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Brave student overcomes tragedy to graduate with first class honours

22 July 2014

Press Office

Burnley graduate lost her beloved mum to cancer only months before the end of her degree

 

Psychology graduate Shamam Saleem who last week graduated from the University of Central Lancashire.

An inspirational student has graduated from the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) with first class honours in Psychology, just a few months after losing her mother to cancer.

Shamam Saleem, 22, had been caring for her mother throughout the illness and was left devastated when she lost her battle on Mother’s Day this year, only a month before Sham was due to hand in her final project.

As well as organising the funeral and supporting her father, brave Sham decided to continue with her degree and completed her final project, which explored a topic inspired by her mother.

The student, who lives in Burnley, said: “My mum was very well known in our local community and people would come to her for help and advice with their problems. A lot of the people she helped had been affected by honour violence so it was something I was familiar with and had an interest in researching when an opportunity became available.”

As part of a two month research internship, Sham managed and devised her own questionnaire to explore experiences of honour violence in the North West among the British South Asian community.

Based on the findings, she put together a dissertation project exploring the effects of culture, machismo and right-wing authoritarianism on perception of honour.

"My family, close friends and supervisor, as well as the University itself have been really supportive. There were times I didn’t think I could carry on with the course but they all motivated me to keep going and I’m glad I did."

Sham is now working towards having the project published and was awarded a grade of 80 per cent, one of the highest scores achieved by a Psychology student at UCLan.

Sham added: “I was too nervous to open my results so my husband opened them for me. When he said I’d got a first I told him to stop joking around and I couldn’t believe it when I realised he was serious. The past few months have been a bit of a blur and I didn’t expect a first at all but I’m so pleased.

“My family, close friends and supervisor, as well as the University itself have been really supportive. There were times I didn’t think I could carry on with the course but they all motivated me to keep going and I’m glad I did.”

Sham’s wedding also took place during her final year of University and she married her husband in an Islamic ceremony in November 2013.

Sham said: “We’re very glad we married when we did as my mother was well and able to celebrate at the ceremony. We were also due to hold a big celebration this summer and we’ve decided to still go ahead with this; my mum helped plan it so she will still be part of the day in some way.

“I felt like she was part of my graduation too; my dad, husband and mother-in-law came and my mother-in-law wore a dress which was the same as one my mum owned to make it more special for me, which was lovely.”

After such a difficult year, Sham now plans to take some time out but would eventually like to go on to study a PhD at UCLan and is hoping to secure funding.

Dr Roxanne Khan, Senior Lecturer in Forensic Psychology at UCLan, said: “What is remarkable is that Sham has remained dignified and composed throughout. She did not ask for any special considerations and works subtly and quietly. She gets her work done without making a big deal of her personal circumstances and I consider myself extremely lucky to work with such a consummate professional. If UCLan has an exemplary student it is Sham Saleem.”

Sham was one of a record-breaking 4,600 students who graduated in front of family and friends at Preston’s Guild Hall last week.