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Shetland archaeology student named as Postgraduate Student of the Year at University of the Highlands & Islands

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An archaeology student who combined her university studies with bringing up three young children has been named as the University of the Highlands and Islands’ 2017 Postgraduate Student of the Year.

Esther Renwick from Stromfirth, Shetland, recently achieved her PhD in archaeology by studying part time over a ten year period at Shetland College UHI.

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Esther’s thesis explored the most effective ways to present archaeological monuments to the public. She analysed online reviews, interviewed visitors and observed how people move through archaeological sites.

Using philosophical and anthropological concepts of human behaviour and responses to the world around them, she created recommendations for a more engaging visitor experience.

Community engagement

Esther was nominated for the Postgraduate Student of the Year award by her PhD supervisor, Dr Simon Clarke. She was commended for her influential research, her community engagement and her dedication to her studies.

Dr Clarke said: “Esther started with us in 2007 and completed her thesis working around part time employment and three small children, two of whom were born during her studies. I nominated her not for what she has achieved in her final year, but for a decade of application.

“Esther has presented her findings at national and international conferences and one of her early papers appears to have influenced English Heritage’s recent reorganisation of visitor access at Housesteads Fort on Hadrian’s Wall. Her academic studies are very much having a practical application in the real world.

“Esther has also made valuable contributions to the local community. She is a founding member of Archaeology Shetland and has been an active participant in a self-support group for Shetland-based postgraduate research students.”

A passion for presenting archaeology

Speaking about her award, Esther said: “I am so pleased to be recognised by the university, it has been a long journey but very worthwhile - the rural campuses and virtual learning environment enabled me to pursue my passion for presenting archaeology whilst also living in my dream location, working and raising a young family. My long suffering family also deserve a mention here, without their wholehearted support none of this would have been possible.”

Professor Clive Mulholland, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of the Highlands and Islands, said: “I’m delighted that Esther has been selected as our Postgraduate Student of the Year. She has shown incredible commitment over a decade of study and has made important contributions to both her field of study and her community.

“Esther’s story is a shining example of how our university can provide students with opportunities to conduct cutting-edge research within their local communities in subjects inspired by the people, environment, economy, culture and heritage of the Highlands and Islands.”

Esther was presented with a certificate and a cheque for £100 at the Shetland College UHI graduation ceremony on Friday 22 September. She has now taken up a communications role with the Shetland Arts Development Agency.

For more on the University of the Highlands & Islands, visit their website.

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