The Mincéirs Whiden Society at NUI Galway has awarded Owen Patrick Ward honorary life membership.
Mr Ward, a programme coordinator in the University’s Access Office, has been honoured for his involvement in the society since its creation and for his contribution to its work.
Jason Sherlock, chairperson of the Mincéirs Whiden Society, said that it is a great privilege that they can recognise Owen for the work he has done for Irish Travellers in NUI Galway and the wider community.
“Owen never shies away from a challenge and he is always there to support any student, not only Irish Travellers but any student who might experience educational disadvantage,” said Mr Sherlock.
“He was an early school leaver with no Junior or Leaving Certificate and he has overcome many barriers in his life to be where he is today. He is an inspirational role model.”
Mr Ward is a Programme Coordinator in the NUI Galway Access Centre and last year was elected to the University’s Governing Authority, Údarás na hOllscoile.
He completed his Masters in NUI Galway, he is a fully qualified post-primary school teacher and he was key to the organisation of the hugely successful NUI Galway Irish Traveller Ethnicity Day on campus in February 2020.
“Our members will forever be in Owen’s debt due to his work, endeavours and the support he has given,” added Vice-chairperson of the Mincéirs Whiden Society Anna Keane. “Owen is a true inspiration to all.”
NUI Galway Mincéirs Whiden Society, which means ‘Travellers Talking’ in the Cant language, is the first Irish Traveller student society.
Since 2018, it has contributed to increased Traveller participation in third-level education, while providing a safe and welcoming space on campus.
The society has also built positive relationships with the student and staff body in the University, by winning the NUI Galway Best New Society for 2020.
When the society was launched in 2018, Mr Ward said that one of the main objectives of the society is to empower members of the Travelling community to enter third-level education while being encouraged and supported by NUI Galway.
“At present, there are a small number of Traveller students studying at NUI Galway across numerous disciplines,” he said.
“Also, it is of paramount importance to build positive alliances and relationships between Traveller students and the student and staff body at NUI Galway as well as the wider community.”