For Fe Mukwamba-Sendall, studying for a PhD at Lancaster University has been transformative.
Dropped off on campus by her son Josh in 2010 in a ‘role reversal’, Fe came to Lancaster to study for a Masters and stayed to do a PhD.
A year later Josh followed in her footsteps. He has also remained at the University and is now the Library’s Research and Scholarly Communications Manager.
Fe was awarded her PhD in Educational Research in this December’s graduation ceremonies and says her time at Lancaster has allowed her to finally overcome childhood fears of not being good enough.
She came to Lancaster in 2010 to study for an MA in Social Work to ‘reinvent’ herself at 51, having spent many years raising five children, after being widowed at 35 and caring for her parents in their final years.
She said: “We had a family role reversal: my children sent me to university, and it was mum who was left in student accommodation. My middle child, Josh, fell in love with the campus and followed me here to study as an undergraduate a year later! So just as I was finally finding Fe, I found myself once again known and even ‘named’ Josh’s mum!”
Fe explained that following childhood ill health she was told by teachers at school that she would “never amount to much” and was considered “not able enough to do CSEs let alone O’ levels”. These childhood messages were carried into her adult life.
But she said: “Coming to Lancaster has been transformative. The process of doing a doctorate has allowed me to see myself in a new light. Confidence in my ability and self-worth has grown, I am no longer inclined to be self-defeating.
“I am thankful for the encouragement and support of my departmental community, and to members of the Mature Students Society.”
Fe was supervised throughout her PhD by Dr Jo Warin in the department of Educational Research, and she thanked her for her support and described her as a “great mentor”. Dr Warin praised Fe’s hard work and “outstanding determination”.
Fe added: “Coming to Lancaster allowed me to slay that childhood message I carried with me into my 50s. While I could say I have transformed academically, it is far more than that. It is the impact on me the person that has been the most wonderful benefit.”