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INDEPENDENT THINKING The University College Cork Magazine 2018

CAN DO, WILL DO How rising star Stefanie Preissner dedicates herself to the craft of writing


Inside… FEATURES

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A University Connected Professor O’Shea welcomes a new academic year and the potential of collaboration in a connected university

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Queen Bee We speak to UCC and IGNITE graduate Fiona Edwards Murphy on the success of her beehive tech company

Moody Clues APC professors John Cryan and Ted Dinan discuss how our gut affects our anxiety levels

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Answering the Call After 20 years in emergency nursing, Dr Patrick Cotter discusses his vocation and role in the community

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Active Citizen Quercus scholar and social entrepreneur Emily Duffy on the inspiration behind her invention, The Duffily Bag

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Facing the Music UCC’s outgoing Traditional Artist in Residence, Colin Dunne, on his passion for his craft

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Top of the Class Star writer Stefanie Preissner says UCC was the right place at the right time for her

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Leading the Charge New Students’ Union President Alan Hayes reveals what motivates him in his new role

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Teanga Bheo UCC celebrates Bliain na Gaeilge 2018, the official year of the Irish language

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Steel Determination Susan Steele, Chair of the SFPA, on how a love for the sea sparked a fascinating career

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A Decade Down After marking its first 10 years, UCC’s LGBT Staff Network looks ambitiously ahead to the next 10

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Scratching the Surface We talk to Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health, Jonathan Hourihane, about his life-changing child allergy research

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Forward Thinker UCC’s recently appointed Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Rob Donelson, shares his plans for the future

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Just What the Doctor Ordered Professor Ivan Perry charts the evolution of UCC’s newly established School of Public Health

REGULAR FEATURES 30

Weddings

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Alumni Reunions

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Alumni Achievement Awards

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Keep in Touch

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Spotlight on Sport

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INDEPENDENT Thinking EDITOR-IN-CHIEF Nancy Hawkes COMMISSIONING EDITOR Jane Haynes EDITORIAL ADVISOR

Dedication

Margaret Jennings DIGITAL EDITOR Denis Twomey DEVELOPMENT AND ALUMNI ADVISORS Patricia Finucane · Aideen Hogan Karen Kelly · Kate McSweeney DISTRIBUTION Geraldine Taylor DESIGN Vermillion Design Consultants www.vermilliondesign.com COVER Stefanie Preissner (Photography: Clare Keogh) PRINTER City Print, Cork EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES AND COMMENTS Nancy Hawkes T: 00 353 (0)21 4902812 E: editor@ucc.ie

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9 Data Protection Statement: The Development and Alumni Office of University College Cork (UCC) maintains an alumni database which includes personal information such as name, address, telephone number, and qualification obtained. This data will be used to keep you informed about various university and alumni events and development activities at UCC. We will also inform you from time to time about opportunities to support these activities. Any information you provide to the Development and Alumni Office will be held securely and confidentially and processed in accordance with the Data Protection Acts 1988and UCC’s Data Protection Policy (http://www.ucc.ie/en/ocla/comp/data/dataprotection/). The Development and Alumni Office will make every effort to ensure that any information we hold about you is accurate and up-to-date, but would appreciate your help in informing us of any changes by contacting the Development and Alumni Office, UCC, 5 Brighton Villas, Western Road, Cork, Ireland. Email: alumni@ucc.ie. Full details of how we process your personal data and your rights under the Data Protection Acts are outlined in UCC’s Alumni and Supporters Data Protection Notice: https://www.ucc.ie/en/gdpr/ dataprotectionnotice/alumniandsupportersdataprotectionnotice/ If you no longer wish to receive information on the aforementioned opportunities, please contact the Development and Alumni Office, UCC at the address above.

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T Investing in the spark Infheistiú sa splanc

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here is an old Irish term that, much like the Ogham stones that still dot our rolling green fields, has weathered centuries of change to survive today as a symbol of the bedrock of our society: meitheal. At this time of year, as the days grew shorter, our ancestors would engage in the ancient rural custom of meitheal: helping one another during harvest time, working together to prepare for the uncertainty of winter for the greater good of the community. Learning from our past, we are building for our future. The spirit of meitheal lives on in Irish society today and also at our University, just as vividly as the ogham stones lining the North Wing corridor, and it is that idea of collective opportunity which springs to mind as we look ahead to the coming academic year. For, amid the uncertainty of global events such as Brexit, Ireland is being pushed to rethink its role in Europe, and beyond. No longer are we an island at the edge of Europe, but a land of opportunity as a connected university right in its centre – and UCC has a crucial role to play. Acting locally but, increasingly, developing our ideas internationally, UCC is swiftly becoming an enabler for the cultural and economic life of peoples and communities that are increasingly global in nature. With Ireland emerging as the leading country for food security – a key issue facing society the world over – this is an important time for Cork and, specifically, UCC. As a university whose walls were constructed during the Great Irish Famine and which hosted the

National Famine Commemoration in May, and now housing a newlyestablished Food Institute, our role is to combine the lessons of our history along with our scholarship, to help the world to help itself. A great university is one that strives towards contributing to society; for every member of the community – students, alumni and staff – to use their scholarship to make a positive impact, collectively. From the ground-breaking research on ‘psychobiotics’ by scientists at our Science Foundation Ireland APC Microbiome Institute, to the establishment of a dedicated Food Institute, right across to our award-winning sustainable practices – having impact on all we investigate, from the blade of grass to the synapse of the brain. Our successes are grounded in collaboration and connectivity across boundaries – a transdisciplinary approach to problem-solving that allows the seeds of our ideas to flourish. I like to say that nobody ever got a complete education in a classroom. In keeping with being a connected university, we will centre our new approach to education on a connected curriculum. By combining learning, teaching, creative scholarship and practice, and by establishing and nurturing a strong root system inside and outside the university, we will build for the future to achieve our shared ambitions. At such times of great change or uncertainty, let the focus shift to the seed of possibility, the spark of potential. And let us invest in that spark, working together in the community, of the community, and for the community.


PRESIDENT’S LETTER

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á téarma ársa sa Ghaeilge, ar nós na gCloch Oghaim atá le feiscint go fóill inár bpáirceanna breátha glasa, atá tar éis na céadta bliain de chlaochló a sheasamh agus maireann siad go fóill mar chomharthaí de bhunchloch ár sochaí agus is é an téarma sin ná: an mheitheal. I dtráth seo na bliana agus na laethanta ag dul i ngiorracht, thagadh ár sinsir le chéile le linn an fhómhair, ag obair as lámha a chéile agus iad ag cóiriú do neamhchinnteacht an gheimhridh agus iad ag feidhmiú ar mhaithe leis an bpobal i gcoitinne. Trí bheith ag foghlaim ón am atá caite, táimid ag tógáil don todhchaí. Maireann dúchas na meithile i sochaí na hÉireann go fóill agus maireann sé inár nOllscoil féin, chomh soiléir céanna leis na clocha Oghaim atá le feiscint i ndorchla an Sciatháin Thuaidh. Is í an tuairim a ritheann linn ná go bhfuil deis chomhchoiteann againn agus sinn ag féachaint chun cinn ar an mbliain nua acadúil. I lár na héiginnteachta a eascraíonn ó imeachtaí domhanda ar nós an Bhreatimeachta, tá ar Éire athmhachnamh a dhéanamh ar a ról san Eoraip agus sa domhan. Ní oileán sinn atá scoite amach ar imeall na hEorpa níos mó, is amhlaidh gurb ionann sinn agus lárionad deiseanna mar

ollscoil nasctha atá istigh i gcroílár an aonaigh. Feidhmíonn an ollscoil seo go háitiúil gan dabht, ach táimid de shíor ag forbairt ár dtuairimí go hidirnáisiúnta. Tá Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh ag neartú go mear mar chumasóir do shaol cultúrtha agus eacnamúil daoine agus pobail atá iad féin ag éirí níos idirnáisiúnta. Tá Éire ag teacht chun cinn mar thír cheannródaíochta maidir le slándáil bia – ceist mhór ar fud na cruinne – am cinniúnach is ea é seo do Chorcaigh agus go háirithe do Choláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh. Ag cuimhneamh dúinn gur tógadh fallaí na hollscoile seo le linn an Ghorta Mhóir, gur san ollscoil seo a bhí Comóradh Náisiúnta an Ghorta Mhóir i mí na Bealtaine agus gur san ollscoil seo anois atá Institiúid nua-bhunaithe an Bhia, is é ár ról ná ceachtanna ónár stair a chumasc leis an léann ar shlí gur féidir linn cabhrú leis an ndomhan cabhrú leis féin. Tapaíonn sár-ollscoil gach deis cur leis an sochaí; is é sin go mbeadh tionchar dearfach ag gach ball de phobal na hollscoile – mic léinn, alumni agus foireann – de thoradh a scoláireacht chomhchoiteann. Ón dtaighde ceannródaíoch ‘síocóbhitheach’ atá ar bun ag ár n-eolaithe in Institiúid Micri-bhithóm APC de chuid Fhondúireacht Eolaíochta Éireann go dtí bunú tiomnaithe Institiúide an Bhia agus ár

ngníomhaiochtaí ar fad, fiú ár gcleachtais inbhuanaithe – a mbíonn tionchar acu ar an uile iniúchadh a dheinimid, ón mbrobh féir go dtí an sionapsa ar an inchinn. Tá an rath atá ar ár n-éachtaí uile fréamhaithe sa chomhshaothar agus sa nascacht a thrasnaíonn teorainneacha; an cur chuige trasdhisciplíneach a réitíonn fadhbanna agus a chuireann borradh ar shíolta ár dtuairimí. Is nós liom a rá nach bhfuair éinne oideachas iomlán sa tseomra ranga amháin. Ag cloí lenár mian bheith mar ollscoil nasctha, díreoimid ár gcur chuige nua ar churaclam nasctha. Trí fhoghlaim, teagasc, scoláireacht agus cleachtas cruthaitheach a chur le chéile, agus trí chóras láidir fréamhacha a bhunú agus a chothú laistigh agus lasmuigh den ollscoil,beimid ag tógáil don todhchaí agus dár mianta coiteanna. In am seo na mór-athruithe agus na héiginnteachta, aistrímis an bhéim i dtreo síol na féidearthachta, splanc na hacmhainneachta. Déantar infheistiú sa splanc sin, agus oibrímis as lámha a chéile sa phobal, den bpobal agus ar son an phobail.

An tOllamh Patrick G. O’Shea Uachtarán, Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh INDEPENDENT Thinking  5


GAME-CHANGING RESEARCH

It’s not just a gut feeling UCC professors John Cryan and Ted Dinan, whose headlining scientific research has shown a link between bacteria in the gut and mood, tell Margaret Jennings that it’s all about diversity in the diet – so it’s OK to have the odd apple pie.

