- Why do colleges offer dedicated Access Programmes for young people?
Fundamentally, access offices attempt to ensure that the student body within higher education is reflective of the diversity of society at large. We are keen to ensure that students of all ages (Mature and Young Adults) achieve their full educational potential. The circumstances of your birth which may include social and economic challenges should not dictate the limits of your educational achievement. Individuals, communities and society at large benefit greatly when students have the opportunity to fulfil their educational goals and that is why colleges offer dedicated access programmes.
- What is your role within TAP?
I have had the pleasure of working with students and staff in Trinity College for nearly 20 years. My current role is that of Deputy Director of the Trinity Access Programmes, and consists of working with an enthusiastic team and in partnership with schools, businesses and communities at developing policies and practices which help to ensure that widening participation is prioritised and is a success in Trinity.
- Why did you choose work in this area?
Like many things in life, my career has been part accident and part design. I initially trained as a second level teacher, and was supervised by the former Director of TAP (and fellow Mayo supporter) Deirdre Rafferty. In 1997, she invited me to volunteer on a summer school programme which was being organised by TAP for second level students, and I couldn’t resist. Aside from that experience, my personal history aligns with the TAP story, as I am a first generation college entrant. Although my own parents didn’t complete primary school and have struggled with basic literacy, they instilled a fire in my belly for education.
- Where did you train and how long did it take?
My undergraduate education took place in the inspirational surroundings of Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. After a few years of working and traveling, I undertook the Higher Diploma, Education TCD. More recently, I completed a Master’s in Education. I also have a certificate in Equality Studies from UCD. Thankfully, my job allows for a considerable degree of reflection, research and professional development – all of which is essential to ensure that I am doing the best job possible for students.
- Have you always worked with young people?
As a little girl, I loved nothing more than playing teacher. I have always been involved with education — primarily with ‘young’ people but also with mature students. In my earlier years, you would have found me escorting groups of students and educators to far-flung places in the former Soviet Union. My early days in Ireland were spent teaching in the North Inner City and Tallaght. My time in Trinity has allowed me to design and deliver so many interesting and impactful programmes for children from ages 12 to 20. Working with young people is a joy, and I believe that they have taught me as much as (hopefully) I have shared with them.
- What do you like most about your job?
I am lucky to work with a really dedicated team in Trinity – people who are creative, humorous and always willing to go the extra mile. But, I think that we would all agree, that the best part of our job is learning our students’ stories and watching them undertake an educational journey and begin to flourish.
- Are you working on any projects at the moment?
I am working with colleagues in NCAD, IADT, UCD and Marino on a grant application. We are also working on delivering the fourth annual national College Awareness Week campaign, which has been a huge success (www.collegeaware.ie). Not to mention, our orientation programme for nearly 300 incoming Freshers!
- What is your top tip for students starting college?
Be yourself, look after your well-being, and ask for help when you need it!
- How can parents help?
Parents can help by showing unconditional love and support. A warm meal, a place conducive to study, words of encouragement, continuing to do their laundry (!) and offering a few quid for socialising all help. Parents may also consider visiting the college/ university web-site to familiarise themselves with the range of transition programmes, student services, bursaries, etc. that are available to help students thrive while in college.
- Where can parents and young people find out more about access programmes?
Visit the website of the college which your son/ daughter is attending/ hoping to attend or by visiting www.accesscollege.ie