DCU President's Office

March Ezine 2019


 The ANAM Festival of Arts, Ideas and Creativity gets underway this week across our three academic campuses, and I encourage you snap up any tickets that are left for this year’s wide range of excellent events.

Among other objectives, the ANAM festival celebrates and showcases the creativity and artistic talent of our students and staff. A quick glance at the festival programme provides a reminder that, working alongside us in DCU, we have some exceptional artists, such as Marina Carr, Ronan Guilfoyle, Réaltán Ní Leannáin, John O’Flynn, Síle Denvir, Francis Ward and Dermot Diamond (and that’s just a sample!).

I am greatly looking forward to hearing some extraordinary music from world-renowned performers such as Indian percussionist Ramesh Shotham, and bright new talent like DCU student Natalya O’Flaherty. ANAM’s thought-provoking talks and discussions explore a broad range of topics from the art of composing movie soundtracks, to Dublin’s gay community of the 1980’s, to mental health and the music industry, and the issue of online hate speech.

There’s a feast of lunchtime concerts over the two days featuring the talents of DCU Campus Choir, DCU Jazz and Contemporary Music Performance students, DCU Music Society Choir, Trad Soc and Drama Soc.

All events are free except for the two flagship events: Wednesday night’s ‘Heart of the Rowl’ concert in All Hallows church, and the ‘Other Voices presents ANAM’ gig in The U on Thursday. Click here to book tickets.


DCU was chosen as the venue for the announcement, last month, of major funding for Science Foundation Ireland’s six new Centres for Research Training. This is a €100 million initiative that provides opportunities for more than 700 PhD students and also involves significant collaboration between industry and higher education institutions. The launch was attended by Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, Heather Humphreys TD, Minister of State for Innovation, John Halligan TD, and Professor Mark Ferguson, Director General of Science Foundation Ireland and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Government.


DCU will participate in three of the six new centres, in the areas of Machine Learning, Digitally Enhanced Reality and Artificial Intelligence. Congratulations to Professor Alan Smeaton, Dr Suzanne Little, and Professor Noel O’Connor for their work as the respective DCU leads in these centres. Up to 100 PhD scholarships, worth over €10m, will come to DCU


This represents another important step forward as we continue working on our Strategic Goal #2 to ‘advance our reputation for world class research’, in this case in the field of digital innovation.


 A high point of last month’s Spring Conferring ceremonies was the conferring of an Honorary Doctorate on poet Paula Meehan. Few artists truly deserve to be called ‘inspirational’, but Paula Meehan is assuredly one of them, and the standing ovation she received following her acceptance speech was testimony to that.

She spoke eloquently about her life as an artist, about embracing the challenges and rewards of following the ‘poet’s path’. She emphasised the enduring influence that her experience growing up in north Dublin has had on her life and work, and we were very honoured to hear her read her poem ‘At the Spring Equinox’, which was specially written for the occasion and finishes with a reference to DCU:

“when all my angels are angels of the apocalypse.

They reach me up into the stretched redemptive light of dawn

where we’ll rove out by wet concrete, by hedges of blackthorn

through Albert College grounds and all our world

becalmed, enchanted and beguiled —

a blackbird singing in the fields of morning.”

As I said in my concluding remarks, the Doctor of Philosophy (honoris causa) is the highest award that DCU can bestow. The decision to bestow this honour on Paula was based upon her body of exceptional artistic work, allied with, and inextricable from, her compassion, clarity, and courage.


Two important DCU events in recent weeks reaffirmed the positive impact of clearly communicating our research to an audience outside the confines of our own field.

The first was Professor Tomás Ward’s inaugural lecture as AIB Chair in Data Analytics at DCU. Tomás did a wonderful job in clearly communicating complex ideas to an audience that included many non-specialist members.

His lecture, ‘You and AI are made for each other: Living better, through machine learning’, was a highly engaging response to misconceptions about this field and highlighted a range of positive applications for AI in the healthcare field.

The second event was ‘Tell It Straight’ - the annual communications competition that challenges research students to communicate their research, and its potential impact, to a non-specialist audience in a concise, dynamic and innovative way.

