Two students receive Best Dissertation Prize after embarking on an inspirational journey together

Wed, 14 Jul 2021 16:19:00 BST
(Pictured Left to Right) Students Levi White & Lesley-Anne Maxwell
(Pictured Left to Right) Students Levi White & Lesley-Anne Maxwell

Two GCU students (and good friends) have now completed their Undergraduate degrees after embarking on their academic journeys together – ending their studies with the prize for Best History Dissertation! 

4th year Social Sciences students Lesley-Anne Maxwell and Levi White have recently completed their course, after initially starting college together at New College Lanarkshire in Cumbernauld. Lesley-Anne and Levi both applied to HND Social Sciences, where they both met and supported each other through completing college and eventually onto their courses at GCU. 

Despite only spending a short amount of time on campus due to the COVID -19 pandemic, both students excelled in their studies and successfully completed their degrees alongside one another. 

Levi, who titled her dissertation “The Women of Red Clydeside: To what extent did the religiosity of society help to involve women in the Red Clydeside movement?”, was shocked to have received such high praise for her dissertation. She said: “I honestly cannot believe it.  I am not naturally academic, and this has been a continuous process of growth and development. 

I now feel very proud of myself; I set myself the goal to complete a degree and I exceeded it beyond my own expectations. Having now completed my degree, I am excited for what lies ahead. Over the summer I am working as a Research Assistant on two separate projects, and I will commence my TQFE (Teaching Qualification in Further Education) in September.” 

We spoke to Levi about her reasons for applying for college and university. She said: “I started at Cumbernauld College in 2016 to complete a Higher, primarily to give me some 'me time' that was not centred around my two children.  I chose the History Higher because this was the only subject that fitted in with childcare- ironic now when I think about it - and I fell in love with Mary Barbour and the Rent Strikes. From there I applied for the HND Social Science course, and this is where I met Lesley-Anne (LA).  
LA and I were two of the more mature students in the class and we became good friends quickly. We then went onto GCU in 2019 as 3rd year Direct Entrants, after we graduated with the rest of our amazing college friends.” 

She added: “The journey through University has been interesting with the impact of COVID on our studies. However, we managed to navigate our way through, with a couple bumps along the road and having to pick each other up a few times when life was getting in the way, or we got a poorer mark than we had expected.  I wish we could have said to our former selves that we would be sitting answering these questions in a few short years! 

Lesley-Anne owes a lot of her thanks to her dissertation supervisor, who made completing her dissertation during a pandemic much easier. She said: “My dissertation was on the relationship between women, feminism and the Vietnam anti-war movement and was called ‘Women were powerless, but sisterhood is powerful’. I thought it would be far more difficult through COVID restrictions but the support of my dissertation supervisor was outstanding. 

It was a really bizarre feeling to have finished the degree. I was absolutely over the moon to have made it to the end, but a wee bit sad not to have had the full GCU student experience considering we were in lockdown from the end of 3rd year until the end of 4th year. I felt really fortunate though with the support received from GCU throughout COVID, and certainly the lecturers from the modules I had taken were incredible in how they worked through it.” 

Lesley-Anne explained that despite difficult circumstances, the support of Levi and her college lecturers gave her the boost she needed to get through University. She said: “It was really, really special to have received the joint best history dissertation prize with Levi. It was the perfect way to finish our Social Sciences journey. 

Even more significantly for me was that at the end of 2018, in the final months of the HND, my marriage ended and I was in a pretty bad place. I had been accepted to GCU but didn’t feel that I would be able to return to college to even complete the HND. Levi absolutely dragged me through that, kicking and screaming! She and a couple of my college lecturers supported me through that difficult period and made sure I finished the HND so I could go onto GCU.  

We both loved the same kind of topics, particularly history, so when we got to GCU we ended up doing the exact same modules in all but two subjects! She’s an incredibly special person so I consider it the highest privilege to share the prize with her.” 

Now at the other end, Levi and Lesley-Anne both want to encourage current and future students to keep pursuing their interests no matter what. Levi said: “Just do it! You will not regret it.  I am not going to lie, it is a lot of hard work, but if I can do it anyone can.  
Once you find something that you love, you will surprise yourself.  If you manage to find yourself a friend that is going through it at the same time as you, like I did with LA, you will succeed beyond your wildest dreams.  Then when you get to share The Best History Dissertation Prize with your mate that has been holding your hand throughout it genuinely is something special. I am so proud of you LA - well done!” 

Lesley-Anne added: “For anyone who is just beginning their Higher Education journey, there’s a few things. Firstly, believe that absolutely anything is possible if you put the work in. Don’t compare yourself to your fellow students because everyone has their own strengths. Secondly, participate in seminars and put the work into them - they can be a brilliant way of preparing for assessments because often the reading for each one can be substantial. Finally, read! Read lots and lots. If you’re struggling to understand some of the more difficult papers (and there can be loads!), go back and forth to the dictionary and write what everything means.  

It’s an incredible journey, whatever you’ve been through and regardless of where you started.” 


By Rachael McAlonan  

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