Outer Hebrides local, Catherine Johnson (48) will celebrate the end of a busy three and a half years when she graduates from Robert Gordon University this Friday (4 December) with a first class BA Honours degree in Social work.
Catherine, who lives on the Isle of North Uist, completed her degree by distance learning – an option that allowed her to balance family and work commitments whilst furthering her career.
Her career path has been varied, training originally in administration and going on to spend a number of years working with local health councils, the Citizens Advice Bureau, child minding and as a Supported Employment Officer (assisting people with learning disabilities and mental health and life issues into employment).
After taking a career break to raise her children, Sarah (now 21) and Stewart (19), Catherine began pursuing her interest in social services in earnest when she took a position as a fieldworker for the Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s (The Council of the Outer Hebrides) Careline Service in 1998. She transferred into the post of Social Work Assistant after five years, where she was encouraged to undertake the BA Social Work degree at Robert Gordon University as a distance learning student.
During her studies, Catherine gained strong support from both her employer and the University. She sites the regular telephone support and twice-yearly visits from her course tutor, Rory Lynch, (a two-day round trip to Uist each time for him), and the University’s Postal Loans Service (allowing her vital access to academic texts) as being of particular help.
After three and half years of study whilst also working full time, Catherine will graduate with a BA Honours degree at Friday morning’s ceremony at the Music Hall. She will be joined by her husband, Donnie, and her two children, Sarah and Stewart.
“I am delighted that my family will be able to join me for my graduation” says Catherine. “Sarah and Stewart are currently studying at University and, in many ways, they went through the degree with me. It has been interesting sharing student experiences with them. Studying full-time and working full-time is a massive commitment and I know without the support of my husband, Donnie, and my children I could not have done it.”
Rory Lunch, lecturer of Social Work and Catherine’s assigned tutor for the course, said, “I always have the utmost respect for students who manage to balance so many factors in their life whilst taking on higher education. Catherine has consistently shown the drive and commitment to succeed and she proves that remote living should be no barrier to learning.”
Now fully qualified, Catherine has secured a post as a Social Worker in the Education and Children and Families team in Benbecula – the same team that she was previously employed in as a Social Work Assistant.