Niamh

Niamh Gately |   CRM Executive & Graphic Designer at GAA

Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're struggling with any part of it. Undertaking research can often feel like an isolated role but there's a great network of people in NUI Galway going through the same experience. Most of all, don't get disheartened if you hit a roadblock. That's absolutely normal and part of the process.

NUI Galway Posts: Research Master Student; Research Assistant
Years in NUI Galway: 2011-2014; 2016
Research Discipline: Social Marketing
Project Title: Operation Transformation: Facebook’s role in shifting lifestyle change from behavioural intention to behavioural commitment

Tell us about your experience as a researcher at NUI Galway

I had just completed an MSc. in Marketing in NUI Galway when the Safefood Social Marketing Fellowship application opened up. Social Marketing was my favourite module in the taught masters course and the fact that it was a 3-year professional placement meant it was an opportunity I couldn't ignore, particularly as Ireland was in the midst of the recession at the time! I went for it and thankfully got the job. The skills and experiences I gained were two-fold; I greatly developed critical thinking, research, writing and time management skills through the research. The second aspect was gaining practical experience in a professional role and learning the ins and outs of office life! Through the Safefood placement, I gained market research, digital marketing, event marketing and sponsorship experience. While it was a busy 3 years managing both the job and research side of things, it was really an ideal start to my professional career and I'd like to think that this experience has stood to me ever since.

Tell us about your career journey since your time at NUI Galway

I suppose looking back on my career since completing my research, I've flip-flopped a bit between research/academia and industry! I'm grateful that I'm able to do that with my qualifications and experience to date and that I have some flexibility in my career path and don't feel too 'fenced in'. Directly after finishing my research, I started a Marketing Executive job for a pharmacy chain. I didn't really enjoy the work and had had enough of Dublin after 4 years living there so after a year of that, I got a research role in a different academic department in NUI Galway. It was an ideal one for me because even though it was in the Psychology department, the projects I was tasked with were ones that needed marketing skills and experience, so I really enjoyed it. After that, I went back to commercial marketing but mainly because of the organisation itself - it was one I'd always dreamed of working for - even if it meant moving back to Dublin again! I'm still in that role now, so we'll see where the next one takes me!

What advice would you give to current NUI Galway researchers?

First of all, I would advise (if not too late!) to choose a research topic that you are genuinely interested in. I can't imagine devoting so much time to something that doesn't excite you - it makes the process so much easier if you care about the topic. Try to be disciplined with yourself in terms of amount of time per week spent researching/writing. Often it felt as though I was rushing one or the other to reach a deadline! Don't be afraid to ask for help if you're struggling with any part of it. Undertaking research can often feel like an isolated role but there's a great network of people in NUI Galway going through the same experience. Most of all, don't get disheartened if you hit a roadblock. That's absolutely normal and part of the process. The best feeling is when you overcome those obstacles and find a new, even better way of doing the task! Lastly, just know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and while it may seem never-ending now, the day will come when you look back on your research and thank yourself for all the hours spent on it. You may even look back and realise how much you actually enjoyed the experience!

 

Dr Luke

Dr Luke Hamilton |   Protection Field Officer at UN Refugee Agency

Once you are clear about the scope of your research question, you should identify actors working on the ground in that field, introduce yourself, develop a relationship, highlight the potential value of your research for their work and explore opportunities to cooperate on issues of mutual interest.

NUI Galway Posts: PhD Researcher
Years in NUI Galway: 2015-2019
Research Discipline: International Refugee Law
Project Title: (Re)Conceptualising Vulnerability in International Refugee Law: An exploration of the value of a more dynamic approach to vulnerability in refugee status determination

Tell us about your experience as a researcher at NUI Galway

My PhD was funded under the Irish Research Council’s employment-based programme. As part of that programme, I was employed as Legal Officer with the Irish Refugee Council’s Independent Law Centre in Dublin, which provides early legal advice to asylum seekers navigating the Irish asylum process. In that sense, my research environment was very much practice-oriented, grounded in casework and evidence-based policy and advocacy work. This offered me professional opportunities that likely would not have been available under a traditional desk-based PhD programme. From a research perspective, the environment was particularly valuable as I was actively involved in the casework of the law centre and had the opportunity to work on protection cases directly relevant to my research, following their progress through the Irish asylum system.

This afforded me a unique perspective from which to witness the interaction between law, theory and practice. In addition, the particular environment highlighted the practical impact of my research, as I was able to use knowledge and research findings to inform individual cases and also the wider legal policy and advocacy work of the Irish Refugee Council. This proved invaluable to achieving career goals as I was able to clearly demonstrate the tangible value of my PhD research, having engaged with gaps in law and policy at the coalface of refugee protection in Ireland and not just in the theory. Underpinning all of this was the support of colleagues at the School of Law at NUIG and in particular my supervisor, Dr. Ciara Smyth, who frequently shared opportunities to disseminate my research and experiences from the field, kept me in the loop on goings on in the academic world and ensured that I was on top of writing deadlines.

Tell us about your career journey since your time at NUI Galway

Before beginning and completing my Master of Laws (LLM) in International Human Rights Law at the Irish Centre for Human Rights at NUIG, I knew I was particularly interested in the area of international protection. While I was undoubtedly interested in learning more about the theory and legal frameworks underpinning refugee protection, I particularly enjoy working directly with people so I was more interested in the practical side of that area of work. Continuing to pursue academic work was not immediately on my radar after completing the LLM and I took posts with the UN in Thailand (Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) and Japan (UN University) to build up practical experience on my CV. During this period, I received a mail from Dr. Ciara Smyth with a call for proposals to undertake the Irish Research Council’s Employment-Based programme and was immediately attracted by the opportunity to work directly with asylum seekers and refugees in the Irish context, while increasing my substantial knowledge of the field through fully-funded doctoral research.