As always, the talented students that qualified for the final were hugely impressive. All the contestants on the day clearly showed both in-depth knowledge and persuasive communication skills. My thanks to the Graduate Studies Office for organizing this important event and my congratulations to all those who took part, and in particular the winning contestants, listed below:

 Tell It Straight Final 2019

 Oral Category 1: Year 1 research students

Winner: Paula Lehane, School of Policy & Practice, DCU Institute of Education

Title: What can digital assessments tell us about test-takers?

Supervisor: Prof Michael O’Leary

Runner-up: Andrew Dorman, School of History & Geography

Title: ‘Well made, with a small stoop in his shoulders’: Military Desertion reports in Eighteenth Century Ireland

Supervisor: Prof James Kelly

Oral Category 2: Research students from later years

Winner: Daniel Carey, School of Communications

Title: ‘Fit to print’? An oral history of Irish journalism

Supervisor: Dr Mark O’Brien


Runner-up: Abigail Walsh, School of Computing

Title: Mark my Multiwords: Processing Multiword Expressions in Irish

Supervisor: Dr Jennifer Foster and Dr Teresa Lynn


Video entries

Winner: Denise Burtenshaw, School of Biotechnology

Title: The Secret Messengers of our Vasculature

Supervisor: Prof Paul Cahill


Runner-up: Moign Khawaja, School of Law & Government

Title: Was the “Islamic State” even a State?

Supervisor: Prof Maura Conway


It is very encouraging to see the ever-growing number of international research projects on which DCU is taking the lead role. Last week, I welcomed partner organisations from 8 EU countries (Ireland, Austria, Cyprus, Belgium, Slovenia, Spain, Finland and Sweden) to our Institute of Education as they began a DCU-led project titled ‘Assessment of Transversal Skills in STEM’. This is an ambitious partnership that has secured €2.34 million in Erasmus+ funding. Working with 120 schools across Europe, the partners will devise, test and scale new digital assessments for STEM education that engage and enhance students’ transversal skills such as teamwork, communication and discipline-specific critical thinking. 

The project is led by three DCU Research Centres: The National Institute for Digital Learning (NIDL), The Centre for Assessment Research Policy and Practice in Education (CARPE) and the Centre for the Advancement of STEM Teaching and Learning (CASTeL). Critically, the partner organisations include Education ministries in each country, including the Department of Education and Skills here in Ireland. By integrating policy-makers into the process, it is hoped the models that emerge from the project will have an increased chance of being implemented on a large scale, thus having a genuine impact on STEM education Europe-wide.

Meanwhile, another DCU-led consortium was recently awarded ~ €1m for a project examining ways of tackling gender inequalities in the entrepreneurial sector. The group is led by Professor Maura McAdam from DCUBS and also comprises researchers from Norway, Israel and Sweden. The 3-year project, titled ‘Overcoming the Entrepreneurial Ecosystem Gender Divide: A Cross-Cultural Perspective’, will provide an understanding of how gender is a decisive factor in women’s participation in entrepreneurship, with a focus on women in technology. The funding was awarded by the Irish Research Council under the EU-funded initiative GENDER-NET Plus.

A DCU-coordinated project has also received a funding award of over €1 million via the European Commission's Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA). Prof. Andy Way, Deputy Director, ADAPT Centre and the School of Computing, will lead on a project titled "Providing Resources in Irish, Norwegian, Croatian and Icelandic for the Purposes of Language Engineering". The group aims to improve the quality and performance of automated translation solutions for online and digital services.

Congratulations to everyone involved in these international projects that are great examples of our ongoing commitment to Strategic Goal #2 (Advance our Reputation for World-Class Research).


We are continuing to move forward with the development of the University's One DCU Initiative, aimed at developing a shared culture across DCU. As you know, HR recently distributed a summary of key findings from their staff survey. This was the first part of a three-step process to support DCU's Strategic Goal #5 “To value and develop our Staff Community”.

As part of the next step, our colleagues in HR will be holding a series of workshops and round-table discussions for staff, at which they will outline their ambitions to create a One DCU culture that is diverse and inclusive, and which brings our shared values to life.

The final step in this process will take place on Friday, May 10th, 2019, when you will have the opportunity to engage constructively with your colleagues, via an online platform, about the future culture of the University. This online conversation will be similar to 2017’s DCU Fuse, which helped to shape the University’s current Strategic Plan ‘Talent, Discovery and Transformation’.