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ll guilt I’d felt at treating myself to a large scone slathered thickly with butter, before I met UCC professors John Cryan and Ted Dinan, dissolves not long into our conversation. The two academics are superstars in the whole area of gut health, after their groundOpposite page: John Cryan (left) breaking research proved that the trillions of and Ted Dinan have set us all thinking about how mood and bacteria living in our digestive system - the mental illness could be linked to microbiota – can push through the brain barrier what’s going on in our gut. (Photography: Gerard McCarthy) to affect our moods. Having coined the phrase psychobiotics, they believe that soon doctors will be able to treat certain forms of depression and anxiety with good WITH ALMOST 20 bacteria, or what will effectively be YEARS IN AGE probiotics for the brain. And they argue that lifestyle BETWEEN THEM, choices, in particular what we eat, as well as other factors like JOHN AND TED WERE antibiotics, can have a huge DRAWN TOGETHER influence on those microbes and in turn, our emotional state. INITIALLY BY THEIR So that sugar-laden scone wasn’t doing too much damage to INTEREST IN STRESS my microbes , it turns out, as long AND ALSO IRRITABLE as I have a diverse healthy diet otherwise, says Ted, who is head of BOWEL SYNDROME the psychiatry department, in addition to running a clinical (IBS) WHICH IS LINKED practice at Cork University Hospital. TO ANXIETY “I have a TERRIBLE sweet tooth – as John will tell you,” he says, AND DEPRESSION. smiling broadly in the direction of his research companion. 6  INDEPENDENT Thinking

John, who is Chair of the Department of Anatomy and Neuroscience, has worked with him for over a decade, both of them Principal Investigators at the university’s APC Microbiome Ireland, where they have been funded by Science Foundation Ireland. “I do keep it in reasonable moderation ... I mean, I did have a few small apple pies this morning ... in the middle of my clinic,” he laughs. “But apart from that, I would consider myself having a pretty healthy diet. The only way to maintain diversity in our microbiota is to maintain diversity in our diet. I mean, if the only thing I ate was pie, I wouldn’t have a very good microbiota!” As a 10-mile-a-day runner, Ted is no doubt balancing his microbiota with healthy exercise as well, John points out. “Like, Ted had multiple apple pies this morning and not a pick on him. If I had them I’m sure I would put on weight immediately,” he quips. “When you throw in the influences of weight, metabolism and activity – like Ted will have a run, I won’t - there is an individual aspect, and we feel the microbiome is really precision medicine at its utmost, that it has the potential to be, that we can tailor what’s going on eventually.” For sceptics who question how our microbes could affect our mood and behaviour, they might just need a good dose of food poisoning to convince them. “No one has any problem with the realisation that if you get food poisoning, for instance, which is caused by a bacterium in your food – salmonella – it makes you sick and changes how you behave and how you feel,” says John. “So from an evolutionary perspective, why can’t the same pathways that are being used in these behaviour changes – driven by a microbe – be hijacked for positive effects, not just bad effects?” What the UCC researchers – true examples of independent thinkers – have done is create that paradigm shift in thinking about mood and the treatment of mental illness, through what’s


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GAME-CHANGING RESEARCH

going on in the gut, and launched both themselves and the university onto the world stage. Research they carried out for instance with some clinically depressed patients who were at the severe end of the spectrum, at Ted’s CUH clinic, showed they had less diversity in the microbiota in their gut than people who are not depressed. “And then we did a transplant,” continues Ted. “And we looked at their microbiota, and it was definitely different to what you’d expect. We then gave rats, by faecal • John Cryan and Ted Dinan pose transplant, a humanised microbiota from healthy in front of the Flame sculpture, individuals and when that happened nothing commissioned in recognition of the altruism of those who donate changed; their behaviour was normal, their their bodies for medical education biochemistry normal and immunology normal. and research. “But lo and behold, we certainly didn’t anticipate it – when they got a transplant from the depressed patients, their behaviour became depressed like them.” As is the case throughout our discussion, the two men rhythmically dip in and out of each other’s narratives, sharing the ebb and flow of their research journey. So John adds: “Now the conundrum we have is: ‘What is that? What is driving it?’ What could it be?’ But it’s probably down to these molecules that these bacteria are making and that are driving it.” Moving forward, one of their challenges is to “join all the dots up”, as John says. “We need to get at the pathways there in terms of neurotransmitters, different nerves, the immune system – find out Did you know? which are at play and in what It is well established that situations and how can we hijack a Mediterranean diet is good them to actually produce things. for your heart, but according “And the second big question to Professors Cryan and Dinan, it we have is in clinical translation. We could also be pivotal in improving want to get to a stage where we your mood. Such a diet – rich in could do intervention studies in fibre, fresh fruit and people with chronic illness. So we vegetables, lean meats and fish – are quite excited.” promotes a diverse Their recent best-selling book microbiota, which in turn has been The Psychobiotic Revolution, has shown to boost your mood. reached an audience far beyond the world of scientific conferences 8  INDEPENDENT Thinking

where both men are in big demand. It is an additional platform and an interesting title. “Yea,” says John. “With the book we really wanted to have a – no pun intended – digestible piece, backed by scientific rigour. We wanted to highlight this journey and where it’s going and it is a revolution – the beginning of a revolution.” Neither would have guessed they would have been the flag-bearers for this revolution over a decade ago. With almost 20 years in age between them – Ted 63 and John 45, they were both drawn together initially by their interest in stress and also Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) which is linked to anxiety and depression. It was in the 70s that Ted, then a medical student and a lover of motorbikes (still to this day), used to “ride out the straight road in Cork and look up at the big asylum there” and wonder about the large population of patients with schizophrenia within. That’s what drew him to his field. John, who started off as a student of basic science and biology was “totally fascinated by the brain”. Now of course, he is working with the so-called “second brain” of the microbiome. It’s been a wonderful journey for them, they both nod in agreement. And they’ve been accompanied on that journey by a bunch of colleagues who help make it all possible. “Ted and I sit here every Friday with our APC colleagues and talk to these wonderful people who know nothing about the brain but they know a lot about the microbes, so we have this really interdisciplinary field.” “Yes,” says Ted. “It is the multidisciplinary aspect of the whole thing that drives innovation. If you have people who are just in a single mindset, they are not going to make the same strides as people who are challenging you – coming from a completely different background.” UCC should be really proud of the ability to put these people from different backgrounds together and in each of these fields to have success stories, they agree. John and Ted’s book (with Scott C. Anderson), The Psychobiotic Revolution: Mood, Food and the New Science of the Gut-Brain Connection, is now available from all good bookshops. To find out more about their work, please visit www.psychobiotic-revolution.com.


Active Citizen

QUERCUS SCHOLARSHIPS

Emily Duffy, inventor of the Duffily Bag, is tackling the homeless crisis head-on. In conversation with Jane Haynes

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yself and some of my friends decided that we were going to fundraise for a charity, and then we picked homelessness because it was coming towards winter. When I read the statistics and saw there was an estimated 5,000 people homeless in Ireland at any one point, it just blew my mind about what I thought was going on in my country – and how it was not what I thought it was, at all. I focused my BT Young Scientist project on homelessness and, more specifically, people sleeping rough on the streets. I wanted to do things

to give them the support that they need, and then we need to be able to empower them to help integrate themselves into working life. That was one of the main reasons why I loved working with the Mendicity Institute, because they provide homeless people with meals. They took on my workshop, and through that we employed up to 20 homeless people; they were also looking to provide them with free mental health services. In the last three years, three of the initial seven homeless people I worked with have gone on to full-time employment and permanent accommodation. It’s incredible to know that what one person is doing can have effects on so many others. I think the

are trying hard to be seen as humans and equals. For me, being a Quercus scholar, especially for Active Citizenship, shows that what I’m doing is being seen and heard. That is amazing; to be able to prove to people that, yes – what you’re doing is important and to be able to have that kind of support. I don’t think there’s another university out there that would recognise what we’re doing I know that I want to make this global, because homelessness isn’t just a problem here – it’s a universal problem. So, it’s not just going to stop here – it’s going to continue, it’s going to keep growing, because it needs to be done. I know that what I’m doing is a temporary solution to a long-lasting problem, but I will do other things. I have so many plans, so many ideas. • Emily created the all-weather Duffily Bag for people sleeping rough on the streets (Photography: Clare Keogh)

that would alleviate the problems that I knew of, and I just tried to come up with a simple solution to work around that. Homelessness is a three-dimensional issue. There are so many underlying factors, that we haven’t even scratched the surface of what needs to be done. We need to be able to help to rehabilitate people. We need to be able

more that I do this, and the better I become at running the business, the more positive stories I can share with the world. It proves to people that being homeless isn’t just being on the streets, living on handouts; these people really

To find out more about the Quercus Scholarships, visit www.ucc.ie/en/quercus INDEPENDENT Thinking  9


COVER STORY

Write on Top: Writer Stefanie is stealing the spotlight

Fresh from the success of her hit show Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, writer and UCC graduate Stefanie Preissner tells Mike Ryan about her rise from uncertain drama student to one of the most prolific artists  of her generation.


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riting is serious business. sailing. People are starting to realise this “I’m a home-bird, like. I wanted to stay as fact more and more. Whether it’s close to home as possible, so it was always the latest Marvel superhero going to be UCC,” she confesses. “I loved the blockbuster, hit reboot of a long-dead TV show, Drama and Theatre Studies course, and I loved or YA vampire fan-fiction-turned-eroticthe campus at UCC – it’s beautiful. But I found romance novel, every new worldwide craze, college quite stressful; I was a boat just adrift, across every platform and genre, is built around you know?” the written word. It’s said that in writing, and in life, “form With an internationally toured one-woman rescues content”. For many first-year students, play, a documentary series, two seasons of her the sudden freedom of university-life is more hit TV show, multiple TV pilots in development disorientating than liberating. Much is unknown. in both the UK and the US, and her second book It is a period of a young adult’s life without due to come out in early 2019, few would doubt form. There is no instruction manual for the claim that Stefanie Preissner is one of the Freshers’ Week. Luckily for Stefanie, being close most prolific writers of her generation. Although to the home shores of Mallow – combined with now firmly settled in Dublin, she the experience and reflects on Cork life while understanding of UCC’s staff – “TO ANYONE spending some rare downtime was enough to right the ship. back at home with her mother. “I think, had I not been in UCC, WHO’S GOING “When you’re from Mallow, I probably would have dropped people who are from Cork tell out of university. It was the best TO ROLL THEIR you you’re not from Cork. You’d place that I could be. There were EYES AT ME say ‘I’m from Cork’ and they’d say a lot of supports in place and I ‘you’re not from Cork, you’re from was close to home, and I could BECAUSE I SAY Mallow’. It’ll always be where I’m get involved with different from, like,” she insists, without the things, but in another university I THAT I’M AN slightest falter in her Cork accent. may have been just that much ARTIST, I CAN Surprisingly, growing up she more overwhelmed.” never really even considered Once there, however, Stefanie SHOW THEM MY writing as a possible thrived in her drama classes and career choice. “I thought that began to seek out like-minded DEGREE.” you had to be really good at theatre-makers and mentors. English in school to be a writer,” “Ger Fitzgibbon was the head she admits. of the Drama department. He was a very “I thought you had to write poems about sensible man, and he had a briefcase – and I mountains and know adjectives, and I don’t do knew that that was ... good,” she states any of that. I thought you had to know how to definitively, a wry smile flashing across her face. use the word ‘dappled’ and be impressed with “It made me feel safe, because I knew that if ponds. I didn’t like wildlife, and I didn’t like it all went south, I was doing a course where it being in nature. I liked being in the swimming was being run by a man with a briefcase. Other pool, surrounded by chlorine, or else in front of lecturers were asking us to take our shoes and the television with Coco Pops. It wasn’t until socks off, but Ger made us sit in a circle and transition year that I started in the dramatalk about Brian Friel, which I appreciated.” sphere, in the theatre now called the Amelian With her wicked sharp wit and talent for Theatre, in St Mary’s Secondary School.” crafting gut-laugh-inducing similes, you’d be When it came time for her to leave Mallow forgiven for thinking that this affinity for to explore newfound frontiers and develop seriousness was somewhat out of character; her passion for theatre, she opted for UCC – but for Stefanie, the arts is serious business – just 25 minutes down the road. But even then, something that she learned while earning her adapting to college life was far from smooth degree from UCC, and a feat which she feels INDEPENDENT Thinking  1 1


COVER STORY

gave her a confidence and a platform on which she could grow and develop. “I met Ger, and I met Tom Creed, who were some of the people who formed my early career, and who allowed me to see that this wasn’t just something you did in the evenings after work,” explains Stefanie. “You could have a career in the arts. I went in thinking that the only way I could have a career was to be a drama teacher, and I came out as an artist who had an understanding and a sort of a vindication of their efforts. I am well-equipped to argue a point, I have a lexicon and a language around this industry, and to anyone who’s going to roll their eyes at me because I say that I’m an artist, I can show them my degree.” From UCC, she went on to graduate from Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting and then began writing and acting in her own work. Her critically acclaimed one-woman show, Solpadeine Is My Boyfriend, was a hit at the Dublin Fringe Festival in 2012 and went on to tour internationally. It was after the success of this show that she was approached to write for television, eventually leading to two seasons of the RTE/BBC 3/Netflix smash hit Can’t Cope,

