qualification. Her journey has led her to achieving a first-class degree in Mathematics, winning a school prize from the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications.
Heather says, ‘I can’t believe how far I have come. I have grown so much, and the future is brighter than I ever imagined it to be. When I started at Herts I would never have dreamt of being able to commute to London. Herts has given me the confidence to achieve more and provided me with the skills and ambition I needed to equip myself for a professional career in a fascinating sector!’
Heather chose to study at Herts as it was her local university and because she knew she would be able to get the support she needed.
‘Being new to having a disability, I needed some extra help and guidance along the way. The Wellbeing Team at Herts provided me with lots of support and resources. Before I started, I was taken on a tour to familiarise myself with the campus so I could learn the best routes between my lectures. This was very useful, as I can get anxious in new places. I also had help in the lectures because I couldn’t see the board! My lecturers were very accommodating and changed timetabled classrooms to improve access for me if required. I was able to claim the Disabled Students' Allowance, which enabled me to buy a specialist laptop with assistive technology and a magnifier.’
‘I stayed closely connected with my lecturers and the Wellbeing Team through my studies, and I was able to help improve the experience of other disabled students on campus. For example, working with university staff on signage and communication around building sites to enhance safety measures. The university staff were always happy to help improve the safety of all their students.’
‘I really benefited from the support I received from my school careers advisor. Through this service, I had help to secure both a placement and graduate job. I received expert practical advice to help me apply for jobs, they helped improve my confidence with job interviews, and showed how I could disclose my disability to employers in a covering letter.’
Life at Herts
Heather had a brilliant student experience and got involved with lots of extra-circular activities.
‘I really enjoyed my course, I found the lecturers extremely friendly, knowledgeable, and approachable, something which I really valued. I also enjoyed meeting and working with people from all different backgrounds. Herts is a truly diverse and inclusive place to study, and I benefited from collaborating with so many different people.
‘My favorite place on campus was the library. It has such a good atmosphere, and this was where I could concentrate on course work with friends.’
‘I also got involved with the Physics, Astronomy and Maths Society (PAMsoc) and in my final year, I was the society chair. Through PAMsoc activities I was able to learn and make friends with like-minded people, enriching my student experience. We did quizzes, pub nights, discussion groups, and invited our lecturers to speak to us about their personal career paths and the cutting-edge research they are doing.’
Heather’s future career aspirations
Heather is passionate about Maths and says, ‘You can do so many different things with a Maths degree, and not just teaching. You learn transferable skills, critical thinking, elements of computer science, and physics.’
‘I was introduced to the data sector in my placement year at Sainsbury's Digital, where I got to work on interesting projects like using data analysis to improve the experience of customers at the supermarket checkout. I now work for an Engineering Consultancy, GHD, a company who are committed to solving global challenges in the areas of water, energy and urbanisation, values which align to my own. I do a job that I love using data models and python, skills learnt on my course.’
‘I do miss academia sometimes and I may like to do further study in the future.’
Heather’s advice for other students
‘At Herts, you can learn about your chosen subject, but also learn about yourself. Make sure you take the time to reflect and understand both you and your passion throughout your studies and take every opportunity you can. Say yes to new things but know your own limit and don’t burn yourself out. At Herts, there is always support available to you, so seek out help if you need it.’