Alumna turns her passion for social justice into political and career success

Double First-class graduate, Emma Williamson, applied to study a BA (Hons) Community Social Care Policy and Practice and an MA in Social Policy after being inspired at a University of Central Lancashire taster day.

On that taster day, listening to Dr Mary Drummond, Lecturer on the Community Social Care Policy and Practice degree give a course overview, Emma felt as if it had been written just for her: She said: “I was inspired, and it ignited a spark in me - that’s where I began my academic journey.”

Emma felt so inspired she was able to overcome her own doubts about a university education and take the plunge. She said: “My background is traditionally working-class; I’m from a working-class town, with working-class values and when I applied to UCLan, I had a very fragmented educational history.

“My lecturers believed in me from the outset and taught me to believe in myself, which is sometimes the hardest challenge to overcome. They inspired me to learn outside of University and devote my spare time to supporting my community. Unaware of many societal injustices, the course forced my eyes wide open. I graduated with first-class Honours, something I’m extremely proud of, and went on to achieve an MA in Social Policy.

“To this day I still can’t believe what I’ve achieved. What appeared impossible was made possible by the support and kindness of some truly inspiring lecturers. UCLan has completely transformed my life and for that I will always be truly grateful. If I could summarise my time there in three words, they would be: supported, inspired, transformed.”

"When I applied to UCLan, I believed that people like me didn’t go to university. But I finished both courses with a first-class honours, proof that anyone can achieve anything with hard work, dedication, and the unyielding support of a great university."

Emma Williamson, BA (Hons) Community Social Care Policy and Practice and MA Social Policy.

Since graduating from her MA Social Policy course in 2017 (with another First), Emma’s been making a real difference in her community in Cumbria, from working in a homeless hostel that prioritises forces veterans, to helping people who have barriers to employment.

Emma said: “All were equally rewarding, and each position gave me the foundations to put my practical knowledge into action whilst applying the theory I learnt at UCLan. The highly skilled job I have today is thanks to the introduction to social policy and inclusion given to me at UCLan and my current position has enabled me to help hundreds of local people to become included within society and have access to the opportunities that help them to thrive.”

Emma’s current job as Social Inclusion and Community Resilience Team Lead at Copeland Borough Council keeps her busy on everything from sourcing funding to delivering community projects. As if that’s not making enough of a difference, she also has a political career too, after being elected in 2017 as the only female Cumbria County Councillor for the Labour Party in Copeland. Today, she is the Deputy Leader for Cumberland Council. She said: “My degree gave me the knowledge to be able to challenge inequalities and injustice, and the confidence to represent my community.”

Emma’s is an inspirational story and, in the tradition of giving back, she has some great advice for anyone at the start of their own university journey, she said: “UCLan inspired my passion for social justice and people. It gave me the knowledge to understand that social change can happen if everyone has a voice. Use your University time to explore what’s possible, find the thing you are most passionate about. Try to give something back, especially your time and effort. Volunteer at a local charity, organise an event, raise funds for a local cause, use your knowledge and skills to make a difference and you will leave university a better, more rounded person who can be proud of all that you’ve accomplished. Seize the opportunity, take everything that UCLan has to offer.”