Congratulations to Winter Graduates and Award Winners
On Friday 26 November, the Graduate School of Social and Political Science celebrated the award of over 300 MSc and PhD degrees.
More than 160 scholars attended the School of Social and Political Science (SSPS) graduation ceremony at the McEwan Hall, with in excess of 150 further students graduating in absentia. The group receiving their degrees were primarily MSc students, with 8 successful doctoral students collecting their awards in person. The ceremony marked the first awards in a number of new degree programmes, including Africa and International Development, Global Crime, Justice and Security, and Global and International Sociology.
After the ceremony, graduates, along with friends and family were welcomed at a wine reception in the Playfair Library Hall. The Playfair Library, a beautiful barrel-vaulted hall, some 190 feet in length (around 60 metres), served as the University Library between the 1820s and 1960s. These days it plays host to a number of the Universities most prestigious events and functions.
Professor Charlie Jeffery, Head of SSPS, celebrated the largest and most international group of postgraduate students the School has known and described the role of the academic in guiding and challenging students to the highest level of achievement as one of the most rewarding parts of the academic job.
The Director of the Graduate School of Social and Political Science, Dr Fiona Mackay, made a number of awards reflecting the value the Graduate School places upon academic excellence and upon a wider set of student activities. Arie Molema was awarded the Director's prize for best dissertation for his work on healing and the legacy of Indian residential schools in Canada as part of the MSc in Global Health and Anthropology.
Three students (pictured left) were jointly awarded the Sue Grant prize for service. The prize is named after Sue Grant, the first administrator of the Graduate School who served from 1993 until her retirement in 2009, and is awarded to the student or students who have made the most significant contribution to the postgraduate or wider University community. The prize was jointly awarded to Zhong Eric Chen for his ongoing contribution to building a vibrant staff-student community in the Sociology subject area, and to Alli Coyle and Caroline Valois for outstanding work in raising funds to support scholarships for African students studying in the School of Social and Political Science. The awards were presented to the recipients by our guest of honour, Sue Grant.
Addressing the group with her reflections on the graduation, Dr Mackay described the benefits of the Graduate School as a place where connections were made across disciplinary and other boundaries. She praised the graduates for the investment and sacrifice involved in undertaking advanced studies. While recognising the economic value of Universities as engines of innovation, particularly in a time of economic constraints, Dr Mackay asked graduates to remember the wider public role of Universities as "places of social, cultural and democratic value", contributing to the Common Weal through the kind of engagement and dialogue that characterises critical intelligence and critical citizenship. Dr Mackay cited George Elder Davie's ideal, built on a foundation of the Enlightenment and of Scottish traditions in education, of the 'democratic intellect', reflecting open access to education, broad curricula, and the kind of social, political and cultural engagement that ensures Universities are more than just ivory towers. This was echoed in a later speech by one of Dr Mackay's deputies, Dr Andy Aitchison, who stressed the vital role that the graduates play in the University mission to create, disseminate and curate knowledge.
Emmanuel Sairosi (pictured left, flanked by Centre for African Studies staff Dr Barbara Bompani and Professor James Smith), recipient of the Southern Africa Scholarship and graduate of the MSc programme in Africa and International Development, spoke on the importance of such scholarship programmes in allowing him to realise a dream and to create an opportunity for him to embark on a succesful journey. As a next step on this journey he looks forward to landing at Oliver Tambo airport, Johannesberg, in his kilt, and he carries the warm wishes of the Graduate School with him.
Closing the speeches, Dr Aitchison looked forward to the Graduate School's continuing relationship with the graduates of 2009-10 and to hearing more about what the students go on to achieve. The graduation is a milestone, not an endpoint, in this relationship, and alumni are warmly encouraged to stay in touch.
If you would like to help support scholarships for postgraduate students at the university, please download a form here.
(All original images copyright Antonia Kearton)