NUI Galway has appointed its first full-time Traveller Education Officer to lead the teaching and learning of students from the Traveller community.
Owen Ward, a Traveller, qualified teacher and alumnus of the University, will take on the role as NUI Galway develops a model to empower the community to overcome barriers to access, progression, retention and success in higher education.
Simon Harris, Minister for Further and Higher Education, welcomed the appointment, saying: “Owen is an incredible role model for his family and the wider Traveller community. He has overcome adversity and changed the course of not only his own future but that of the wider Traveller community.
“Higher education is for everyone and can be the key to equality as well as unlocking opportunities for all.
“Our mission in my Department of Further and Higher Education Research Innovation and Science is to ensure no one is left behind. As we strive towards a more inclusive higher education system for all.”
Meanwhile, President of NUI Galway, professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, said: “At NUI Galway, we are a university for the public good, with a shared vision, shaped by our values.
Barriers to education
“The appointment of Owen Ward as our Traveller Education Officer goes to the heart of this work in promoting our values, particularly the importance which we place on respect and openness, as well as providing a culture that creates opportunities in education for people from all backgrounds. He is an exemplar of excellence and a role model for us all.”
NUIG said Owen Ward’s role will be a key part of the work of NUI Galway Access Centre.
The Traveller Education Officer will manage Mincéirs Misl'd in Education - Empowering Irish Travellers to transition and build a sense of belonging in Higher Education. The project is funded by the National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning.
The Traveller Education Officer will work in partnership with various stakeholders, including Traveller organisations and the Traveller community and build on critical government policies and strategies to provide a detailed, evidence-based understanding of barriers to access, progression and retention in higher education for Irish Travellers.
Speaking about the role, Owen Ward said: “The main objective of the project is to support the development of recruitment and support strategies and evidence-based teaching and learning methods in an effort to address the low levels of Travellers in higher education.
“It will empower Travellers in post-primary, further education and mature students to progress to higher education and build a sense of belonging, while being successful during their studies at NUI Galway.”