Irish Universities Work Together to Reach Out to Communities

Monday, 25 May 2009

Five Irish universities have come together to form a new network called Campus Engage for the promotion of civic engagement activities in higher education. Campus Engage will hold its inaugural conference 'Higher Education and Civic Engagement Partnerships: Create, Challenge, Change' from 4-5 June in Croke Park. The partners in the network, which is led by NUI Galway, are UL, NUI Maynooth, UCD and DCU. The conference has attracted over 200 international higher education academics and administrators, people involved in community-based organisations, and students. The event will explore how community-university partnerships can be further developed in Ireland by showcasing local and international examples. NUI Galway's Lorraine McIlrath is Principal Investigator with Campus Engage: "The development of Campus Engage has been sparked by other international networks, such as Campus Compact, a coalition formed in the 1980s by US universities. This conference is an opportunity to learn more from international examples and to share what is happening here in Ireland across all campuses. Recent international trends include, for example, President Obama's plan to require undergraduate students to give 100 hours of academic service to communities. Only by cultivating a sense of civic responsibility which permeates throughout all our educational institutions, and only by empowering all students with a sense of social justice and the capacity for civic engagement, can we ensure that our graduates go on to be ethical citizens, and ultimately enhance democratic society". The conference will provide a forum to discuss the rationale of university-community partnerships in the context of Irish higher education, exchange information about international models, and debate practical issues about implementing partnerships. It will also examine the effectiveness of these models of partnership in influencing policy and bringing about social change. The conference will be addressed by international and national experts. Keynote speakers from Ireland include: Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, Life President of Focus Ireland and founder of the Young Social Innovators; Mary O'Malley, poet and member of Aosdána; Fergus Finlay, Chief Executive of Barnardos; Professor Pat Dolan, UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement at NUI Galway; and Professor Alan Smith, UNESCO Chair in Education for Pluralism, Human Rights and Democracy, University of Ulster, Coleraine. International speakers will come from Argentina, Australia, USA and the UK, and include Professor María Nieves Tapia, Academic Director of the Latin American Centre for Service Learning in South America, and Professor Michael Cuthill, Director of the University of Queensland Boilerhouse for Community Engagement Centre, Australia. Further information is also available at the conference website www.campusengage.ie/conference or from Ann Lyons at the Conference Secretariat, NUI Galway on 091 492228 or info@campusengage.ie.
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