DMU alumna overcomes adversity to land senior job role

A De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) graduate has overcome a number of challenges including battling sickle cell anaemia to land a senior administrative role at the university.

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Psychology and Health Studies graduate Vanetta Morrison, who received a first-class degree, has been appointed to the role of Faculty Admissions Manager for Arts, Design and Humanities (ADH).  

Born in Germany, Vanetta and her brother were the only black students in their school. She had a culture shock when she came to the United Kingdom.

Vanetta completed her A levels in Germany but then moved to the UK where she chose to study at DMU in 2007. She said: “DMU was one of the few universities that taught a Community Health course, and at that point I planned on working as a Community Health Administrator at the United Nations (UN).”

She added: “As I got quite good A levels I looked at courses I could aim towards and was interested in. In the end I chose to study Psychology and Health Studies.

“I loved DMU and the vibe of the university from day one. I loved studying and I liked the psychology side more.”

Outside of her studies Vanetta was involved as a Student Ambassador, then as a Senior Student Ambassador as well as a Welfare Officer for the African Caribbean Society (ACS) in her second year.

She said: “I absolutely loved being a Welfare Officer as I was the person to speak to for support and welfare advice.

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“I got involved as I wanted to get to know people and support people. It was nice to be part of a society that looks at the attainment gap and furthers the cause of Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) students. I remember there were a lot of black people in my first ACS meeting which was a positive culture shock.”

Vanetta believes that DMU helped her in her career path. When she studied a counselling module in her final year she said she finally realised what she wanted to do.

“I still liked the idea of working at the UN, but preferred working on a one-one level. I had conversations with the academics and Associate Professor Ian Williamson championed me to do a Masters as he saw the standard of my work in the module he taught on the Psychology of Chronic Illness. Although I did not take it up at the time, I remember his encouragement to this day. His module was also of interest to me as I have sickle cell anaemia.

“Sickle cell anaemia is an inherited illness, a blood disorder. Cells can get clotted, stop blood flow and I can have a stroke. I am fine, it hasn’t stopped me from reaching my goals and this is due to the support from academics and managers past and present.

“The academics were very understanding of my illness in terms of giving me deferrals when needed, and I received a lot of support from them. I developed a good working relationship with Professor Simon Dyson who worked in the field of sickle cell. This October I went with him to Coventry University where we co-presented at a sickle cell symposium.”

Vanetta graduated in the summer of 2010 and in November she got a temporary job as Admissions Assistant at DMU. In 2011 she applied for the role of Admissions Administrator in the Faculty of Business and Law (BAL) and was offered the job in October 2011. In 2016 she became Admission Manager Projects and in June 2018 she was made Faculty Admissions Manager for ADH.

Vanetta said: “When I was Admissions Administrator, I was fortunate in being selected to go on a #DMUglobal trip, which was the pilot trip to Berlin in April 2014. I applied, fully supported by my line manager, and went to Berlin with nine students.

“It was an amazing experience. Even though I am from Germany, I am not as familiar with Berlin. It was my responsibility that the students were as independent as possible.”

In November this year, Vanetta gave a talk on Developing Diversity at a networking event to launch DMUWomen. She said she applied for a leadership programme through the university which is due to finish in December. She said: “It gave perspective, preparing me to live every day with a leadership mentality, growing potential in myself and those around me.”

Antonia main at networking event

Vanetta is now completing a counselling course which will finish in the middle of next year when she will be a qualified counsellor. She said: “I have received a lot of support from DMU, I have flexibility at work which allows me to study.”

Vanetta has the following message for students: “Make the most of every opportunity you have. There are international opportunities including #DMUglobal which weren’t there when I was a student.

“When I first read about #DMUglobal, I wished I was a student again. A first class degree doesn’t guarantee a job, it is a combination of things. Being from the BAME community I had to go the extra mile and work twice as hard.”

Posted on Monday 10th December 2018

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