Andy Grace – BA (Hons) Education Studies graduate

Current employer: University of Plymouth

Current job title: Research Assistant Administrator and Associate Lecturer

Current location: Plymouth 

"Studying at Plymouth opened my eyes to my potential and it helped me to find my passion."

Tell us what you have been doing since completing your studies.

Since completing my undergraduate studies I started a Masters in Education at the University of Plymouth which is allowing me to expand my skills in education research whilst studying a topic I’m really passionate about. I had a few temporary posts around the University including work as a Research Assistant and I recently started a new post at Collaboration for the Advancement of Medical Education Research and Assessment (CAMERA) in the Peninsula Medical School. It is a great step toward furthering my academic career as I am gaining new skills in a whole new field of education. As well as this role I also lecture occasionally on the BA (Hons) Education Studies programme around LGBT issues in education and the education system of Israel and the Palestinian Territories; so now I get to teach on the programme that I started as a student on! 

Has your career path changed since graduation?

Before I started university I was stuck in jobs I hated in industries that didn’t interest me. I initially started university to go into teaching but whilst studying I realised there is so much more out there to explore and whilst I intend to teach within HE one day I am really enjoying researching and learning more about my topic. Graduating was a little scary as I was stepping into the unknown without a permanent job and continuing with studying but I’m really glad I took the leap. It’s a bit of a struggle balancing everything sometimes, but I have been really well supported by my former lecturers and my new work colleagues and plan on going onto PhD study as soon as I have completed my masters.

What is the most difficult thing which you have faced in your career?

The most difficult thing so far in my career is rejection; when I first left university I thought the degree would give me easy access to any career but this wasn’t the case. So instead of being knocked down by the rejection I carried on applying for jobs I really wanted and always asked my former lecturers for help which they were more than willing to give. It took a while until I found something more permanent but the rejections actually made me stronger in the end and more passionate about finding the right job for me. 

What is the best, most exciting or fun thing that you have done in your career?

I was lucky enough to receive the Roland Levinsky Memorial Award which funded a research trip to Israel; I got to travel across the country interviewing teachers and practitioners in bilingual peace education. It was this trip that made me realise just how much I wanted to do more with my degree and how important education is in changing lives so when I returned from my week of travelling through Jerusalem, Haifa and Tel Aviv I made my mind up that studying wasn’t over for me and I wanted to do my masters. 

What, if anything, would you do differently if you could?

If I could have done anything differently it would have been to give up work whilst I studied. I was a mature student when I started my degree and had to work almost full time whilst studying full time; I look back now and I’m not sure how I managed it but I simply didn’t have a choice. If I could do it all over again I’d find a way to work less and study more. 

What advice would you give to anyone wanting to get in to the same line of work?

Persevere! Working in academia is tough and most jobs are on contracts that last anywhere from three months to three years so you have to be prepared for a little bit of uncertainty and lots of rejection letters. But it is so worth it when you find a role as you get to work in a field you really care about with colleagues who feel the same. It can get you down but just always remember the end goal and just keep going. 

How did studying at Plymouth help you?

Studying at Plymouth opened my eyes to my potential and it helped me to find my passion. I was a little bit lost when I started university and Plymouth helped me to find a path into a career I love and is still helping me now to progress further to achieve my dreams. My lecturers and the academics on my programme really are the best and I don’t know how I would have got through my degree without their incredible support. 

What is your favourite memory of studying at Plymouth?

My lecturers were the best; they always made time for students and helped me to figure out what I wanted from my degree. I owe everything I have achieved to them. Particularly my Wednesday night lectures with Dr Emma Macleod-Johnstone; usually a Wednesday night at 5pm was not a time anyone would want to be in a lecture for three hours but Emma made those weekly lectures so fascinating, funny and inspiring that I genuinely looked forward to them every week. Especially as we had a cake rota!

Do you stay in touch with other Plymouth University alumni or lecturers?

I am still in touch with most of my lecturers mostly as they have now become work colleagues which is quite strange to get used to at first. They still support me in my work and are always on hand for advice whenever I need it; the entire education studies team were cheering me on at graduation and helping me prepare for PhD interviews. I also made some fantastic friends during my time at university and we regularly chat or go to the pub.

Would you recommend undertaking a course with Plymouth University, and why?

Plymouth University has a wonderful campus and really supportive staff; education studies is a fantastic course that opened my eyes to so many new concepts, ideas and philosophies that have impacted my everyday life. Choose a course that you are interested in and you are really passionate about. 

Is there anything else which you would like to share with our current students?

I think sometimes there is a tendency to see university as just a means to get a job; but it is so much more than that. As well as the social experiences and the friends you make along the way you get to be part of a wider community of research and education and you only get as much from that as you put in. Always say yes to those extra projects and getting involved in research opportunities; you never know where it might lead…after all I gained my first professional research job just for saying yes to being involved in a research project. 

Inspired by this story?

For more information about studying BA (Hons) Education Studies, please visit our BA (Hons) Education Studies page. For more information about our range of courses within the Plymouth Institute of Education, please visit the school page.

Want to find similar alumni?

If you would like to find out what other alumni from the Faculty of Arts and Humanities are currently doing, please visit the education and teaching interest area.