The Class of 2018 was full of exceptional minds with plenty of promise to make a positive impact in the world. Over the course of the 2018 ceremonies, several members of the Class will be invited to share with us reflections of their time at York, words of encouragement and thanks to those who made there time here so special. We look back at the 2018 ceremonies. 


Rebecca Lowndes

About Rebecca

“As part of the first cohort of Laidlaw Scholars at York, I am immensely grateful for my time here. Each opportunity leads into another and this scholarship has led to so many exciting things,and each new opportunity has led me down paths I never expected. I am honoured to talk about the welcoming nature of this university and how happy I have been here.”

Mamdouh Zaabal


“As an international protection delegate for the International Committee of the Red Cross; working on my MSc assignments and dissertation has been challenging. I recall writing assignments under artillery fire and being left unable to write a word after witnessing a heart-breaking war casualty. Those little sad stories are the ones that should push us to continue: to learn, to seek more knowledge and to help those less privileged to help themselves.”

Hashim Syed


Hashim loved studying at the University of York. “I love this university. I’ve had the opportunity to immerse myself within the works of great academics and scholars, play sport, take mandarin lessons, and even raise awareness for mental health. But our education doesn’t stop here; we’re in a process of lifelong learning. I call on my fellow graduates to engage in the opportunities around them and persevere to deliver positive change.”

Kelli Kennedy

About Kelli…

Originally from the United States, Kelli came to York to study on the MA Comparative and International Social Policy course. At York, she says, “I was able to ask questions, be inquisitive, and really "nerd out" in the best of ways at York and explore intellectual topics that I would have never dreamed I could be well versed in. In truth, I never really realised I was capable of this level of academia and it look my professors having confidence in me to help me see it myself. I want nothing more than to give back in return.”

Jenny Paterson

About Jenny...

Jenny is local to York, coming to the University to study for her MA in Social Justice and Education after a long career in teaching. “Throughout school and university first time round I was a thoroughly ordinary student. At the age of 47 I was made redundant and decided to see what would happen if applied myself.” The result? A “fun, fulfilling and rejuvenating and thought-provoking” experience. “I would like to be a student orator as a representative of lifelong learning,” Jenny told us, “I hope to bring wit and a demonstration of commitment to self-improvement to the ceremony.”

Medina Oiko

About Medina...

Medina came to York from Kenya after spending four years studying in Japan. She studied via distance learning, but felt as much a part the York community at home as any student on campus would. She told us, “My family had barely been reunited for a year after my four years studying in Japan, but advice and shared experiences from friends gave me the courage to take a bold step. I became comfortable with the warm welcome from our professors and warm introductions from fellow students worldwide. Rich discussions and collaboration made the virtual setting feel just like a classroom.”

Kemesha Kelly

About Kemesha...

Kemesha came to York from Jamaica to study for her MA in Social Policy. “I don’t know how many Jamaicans have ever attended the University of York, but I know I am one of a few students from that country and the Caribbean Region to have been a student there.” As a Chevening Scholar, Kemesha immersed herself in life at York: “My diverse classmates enriched my learning experience with the perspectives and examples from their home countries. It will be great to salute them for all their kindness and inspiration.”

Joseph Willis

About Joseph...

Joseph studied for an undergraduate degree in History at York before continuing his studies with an MA in Theatre: Writing, Directing and Performance. Whilst at York, he was involved in the Drama Society and University Radio York, and won the YUSU Outstanding Contribution to Student Life award in 2016. He’s said his speech will be “the best way to cap off an amazing time at York” and has promised words that will leave graduates “with a smile and a spring in their step.”