Sarah McKenna (a Queen's final year BA Sociology student) is the Global Winner in the Sociology and Social Policy category of the Undergraduate Awards (UA) 2017.
UA is the world's largest international academic awards programme recognising excellence in research and original work across the sciences, humanities, business and creative arts. The award is often referred to as the 'Junior Nobel Prize'.
Sarah made two UA submissions and an international panel of expert judges considered both of them to be ranked in the top 10 per cent of all submissions. However, it was Sarah's essay on 'A Shifting Lens: How intersectionality facilitates an understanding of the dynamics and structures of inequality in contemporary society' that beat off competition from students all round the world to come top in the category of Social Sciences: Sociology and Social Policy.
Sarah represents a long tradition of students who choose to study sociology, social work and education at Queen's after a different early career or life. She said:
"I chose to stay at home while my three children were young. When I returned to study later in life it was through an Access course and I had no plans to go to university, but studying modules in Sociology and Social Policy changed everything. These subjects spoke my language and asked questions I wanted answered. I knew I needed to study them in more depth, and Queen's fantastic Sociology and Social Policy teaching staff have enabled and encouraged me to do just that."
Adrienne Scullion, Pro-Vice-Chancellor in the Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences said:
"We are absolutely delighted that Sarah has won this award, especially as the competition was open to final year students and Sarah's submissions were made when she was only in second year. Sarah has grasped lots of opportunities during her time as a student in the School of Social Sciences, Education and Social Work – including pursuing a summer placement through Q-Step. We are so proud of her achievements and know that she will continue to excel in her chosen career."
Sarah was presented with her award in November at a four-day networking event which brought together the world's top students for a series of inspirational lectures, workshops and discussions.
Three other students from Queen's and Stranmillis University College were Regional Winners for the best papers from the island of Ireland in their respective categories: Jasmine McCrory; Ryan Sterritt; and Lucy Coburn. And thirteen further students from Queen's and Stranmillis were Highly Commended for their work.
Dr Brenda Cullen, The Undergraduate Awards Executive Director said:
"It is an immense achievement for undergraduate students to benchmark their work globally. To be recognised for their creativity and innovative approach within their discipline can only propel them to become global thinkers and potential change-makers. We are very appreciative of the support of the global academic community who work closely with The Undergraduate Awards to identify these impressive students."