By Conor MacNally
Students should be open to the idea of change and should seek out opportunities in areas outside those in which they are studying to overcome the economic challenges currently facing them, according to DCU’s new chancellor.
Dr. Martin McAleese, who holds an Honorary Doctorate from the college, was appointed to the role of Chancellor by the Governing Authority in August, taking over from former EU Commissioner David Byrne.
Speaking to the College View at Áras an Uachtaráin last week, he said the invitation came as a surprise: “It was a tremendous honour and I was just delighted to accept the honour. It’s new territory for me and it’s just a matter of finding your way through it.”
His arrival was welcomed by DCU President Brian MacCraith, who praised Dr. McAleese’s commitment to innovation and said his expertise in the areas of economic regeneration and employment would be of great benefit to the college.
Meanwhile, former university President Ferdinand Von Prondzynski paid tribute to the new Chancellor, writing on his blog that “his appointment will reinforce DCU’s status as an ambitious university that also attaches huge importance to educational values, economic development and social progress.”
The President’s husband, who was also appointed to the Seanad this year, said that while his role at DCU was mainly ambassadorial, he would try to support students and promote innovation across all disciplines at the university:
“When we think of innovation we think of something that is very ‘sciencey’, and we tend to miss out on that which is possible in the areas of arts and humanities, language, culture, philosophy, music… I think one of the challenges that all universities face is how do you instil in students a sense that innovation matters?”
McAleese has qualifications in Physics and Dentistry as well as training in Accountancy, and advised students that survival in the jobs market today comes from being open to every possible opportunity. He encouraged students not to be afraid to change direction:
“It shouldn’t be about the 500-and-something points to become a doctor and to remain a doctor. That is something which might suit some people, it certainly doesn’t suit everybody and I think that we all have a whole range of talents …and if we open them up we can see opportunity everywhere.
“Of course there will be disappointment; you pick something, and you study, and you come out the other end and it’s not what you thought it would be or maybe the opportunities just aren’t there. Don’t stand back and wait until whatever you’re qualified for comes along.”
Speaking about higher education funding and the possible reintroduction of third level fees, the Chancellor said it was a huge issue that will be difficult to address because he understands both the pressures on Government finances and the pressure on families and students:
“There will be lots of debates around the issue… and I think how we address that issue will determine how our national reputation for education develops and we have to be focused on that.
“Every generation has its own mountain to climb. We have this one and I think we’ll find a way. Ten years from now we’ll look back and hopefully be able to compliment ourselves on having done a good job on sorting out these problems.”
Dr McAleese is also a Senator and Chair of the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalene Laundries, but said he is looking forward to the challenges his new position at DCU will bring and hopes to be able to contribute to the future development of the university.