Prize winning history graduate’s confidence soars at Ulster University

14 December 2020

Prize winning history graduate’s confidence soars at Ulster University
Prize winning history graduate’s confidence soars at Ulster University

Graduating with a Master’s degree in History, Rebecca Watterson continues to pursue her passion whilst leaving self-doubt in the past.

Rebecca, originally from Comber, has a self-proclaimed love for history and completed a Bachelor’s degree with the Open University prior to her studies at Ulster University. Encouraged to continue her studies, Rebecca followed her interest in medical history and embraced the opportunity to avail of Ulster’s expertise.

The initial transition stirred an uncertainty in Rebecca, but she overcame this by fully immersing herself into her new university experience.

“I went in with an open mind and embraced the teaching and supervision as much as I could. I tried to build relationships with lecturers and faculty members because I wanted to make the most out of my experience. In doing this, I unexpectedly created a support network for myself which meant that I was able to flourish and develop as a student much more than I ever expected.”

Realising her potential, Rebecca decided to contribute her time and skills beyond studying.  She stood for election, competing for the Arts & Humanities School representative role and won the challenge

“This was such a great moment for me. Being a mature student and a postgraduate, I can really work to support other students who have had a different educational experience and support them during their initial transition period and beyond.”

Selfless in approach and humble in success, Rebecca admits that her lack of confidence made her doubt her abilities, even from school age.  As in battle, Rebecca forearms herself with words of encouragement from those who have bestowed wisdom upon her.

“At school, my A-Level History teacher, Mrs Hazel Caldwell, pulled me aside in class one day because my marks were unusually low. She knew that I would be worried.  Having somewhat of a terrifying reputation, I thought I was in trouble, but she told me (and continued to tell me) that it would just click one day and to keep going, to keep trying. And she was right. It did click. To this day, whenever I think that my work isn't good enough or my research isn't innovative, I hear her telling me that it will just click and I believe it, because she has never been wrong.”

Gently guided along her path of success, Rebecca continues to harness the support and encouragement of those who have impacted not only her studies but her self-belief.  Receiving praise and wisdom from those she admires and respects, fuels her motivation and strength to overcome her doubts.

“My current supervisor, Dr Ian Miller, also reminds me to be myself and to not fit into any preconceived ideas of research or academia. He doesn't realise this, but he usually says it right when I am having a crisis of confidence and need to be reminded to stick to my own path.  When a distinguished historian like him, and Professor Ian Thatcher, Research Director of your school, praise your work - that is huge motivation and helps me believe in myself.”

Rebecca gained an impressive 85% in her Masters thesis and won the Birley Prize for best dissertation in social history. In addition, Rebecca secured funding to develop an innovative PhD project on the history of psychosurgery in 20th century Britain.


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