A change of direction

For many, a Masters offers the opportunity to change direction or focus more clearly on exactly what you want to do. Here are just a few of the LJMU students who have moved subject to embark on their higher level qualification.

A change of direction

For many, a Masters offers the opportunity to change direction or focus more clearly on exactly what you want to do. Here are just a few of the LJMU students who have moved subject to embark on their higher level qualification.

Melanie Brady Teaching graduate

James McGregor-Walsh Documentary graduate

Fiona Brereton Public Health graduate

Karen Critchley Public Health graduate

Melanie Brady Teaching graduate

James McGregor-Walsh Documentary graduate

Fiona Brereton Public Health graduate

Karen Critchley Public Health graduate

If there’s one reason that Melanie Brady has stuck with John Moores throughout her education it has to be the support on offer from the staff here.

If there’s one reason that Melanie Brady has stuck with John Moores throughout her education it has to be the support on offer from the staff here.

Melanie’s career has come full circle since she left school in 2008 to study Childcare and Education at a local college. “In 2009 I found out I was pregnant with my first child and I realised that bringing up my own child and working in childcare might be a little too much,” she smiles.

After the birth of her baby and wanting to get back into education, Melanie decided to take a Legal Secretary course. She studied for her Level two and three qualifications before moving to John Moores to take her undergraduate law degree. “As I was due to start my course in September I found out in the August I was pregnant with my second child,” says Melanie. “I was really worried how things would go with my degree but my tutors were just lovely and their support helped me to power through it.”

Once again fate took a hand when it came to her finals and Melanie faced the happiest and saddest of times, encountering a family bereavement and also finding out that she was expecting her third child. “It was too late to defer my exams but my mind just wasn’t in it,” she recalls. “Again my tutors were really supportive and I was delighted to come out with a 2:2 under the circumstances.”

Unfortunately Melanie’s third child had to spend five months of his life in Alder Hey hospital. “I was working in a solicitors at that point but decided to take a year out to look after him,” she says. When Melanie secured a nursery place for her son, she went back to work full-time.

“It was whilst I was spending so much time at the hospital that I realised how much I missed working with children,” says Melanie. “I decided I really wanted to go back to uni and get a special needs qualification. I didn’t think it would be possible with a law degree but, because of my previous studies and my own personal experience, I was accepted on the School Direct programme for special needs teaching.”

Once again the support from LJMU is proving first class and Melanie is loving every minute of her postgraduate qualification. “I originally came to LJMU because I heard good things about the University and I can honestly say it is the most supportive place to study I can imagine,” she says. “My course is fascinating and I am loving my time in school. I can’t wait to be a special needs teacher and I know I can make a difference. LJMU has got me to where I want to be and has supported me every step of the way.”

When James McGregor-Walsh set out on his Masters in Documentary, little did he think he would be spending 15 days in the Tanzanian rainforest filming the adventures of Wildlife Conservation students on a major field trip.

When James McGregor-Walsh set out on his Masters in Documentary, little did he think he would be spending 15 days in the Tanzanian rainforest filming the adventures of Wildlife Conservation students on a major field trip.

James, a Media Production graduate from LJMU joined the Documentary Masters programme due to his passion for storytelling. Interested in the transformative power of documentary, he was keen to focus on immersive technologies to explore stories and connect with the audience. “My undergraduate mentor suggested the course would be really good for me as he thought I should specialise in documentary making,” he says.

Not long into his programme, James and his fellow students attended a presentation on the use of drones in conservation work by LJMU academic Serge Wich. “He mentioned that he would really like to get some of our group out to Tanzania to document the work of his wildlife students,” recalls James. “I don’t know whether it was a throw away comment or not but, from then on, I was obsessed with the idea and pestered our programme leader constantly about it.”

James had to submit 200 words on why he should be chosen to go to Tanzania. Just a few hours later he found out he had been successful so, with only six weeks to go, it was straight into preparation mode, getting the jabs he needed and organising the equipment.”

In what seemed like no time at all James was on the first of three flights that would take him to the camp in Tanzania. “I had never been out of the country before and never flown so it was quite an experience,” he smiles. “We flew out to Amsterdam first and then on to Dar es Salaam for an overnight stay before arriving in Kigoma.”

