In the 30 years between these two pictures, Lynne Mckenna has changed her own life – and thousands of others.

The University of Sunderland professor is a shining example of how hard work, passion and a ‘never-say-die’ attitude can help you achieve your dreams.

In a career spanning three decades Professor Mckenna has become a leading figure in the education system.

But it all started back in 1987….

A mature student, aged 24, Lynne arrived at the University – then Sunderland Polytechnic – to embark on an Education degree full of hopes and dreams.

She said: “I had wanted to be a teacher from an early age and despite being a ‘clever girl’, I did not have the confidence to take that step when I left school aged 16.

“It was too daunting. I am the first person in my family to go to University and it just seemed to be something too far out of reach for me at the time.

“The careers teacher at school had also told my mother that as I was ‘not very good at maths’, I would never be a teacher.

“The next thing I knew I was in Monkwearmouth Hall at what was then Monkwearmouth College, sitting an entrance exam for their Nursery Nurse course. I didn’t even know what a nursery nurse was.”

Lynne had worked in various schools in South Tyneside from the age of 18 as a nursery nurse but her hopes of becoming a teacher has always been there.

At the age of 23, she decided to take control and enrolled on an Access course at South Tyneside College, attending two evenings a week while working full time as a nursery nurse. She also enrolled on a GCSE Maths course and successfully passed four Access modules and her GCSE Maths in June 1987.

And so off to Sunderland she went.

Lynne said: “I qualified as a teacher on the 28 June 1991. Fast forward to 2021, 30 years later and here I am.”

Today, Lynne is a professor and Dean of the Faculty of Education and Society in the institution where it her career began.

She added: “I returned to the University of Sunderland in 2015 as Head of School of Education and successfully applied for the role of Dean in March 2018. Seeing my name plate ‘Professor Lynne McKenna, Dean of Faculty of Education and Society’ on my office door was one of the most surreal yet rewarding experiences of my working life.

“To be Dean in the University which set me off on my career path has been, and continues to be amazing. I have studied at three of our North East Universities. I have achieved a Masters at Newcastle University and have a doctorate from Durham University. I am a Dean and a Professor and none of it would have been possible or thinkable without the excellent start I had at Sunderland Polytechnic.

“I’m very proud to work at an institution which places widening participation, inclusion, diversity and social mobility at the forefront of its intentions.

“I share my story where I can, at WomenEd events, with staff aspiring to leadership positions, at Open Day talks, student inductions and at celebrations and graduations.

“I share my story because it is important. I believe that you have got to see it to be it. The University of Sunderland truly is a ‘life changing’ institution………………and as for not ‘being very good at maths’, I passed my GCSE Maths aged 24 at the first time of sitting! You can do anything if you set your mind to it.”