Dear colleagues and students,
It is a privilege to address you today as the new Interim President of University of Limerick. I am deeply humbled by this opportunity and I am delighted to get started.
I want to wish our outgoing President Dr Des Fitzgerald, the very best in the next stage of his endeavours. With his commitment to excellence in education and research and widening access, he has done the University proud during his tenure, most recently with his leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic, which will unfortunately be with us for some time to come.
Sometimes it takes disruption to drive change. Well, we have had to change. UL faced the initial challenges posed by COVID-19 with creativity, energy and collaboration not just between services and departments here on campus, but with partners in UHL, in business and across the third level sector, and in Government.
I know from working with colleagues over the summer from across the UL campus - academic, administrative and service – that this spirit of cooperation and innovation will continue and it is just what we need to thrive in this changed world.
At the heart of our Strategic Plan is the intention to continue to build the academic reputation, impact and reach of UL. I am heartened by the number of national and international collaborations and funding awards we have received over the past few months alone. I mention these successes not to boast, but to say this is who we are and what we can and do achieve.
However, we can and need to do more and differently. I will work with staff, students, the Governing Authority, our communities, stakeholders, and government as we continue to develop the role of UL as a centre of excellence in learning and research, innovation and knowledge exchange.
We have seen such extraordinary times and we have been challenged to overcome adversity, but we must also look at this as a time of opportunity. At a time where learning, education, research and knowledge exchange are central to how we will emerge from this pandemic, UL continues to play a central role, a role that has been recognised by Minister Simon Harris, who approved funding for costs incurred by UL as a consequence of COVID-19, including costs incurred in helping the health service deal with the pandemic.
Minister Harris has also indicated that he will address the longer-term issue of university funding as we demonstrate the importance of universities to our collective future. I want to thank him and Minister Niall Collins for their support for higher education.
Our University has had a massive impact on the people of the Mid-West and around the world. We still have very significant plans to grow the institution further, and we remain committed to adding greatly to our physical presence in the heart of this city that we live in.
We must continue to reach out into our community and have greater engagement, to take a leadership role in harnessing the full potential of this region that we live, work and study in. This is a model of engaged citizenship and it will be at the heart of everything that I do as your interim president.
As we prepare to welcome you, the students back to the campus in a controlled and safe manner - most for the first time since March 12 - we will be operating in a hybrid-environment, a mix of face-to-face and online teaching and learning support. At the centre of all our preparations for these changes, is our responsibility to keep our community safe - within UL, in the surrounding area and further afield.
The guiding principle in our Return to Campus planning in line with Public Health guidelines is shared responsibility between staff, students and University management. As you return to the lecture halls, teaching spaces and the campus as a whole, you will see in action the measures that we have taken to promote good hygiene, public health and the safety of your colleagues.
In this challenging times you need to be fully involved, by taking responsibility for yourself and for your fellow students, for your family, friends and for your community. This has never been more important as we have to continue to vigorously manage the COVID-19 spread of infection for the foreseeable future. Your responsible behaviour both on and off campus will play a significant role in keeping yourself healthy and well and protect those you interact with, your peers, your family, university staff and the communities you live in.
We want you to adhere not only to the public health guidelines, but to common sense as well.
The University’s motto is Eagna chun Gnímh - Wisdom for Action. We must be wise in our actions and that has never been more important than it is now, in these heightened times, where simple measures done well, regularly and consistently can have such a huge impact on our daily lives and on the reputation of UL.
Whether you are a school leaver, a mature student, progressing from further education or joining us from another country, or work in the academic research or professional support areas of the university, I want you to be reassured also that UL will continue to promote equality and diversity across our community as we continue to be inclusive for all.
I will communicate with you regularly and value your opinions on the development of this institution that we all feel ownership of, so feedback is invited and welcome. It is so important to me that everyone is encouraged to contribute in making this the greatest version of UL that it can be.
Thank you for your time and consideration.
With all good wishes,