• Former UCC student and successful writer, Stefanie Preisser, takes her job seriously, pictured in the Amelian Theatre in St Mary’s Secondary School, Mallow (Photography: Clare Keogh)

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Won’t Cope. Yet, despite her successes, her feet remain firmly planted in the reality of such objectively momentous achievements. It’s perhaps very telling of her personality that, despite all she’s achieved in the last three years, she still shows no signs of slowing down. Last year, along with writing season two of Can’t Cope, Won’t Cope, she published her first book, Why Can’t Everything Just Stay the Same? Her follow-up, No. It’s A Full Sentence, is due out early next year. She’s also currently developing two TV pilots in the US, and a third in the UK. If her career seems bereft of any of the usual clichéd trappings of a struggling artist, it’s because she approaches her trade with the pragmatism of a government agent in a Kafka novel. “I get up early in the morning and I write, in the quiet, before anyone can interrupt me. For my last book, my publisher said I had to give them 70,000 words in the first draft, so I divvied it up: 2,000 words a day, five days a week, for seven weeks, is 70,000 words. And that’s what I did. I just got up and wrote 2,000 words – that’s not difficult. So I did that five days a week for seven weeks, and then I had the book, and then I sent it in,” she confesses. She is, however, quick to dismiss any fetishisation of hard work. “People think that they’re objectively better people because they get up at four o’clock in the morning, and I think that’s bullshit. Because I think that if you’re not looking after yourself, and you’re driving yourself into the ground, there’s nothing more unattractive than that. I get eight hours’ sleep; I happen to go to bed very early because I’m pretty anti-social, I don’t really like the evenings, and I love the morning time.” Her dedication to her craft might seem intense – bordering on obsessive, even – but for Stefanie, writing is her job; and the effort she puts into each word is warranted if, at the end of the day, somebody is going to facilitate her art by buying her book. “Like, it’s hard work to read a book. It’s actually a big-time commitment – you’re taking a lot of time out of your own life. And if someone’s going to give me their time to read my book, I should be showing up and giving my time to write it.”


STUDENT COMMUNITY

Students’ Union President and Quercus Scholar, Alan Hayes UCC’s new SU President and Director of The Thomas Hayes Trust discusses his excitement for the year ahead and the importance of supporting those in need.

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really think I wouldn’t be where I am if I wasn’t on Quercus. It’s just such a special programme – it’s not like any other, and UCC is the only university that offers an Active Citizenship Scholarship. The main strands have always been sport, academics and musical performance, but a lot of other universities forget about leaders – the people who are taking time out just as much as a sports scholar would be, to make a change. UCC are the only ones recognising this. Music is something that I’ve always been so passionate about. It’s really what got everything started for me. The person who taught me everything was my dad. I was only five years old when he passed, but he taught me loads of songs and I’ve always kept that with me. As I got older, I started to write songs. I had only learned the guitar about six months when I decided to write a song about my mum and how she’s dealt with suicide in the family, and how I look up to her. I wrote that song, and that’s where it snowballed for me. It was called Survivor – it was the one I performed on The Late Late Show.

My mum is my greatest inspiration. I always get emotional thinking of how she was left with four children. Her husband took his life, and she was left with four kids and very little money. She didn’t have a college degree, then she started doing part-time courses while trying to raise the four of us. Now, she’s running the charity every day at home, in Teach Tom, and she’s such a light. She always taught me that once you commit to something, you’re committed – you don’t just pull out. I take that philosophy with me in everything I do now. Even in 20 years’ time, I will hopefully still be Director of The Thomas Hayes Trust. It’s something that I’ll always be involved in and will always try to promote and press on – it’s obviously needed, if there are 70 people a week in Kilkenny availing of the service. It’s not hard to imagine maybe, someday, having another five or six houses around Ireland. I think there’s a need for it. Another thing I would love to focus on with Teach Tom is growing our child play therapy service. Primary schools offer it, but there’s a waiting list and it’s hard to get onto it. So, those people who don’t get onto it come to Teach Tom for free. Instead of looking at intervention, I think it’s easier to prevent problems – teach people about their emotions and how to develop as a person while

experiencing these tough times. It’s important that they know what’s going on when things are happening, rather than being too late and them feeling like they don’t want to be alive anymore. I always feel like what’s meant to be, will be. I think that’s how my life is going to be for the next few years – opportunities will arise for me, and I always feel in my gut whether I should take them or not. I’m certain that I want to work with people, and I want to work maybe in the psychological field. I was looking at doing cognitive behavioural therapy or even social care. I’d love to be a counsellor, as well. I know I’ll be working with people – I don’t know in what form, but I’ll be working in whatever way I can to make a difference. To find out more about the Quercus Scholarships, visit www. ucc.ie/en/quercus

• Alan Hayes: “Once I commit to something, I give it everything.” (Photography: Mike Hannon)

INDEPENDENT Thinking  1 3


GAEILGE AGUS CULTÚR NA GAEILGE

Teanga bheo Roinneann an tOllamh Pádraig Ó Macháin a thuairimí linn, go tráthúil agus Bliain na Gaeilge 2018 linn, ar an ról atá ag Coláiste na hOllscoile Corcaigh i gcothú ár gcéad teanga.

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GAEILGE AGUS CULTÚR NA GAEILGE

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íonn ár dteanga le clos chomh minic Maidir leis an nGaeltacht féin de, i bpáirtíocht sin i measc an phobail mhóir ar le Roinn na Gaeltachta deineadh ionad nuamháigh na hollscoile inniu go mba aoiseach foghlama a réiteach i mbliana in áras dhóigh le duine uaireanta, ag taisteal Gaeltachta na hollscoile, Dún Chíomháin, gar do Choláiste na Ollscoile, Corcaigh, dó, gur sa Bhaile an Fheirtéaraigh. I bpáirtíocht le Ghaeltacht a bhí sé. Tá curtha go láidir ag an Comharchumann Forbartha Chorca Dhuibhne, nGaeilge le meon ilteangach na hollscoile, agus beidh an áis seo ar fáil feasta do mhuintir na tá cuid mhaith dá bhuíochas sin ar na háite, do mhic léinn agus d’fhoireann na Gaeltachtaí rathmhara i limistéar na hollscoile, hollscoile, agus dár gcairde agus dár gcéilí léinn agus ar dhul chun cinn na Gaelscolaíochta ar thar lear. Tá freastal á dhéanamh sa Dún cheana fuaid an bhaill. Ina theannta sin, tá misneach féin ar mhic léinn ó ollscoileanna Gearmánacha, nua agus teacht i láthair i bpobal na Gaeilge Rúiseacha agus Meiriceánacha. inniu nár léir tamall de bhlianta ó shin, agus Tá an Dún i lár an aonaigh go háirithe i gcás bonn ceart curtha faoin dteanga ag a seasamh beartaíochta nua atá ag titim amach sa bhliain mar theanga Eorpach agus mar ghnáth-theanga nua acadúil 2018–19. Mic léinn na dara bliana, chumarsáide sna meáin. Tá glúnta ar an saol agus iad ag gabháil don Ghaeilge agus don inniu nach ngnáthaíonn ceann fé ná náire i leith Stair mar chomhchéim, tá an chéad tréimhse na teangan. theagaisc á caitheamh sa Ghaeltacht acu. Faigheann pobal na Comh-pháirtíocht tosaigh í Gaeilge san ollscoil seo idir Roinn na Nualántacaíocht ó Bhord na Ghaeilge agus Scoil na “TÁ GLÚNTA AR Gaeilge (an bord reachtúil a Staire atá ina heiseamláir dheineann cúram den ar an bhfoghlaim sholúbtha, AN SAOL INNIU dteanga i saol mór na agus tá lán-choinne ag NACH NGNÁTHAÍONN hollscoile), ó Ionad na an ollscoil go dtógfar uirthi Gaeilge Labhartha agus ó amach anseo. CEANN FÉ NÁ Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge. Deagh-shampla eile Cuireann cumainn den luach a leagann an NÁIRE I LEITH Ghaelacha na mac léinn – An ollscoil ar thábhacht na NA TEANGAN” Chuallacht agus An Cumann nGaeltachtaí mar láithreacha Drámaíochta – agus Cumann foghlama is ea Gaeltacht na Gaelach na Foirne go mór nDéise, a bhfuil ainm in airde leis sin. Tá oiread líofachta uirthi i gcúrsaí tionsclaíochta agus deathola i measc lucht riartha na hollscoile agus oideachais: cheana féin tá an ollscoil tar i gcoitinne go bhfaigheadh duine, dá mba éis comhdháil mhór a eagrú i Rinn Ó gCuanach, mhian leis sin, a ghnó laethúil go léir a agus tá páirtíocht sheasta bunaithe ann anois dhéanamh gan dua as Gaeilge. sa teagasc fochéime agus iarchéime. Agus Bunghné de mheon agus de phearsantacht béim bhreise á leagaint i gcónaí ag Coláiste na hollscoile, agus den gcaidreamh a bhíonn na hOllscoile, Corcaigh, ar an nGaeilge mar aici ar an bpobal, is ea an Ghaeilge, agus tá chroí na hoidhreachta, tuar ratha don am aitheantas tugtha dó sin i bplean straitéiseach atá le teacht is ea na tograí fónta pobail 2017–2022. Tá sé seo le feiscint go soiléir i agus foghlama seo go léir atá á dtiomáint faoi gcathair Chorcaí féin mar a bhfuil Ionad na láthair ann. Gaeilge Labhartha ag tacú go hiomlán le sruth Gaeilge a bheidh á thabhairt isteach ag Is féidir eolas a fháil faoi chúrsaí, imeachtaí Coláiste Pobail Thraolaigh Mhic Shuibhne an agus thionscadail Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge ag bhliain seo chughainn. www.ucc.ie/en/modern-irish. INDEPENDENT Thinking  1 5


EACHTRAÍ SA GHAELTACHT

Eachtraí sa Ghaeltacht le Ailbhe Ní Ghearbhuigh ‘TÁ AN CULTÚR GAELACH AG MEALLADH CUAIRTEOIRÍ Ó GACH CEARN DEN DOMHAN LE FADA AN LÁ.’

