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Athlone Institute of Technology colleagues participating in the Aurora Programme

08 Jun 2021 | Jane Burns Jane Burns, Director of the Regional University Networks (RUN-EU), Athlone Institute of Technology reflects on the AIT’s positive engagement with the Aurora programme

Athlone Institute of Technology (AIT) is very supportive and progressive higher education institute for students and staff. In 2019, AIT commenced our involvement in the Aurora Programme, Advance HE's leadership development initiative for women. This was championed by John McKenna, Vice President for Strategic Planning, Institutional Performance, Equality and Diversity and Jackie Farrell, Equality, Diversity, and Inclusivity Officer.  

I was very excited about this initiative coming to AIT as I was a new employee but I also had completed the Aurora programme in 2016 and was a role model in my previous employment. Having had the previous positive experience of being involved in Aurora, along with John and Jackie’s commitment to the development of staff, we were able to offer colleagues a presentation of why engagement would be of benefit to them, colleagues and our institution overall.

In 2019, after a call for applications we had a significant number of applications which was narrowed down to six candidates. These became our first Aurorans. These colleagues represented a range of departments, disciplines and roles across AIT. There was such a positive response to the experience that when we looked for new candidates for 2020 we received even more applications than the previous year. This surprised us because we were afraid there would be a low take up during the Covid-19 pandemic. Our current Aurorans have just finished the programme and we look forward to inviting our colleagues to apply for the next Aurora offering.

Our colleagues who finished their Aurora programmes last year and the ones involved in this year have told us that the online experience has been fantastic. Aurora has really pulled out all the stops to ensure that this has been  an engaging and enjoyable experience. Internally, at AIT we were fortunate to have another previous Auroran, Dr. Maire Brophy, who completed the Aurora programme in 2015, joined AIT as the new Dean of Research in September 2020. Jackie Farrell initiated online coffee mornings to be held every few weeks for all of us to meet up and review our experiences with Aurora and to get to know each other.

We are planning to invite our Auroran colleagues from Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT) to attend out next coffee morning. AIT and LIT are set to become the next Technological University and we are hoping our involvement in Aurora will be another way we connect to each other.

These events have been very positive, especially since Jackie starts them off with some fun ice breakers, such as “Tell us something about you that no one knows!” These are just the starting points to get us laughing and enjoying each other which rolls nicely into discussing our roles as women leaders. The AIT President, Professor Ciaran O'Cathain joins in the coffee mornings when he is available and this level of support has very a positive impact.  

AIT coffee morning

Another fantastic experience that has occurred is that we have received the Aurora pins! This brought lots of smiles and as you can see in the pictures below some very proud Aurorans.

Aurora pins

We look forward to being back on campus and to take steps to set up a Leadership Network for all colleagues that will be directed by the Aurorans.

Current Aurorans  (completion date – May 2021): Patricia Heavey, Treasa Fox, Tania Marsh, Laura Tully, Claire McDermott, Deirdre Walsh.

Previous Aurorans (completion date – May 2020): Dr Attracta Foley,  Dr Teresa O'Hara, Celine Peignen, Lorna Walsh, Dr Noreen Morris, Dr Niamh ni Cheilleachair.

Aurora is Advance HE's leadership development initiative for women. It is run as a unique partnership bringing together leadership experts and higher education institutions to take positive action to address the under-representation of women in leadership positions in the sector. Find out more.

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