Mum-of-three Katie Weston, 33, from Barry, graduated from the BSc (Hons) Criminology and Law with an upper-second class Honours degree. She is now applying to become a probation officer.
"At 29 years of age I found myself stuck in a job with no real prospects. It got to the point where I dreaded going into work every day. I started to question what I wanted to do with my life and my career.
I signed up to an Access course with a view to becoming a midwife, but began to develop an interest in the social sciences.
A fascination with the study of people and why they behave the way they do led me to the criminology and law degree at USW. I wanted to research why people committed crime and how the law dealt with people who participated in criminal behaviour.
Crime is such a dominant feature in our society. How can we deal with such a problem if people don’t take the time to study and understand the reasons why people become involved in it?
For the first time in my life I found myself enjoying education. I had caught the bug for reading and learning new things.
I had my youngest daughter three weeks before the start of the final year and I cannot emphasise enough how supportive my lecturers were. They genuinely care about their students and their success, often going the extra mile to help.
Studying at USW was flexible, and as a parent, this is so important.
You are given some control over when you attend workshops and this meant I could study and still spend quality time with my family.
The biggest challenge for me was learning how to write academically. The University helped me in a variety of ways; the Study Skills centre provided great support. The lecturers provided honest feedback and explained how to improve my work. And because of this support, I quickly adapted to university life.
My favourite module was Youth Crime in the second year. It was during this time that I became interested in working with offenders. I attended a careers event and found out about a probation officer’s role, and the decision was made. I'd found what I wanted to do with my life.
Looking back over the last three years, I can honestly say my experience of university has been life changing.
I am now a confident person with a wealth of skills. I will always remember the support I received from the lecturers at USW.
Attending university has shaped me as a person. I see the world in a different light. It has opened up so many different job opportunities for myself and fuelled my interest in working with adult and young offenders."