‘N

í mheileann riamh leath-aigne, / Caithfeam dul ionat’ a scríobh an Ríordánach sa dán ‘A Theanga Seo Leath-Liom.’ Éinne atá ag iarraidh cur amach a fháil ar an gcultúr Gaelach, ní mór dul go dtí an tobar, an Ghaeltacht féin. Is ar Ghaeltacht na Rinne a bhíonn mic léinn ón iasacht ag triall do chúrsa seachtaine a bhíonn á reáchtáil ag Roinn na Nua-Ghaeilge, Coláiste na hOllscoile, Corcaigh. Le linn an chúrsa cónaithe seo, faigheann na mic léinn léargas ar theanga agus ar chultúr na Gaeilge. Leagtar béim mhór ar an bhfoghlaim ghníomhach trí cheardlanna agus ranganna beaga bríomhara. Is i gColáiste na Rinne a reáchtáltar an cúrsa, mar a mbíonn lóistín ar fáil dóibh chomh maith. Bíonn deis ag mic léinn blaiseadh a fháil de theanga, ceol, rince, spórt agus oidhreacht na Gaeltachta. Bíonn cuairteoirí chun na tíre seo fiosrach i leith na Gaeilge go minic. Faightear spléachadh di ar chomharthaíocht agus in ainmneacha dílse na ndaoine. Bíonn siad ar bior ag iarraidh triail a bhaint as an bhfoghraíocht agus bíonn meas acu ar stair ársa na teangan. Dírítear ar riachtanais foghlama an ghlantosaitheora sna ranganna teangan gach maidin. Agus roinnt frásaí foghlamtha, tá sé in am an teanga agus na cosa a chur ag obair ag ceardlann rince. Tá traidisiún na amhránaíochta thar a bheith láidir sna Déise agus bíonn sé d’adh ag na mic léinn éisteacht le scoth na n-amhránaithe ar an sean-nós agus triail a bhaint as an stíl ornáideach iad féin. Is

1 6  INDEPENDENT Thinking

féidir leo liú a ligean ar pháirc na himeartha nuair a chuirtear camán ina lámh. Ní fada go dtuigfidh siad an scil, luas agus fisiciúlacht a bhaineann leis an iomáint, cluiche atá á imirt ag na Gaeil leis na cianta. Tá an ceantar máguaird an-saibhir ó thaobh na seandálaíochta de. Ba ar an Aird Mhór a bhunaigh Naomh Déaglán mainistir agus is ann atá túr cruinn ar airde 29 méadair atá ann ón 12ú hAois. Ar an suíomh céanna, tá samplaí sníodóireachta a léiríonn scéalta ón mBíobla. Ní hamháin sin, ach tá dhá chloch Oghaim ann chomh maith. Téann an turas treoraithe ar na séadchomharthaí ársa seo i bhfeidhm go mór ar na mic léinn. Ná cailltear sinn i gceo aislingeach na staire óir is áit í an Ghaeltacht a bhaineann leis an saol iarbhír. Ní mór do na daoine áitiúla slí bheatha a bhaint amach ann. Faightear tuiscint ar eacnamaíocht phobail Ghaeltachta atá ar borradh le tionsclaíocht ar nós Meitheal Trá na Rinne, Criostal na Rinne, Sólás na Mara agus Nemeton. Tá an cultúr Gaelach ag mealladh cuairteoirí ó gach cearn den domhan le fada an lá. Agus is fada go bhfuil na Gaeil ag cur fáilte roimh chuairteoirí, agus ag roinnt a gceol, teanga agus seanchas go fial leo. Is comhrá fiúntach é seo a shaibhríonn lucht cuairte agus muintir na háite araon. Leanann an modúl seo den gcomhrá sin san 21ú Aois, agus meabhraítear dúinn go bhfuil an traidisiún dúchais beo beathach i gcónaí agus teacht air ag cách.


MARINE SUSTAINABILITY

Woman of Steele

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usan Steele’s destiny was sealed at the tender age of three when, driven by her “obsession” with the sea, she mapped out her future as a marine biologist. She promptly learned off the Latin names of every species of seaweed in her native Castletownbere, west Cork, and spent her childhood summers “plaguing” a local fish farmer for work experience. Susan has never been one to do things by halves. She has come a long way from the days of cleaning out fish tanks and saving up her pocket money to take courses on Sherkin Island. Now Chair of Ireland’s Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, Susan’s approach to her career – and life, in general – is proof that anything is possible with passion and determination. Of course, her love of the sea and sense of duty to protect our marine environment has also played a crucial role. “When I went into the interview with the SFPA, I spoke from the heart. During it, I realised that this was the most important job I could ever do,” recalls Susan. “And I remember saying in the interview that this is the most important job in the State. Because if we don’t have sustainable fisheries, and we don’t have safe seafood, then we have nothing to add value to, and we have no reputation.”

• Susan Steele: “My whole life has been about the sea.” (Photography: Clare Keogh)

INDEPENDENT Thinking  1 7


MARINE SUSTAINABILITY

Susan served as an authority member for just six months before she was promoted to Chair. While her career trajectory may sound dizzying, her phenomenal drive in all aspects of her life meant she was primed for the challenge from the word go. Following a stint as a research assistant in Trinity at the age of 17, Susan enrolled as a marine biology undergraduate in Bangor University. While the excitement of hands-on experience on a research vessel had tempted Susan away to North Wales for her degree, Cork’s shores pulled her “WE NEED TO back home for her PhD at the Tyndall National Institute, in UCC. APPRECIATE WHAT Susan’s stint in what was then known as the Lee Maltings was WE HAVE, short but sweet. Within just two BECAUSE IRELAND’S years she had completed her PhD – but she was far from finished COASTAL AREA with education, a lifelong pursuit of hers. “I never stop learning – you IS THE RICHEST can always improve,” says the OF ANY MARINE mother of seven. Indeed, it was the idea of IN EUROPE.” improvement rather than lofty career ambitions that first drew Susan to following up with an MBA. She was teaching fishermen how to grow oysters and bring in fish, through an initiative with Bord Iascaigh Mhara, post-PhD, when she had the lightbulb moment. “I realised that it wasn’t enough – they had to learn to make money out of it, and to do that I needed to be able to teach them, and that’s where the MBA came from,” she explains. “It wasn’t about me going into management;

• Whether in the sea or on land, Susan Steele believes in continually challenging herself.

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it was about being able to teach them how to manage the businesses.” Balancing motherhood, work and life with an MBA is no mean feat, but Susan approached it like she does everything else in her life: with dogged determination and meticulous organisation. Enrolling in a long-distance course with the Open University meant that she could put her kids’ needs first and still attain her qualification – all in the surrounds of her beloved Castletownbere. After putting the kids to bed each night, Susan would crack open the laptop and get down to study. MBA in the bag, She wasn’t about to rest on her laurels, though. Well, we are talking about a woman who used to rise at 3:30 am on weekends to train in mountain running! “When I was on maternity leave, I would do an extra qualification. I did the MBA after Martin was born, then a master’s in Adult Education after Molly. Then, after Nicholas, I did my truck licence, my coach licence and my pilot’s licence.” Where others might see a problem, Susan sees opportunity. A prolific runner with 72 marathons under her belt, Susan’s passion for running began when she got a puncture on her bicycle on the way to work one day. When she couldn’t cycle to the office, she ran; and once she got a taste for running, she didn’t stop. Ascribing to the idea that anyone can train to do a marathon in 14 weeks, Susan drew on that good old Steele determination to complete her first ever race, the Dublin Marathon, while her youngest child was 10 months old. She was still breastfeeding at the time.


MARINE SUSTAINABILITY

“I believe you always have to set a goal. If you don’t set a goal, you don’t have anything to aim towards,” she explains. “So, if you say ‘I’m going to run a marathon in 18 weeks’ then you run three times a week because you’re going to be running a marathon. So, I will always have some kind of a goal.” Marathons swiftly segued into Ironmans, then ultra-marathons – but, again, titles have never been a motivation for Susan. “I always ran for my head. During the first 20 minutes you have all of that stuff going on in your head. Then it stops; and then you hear the streams and the birds. And I just find that, two hours out running – I could be in the worst mood, and I’ll go out and come back happy.” It’s clear that Susan adores being a mother, and her children always take priority. While they played football in the field, she would run in circles around it as training for her next race; and when she had to travel for her MBA exams, they all hopped in the car and made a weekend of it. Of course, behind the ‘woman who does it all’ is a great circle of people, and Susan credits her parents – Norman and Veronica – with not only moulding her into an independent thinker but also being constant supports for both her and her children. Norman is a great ‘listener’ for the kids; while the late, ‘incredible’ Veronica – who referred to herself as a ‘professional granny’ – was always there when Susan needed a helping hand. “Everywhere I went the kids came with me. That was the one thing that really enabled me to do it all – having my mother and this attitude that the kids would come with me,” she explains. Susan’s nurturing instincts certainly extend to her role within the SFPA, and she admits to

feeling “privileged” that her job is making a difference to the future. For her, this is rooted in creating more value for the riches contained in our oceans. “We need to appreciate what we have, because Ireland’s coastal area is the richest of any marine in Europe. We have this incredible resource, and we don’t appreciate it at all anymore,” she says. “The marine has massive potential. There’s the health potential from a diet that’s richer in seaweeds and fish, the health benefits of ‘the blue mind’ – how looking at the sea reduces aggression and makes you feel calmer and happier – and the potential economic benefits of making more out of our fish.” Susan and her cohort are up against some major obstacles, with plastics posing a huge threat to our environment. This issue, Susan believes, requires a government effort of smoking-ban proportions to rectify. “Sometimes we, as a race, stop thinking. We’re so busy rushing around the place that we stop thinking. We lose sight of what’s important, and the plastics are one of many examples of that. We have to put a stop to this,” she says, emphatically. “This will come down to the State looking after its oceans and its pollutions. In the same way that we now have really good protections on our water quality, the plastics will be next.” For now, we can rest assured that, with Susan at the helm, our oceans are in safe hands. To find out more about Susan’s work with the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority, visit www.sfpa.ie.

Did you know? Susan’s mother Veronica is regarded as Ireland’s first farmhouse cheesemaker, creating the much-loved Milleens Cheese in 1976.

INDEPENDENT Thinking  1 9


STAFF COMMUNITY

The times they are a-changin’

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STAFF COMMUNITY

Robert O’Sullivan speaks to members of the LGBT Staff Network at UCC about its origins, what it has achieved during its first 10 years, and how Ireland has changed its perspective on gender and sexuality issues over that decade.

• Some of the members of UCC LGBT Staff Network: (l-r) Barra O Donnabhain, Mary O’Rourke, Laurence Davis, Cathal Kerrigan, Niamh Kavanagh, Joan McCarthy (Photography: Clare Keogh)

I

t was founded in February 2008 with the goal of making UCC a better place for LGBT-identifying staff members. But the launch of the LGBT Staff Network was a far cry from a similar event just 20-odd years before, when a group attempting to form a ‘Gay Society’ for students were rebuffed by the university’s organising bodies and outright prohibited from officially forming, for several years. In the years since then, not only did the university’s mindset change, but so did the nation’s – the most notable change being the decriminalisation of homosexuality in 1993. Cathal Kerrigan, who was present for both of these launches, recalls the welcoming atmosphere they received when founding the Staff Network: “What was really significant for us, as staff members, is that vice-presidents and senior members of university management turned up there to support it. So, in that sense, we weren’t even pushing an open door; the door was opened and we were invited in, and that was really very big, psychologically.” The main aim at that stage was to be a visible and welcoming group for LGBT staff working in the university, and it certainly did that – organising talks, debates and events within the college, as well as social occasions for its members. As time went on, and the Network changed and grew, so did Irish society. The most relevant – and public way – Irish society changed came in 2015 with the civil marriage referendum. The Staff Network took an active role in the campaign, holding a public ‘town hall’ debate in the college, as well as campaigning for a yes vote as a group and as individuals. They did not rest on their laurels, as they campaigned for the repeal of the eighth amendment – with UCC Staff Together for Yes – and they worked on the university’s gender identity and expression policy, which will help trans students and staff in UCC to feel more welcome in the college for years to come. “What we’re trying to do is be mindful and acknowledge the gains which have been made, but also to look forward and keep pushing the boundaries,” says Laurence Davis. The Network, according to its terms of reference, pledges to work with other groups, INDEPENDENT Thinking  2 1