Please keep an eye on your inbox over the coming weeks for full details of all of these important events.


Recent successes for DCU researchers in the latest round of the Irish Research Council's COALESCE fund give a clear indication that we are living up to our mission ‘to transform lives and societies’.

Professor Anne Matthews (School of Nursing and Human Sciences) was awarded a grant of €350,000 for a three year project 'Enhancing evidence-based infant feeding policy implementation in Malawi'. The award was co-funded by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the co-Principal Investigator is Professor Ellen Chirwa from University of Malawi.

Professor Pamela Gallagher (School of Nursing and Human Sciences) received a grant of €120,000 for her two-year project entitled 'Designing for Enhanced Participation through Technology in Higher Education - The DEPTH Study'.

Dr. Tanya Ni Mhuirthile (School of Law and Government), along with Professor Anthony Staines and Dr. Mel Duffy, both from the School of Nursing and Human Sciences, received a grant of €200,000 for a project which focuses on ' Mapping the Lived Experience of Intersex in Ireland'.

Dr. Catherine Maunsell with Dr. Ashling Bourke, both from the School of Human Development, DCU Institute of Education, received an award of €100,000 for the TEACH-RSE study on Teacher Professional Development and Relationships and Sexuality Education RSE. This award was co-funded by the Health Services Executive HSE: Sexual Health and Crisis Pregnancy Programme.

Congratulations to all our awardees!


I was delighted to accept our new ‘Fairtrade University’ designation on behalf of DCU recently. We were honoured to be joined at the ceremony by Sara Montoya, a Fairtrade coffee producer from Colombia, who made the official presentation. She spoke impressively, and movingly, about the  positive changes Fairtrade has brought to her community in the Risaralda region of Colombia.

By choosing the growing number of Fairtrade products available on our campus restaurants, cafés and shops, we ensure that producers of coffee, bananas, chocolate and cotton, for example, are treated fairly. Farm communities in developing countries also get a dividend that can be spent on local environmental measures, education and sanitation.

Implementing Fairtrade practices will be an ongoing process. Our catering company, Trispace, has committed to stating a preference for Fairtrade in all future tenders, and a Fairtrade Working Group will maintain and oversee DCU’s certification. This designation marks another step forward as we work on DCU’s Strategic Goal #8 to ‘Place Sustainability at the core of the University’.

My congratulations go to everyone involved in this important initiative including: DCU Sustainability Manager, Samantha Fahy, Retail Manager Donnie Christian, Trispace Catering General Manager, Brian Bates, and members of the DCU Sustainable Living  Student Society.


My recent visit to the United States over St Patrick’s week, in partnership with DCU Educational Trust and DCU Alumni Relations, provided a welcome opportunity to meet with alumni, engage with industry leaders, and connect with many of the University’s US-based supporters and friends.

DCU played a key part in the St Patrick’s Day celebrations in New York this year. DCU Trustee, Brian O’Dwyer, was this year’s Grand Marshal in the 258th New York City Parade. Brian was recognised by DCU with an honorary doctorate in 2013 for his humanitarian and legal work for immigrants in the United States.

A group of DCU musicians, students Erica Mannion, Tomasina McGinnity, Emma Cronly, Shauna Mannion and James Wallace, along with Dr Roisin Blunnie and Dr Sean Doherty from the Faculty of Theology, Philosophy and Music, performed wonderfully at a range of NY events, including the traditional service at St Patrick’s Cathedral and on 5th Ave as the parade was arriving - a moment captured on a New York TV channel.

It was great to meet with DCU alumni groups in both San Francisco and New York and to see that DCU graduates are flourishing in a variety of sectors across the US. There was a very positive response to the enhanced engagement from our Alumni Relations office, under the leadership of Ross Munnelly, and the new strategic focus on the US from DCU Educational Trust.

I was also pleased to address the Irish American Partnership’s St Patrick’s Day event in Boston, at which the organisation announced a donation of $10,000 towards the Western Seaboard Science Programme. The WSSP is a DCU-led initiative whose Transfer Initiative makes Continuing Professional Development more widely available to primary school STEM educators, working at small rural schools in the west of Ireland.