Eve Grisenthwaite always wanted to get a degree, but didn’t learn well in a traditional classroom environment. Now, with an Open University degree under her belt, she wants to encourage others like her to try OU study which she says became a lifestyle for her.
Her learning now aids her in her career every day, and helps her unlock potential in the team around her.
Having not enjoyed school or college, Eve knew from an early age that a traditional brick university wouldn’t be for her. So, when she was 23, she decided to enrol with the OU Business School (OUBS) for a BA (Hons) in Leadership and Management, studying alongside her full-time job. Now she’s keen to share with others like her that OU study could change their lives.
“During my time at school and college I discovered that I preferred to learn in a more practical way and was easily distracted in a traditional classroom type setting. So I chose to study with the OU because it allowed me to fulfil my ambition to achieve a degree, while taking a more practical approach to my learning,” she said.
She wasn’t prepared for how much the OU would change her life and approach to learning.
As it turned out, studying with the OU became a lifestyle – I felt that I was a part of something. I wasn’t necessarily expecting this to be the case with distance learning, so it was a pleasant surprise!
“If you’re someone that struggles to learn effectively in a traditional school environment and therefore feel that means you cannot embark on further education, try the OU! You’ll be able to reshape the norms of learning and will be well supported throughout your studies by the central OU teams, your tutors, fellow students and by the flexible nature of distance learning with the OU. I’ve studied on holiday on the beach – you can too!”
Eve says she regularly uses skills learnt during her degree in the workplace.
“I utilise key learning from my studies often, such as a SWOT analysis to aid communication during presentations. But I apply my greatest learning as a manager,” she said.
“Studying Leadership and Management with the OU enabled me to understand how to unlock the potential in people, encouraging them to better themselves by developing their professional skills and personal confidence.
“A huge part of my job satisfaction comes from empowering and supporting others to achieve their personal and professional goals.”
Working for a large, global consultancy company, Eve leads a UK-based team which ensures the organisation remains compliant with regulations – a role which she entered part-way through her studies.
She said: “At times it was challenging to juggle a full-time job with my study and life in general. In fact, the main challenge throughout was managing the workload alongside working full-time, particularly as I chose to embark on a significant career change part-way through my six and a half years of study.”
Previously, Eve had been working in materials testing in the engineering sector as a Sales Office Manager. This change in career left her facing a steep learning curve in her work, in addition to taking on numerous training courses – which meant her time management skills had to be in excellent shape in order to fit in her studies.
She said: “I had to be strict with compartmentalising different aspects of my life. I’d finish my work day, take a break for some dinner and then study for three to five hours each evening. I tried to keep my study within my working week (Monday to Friday) which would allow me time on the weekends to have a break or for other activities. This also gave me a fall back for the times when I needed to commit more time to OU work. Planning ahead in all aspects of my life and using a diary to do this was absolutely invaluable.
“My tutors were consistently supportive and understanding which allowed me to manage my study effectively and achieve excellent grades even when life was trying to get in the way. I have always been strongly encouraged to continue with my studies, both by my existing and previous employers.
Building my knowledge and skills through study helped me to feel confident that I had more to give. This meant I could push myself career-wise.
“I’ve been asked several times whether I would choose the same route if I had the opportunity to travel back in time and do it all again. The answer is that I most certainly would, and I think that says a lot!”
Her hard work was rewarded with a Student of the Year Award 2020 from the OUBS.
From the moment Eve enrolled with the OU, she added her study to her CV, something which she says has attracted prospective employers from the outset.
“Adding my OU study to my CV as soon as I began my degree is something that has been regularly acknowledged by prospective employers,” she said.
“I believe that even before achieving the formal qualification, the very fact that I was committed to my own personal development and learning demonstrated my ambition and determination to prospective employers.
“And on numerous occasions, colleagues have remarked on how much commitment is required to undertake part-time distance learning, especially to achieve a degree.”
To anyone thinking of studying with the OU, Eve would say: “Be prepared to work hard, as you’ll get out of your studies what you put in.
“You should also seek every opportunity to apply your studies and learning. I achieved my best understanding (and marks) where I had truly applied my studies to real world situations. These don’t need to be complicated situations; often the simplest ones allow for the greatest depth of application and learning.
“I believe that my studies with the OU have equipped me well to take a more reflective approach to day-to-day life, both in a professional and personal environment. I see challenges in both environments as opportunities to learn by reflecting on how the situation has come to exist and how best to resolve it.”
Now, alongside her day job, Eve is volunteering with a professional association in a mentoring role. She said: “I support the association’s members with their own personal and professional development. I’ve been encouraged by my own experience with the OU to assist in affording learning and development opportunities to those who may feel that a traditional classroom environment is not best suited to their learning needs.”