STAFF COMMUNITY

both within the university and outside it. This is followed through with talks and events co-organised with the student-run LGBT Society, but also with groups like GENOVATE – the action research project which focuses on gender equality in research innovation in partner universities, and the Athena SWAN programme, which awards and recognises universities that take an active role in encouraging female academics and researchers in STEM fields. Members of the LGBT Staff Network have been on the steering group for the Athena SWAN efforts in UCC, both as individuals and as representatives of the Network. The intersectional nature of the group is reflected in their efforts to also work on events regarding race, ethnicity, religion and more, providing an LGBT perspective in the relevant field. “Rather than just looking inwards, and saying ‘well, how can this help LGBT people?’ we want to look outwards as well,” says Laurence. “We recognise, as in the “WHETHER IT’S old ‘Industrial Workers of the World’ model, an injury to one is an DIFFERENT MINORITIES injury to all. We recognise that an injury – whether it’s on the grounds OR GROUPS, WE WORK of race, ethnicity, religion or TOGETHER, WE RISE membership of the Travelling Community – that this is an injury TOGETHER, AND WE to all, and I think we’ve tried to be very mindful in developing a broad ROSE TOGETHER WITH base of the equality agenda.” THE SUPPORT OF A LOT Not content with working for people in UCC itself, the UCC LGBT OF PEOPLE IN UCC. Staff Network took an active role in helping other networks to form in THEREFORE, WE other universities. It wasn’t long WANTED TO REACH before they heard the clarion call from people wanting to set up their OUT TO SEE IF WE own networks in their colleges. In the intervening decade, COULD HELP OTHERS.” similar LGBT staff networks have been set up, for instance in Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and NUI Galway. “We researched throughout Ireland, Britain, and America, to see what other networks were like. In the universities where there were some, we made contact with them. We saw it very much as, ‘ar scáth a chéile a 22 INDEPENDENT Thinking

mhaireann na daoine’; we all live in each other’s shadow, we help each other grow,” says Cathal Kerrigan. “Whether it’s different minorities or groups, we work together, we rise together, and we rose together with the support of a lot of people in UCC. Therefore, we wanted to reach out to see if we could help others there,” he adds. It’s clear that no matter how much progress has been attained since February 2008, there are still wrongs to be righted, and work to be done. So, where might the LGBT Staff Network be in 10 years’ time? “I think where this network will be, is fundamentally tied as well to where society at large will be, and connected by that to where the economy will be,” says Mary O’Rourke. “I hope all of us who are in this privileged situation – whether it’s as a staff member or as a student, will contribute to the equality agenda in the broadest sense, including economic and income inequality. “As we’ve seen in other times and in other countries, social reversion and disruption are often triggered by economic crises, and I would be worried that while there may be prosperity, it’s not prosperity for everyone. This is part of something much, much bigger – we may only be doing a little bit, but it’s part of the much bigger jigsaw,” she says. “No one has a crystal ball, we can’t say with any certainty what it will be like in 10 years’ time; and without sounding like a harbinger of doom, I think we have to be vigilant, to try to keep pushing in small ways, and see the interconnectivity in it all,” adds Mary. In the last 10 years we have seen civil marriage being extended to same-sex couples, legal recognition extended to transgender people, a gay son of an immigrant elected Taoiseach, and the country modernised by the people of Ireland – in the ballot box and in everyday life. One certainty amidst whatever change comes, is that the LGBT Staff Network will be there doing its bit to help our forever interconnected society. To find out more about the UCC LGBT Staff Network, visit www.ucc.ie/en/lgbtstaff.


CHILDREN’S HEALTH

Impact of allergy research goes more than just skin deep Amanda Cassidy talks to Jonathan Hourihane, Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCC, about how he became a passionate leader in food allergy research, his frustration at the lack of services here in Ireland, and his hopes for transforming the lives of millions of children for the better.

“Y

ou have an allergy,” Professor Jonathan Hourihane informs me within just moments of meeting him. We are sitting in his sunny office at Cork University Hospital, discussing the groundbreaking strides he and his team at UCC have made in the field of paediatric food allergies.  “The slight crease on your nose suggests an allergy to house dust mites. You are probably prone to sneezing and snore at night – yes?” I nod, stunned at the immediate, spot-on diagnosis of something I had always suspected.  Although extremely impressed, I was not surprised; Jonathan is head of the internationally recognised paediatric allergy service at CUH and is a renowned Professor of Paediatrics and Child Health at UCC. You can tell straight away that he loves what he does. His passion and knowledge, particularly when it comes to skin barrier dysfunction and immunotherapy trials, could potentially lead to the end of certain food allergies as we know them.  The root of his expertise began at a time when there was a dearth of knowledge about food allergies. “I was a trainee in paediatrics in England in the 90s when the so-called allergy ‘bomb’ went off, and it was immediately clear that few people knew much INDEPENDENT Thinking  2 3


CHILDREN’S HEALTH

about it – even the paediatricians involved. Most people were working off gut instincts and experience of one or two cases, but there was very little data on the extent of food allergies.” He had planned to do a research project on asthma with his professor, who suggested they work on a food allergy project instead. When Jonathan did a literature search and only found about five papers involving very low numbers, he realised there was a huge knowledge gap.  Such a gap is also the opportunity to generate knowledge, of course, so they spent four years working on it solidly: “It evolved into a mature, well-established area, but at the time nobody knew much about it, so we had to answer a lot of primary questions. It was immensely exciting to build such a wealth of knowledge, and I’m proud to remain at the leading edge of this research now at UCC, as we constantly move forward.”

“WE FOUND THAT ANALYSING THE WEAKNESS OF A NEWBORN INFANT’S SKIN BARRIER COULD HELP PREDICT WHICH CHILD WOULD DEVELOP FOOD ALLERGIES. THIS MEANS THAT WE CAN ADOPT SIMPLE, EARLY PREVENTATIVE STRATEGIES WHICH COULD OFFER HOPE TO CHILDREN WHO WOULD HAVE OTHERWISE HAD A LIFELONG ALLERGIC CONDITION.”

• Jonathan Hourihane was researching skin barrier dysfunction and immunotherapy long before it became mainstream in Ireland. (Photography: Cathal Noonan)

24  INDEPENDENT Thinking

Once you answer one question and you get to another, you are building a pattern of information each time, which will ultimately transform someone’s life for the better, he adds. His latest research at UCC, which is being hailed as a breakthrough, in child allergy treatment will undoubtedly have that outcome for many. “We found that analysing the weakness of a newborn infant’s skin barrier could help predict which child would develop food allergies. This means that we can adopt simple, early preventative strategies which could offer hope to children who would have otherwise had a lifelong allergic condition.”


CHILDREN’S HEALTH

This work has already had 50 citations in its first year, when normally the number is less than 10 in any paper. He is proud that they are putting the Irish stamp on things: “We have collated our own data about Irish children, rather than relying on estimates based on British data. The current immunotherapy studies are interesting, because we are trying to turn off allergies that are established.” These were discussed recently at the world’s biggest allergy meeting in Orlando. “Our work centres around trying to get the body’s recognition of safety ever higher, while ‘switching off’ severe allergic reactions – it is called desensitisation and tolerance induction.” He is also motivated by the responsibility to inform the wider public. “For example, a lot of parents think that eczema is caused by food allergy, when in fact it is the other way around - eczema causes food allergy,” he reveals. “It is the broken skin barrier that makes someone produce these danger signals in your body which an allergy probably represents. We’ve realised that if you are exposed to a certain food through your skin, rather than through your gut, your body is confused.” This research has led to what’s called the two-hit, or the dual-exposure hypothesis, which is where if you are exposed to food through your gut before you are exposed through your skin, you are less likely to get an allergy. Currently, however, we have no real cultural understanding of food allergy in Ireland. “Some of the advice being given, like not to eat peanuts when you are pregnant, is over 10 years out of date. It is the same with the myth that there’s egg in the MMR vaccine. There hasn’t been any egg in the MMR vaccine since the ’90s. “We need to get the message across in primary care, through our GPs and public health nurses. We are also now trying to introduce food into children’s diets as soon as possible. We have families who are now on their third or fourth child, and they are getting diametrically opposite advice to what they got the first time around.” Jonathan is Chairman of the Irish Food Allergy Network, which has one of the best websites in the world for information for those with food allergies. When he started, the standard advice was to avoid food, to stop

people getting allergies. “That was flawed thinking,” he says. “It was made on the basis of the data that was available at the time, but we are now at the stage where we are trying to put foods back into people’s diet. “A total of 80-90% of children will grow out of a milk allergy eventually, and 60-70% of those with an egg allergy will grow out of it too, if you just leave them alone. But getting them to eat the food, tolerance acquisition, is faster – up to 16 times faster.” The issue of allergies needs to be treated with the same level of respect and understanding as other conditions, he says. “I’m tired of being asked why it is so common – starting from scratch each time. My colleagues in Scandinavia and Germany don’t have these conversations, because food allergy is understood.” The reason it is not understood here, is because there are no allergy services to move it along, he points out. Every hospital in the country should have an allergy service. “The medical advisors to the Government don’t really understand food allergy because it is so common, yet – usually – not lethal. The Department of Education and the Department of Health need to come up with a policy. Schools keep asking us for individualised school guidelines, and we explain that a national level policy is needed.” He believes that allergy is a community disease looked after in academic centres and feels that his role is to help change that dynamic. “We are working on this with the Irish Food Allergy Network currently, and the research we are doing here at UCC is really, really important. “We may not be front and centre, but we are heavily involved in the moving parts of allergy research on the cutting edge, as we try to learn more about how to treat them and even switch them off – and that is pretty amazing, especially for such a tiny team,” says Jonathan. “I am so proud that our work here at UCC has global implications and, best of all, could transform the lives of millions of children for the better.” Jonathan leads a research team in INFANT, the Irish Centre for Fetal and Neonatal Translational Research. For more information, visit www.infantcentre.ie. INDEPENDENT Thinking  2 5


PHILANTHROPY

Paying it forward

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PHILANTHROPY

“PHILANTHROPY HAS THE POWER TO ENABLE EDUCATION: EDUCATION TRANSFORMS PEOPLE’S LIVES.”

• Newly appointed Executive Director of Development and Alumni Relations, Rob Donelson says everyone at UCC has a role to play in achieving the university’s goals. (Photography: Diane Cusack)

INDEPENDENT Thinking  27


Will you make a difference? We rely on people like you to make UCC a better place for the students of today. We help students develop and learn in the best possible environment. By promoting excellence in our academic staff who in turn encourage students to think independently, and become future leaders of our society. We also focus on helping students who need assistance to overcome challenges which could otherwise interfere with their successful journey through university. You can help us to continue UCC’s long tradition of encouraging and developing students to be both world ready and work ready. These are the funds you can donate to:

KEY PRIORITIES IN YOUR COLLEGE OR FACULTY FINANCIAL SUPPORT FOR DESERVING STUDENTS SUPPORT SERVICES FOR STUDENTS LIBRARY ACQUISITIONS AND SERVICES KEY PRIORITIES ACROSS THE UNIVERSITY Donate now and your gift will have a real and positive impact on our students today.

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There are several ways to donate to the UCC Annual Fund: Give a Regular Monthly Gift via Direct Debit If you are based in Ireland, you can make a monthly contribution to UCC. Simply complete the attached donation form and return to the address provided.

Give via Cheque To donate by cheque, please consult the table below, complete the attached donation form, and return your cheque to the address provided.

Give Online You can donate online at https://community.ucc.ie/support

Giving options in Ireland

Giving options in the UK

Giving options in the USA

• Direct debit • Cheque • Online

• Cheque • Online

• Cheque • Online

Cheques should be made payable to Cork University Foundation.

Cheques should be made payable to UCC Educational Foundation

Cheques should be made payable to Irish Educational Foundation.

Cork University Foundation is a registered charity CHY11831.

UCC Educational Foundation is a registered charity with the Charity Commission for England and Wales. Registration no. 1021681.

Giving options in the rest of the world • Cheque • Online Cheques should be made payable to Cork University Foundation.

Irish Educational Foundation is a registered charity with 501 (C) 3 status in the USA. Federal ID number is 04-3115638.