Over the following days, James found himself trekking up to 12km a day, in temperatures sometimes close to 40 degrees, carrying equipment weighing 15kg. “Tracking the yellow tailed baboons was something I’ll never forget,” he says. “The only problem was if the baboons scaled a rockface, we had to follow – which wasn’t easy with all of our equipment! We would leave at 5am to get to their nests before they woke up so we could track them until the afternoon when the next group would take over and track them till they nested again for the night.”

Their experience in Tanzania has naturally enhanced James’ ambitions to become a professional film maker. “The very fact that we were given this experience demonstrates just how well connected our lecturers are,” comments James. “You have to get as much experience as you can during your studies and opportunities like this are priceless.”

Studying for an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science, Fiona Brereton really came into her own in the third year of her studies when the focus of the course moved to physical activity and health.

Studying for an undergraduate degree in Sport and Exercise Science, Fiona Brereton really came into her own in the third year of her studies when the focus of the course moved to physical activity and health.

“My passion for my studies rocketed,” she smiles. “I had been scoring low 2:1s in my work but I suddenly started getting firsts. I even started thinking about doing a Masters.”

Applying for a job at the student union to give her time to decide on her next step, Fiona worked for a year as Vice President Activities. “The extra year confirmed my decision to take the next step in my education,” says Fiona. “I knew I wanted to stay at LJMU because the University was like a family to me. I looked at various courses and decided that Public Health was the right choice. Not only was I accepted on the course I was also offered a scholarship.”

Having found her calling, Fiona is loving her Masters qualification. “I never miss a session,” she smiles. “And when I get home I want to do more so I spend lots of time reading around the subject.”

Fiona also appreciates the support on offer from staff. “As class sizes are so much smaller you have a personal relationship with your tutors,” she explains. “They are always there for you, keen to answer your questions, happy to respond to emails and always willing you on.”

Eventually Fiona would like to take up a role in Health Improvement but she is also keen to undertake a PhD. “My Masters has helped me find the right path,” she says. “There really is nowhere better to study. LJMU has some of the leading academics in both Sports Science and Public Health so it would have been pointless for me to go elsewhere. When you see the research being carried out by top people you are inspired and want to get involved. LJMU has been the perfect choice for me.”

When Karen Critchley graduated with a degree in Fine Art from LJMU she was not at all sure what she wanted to do with her life. Some 14 years on, she has a Masters in Public Health under her belt and a flourishing career at the Public Health Institute.

When Karen Critchley graduated with a degree in Fine Art from LJMU she was not at all sure what she wanted to do with her life. Some 14 years on, she has a Masters in Public Health under her belt and a flourishing career at the Public Health Institute.

“When I left school I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,” admits Karen. “I actually started a course in Dance and PE before I came to LJMU but I really didn’t enjoy it and so I left quite early on.”

Karen decided to study Fine Art at LJMU having enjoyed the subject at school. “On graduation I realised I had two choices: to be a professional artist or a teacher,” she says. “Sadly I didn’t want to do either of those things so I volunteered with community groups teaching dance and worked in bars for a while before joining an employment agency to look for something more permanent.”

As luck would have it, Karen’s agency sent her to work at the Public Health Institute. “In December 2006, I was employed by LJMU and seven years later I was asked if I would like to study for a Masters in Public Health,” she recalls.

Jumping at the chance to gain a qualification in the sector, Karen was nervous about studying a subject she had never studied before. “Obviously my significant work experience was a real help - as was the fact that I was being taught by my colleagues,” she smiles.

“My studies gave me a real understanding of the importance and value of our work. They also enabled me to develop key skills in statistical analysis which I now use on a day-to-day basis.”

Currently working as the Criminal Justice Project Lead in the Intelligence and Surveillance team at the Public Health Institute, Karen loves the variety of her work. “Sometimes I’ll be doing statistical work at my desk but often I’m out meeting stakeholders and attending meetings representing the Public Health Institute,” she smiles. “Every day is different.”

So, looking back, could the 21 year old Karen have ever envisaged being where she is now? “Not at all!” she says. “I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a Public Health Institute when I was that age. I think there are lots of people who don’t know what career they want, the education system forces them to choose at a young age. People should realise that there’s nothing wrong with changing your path and trying something different.”