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A career at BCU: My journey from Early Childhood Studies (ECS) student to Deputy Course Lead

Shannon Ludgate joined BCU on the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies (ECS) programme, and never did she think that on completion she would walk straight into a PhD in Early Years. This wasn’t the end of Shannon’s BCU story; with support and encouragement from the University, she is now a Deputy Course Lead for ECS. Discover Shannon’s journey and how she progressed from ECS undergraduate to Deputy Course Lead.  

Studying at BCU was the best decision I have ever made. As an 18-year-old, I was certain that I wanted to be a part of the BCU student community; I had heard great things about being a BCU student, about the possibilities of what getting a degree gives you, and how I had the potential to shine and thrive in an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment.

After enrolling on to the BA (Hons) Early Childhood Studies course in 2011, I found a passion for research. In my third year, I was recommended by my research tutor to apply for a PhD in Early Years, after demonstrating an ability to research well, be innovative, and write to a particularly high standard. I knew I wanted to do a PhD at some point in my life, but I was under the impression I must have a Master’s degree first. I also intended to work for a decade or two in the Early Years sector before looking for additional challenges to boost my career possibilities.

My transition from UG to PhD

Studying at BCU made me realise that anything was possible; I completed my undergraduate degree and walked straight into a PhD programme. Had it not been for my tutors, and their belief, encouragement, and support, I would never have applied for a PhD at that point in my life, at the age of 21. Continuing my educational stint at BCU, I studied for four years for my PhD, successfully completing in August 2018. Those four years were my most challenging, but again, I got through it with the support of BCU, feeling a strong sense of belonging, and feeling like this was my place to shine.

Travel, research and endless opportunities

Whilst doing my PhD, I was able to travel to Bologna, Italy, to present my research at the European Early Childhood Education Studies conference. It was the most nerve-wracking thing I have ever done, but it felt great being given the opportunity to share my work, to assert the need for my research, and to stand amongst scholars, mostly those who I’d referenced throughout my degree and PhD. I was fortunate in that this conference, amongst others, was funded by BCU. Another example of the University being supportive and encouraging, and giving me chances to share my work.

Training to become a teacher

The PhD was brilliant in more ways than one; I trained to become a lecturer whilst studying. This meant that I was teaching undergraduate students on the programme I’d completed 6 months previously. I know how fortunate I am to be given these opportunities. I know how competitive the market is, to secure a position like that. BCU gave me those opportunities, the staff  saw my potential and set me on a path that has led to so much more than I’d imagined. After completing my PhD, I secured full-time employment at BCU as an Early Years Lecturer within the Department of Childhood, Youth, and Community.

Earlier this year, I took on the role of Deputy Course Leader for Early Childhood Studies. In nine years, I have gone from being a fresh-faced undergraduate to DCL. These opportunities have significantly boosted my self-belief and confidence, and continue to fuel my desire to push myself and do well.

I know that I wouldn’t be here today, and teaching at the university, if I hadn’t made the decision to study my undergraduate at BCU. I will always be grateful for the many opportunities BCU has given me since joining in 2011. These last nine years have changed my life path, my career possibilities, and my academic potential significantly.

My advice to students

My advice to anyone thinking about studying the course, or at BCU in general, is that graduation isn’t the end; you never know what is around the corner and what the future might bring. Set yourself goals, and know that your BCU degree can lead you on so many different pathways. Direct your own future - you don’t have to choose the typical route, or do the same as your peers because that seems to be the most common option. Be proud of yourself, your choices, and embrace your journey.

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