If you would like to find out more about giving to UCC please contact the Development & Alumni Office E: alumni@ucc.ie T: +353 (0)21 4902720

INDEPENDENT Thinking  2 9


01

UCC Weddings

UCC’s beautiful campus is a popular choice for church and civil weddings. Here are some of the happy couples who celebrated their big day here. 03 03

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If you are a UCC graduate and would like more information on celebrating your wedding day in the Honan Chapel please contact Yvonne McGrath at +353 (0)21 4903088 or y.mcgrath@ucc.ie 30 INDEPENDENT Thinking

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01 Clíona Dennehy (BA ’08) and Andrew Boyle 02 Mary Claire McCarthy (BSC, MSC ’10) and Edward Rhys Thomas (BA, MA ’08) 03 Veronica O’Mahony (BA European Studies, ’05, HDip Mgmt and Mkt ’06) and James Hussey with their daughter Charlotte 04 Karen Walsh (BA ‘95) and Kenneth Mc Carthy 05 Norma Scully (BSc Chemistry ’03, PhD ’07) and Tom Barry (BSc Chemistry ’03) 06 Anthony O’Keeffe (BSc Finance ’05) and Orla Murphy (BComm (Int) ’04 and MSc Food Business ’07)

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07 John Collins and Amy Heffernan (BA ’05) 08 Gemma Anthony (MBs Business Economics (’09) and David Fitzgerald (BSc Finance ’08) 09 Liam Byrne and Michelle Whelton (BA ’93) 10 Lorna O’Mahony (BSc ’07, MSc ’10) and Richard Farrell 11 Sarahrose Murphy (BCL ’08, LLM ’09) and Barry Power (BE Elec ’10) 12 Paul Wycherley (BSc Fin. ’04) and Sinéad Kenefick (BA ’05) 13 Emer Cullinane (BCL ’09, LLM ’10) and Jeremy Turk

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REUNIONS

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riends and classmates were reunited at UCC for the Golden Jubilee Reunion of the Class of 1968, which took place on August 31. Professor Patrick O’Shea, President of UCC, welcomed graduates back to their alma mater for a day of celebration. Over 130 alumni and friends from 10 different faculties came together to mark the 50th anniversary of their graduation. Guests travelled from all over Ireland, the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and Kenya to re-connect with old friends. Alumni enjoyed a celebratory lunch in the Aula Maxima and toured the historic centre of the university, the Boole Library and the Glucksman Gallery.

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03 01 Friends for 50 years: Margaret Brick, Killorglin; Nora Farrissey, Mallow; Mary Hester, Ennis; Noreen Vaughan, Kilnamartra 02 Donagh O’Callaghan, Charleville; Noel Rochford, Brisbane; Diarmuid Killcullen, Cobh. 03 Gertie McGrath, Limerick; Therese Grisewood, Limerick; Mary Jo Sheehy, Clonakilty 04

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04 John McCullagh, Killarney and Colm McHugh, Los Angeles 05 Leila O’Keeffe and Austin O’Keeffe, Boston; Mary Jo Sheehy, Clonakilty; Therese Grisewood, Limerick


REUNIONS

Reunions Are you celebrating the anniversary of your graduation in 2019? Whether your class graduated in 2009, 1999, 1989, 1979, 1969 or beyond, we would love to welcome you back to campus. We can help you plan your class reunion and put you in touch with your friends and classmates. For more information contact Bernadette O’Regan at +353 21 490 2720 or bernadette.oregan@ucc.ie

The Social Network CLASS OF

1997 BDS

Social media means that it has never been easier to network and keep in touch after graduation. But there is nothing like catching up with friends, former classmates and teaching staff in person. Every year, UCC welcomes hundreds of graduates back to their alma mater to celebrate the anniversary of their graduation day.  or reunion photographs and more, F visit: www.facebook.com/UCCAlumniNetwork

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UCC Alumni

Achievement Awards 2017 01

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he 2017 Alumni Achievement Awards took place on 24 November 2017 at the Aula Maxima. The Awards recognise UCC alumni who have excelled in their life’s work, demonstrated leadership in their field, and who have been a source of inspiration to students and of pride to the university. The Awards were kindly sponsored by Bank of Ireland, Boston Scientific and Henry Ford and Son Ltd.

Sinead Kane, BCL 2004, LLM 2005 Sinead is a solicitor, athlete, writer and motivational speaker. She qualified as Ireland’s first legally blind solicitor in 2009, a year after succeeding in her efforts to secure the introduction of legislation allowing for visually impaired persons appearing before a court to have an assistant. Sinead made history in 2017, when she became the first blind person to run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, in the World Marathon Challenge; she was also the first Irish woman to complete this challenge. She was previously presented with an Honorary Doctorate from NUI for her contribution to legislation and legal policy in Ireland. Eamonn Ryan, BA 1966, HDE 1967

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Eamonn Ryan received the Alumni Award for Voluntary Service to UCC, for his significant contribution to Gaelic games in UCC and Cork. A current selector with the Cork Senior

Men’s squad, Eamonn has also served as coach to the Cork Senior Ladies Football teams victorious in 10 Munster Championship titles, nine National League titles, and 10 All Ireland titles. He was appointed to the position of GAA Development Officer in UCC from 1999 to 2007, and assisted in coaching UCC’s Gaelic football, hurling teams. He also coached UCC’s camogie team to Ashbourne Cup success. Eamonn is currently GAA tutor for the Sports Studies Department, and is a tutor with the Department of Modern Irish since 2011. Founders of I WISH: Ruth Buckley, BSc 1987; Gillian Keating, BA 1990, BCL 1994; Caroline O’Driscoll, BCL 1997 I WISH (Inspiring Women in STEM) is an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate female secondary school students to pursue careers in STEM. It was founded by three UCC graduates: Ruth Buckley,


Gillian Keating and Caroline O’Driscoll. Ruth is Deputy Chief Executive and Head of ICT and Business Services for Cork City Council. Gillian is a Partner in Ronan Daly Jermyn Solicitors, where she leads the Corporate Commercial Practice and the Technology and Life Science sector groups. She is also a Past President of Cork Chamber of Commerce. Caroline is a Tax Partner with KPMG Cork and Chairperson of it@cork, a not-forprofit representing the interests of over 200 companies operating in the technology sector in Cork.

Commissioner Phil Hogan, BA 1981, HDE 1982 Phil Hogan is the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development since November 2014. Before entering politics, Phil began his career in insurance and real estate. He went on to represent the Carlow/Kilkenny constituency in Dáil Éireann, serving in Fine Gael’s shadow cabinet and as spokesman on Europe, food, consumer affairs and regional policy. Phil went on to serve as Minister for the Environment and Local Government, and held several other senior posts at local, national and European level, among them President of the Council of EU Environment Ministers and Minister of State at the Irish Department of Finance.

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Katherine Fitzgerald, BSc 1995 Katherine Fitzgerald is an awardwinning immunologist. A professor of medicine, she has been ranked among the top 1% most cited researchers since 2014. Katherine has received several prestigious awards throughout her career, among them the Saint Patrick’s Day Medal from the Irish Government and Science Foundation Ireland, and the BD-Biosciences Investigator Award. Katherine, who is Director of the Programme in Innate Immunity at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, was also recently elected President of the International Cytokine and Interferon Society. If you would like to nominate an individual for an Alumni Achievement Award in 2019 please email alumni@ucc.ie to request a nomination form.

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01 Gillian Keating, Ruth Buckley, Caroline O’Driscoll, Sinead Kane, Phil Hogan, Eamonn Ryan 02 Sinead Kane, solicitor and motivational speaker – the first blind person to run seven marathons, on seven continents in seven days. 03 Professor Patrick O’Shea, President, UCC with GAA coaching legend, Eamonn Ryan 04 Gillian Keating, Caroline O’Driscoll and Ruth Buckley from I WISH – an initiative to inspire, encourage and motivate young female students to pursue careers in STEM. 05 EU Commissioner Phil Hogan pictured with his friends and family 06 Ciaran McMahon, Managing Director of Ford Ireland, with Professor Patrick O’Shea, President, UCC

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INDEPENDENT Thinking  35


Keep in Touch with UCC … All alumni automatically become lifelong members of the UCC Alumni Association. Update your details, register for events or make a donation at community.ucc.ie

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As a member of the UCC Alumni Association, you can: • • • • • • • •

attend cultural, educational and networking events in Ireland and abroad request assistance in planning your class reunion join alumni chapters around the world avail of a UCC email account for life stay connected through UCC’s social networks for alumni enjoy preferential rates at the Mardyke Arena Health and Leisure Centre reserve the UCC Alumni Association Room on campus for special meetings and events get married on campus

To find out more about any of the benefits listed above, contact UCC Development and Alumni Relations.

E: alumni@ucc.ie T: +353 (0)21 490 3276

INDEPENDENT Thinking  37


PUBLIC HEALTH

A healthy separation, long overdue

38  INDEPENDENT Thinking


PUBLIC HEALTH

INDEPENDENT Thinking  39


PUBLIC HEALTH

A MORE RECENT EXAMPLE OF THE SCHOOL PLAYING A LEADING ROLE IN CHANGING HEALTH POLICY AND PRACTICE IN IRELAND IS THE IMPACT ITS RESEARCH HAD IN INFLUENCING ON THE DECISION BY THE MINISTER FOR FINANCE TO INTRODUCE A TAX ON SUGAR-SWEETENED DRINKS, WHICH CAME INTO FORCE IN APRIL OF THIS YEAR.

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ENVIRONMENTAL INNOVATION

Don’t worry, bees happy UCC STEM start-up creator, Fiona Edwards Murphy who has become a role model for women in technology, is creating a buzz with her muchlauded company ApisProtect, which offers unique innovative solutions to help beekeepers prevent losses and increase productivity in their hives. Jane Haynes catches up with her.

• Fiona Edwards Murphy is CEO and co-founder of APIS Protect, a company that helps beekeepers prevent losses and increase their productivity. (Photography Clare Keogh)

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icture a grocery store with no apples, no almonds, no blueberries, no kiwis, no avocados – none of the colourful fruit and vegetables that we fill our trolleys with, on our weekly shop. Now, take that image a step further, and imagine yourself restricted to a diet of meat and bread. This would be our reality if the honey bee became extinct. “Our nutrition would go off a cliff,” says Fiona Edwards Murphy, the UCC electrical and electronic engineering graduate and entrepreneur, who is working to ensure that we are never faced with such a cataclysmic reality. A Kanturk, Co. Cork native, Fiona is the CEO and co-founder of ApisProtect, a company that uses innovative technology to help beekeepers prevent losses and increase productivity in their beehives. The ApisProtect team, consisting also of Andrew Wood and Dr Pádraig Whelan, uses sensors to collect data around factors such as temperature, humidity and productivity from beehives, relaying it back to beekeepers as valuable information they can use to protect their colonies. Both Fiona, as an entrepreneur, and ApisProtect as a tech company, have received international acclaim and a slew of awards for their work tackling the global threat to the honey bee. Those buzzing insects are big players: “Honey bees pollinate a third of the food that we eat every day. It’s pretty much €153 billion worth of pollination that they provide every year to the global economy,” says Fiona.

INDEPENDENT Thinking  41


ENVIRONMENTAL INNOVATION

“For the last 20 or 30 years, bees have been facing problems that they never experienced before in history. There are all these disease and pest problems that are spreading globally, affecting them in every single corner of the world. “That’s really where we come in, and that’s how we think we’re really taking a different approach to the problems – helping the beekeeper apply the knowledge that they already have, but in a much more effective and controlled manner,” she says. Fiona first worked with honey bees when she started her PhD in 2013, which centred on research into the application of sensors and networking in honey bee hives. The research received global recognition, being published in a series of prestigious journals.

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From scooping Business of the Year at last year’s IGNITE UCC awards, to winning the Healthcare and Life Sciences prize in a competition at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Hyderabad, India, Fiona’s work with ApisProtect has garnered acclaim both at home and internationally. While a love of electronics fuelled her PhD research, Fiona’s interest in science was sparked at an early age: “I was lucky enough that I went to a co-educated school, so when I was in secondary school I had the opportunity – which I think a lot of girls don’t have – to do engineering and technical drawing for my Leaving Cert,” she says. As a businesswoman she is frequently heralded as ‘one to watch’, but the fact that ‘luck’ played a role in her ability to pursue her talent for engineering at secondary level, raises the timely topic of gender balance in STEM, a curriculum based on the four specific disciplines of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. While she admits to experiencing ‘a tiny bit of gender bias’ in the technology industry, she believes that gender isn’t necessarily the most pressing topic for discussion, here; it’s how we are equipping the next generation to flourish in a tech-driven workplace. “I think you need to introduce not just girls, but everyone – at a much younger age – to technology,” says Fiona. “There is absolutely no reason why every single child shouldn’t be introduced to code at some point during secondary school; it’s now an absolutely fundamental part of our society and our lives. “It’s about the world around you, and there is literally no job that you can do anymore where you’re not going to be using software or apps, so they should understand that sort of thing.” Fiona’s passion about the importance of STEM education and her confident status as a female role model can, in part, be attributed to her stint with IGNITE, UCC’s award-winning business incubation programme set up to support recent graduate entrepreneurs.


