Maynooth University elect their first female president

Last week saw the election of Professor Eeva Leinonen, who took up office at Maynooth University, making her the fourth female president of an Irish university.

The appointment of Leinonen as President of MU is a most welcome step in the right direction, owing to Ireland’s regrettable shortage of female staff in senior academic positions. 

Being the first female president at Maynooth University is not everything, but it’s not nothing,” Professor Leinonen told The Irish Times.

“It shows younger generations that it is possible for women to progress in their career, have a family and take on a leadership role. I have a daughter. I have a life. It is possible,” she said in an interview.

Up until last year when Kerstin Mey was elected president of University of Limerick, there had not been a single female university president for 428 years.

Leinonen has a long history of leadership in academic positions, having worked as Vice Chancellor at Murdoch university, and Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of Wollongong, Australia.

She also has an extensive background in researching linguistics and psychology.

The Finnish academic succeeds Professor Phillip Nolan, who held the post for the past ten years, and is current chair of NPHET’s Irish Epidemiological Modelling Advisory Group.  

Speaking at the appointing ceremony, Professor Leinonen said: “High-quality innovative education, world class research that has positive societal impact, and transformational educational opportunities for all who can benefit irrespective of background are hallmarks of Maynooth University and resonate closely with my approach to university education.”

“Next year Maynooth celebrates its 25th anniversary,” she continued.

“This affords us an opportunity to pause, reflect and plan for the years ahead. Due to its rapid enrolment growth, its diverse student population, its youthful and collegial attitude towards multidisciplinary research, and its strengths in fields that are critical to Ireland’s economic future, I believe Maynooth University can play a significant role in preparing for next-generation Ireland.”

Maynooth currently retains the largest proportion of female professors in Ireland, with female academics accounting for 34% of their total staff.

Kasey Leigh McCrudden.

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