The four years spent on the programme provided an unparalleled opportunity to gain crucial competencies in communication and intercultural sensitivity, and a solid understanding of the practical and legal frameworks underpinning refugee protection through the national, regional and international levels – all of which was consolidated in the final doctoral thesis at the end. The programme represents a critical period of progressive professional development in my career, highlighting not just my passion for working with asylum seekers and refugees but also my desire to learn and apply my skills and knowledge to complex issues on the ground. I believe the innovative nature of this research experience substantially helped me obtain my current position with the UN Refugee Agency.

What advice would you give to current NUI Galway researchers?

For researchers who are interested in exploring a career outside of the academic world and/or opportunities to apply their research in a practical setting, I would recommend not waiting until the end of the doctoral programme before exploring those opportunities. Rather, from the outset of the process, once you are clear about the scope of your research question, you should identify actors working on the ground in that field, introduce yourself, develop a relationship, highlight the potential value of your research for their work and explore opportunities to cooperate on issues of mutual interest. This could range from proposals for inputting to advocacy or policy material or research support on individual legal cases. Particularly in the NGO sector, where resources are restricted by a competitive and shrinking funding environment, many organisations would be delighted to explore opportunities to collaborate with an expert in the area of their work.

 

Dr Katarina

Dr Katarina Mansson |   Special Assistant for Human Rights at UN Headquarters NY

Do field research and engage in inter-disciplinarity, if you can, as it broadens understanding and allows for complexity. But also get actively involved in university life as well as in Galway's wonderful cultural world as it will enrich your senses and contribute to making your time at NUIG a most memorable one.

NUI Galway Posts: PhD Researcher
Years in NUI Galway: 2004-2008
Research Discipline: International Human Rights Law
Project Title: A communicative act: integrating human rights in UN peace operations - dialogues from Kosovo and Congo

Tell us about your experience as a researcher at NUI Galway

I spent four unforgettable years at the Irish Centre for Human Rights (2004-2008). The Centre, and NUI Galway, encouraged independent and critical thinking while providing an excellent academic framework of support and collegiality – a combination that fostered a unique and vibrant research community. The breath of the Centre’s international engagement, and its welcoming faculty and staff, attracted a diverse and engaging student body and made all of us feel instantly "at home" at the Centre. I benefitted from outstanding supervision from Prof. Ray Murphy, who taught me that humility, curiosity and dedication are the foundation not only of successful research but also of what professionalism ultimately implies – especially in the area of human rights. This didactic philosophy of Prof. Murphy, and the Centre’s faculty as a whole, was geared towards preparing us students to become agents of social change – irrespectively of the career path that we would ultimately chose, whether in academia or outside academia. Interdisciplinary approaches and applied research were thus promoted, and we were called upon to embrace open debate and diversity of views and to network with a broad range of partners, activists and institutions.

In this regard, I recall fondly the research discussions that Prof. William Schabas, our dynamic and inspirational Director, convened for us Ph.D. students on a regular basis to analyze and discuss rulings and decisions of various domestic and international courts and tribunals. I also appreciated the encouragement to undertake field studies – including in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Kosovo – and extensive interviews with UN staff, exposing me to political, institutional and socio-cultural challenges to integration of human rights in peace operations (the topic of my research). And thanks to a NUI Galway fellowship, I was able to connect deeper with university life, including by organizing major conferences and engaging in teaching activities. I have aspired to practice these invaluable lessons and skills acquired in Galway ever since; first and foremost that how we approach things determines everything we do and can achieve. Listen, observe, analyze – with an open and curious mind, through numerous perspectives and without judgement – and engage as an agent of change with humility and a sense of “duty to serve” those deprived of justice, dignity and peace.

Tell us about your career journey since your time at NUI Galway

Upon graduating from NUIG, I joined the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Kampala, Uganda, in 2008. I worked primarily on capacity-building programmes, in close cooperation with the Ugandan Human Rights Commission, while also engaging in monitoring and reporting. I continued at OHCHR Headquarters in Geneva, holding various positions in support of the UN human rights treaty bodies and special procedures mandate holders. In 2012, I moved to UN Headquarters in New York to take up a position as Political Affairs Officer in the Political Unit of the Executive Office of the Secretary-General. The position entailed providing policy advice to UN senior management on human rights and other protection related issues as well as on political, human rights, socio-economic and humanitarian developments in several regions in Africa. Coinciding with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s second term in office (2012-2017), it was a dynamic period for human rights and prevention work at UN Headquarters, including with the launch of the Human Rights up Front initiative.

In the summer of 2017, I took up an assignment as Deputy Chief of the Coordination Unit in the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO), Jerusalem. With UNSCO colleagues and the broader UN Country Team, I worked to advance human rights, development, humanitarian assistance and planning projects and programmes in the West Bank, with a focus on Area C, East Jerusalem and Hebron. Since January 2019, I’m back in New York, serving as Special Assistant to the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights and Head of the New York Office of OHCHR, Ilze Brands Kehris. It’s been a fascinating journey – professionally as well as personally – since I left the Irish Centre for Human Rights in December 2007, one that I feel deep gratitude for and in which the Galway spirit has been a constant companion and compass.

What advice would you give to current NUI Galway researchers?

Listen, observe, analyze – with an open and curious mind, through numerous perspectives and without judgement – and engage as an agent of change with humility and a sense of “duty to serve” those deprived of justice, dignity and peace. Do field research and engage in inter-disciplinarity, if you can, as it broadens understanding and allows for complexity. But also get actively involved in university life as well as in Galway's wonderful cultural world as it will enrich your senses and contribute to making your time at NUIG a most memorable one.

 

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