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Diane graduates from Queen’s with dream degree in History

Diane Roberts will today (Tuesday 15 December) graduate with a Master’s (MA) in History from the School of History, Anthropology, Philosophy and Politics at Queen’s University Belfast.

Diane, aged 54 and from Warrenpoint in Co Down, always dreamt of studying history, however, she ended up studying for a business degree when she went to university and had a very successful career in business. She said: “I started my own company in 2008, and have assisted many companies set up, get funding and grow. In 2017, I was driving home one evening listening to a radio programme which had a feature about returning to study later in life. It got me thinking, and before the weekend was over, I had applied to Queen’s to study my dream degree.

“Current affairs and history have always been a passion, and in recent years I have read many historical books so I was delighted to study the subject for ‘fun’. I have loved every minute of it and would encourage anyone thinking of going after their dream, to just do it, you will not regret it!”

Diane, who is dyslexic, found going back to academic writing an adjustment. Speaking about the support she received, she said: “My School and in particular, Dr Marie Coleman, were so encouraging. It had been 25 years since I had written an essay and being dyslexic, I found that a challenge. Every time I reached out for help, from academic writing advice to finding archival material, the whole team at the School supported me.

“I also thought being a 'super mature' student would mean that I would be out of place, but I found I was one of several and it was never an issue.

“I did this Master's for me, for 'fun', as I kept telling people. The fun was being able to turn up at a lecture and get a world-class historian to share their research and expertise. My world has been opened to many different types of history. It was one of the best experiences of my life.”

Talking about her experience Diane commented: “The campus is world-class and the facilities are excellent. I loved the Graduate School for writing papers, it was an inspiring location. I also really enjoyed the archival work as I am naturally inquisitive, so being able to 'discover' hidden truths was fascinating. I loved going to PRONI, and The Armagh Diocesan Archive. The COVID-19 pandemic limited this from March, and it was a challenge to find materials, but that also opened my mind to other sources that I would never have considered.”

During the pandemic, Diane’s daughter returned home from studying at university in Bristol and the mother and daughter team became each other’s support system. “We were a good support team for each other,” said Diane. “We went off and locked ourselves away for a writer's week in Killarney in August and both submitted our dissertations within two days of each other. It was hard work but we made it!”

Speaking about her graduation and looking ahead to the future, Diane said: “Graduating is bittersweet. I am delighted to have completed my Master’s, but I will miss going to Queen’s and continuing to learn. I am going to keep researching my dissertation topic when the archives open, and I hope to try and get a paper published one day.

“The restrictions will limit any wider family graduation celebrations, but I will celebrate with my immediate family at home. A bottle of champagne was sent by my sister so I will have that on ice for a toast.”

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