ENVIRONMENTAL INNOVATION

IGNITE is an initiative, she says, that had an incredibly important impact on her, as an entrepreneur and businesswoman: “It was an amazing experience. I was coming out of college [when I started with IGNITE], and I had no idea how to do things like talking to people at networking events or giving a proper presentation, without wanting to cry under a table!”

“FOR THE LAST 20 OR 30 YEARS, BEES HAVE BEEN FACING PROBLEMS THAT THEY NEVER EXPERIENCED BEFORE IN HISTORY. THERE ARE ALL THESE DISEASE AND PEST PROBLEMS THAT ARE SPREADING GLOBALLY, AFFECTING THEM IN EVERY SINGLE CORNER OF THE WORLD.” With accolades such as the Best Young Entrepreneur (IBYE Cork) bestowed upon her, it’s hard to believe that Fiona was once ‘the worst public speaker on the face of the Earth’, as she now claims. But she credits the ‘supportive’ nature of the IGNITE programme as being that transformative. “It’s amazing – it’s just ideal for people coming out of university who have ideas,” she says. “It’s a great learning experience, but also, as a network; you’re not just introduced to the wider entrepreneurship network in Cork, but also, literally, to the IGNITE alumni. It’s an awesome club to be in.” Life as an entrepreneur is notoriously lonely, and Fiona credits the collegiality of life in the ‘IGNITE club’ as a key motivator during those inevitable ‘terrible troughs’ during the early days of ApisProtect. But being out on her own now, is a different story. Having presented ApisProtect’s technology to Prince Charles during his visit to UCC, this year will see ApisProtect going global, with Version 2 of the platform set to be rolled out to 200 beehives in locations across Europe, the US and South Africa. With an award-winning business and the eyes of the tech world now upon her, how does Fiona manage to stay on an even keel in a role

which she describes as ‘an absolute rollercoaster’? It’s all about balance, she admits. “It’s really important to manage it; to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to the gym now, and I’m just going to go run until I feel better.’ Or to be able to walk away from it and say, ‘I’ll just try it again tomorrow’,” she says. Of course, reflecting on the success of ApisProtect, it’s safe to say that Fiona’s good days have far outweighed the bad. She recalls being moved to tears at the Grace Hopper Conference, named after the former rear-admiral in the US Navy, and ‘first lady of software’, surrounded by 15,000 women in STEM. For the UCC engineer, who gets mistaken due to gender bias, as ApisProtect’s marketing or commercial officer, it’s not hard to see why such a moment of community left her feeling ‘really emotional’. Currently, she is only too happy to embrace the title of ‘female founder’, until those gender distinctions are a thing of the past: “I would love the world to be such that it literally makes no difference that I’m a woman, but that’s not how it is. And I think until it gets to that point, then I don’t have a problem with pushing women forward,” she says. We can think of no one better suited to the job. To find out more about IGNITE, UCC’s awardwinning business incubation programme, visit www.ucc.ie/en/ignite.

Did you know? Bees can detect thunderstorms. Due to the extraordinarily high frequency of their wings beating, bees pick up static electricity as they fly and, in turn, can detect changes to the Earth’s magnetic field. This means that they can also sense drastic weather changes, and will accordingly remain safe inside their hives. So, if you notice an unexplained lack of buzzing around your garden, have your umbrella and raincoat at the ready.

INDEPENDENT Thinking  4 3


NURSING

• In safe hands: advanced nurse practitioner Patrick Cotter in the Clinical Skills Simulation Centre, School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC (Photography: Gerard McCarthy)

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NURSING

Patrick’s call to nursing was no accident The impact of our interactions with others stretches beyond the caring profession, to the wider community, says Patrick Cotter. An advanced nurse practitioner at the Emergency Department of CUH, Patrick was the first male nursing student at Cork’s South Infirmary/Victoria University Hospital, 27 years ago. He speaks to Jane Haynes about his vocation.

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wenty-seven years ago, Patrick Cotter was already a standout individual – paving the way, as he did, for other men, as the first male nursing student at Cork’s South Infirmary/Victoria University Hospital (SIVUH). Since then, he has garnered a slew of academic achievements in his career, but what matters most to him is the on-the-ground caring and respectful connection between himself and any individual he meets. “I’ve been very lucky in my career, and as I said in my commencement speech at a graduation ceremony I was invited to, luck is mystical. I think that if you’re prepared when an opportunity comes around, then you can avail of that opportunity.” Such opportunity first began to knock for Patrick at the tender age of 13, when he got involved with St John Ambulance; the experience nurtured his interest in caring for people, and he subsequently delved into voluntary work in the A&E department of SIVUH. When the time came to apply for college courses during Leaving Certificate year, Patrick chose the less traditional route for a student of an all-boys secondary school, taking that

groundbreaking step to become the first male nursing student at SIVUH. This was only the beginning of his trailblazing ways, however; he went on to become only the second male to train in midwifery in Cork. He was also in the first programme for nurse prescribing, and became the first advanced nurse practitioner in the Southern Health Board. Patrick is certainly a man you want around in an emergency, but that’s only partly related to the ever-increasing collection of letters after his name; he is driven by a thirst for knowledge and an inherent vocation to care. “For me, the biggest opportunity is to care,” he says. “The more I’ve learned, the more prepared I’ve been for that – and that’s why I feel I’m really lucky. People talk about the stress of dealing with emergency situations, but I feel I’m very privileged that people have allowed me in to what has been a very delicate situation – be it a mental health breakdown or bereavement, or a serious injury.” When Patrick, who has worked in A&E at Cork University Hospital for 13 years, describes his experience in this way, it becomes abundantly clear why individuals treated by him decades ago still recognise him; speak fondly of him; introduce themselves to him – even if he can’t quite get his head around it himself. It takes a certain kind of person to enter into this profession, to dedicate their life to caring for others and to put others’ experiences first. Throw in crazy hours, a staff shortage of crisis proportions and having to always ‘expect the unexpected’, and nurses are really up against it. While Patrick acknowledges the challenges of his line of work, he admits that he has been able to use the ‘baggage of 27 years of nursing’ to his advantage. INDEPENDENT Thinking  45


NURSING

“There have been instances throughout my career that I still carry with me – that come back to IT OVERWHELM YOU, mind if I’m in a similar situation. Funnily, the influence you have in AND TO UNDERSTAND the situation, and how you act in it, has a longer-lasting effect on the THAT THIS IS PART OF people who are on the other side LIVING AND DYING, of it,” he muses. “But the key is to not let it AND YOUR ROLE HERE overwhelm you, and to understand that this is part of living and dying, IS TO HELP. IT’S NOT and your role here is to help. It’s not ABOUT YOU; IT’S ABOUT about you; it’s about the people you’re dealing with. And once you THE PEOPLE YOU’RE keep it about the people you’re dealing with, then the bit about you DEALING WITH.” generally comes afterwards.” So, what happens when ‘afterwards’ comes around? How do you go from the heroics and exhaustion, the highs and crushing lows of the emergency room, back into normality? As a student, having co-founded UCC’s Nursoc and participated in hurling, football, St John’s, CASA and the cub scouts, it’s no surprise that his downtime revolves around community activity and helping others. “The more I was sucked into my career, the less I did outside of work – and that was something that was troubling me,” he admits. “I’m married, I have three kids and once their activities started, then I started getting more involved in those, and then getting involved in the community in a broader sense.” With son David and daughter Hannah heavily involved in their local hurling and Gaelic football clubs for the past number of years, Patrick has delved into coaching – and it’s a role that he takes just as seriously as his work. “Even coaching seven-year-olds, six-yearolds, and five-year-olds, you’re very aware of the impact you’re having on them,” he says. “You might give them a bit of praise, and you meet the parent in the street and they say to you, ‘Whatever you said to him the last day, he’s walking on air since.’ “And it goes back to that condition of being positive, constantly being respectful, no matter what age the person or the learner is, and trying to move them on and develop them at the same time.”

“THE KEY IS TO NOT LET

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Patrick takes to the role of mentor as naturally and with as much passion as he does that of a medical professional; he brings these qualities also to his role as lecturer in Emergency Nursing at UCC’s School of Nursing and Midwifery. He says it is an honour to help mould the minds of the next generation of fearless nurses: “From an educational viewpoint – and that’s not just education in the university, it’s education in clinical practice, in everyday life – you have a huge influence on people,” he admits. “I realise this from reflecting on my own education and the people who influenced me strongly.” He counts Professor Geraldine McCarthy – as well as a whole host of doctors, midwives, and patients he has treated – among these important influencers. “I think it’s an interaction – it’s not just me giving you the knowledge, and you taking it and going away. It’s me starting, you engaging, me making sure you engage, and then we work to fit your needs – and then, how that makes you a carer into the future,” he says. “I do think educators have a huge role and responsibility. And certainly, if you don’t take that responsibility seriously, and if you don’t engage from your own point of view in thinking about how you’re moulding these people, then that has either a positive or a negative effect at the other end – in terms of patients. And those patients are our neighbours, our community, our relatives. It has a wider impact, certainly from a nursing perspective.” Certainly it’s Patrick’s utter practical dedication to helping people that leaves such an impression on the listener of his true vocation, regardless of academic achievement. And it stretches beyond, to all: “It all comes back to trying to do the best you can, and to give as much of yourself as you can to your students, your patients, your colleagues, your family,” he says. “There’s a huge satisfaction from that – from coming home at the end of a day’s work and saying, ‘I couldn’t have done any more’.” Amid the chaos of emergency, how lucky are those to have Patrick fighting on their side. For more information on studying at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, visit www.ucc.ie/en/nursingmidwifery.


ARTS AND CULTURE

The outgoing Traditional Artist in Residence at UCC, Colin Dunne, tells UCC Professor of Creative Practice, Jools Gilson, why he turned his back on Riverdance stardom to find a more authentic version of himself and his craft.

