As part of our Summer 2023 graduation ceremonies, we caught up with a number of our incredible students. 

Hearing all about their experience studying with Arden University, as well as what may come next for them, we spoke to graduates like Mathew, who studied for a Senior Leader Masters Degree, MBA, Apprenticeship.

Mathew, who faced a number of challenges throughout his studies, was awarded Arden’s Katie Aubrey Award for overcoming adversity.  

How does it feel to be graduating today?

Yeah, it’s really good. So, I've been at Arden for probably longer than I should have been, because I've faced some personal challenges, but it feels good to be able to bring it to a close today and finally graduate. 

What led you to study with us in the first place?

So, it was an opportunity, that came about through work, which I saw as a way of developing myself and improving my skills in the workplace. I jumped at the opportunity. 

I've changed roles since starting the course, but at the time, I was a regional GM looking after six sites and now I’ve moved in to a business systems role. It’s been a bit of a jump, but everything I've done with Arden is helping to make that transition. 

What did you want to get out of your degree?

So, career progression was one thing, but also to give me a solid foundation to build from. It's solidified all my previous business experience. 

For anyone that's not familiar with the course you've just studied, what kind of stuff did it cover?

The course was broken up into modules which covered business ethics, managing protected environments, strategy, personal development, and all the key areas within business. There’s lots of learning, lots of reading material, and practical work. 

When I first started, back in 2019, we were going to class for this course. Some of those classes that we had were absolutely phenomenal. And I really missed them when COVID came in. We had fun things like Dragon's Den games, where you can practically apply what you've learned which helps bedrock it in which helped massively. 

So, you've won an award with us today, what were some of the challenges you faced?

It was a bunch of things to be honest. I won't use COVID as a reason, because everybody went through that, but after about two months of being involved with the course, my wife got diagnosed with a brain tumour. 

For about two years, she went through several serious operations to remove it. I also have two special needs boys at home, so the overall piece for me has been exceptionally challenging. 

You have to be sort of a certain character and tenacious to want to finish with all that going on. As well as that, I put myself out there for the uni and was assisting fellow students who Arden put me in touch with. I was quite glad to help out and I actually saw one of them graduating today, which is fantastic, and he came up to me to personally thank me which was very nice.

What does it mean to you to get this award? 

It's nice to be recognised and get some sort of recognition alongside graduating. I didn't get the best mark that I could have done, but given the fact that I had to go through everything I am proud of actually finishing it, because there were so many reasons not to. 

How did you find balancing studying, working, and the challenges you had?

You have good days and bad days, but you've got to want it. I can't take all the credit either, as I had the support of my family, friends, and workplace. A previous boss, Andy Malone, picked me up probably when I was at my lowest. That sort of leadership quality is what I needed to keep me focused and point me in the right direction.

Then when I transferred into Phil's [Mathew’s current boss who was at the ceremony with him] team, Phil's direction from more of a senior level, gave me a bit more of a push to want to do it.

Then I was given the opportunity to practically apply some of the learning at work, which also really helped spur me on. 

What’s next for you, now that you've graduated?

I'm not someone that likes a rest, so I've signed up for my next challenge. I like to fill certain knowledge gaps so I can perform better in the workplace. I think my wife would kill me if I took on anything as sizable as the MBA again. But, I’m looking forward to what’s next. 

There’s obviously a lot of students facing challenges whilst they're learning, so what sort of advice would you give to anyone that feels like they're maybe struggling a bit?

Ultimately, you've got to focus on what your core strength is and don't be afraid to ask for help. Help is always out there, so speak to people you’re studying with, to your friends and family, and speak to the university. The university were brilliant with me, and that resource is there for a reason. A lot of people are too shy to ask, but a problem shared is a problem halved, and if you share it with enough people… 

To find out how you could be graduating with a degree from Arden University, visit our course pages today.