Alumni Profile: Sandra Wright
I came to Queen’s in 1996 following a year off after completing my Leaving Certificate. I was one of three people from my school who came to Queen’s that year – Queen’s wasn’t a typical path for people in my secondary school on the west coast of Donegal. At the time it was a toss up between History at Trinity or Psychology at Queen’s – I was deeply conflicted having a passion for both subjects which was part of the reason I deferred my places in both Universities for a year.
In the end, I chose Queen’s because I felt it offered me an opportunity to make a difference. My sister had struggled with poor mental health and had made several attempts on her life. Having seen the challenges and frustrations my parents had accessing appropriate support for her and ultimately the failure in getting her the support needed, shaped my views and therefore I started with the intention I would complete my undergrad degree and do a post grad in clinical psychology!
I entered student life very enthusiastically – I embraced the freedom of living away from home for the first time. I lived in one of the Queen’s houses on College Gardens for the three years of my undergrad which was perfectly located to roll out of bed at 8.50 am to get up to the David Kier Building for a 9 am lecture. I truly loved all of the psychology disciplines we covered in my first three years but the stand outs for me were Sports Psychology and Psychology at Work – both of which came in third year.
Of course, life doesn’t always turn out as you expect and over the course of the three years of my undergrad degree, my eyes were well and truly opened to the myriad of career opportunities undertaking a degree in Psychology opened. As time went on, I became more and more drawn to opportunities to apply psychology outside of a clinical role and the one that stood out most was occupational psychology. After I graduated, I was successful in getting a place on the MSc in Occupational Psychology also at Queen’s which I started in September 1999.
Led by Adrain Hallmark and Michaela Greenwood, I thoroughly enjoyed my year on the MSc – the balance between theoretical and practical was outstanding and the reason that I chose the MSc in Queen’s, over similar courses in other Universities. I feel that having the real life work experience afforded as part of the placement option meant that on graduating I was extremely well placed to secure a graduate opportunity. For the first few years after graduating, I worked in consultancy for both a boutique Occupation Psychology consultancy and one of the big Consultancy firms (Deloitte).
Fast forward a few years and I am now a Senior HR Business Partner in Natwest (parent company of Ulster Bank) responsible for HR for three business areas spanning UK, Poland and India covering in the region of 8,000 people. So whilst I am not now working as an Occupational Psychologist, to this day the learning from my time in Queen’s remains relevant.
I continue to feel a strong draw to Queen’s and nothing would please me more than if my own daughter went there to study! I still get a buzz when I drive past the main building and the David Kier Building and it evokes strong memories of fun, freedom and learning!