INDEPENDENT Thinking  47


ARTS AND CULTURE

“L

istening is not just with the ears,” says He left after two years and eight months, a shorter Colin Dunne, Traditional Artist in Residence time, he points out, than he spent working in his initial at UCC and onetime global Riverdance star. career as a chartered accountant. “The thighs, the pelvis, the elbows – you “I felt like I was losing a bit of a connection to have sensory hearing, everywhere, through the skin dance, or maybe I was just slightly sick of doing the and the bones.” same thing eight times a week. I think a lot of what I’ve Dunne is world-class master of his craft and one of been doing since is finding the antidote to that, for the most innovative practitioners currently working me. I do feel over the last 15 years of working in a within the tradition of Irish dance. When we meet, he particular way, that I have met myself through the talks about what he has learnt from teaching nonwork and that the work is much more of myself.” professional dancers. His appointment as UCC Traditional Artist in “In my earlier life when I was a competitor at world Residence in 2017 helped confirm that, and it gave him championship level, I would only have taught the further opportunities to work with beginners. dancers who could already dance. And then in 2004, “With beginners it’s kind of like a blank canvas. after Riverdance, I went to Europe I figured out a lot of the mechanics to teach because there were small of how traditional Irish dance “I FELT LIKE I WAS pockets of Irish dance in Germany works and started trying to get and Russia and places where it had rid of a lot of the more virtuosic LOSING A BIT OF A never been; because of Riverdance, kind of things that had been people had started taking it up.” added during the 1990s, like CONNECTION TO He had to really think about elements of ballet or flamenco DANCE, OR MAYBE I what was the most simple and or tap. And so, this very simplistic direct way to teach, and the answer way of teaching, informed then WAS JUST SLIGHTLY was to embrace a more fluid, how I was moving and gave me a instinctive approach. “Improvisation language to play with.” SICK OF DOING THE is a constant real-time kind of In the 1970s, when Dunne SAME THING EIGHT listening. If you listen to the started to learn, flow and rhythm note-making, listen to when the were part of teaching Irish dance. TIMES A WEEK. I THINK tune is up and down and respond, “Now I think it’s taught with then the music will take you a much more visual aesthetic A LOT OF WHAT I’VE somewhere physically,” he says. in mind. It’s all about how you BEEN DOING SINCE, IS Two workshop classes he taught look, and it’s about the extension to UCC staff filled up within three of the leg and the line of the FINDING THE ANTIDOTE hours of their announcement. “I leg – that kind of locked, very was amazed!” he says. “I have learnt muscular physicality.” TO THAT, FOR ME.” a lot from teaching beginners.” He finds the aesthetic It’s been a hard-won lesson, standards that have evolved in involving major life choices. Dunne’s decision to leave recent times absurd. “The wigs, the costumes, the tan, Riverdance in 1998 was a significant turning point in all that business, are obviously kind of ridiculous. I’m his career. “I think Riverdance was the beginning. It’s talking about what’s underneath, the physicality of the reason why I’m here now. It provoked me into these dancers, once you strip all that toxic stuff away.” looking a little bit further into what I wanted to do, or All of this thinking came together in Concert, the might want to do as a performer and as a maker. solo show Dunne made last year, based on the music “As great and all as it was, there was something of Tommy Potts, a traditional fiddle player who about Riverdance that was …” He pauses. “I never really released just one album during his lifetime and never felt quite myself in it. I took over from Michael [Flatley] performed in public. and it’s not like taking over a Broadway show where Potts brought his own sense of timing to the music. you take over a role. I was taking over from a “I felt there was a kind of a kindred-ness between the personality, and so I could never do Michael. I can do a two of us in terms of a deconstruction of what we really good impression of Michael but that wasn’t what were doing, a desire maybe to kind of pull it apart,” I wanted to do.” says Dunne.

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TAKING RESIDENCE IN 2018/2019

Film Artist in Residence Pat Murphy

Theatre Artist in Residence John McCarthy

• Traditional artist in residence Colin Dunne leads UCC students through their paces (Photography: Mike Hannon)

It all ties back to what he has said about listening with the body: “I found – despite its irregularity – that it was really kinetic music. In the way that I’ve been playing with the physical form for 10 years, Potts had been playing with the form of traditional music and there was something about the deviancy in his music; it was ‘ah, this is a kind of a music now that I could maybe dance to’.” Dunne’s experience at UCC has been hugely informed by his teaching. “I’ve been working with these music students, teaching them to dance, essentially. But I haven’t been teaching them in the conventional way, I’ve been teaching them through improvisation.” “I was very keen coming in here to encourage musicians and singers to put their instruments down and step away from the microphone, and get up on the floor and experience what it was like to move to music.” “I felt something very nice happened for them – and for me as well, to explore teaching in that way, to see them go from that first week as non-dancers ... that’s been kind of gorgeous for me to be honest, and I would never have done that anywhere else.” *Concert will tour to the Barbican in London in October 2018 and on to the Tramway in Glasgow. Dunne’s next project is a duet collaboration with Belgian contemporary dance choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, which will premiere in February 2019.

Traditional Artist in Residence Jack Talty

Writer Artist in Residence Danielle McLaughlin

INDEPENDENT Thinking  49


Spotlight On Sport UCC boasts in the region of 60 sports clubs catering to students competing at the highest levels, nationally and internationally, as well as those participating for fun and fitness. The university’s facilities cater for indoor and outdoor sports across the spectrum. The Mardyke Sports Grounds play host to a fully floodlit synthetic pitch and athletics track as well as the GAA and Prunty Pitches. The Mardyke also boasts a state-of-the-art fitness gym, along with a swimming pool, indoor climbing wall, several sports halls and 50 acres of playing fields. The following are just some of UCC’s sporting highlights from the past 12 months.

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ROWING It was a very successful year for the UCC Rowing Club, with teams and individuals alike bringing home a trove of silverware. Both UCC’s men’s and women’s teams performed well at the Intervarsity Championships in March 2018. Highlights included placing 1st in the Women’s Senior Pairs and Intermediate Single Sculls, as well as in the Men’s Club Coxed Fours. UCC claimed four titles at the National Rowing Championships in Cork, in July 2018, with Quercus Scholar Ronan Byrne winning the Men’s Intermediate Sculls. Ronan was also selected to represent Ireland at the World U23 Championships in Poland, in late summer 2018. The university was well represented at the World Cup III Series in Lucerne, with UCC graduate Aifric Keogh and current student Tara Hanlon placing 4th in the Women’s Repechage. September marked an important month for Olympic rower Paul O’Donovan (above) – as well as beginning his studies in Medicine at UCC, he took home the gold medal alongside brother Gary at the World Rowing Championships in the men’s lightweight double sculls. Paul, who claimed silver in the Rio de Janeiro Games in Brazil, in 2016, is a UCC Quercus Scholar.


EQUESTRIAN UCC student Tommy Harty was crowned overall champion at the Student Riders Nations Cup in Lund, Sweden, where he represented Ireland. He also placed 4th in show-jumping and 5th in dressage, individually. Tommy also enjoyed success as a member of the group that won the overall team championship; they placed 1st in show-jumping and 3rd in dressage, competing against 12 other teams from Europe and North America.

RUGBY Jack O’Sullivan’s star is on the rise after an excellent year, during which he played a pivotal role in the UCC Seniors’ historic promotion to Division 1A of the All Ireland League for the very first time. The Quercus Sports Scholar was selected to play on the Irish team for the U20 Six Nations Championship, being awarded Player of the Match in two of the games. Jack was also selected for Ireland’s team to play at the U20 World Cup.

BASKETBALL UCC graduate and former sports scholarship recipient Adrian O’Sullivan was part of the Ireland Senior Men’s team who won bronze at the Small Nations European Championships in San Marino, in June 2018. Adrian has also enjoyed personal success this year, signing a professional contract with Reading Rockets, in the British Basketball League for the coming season.

ATHLETICS UCC graduate Phil Healy continues to burn up the track with impressive performances, both indoor and outdoor. She qualified for the European Championships in the 100m, 200m, 400m and relay events. This year alone, Phil has broken the Irish outdoor 100m and 200m records.

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WOMEN’S RUGBY UCC graduate Audrey O’Flynn was selected for the Irish Women’s squad for the World Cup 7s, an impressive feat for a former senior international hockey player with 120 caps for her country.

SOCCER Sean McLoughlin (above) joined Cork City FC following an outstanding season with UCC Soccer Club last year, after winning the FAI International Colleges and Universities Player of the Year at the FAI Awards. Sean, who received an international cap from the FAI last November, has since become a regular first-team player for Cork City. Fellow UCC player Shane Daly-Butz (below) recently followed in Sean’s footsteps, signing with Cork City FC following a stellar season which saw him selected for the Irish Amateur team as well as the Munster/Ulster Regions Cup squad, for the European Regions Cup Finals. Shane also received an international cap at a special ceremony at the Aviva Stadium.

SAILING UCC Sailing Club member and Quercus Sports Scholar Fionn Lyden has enjoyed much success over the past year, playing a key role in a series of winning team performances in both national and international competitions. Individually, Fionn claimed bronze at the Finn U23 World Championships in August 2017, before going on to be crowned ‘Champion of Champions’ two months later at the All Ireland Sailing Championship, held on Lough Owel. Fionn was also part of the UCC team that placed 1st at the Irish Team Racing National Championships in November 2017, the Irish University Sailing Association Intervarsity Championships in March 2018, and the Student Yachting National Championships in April 2018.

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HOCKEY It was an extremely successful year for UCC’s hockey clubs, with both the women’s and men’s teams qualifying to play in the First Division for 2018/2019. UCC Women’s Hockey won the Munster Senior League as well as the Munster Senior Cup Plate, while UCC Men’s Hockey claimed victory in the Peard Cup and Plate Final of the Mauritius Cup (Intervarsities).

www.sport.ucc.ie

UCC Sport was put on the international map this summer, with the Mardyke Sports Grounds playing host to a series of indoor and outdoor international events. The Mardyke Arena hosted the FIBA Women’s European Championships for Small Countries, and the World and European Inline Figure Skating Championships. Meanwhile, UCC’s Department of Sport and Physical Activity, in association with Hockey Ireland, also hosted a series of international hockey events. Spectators watched Ireland take on France and Japan, followed by the U16 Boys’ and Girls’ Six Nations Championships.

To find out more about sport at UCC, visit

INTERNATIONAL EVENTS AT THE MARDYKE, SUMMER 2018

CAMOGIE Cork successfully defended their All-Ireland titles in September 2017, and again in 2018, defeating Kilkenny on both occasions by one point in both finals. This year, UCC graduate Orla Cotter (right) scored the all-important winning score from a free and was awarded Player of the Match for her performance. UCC was well represented at the All-Ireland Camogie Finals Day in 2018, with nine students lining out for the Cork Senior team: Orla Cronin, Katrina and Pamela Mackey, Niamh McCarthy, Chloe Sigerson, Libby Coppinger, Leanne O’Sullivan, Amy O’Connor and Hannah Looney, in addition to Orla Cotter, UCC graduate. UCC graduate Anne Dalton was on the losing Kilkenny team.

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ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT

UCC at a glance UCC’s role in society and the economy of Cork, the South West and Ireland has been highlighted in a revealing new study. Here are some of the highlights of The Economic and Societal Impact of University College Cork, 2018

€2.3 million generated by ucc every day for the economy.

TOTAL IMPACT = €853 million (€728 million in expenditure impact & €125 million in tax).

23%

UCC IS A LEADER IN ACCESS TO THIRD

LEVEL EDUCATION. OVER 23% OF UCC’S UNDERGRADUATE INTAKE ARE MATURE STUDENTS, STUDENTS WITH DISABILITIES OR NON-TRADITIONAL COLLEGE-GOERS.

ucc is a leader in collaboration with industry.

€10 million in r&d

secured and

INVESTED BY UCC’S INDUSTRY PARTNERS WITH MAJOR RESEARCH CENTRES: APC, MAREI, INFANT, IPIC, INSIGHT

ucc helps shape the minds, perspectives and futures of 25,000

PEOPLE ON A DAILY BASIS = students, full-time and part-time staff.

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€96 million INVESTMENT IN UCC’S

CREATION & DISCOVERY = leading irish university with regard to actively seeking and securing investment in research and innovation.

employment rates of ucc graduates are at historic high levels of 94% for undergraduate level and 95% at postgraduate level.

ucc enhances irish culture the awardwinning atlas of the great famine and atlas of the irish revolution are both published by cork university press


ECONOMIC AND SOCIAL IMPACT

ucc is changing the physical landscape of cork city for the better. ucc’s €241 million development plan is the largest planned by any organisation in cork.

ucc supports

1 in every 15

jobs in cork city & county.

UCC’S IRISH STUDENTS

€135

MILLION GENERATE FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY

ucc enhances the physical wellbeing of the nation

supporting

UCC IS THE PRIMARY ACADEMIC PARTNER SUPPORTING NINE HOSPITALS IN THE SOUTH WEST HOSPITAL GROUP. ucc impacts the physical health of the nation as much as it improves the fiscal health of the citizens.

€30 million

UCC’S INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS

€52.5

MILLION GENERATE FOR THE LOCAL ECONOMY supporting

annual investment

TYNDALL NATIONAL INSTITUTE’S €30 MILLION ANNUAL INVESTMENT in creation and discovery is in itself greater than that of the entire r&d investment in the 7 irish universities.

3,675 JOBS.

1,421 JOBS.

2 of

.68

€5.68 RETURN

for every €1 of state investment in ucc. INDEPENDENT Thinking  55


Are you considering your higher level options for 2019/20?

visit www.ucc.ie 5 6  INDEPENDENT Thinking

Profile for University College Cork

Independent Thinking 2018  

Independent Thinking 2018  

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