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One family’s journey: Parents and three children graduate from the University of London

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Proud parents and UoL alumni Cleveland and Yvonne Stanberry travelled to London in April 2024 to watch their three children graduate at the same time.

UoL Graduates with their parents

Graduation ceremonies are always a family affair, but the Stanberrys have taken it to a whole new level.   

Earlier this year, Yvonne and Cleveland Stanberry, 54 and 59, proudly watched as their three children, Clive-Anthony and twins Antoinette and Samantha, received their diplomas – having walked across that very same stage themselves years earlier.  

It was an unforgettable moment. “It was beautiful. I never expected to see something like this. All of them all at once walked across the stage. It was a tremendously wonderful experience. I don't have words to describe it,” says Yvonne.   

"We attended the University of London much later in life”

The couple, who were first featured in the summer 2016 issue of the University’s alumni magazine WC1E, were interviewed by Lisa Pierre who documented their initial journey with the University's international programme. The couple first met in Toronto in 1991 and got married a few years later.

“Life wasn't as rosy as it normally would have been,” says Cleveland about the personal challenges the family encountered along the way, such as illnesses.   

In their forties, the couple pursued distance learning from their home in Canada, enrolling with the University of London.  

Now working as a technology delivery lead, driving data science projects, Cleveland had hoped to study computer science back in 1984 while living in Clarendon, Jamaica, but was forced to defer his application for financial reasons, eventually passing up his place and migrating to Canada in the early 1990s.   

“Then, I started a computer science degree in Canada, but I got sick and could not finish the degree and life happened. We had our first son and years later, I said to Yvonne: ‘I need to go back to school’.   

“That’s when I found the University of London’s distance learning programme.”  

The BSc in Business Administration allowed Cleveland to keep his job as an IT engineer and study at the same time. Travelling frequently for work, he could fit his studies around his busy schedule. "I said to Yvonne, ‘I can study wherever I am on the plane, which I've done many times, in a hotel room, at home, early in the mornings, late at night, you name it.”  

Cleveland, who was awarded his BSc in 2012 and achieved an MBA in 2015, says his education allowed him to bridge the gap between technical skills and business strategy, unlocking new opportunities.  

Co-publishing a paper with his MBA dissertation supervisor Professor Harindranath and exploring how the use of cloud computing relates to business strategy, has boosted his career. “I owe him a debt of gratitude,” says Cleveland about his mentor, who lectures on Information Systems.  

“It has helped me tremendously. I've pivoted from being a pure technical person and was recruited into roles that now involve both technology and business. As a result, I’m very often in discussions with the chief information officer, the director of finance, as well as the chief operating officer.”  

Balancing my studies with being a full-time carer and parent

Cleveland’s experience encouraged Yvonne to take up a BSc in Sociology, after an eight-year career break due to caring responsibilities. She had been working for Canada’s largest cellular antenna development group when she made the decision to quit in 2003 following the birth of her daughters.  

Within a week of her decision, one of her daughters was hospitalised with a life-threatening disease called severe acute aplastic anaemia.   

“It's like cancer. It presents itself like leukaemia. So, because of that reason, Yvonne was home. But our daughter was recovering well enough that Yvonne wasn't at the hospital every other day like she usually was,” says Cleveland.   

Yvonne had an interest in education and volunteered at a local school to help pupils with reading challenges. Studying sociology helped deepen her understanding of different human environments.  

She has since founded her own tutoring company, an achievement she partly attributes to her degree. "Not all children I can approach in the same way. Because of the social constructs in their environment, I know how to cater to them and get them interested and willing to learn. The sociology course was amazing,” she says.   

The distance learning format meant she could juggle her multiple responsibilities. “During the day when the children were at school I would study. A couple of days during that week I would also volunteer in the school teaching children how to read, and so once the children are at home in the evenings and weekends, I am mummy and a wife, no books.”  

Passing the parcel

As UoL alumni, Yvonne and Cleveland both reaped the benefits of their degrees, but they never planned for their children to study at the University of London and graduate together.  “This all started in 2009, when the children saw me studying for my degree and Yvonne started her BSc in sociology in 2012,” recalls Cleveland.   

“When it was time for them to choose universities, they looked at universities all over the world, and then this happened.”   

All three children studied while working as lifeguards and in other roles.  

Their son Clive-Anthony chose to deepen his interest in artificial intelligence, with an MSc  in Data Science in 2022 and a BSc in Mathematics and Economics in 2019. He now works with the National Football League in the United States as a data quality engineer. “The degree has helped him tremendously,” says Cleveland.  

Antoinette, who had a similar interest in data science, pursued the BSc in Computer Science and Data Science, one of the very first undergraduate programmes in both subjects, which has helped boost her career. “In fact, one of her jobs is to write curriculums on Artificial Intelligence for high school and middle school children,” reveals Cleveland. “She teaches robotics today.”  

Meanwhile, Samantha, whose father says “had wanted to do law since she was in grade five”, took on the University’s long-running LLB Bachelor of Laws, a degree dating back to the 1890s and widely sought after by employers. Currently working as a law clerk, she has applied for a postgraduate degree as a pathway to passing the Bar in Ontario, Canada.  

While Samantha and Antoinette both completed their degrees in 2023 – attending their graduation ceremony in April 2024 – Clive-Anthony was able to further defer his graduation ceremony, which had been delayed during the Covid-19 pandemic, so he could celebrate  with his sisters.   

They were joined on the big day by their parents and Yvonne’s mother Pauline, who also travelled from Canada. "It still hasn't sunk in very well yet. It was a surprise that this has happened to our family,” says Cleveland. 

UoL Graduates with their parent