University College Dublin (UCD) has become the latest Irish third-level institution to have a woman president after the appointment of Prof Orla Feely to the role in February.

Having been the vice-president for research, innovation and impact at UCD for nearly a decade, Feely succeeds Prof Mark Rogers who has been acting president since March 2022. She will take up her new office on 1 May.

Feely has been a lecturer at UCD since 1992. She holds a bachelor’s degree in electronic engineering from UCD, after which she went on to do a master’s and PhD in electrical engineering from the University of California, Berkeley.

While at Berkeley, she was awarded the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor Award. Her PhD thesis in the area of nonlinear circuits and systems also won the DJ Sakrison Memorial Prize for “outstanding and innovative research”.

Tenure at UCD

Feely’s leadership of innovation at UCD has overseen a significant increase in space at NovaUCD, the university’s centre for new ventures and entrepreneurs, the launch of a University Bridge Fund to support early-stage companies and the development of an AgTech Innovation Centre at UCD Lyons Farm.

During her tenure, she has also championed the advancement of women in UCD through the development and delivery of two successive gender equality action plans, which secured two Athena SWAN Bronze awards for the university.

As UCD’s first woman president, Feely said she is “greatly honoured” to lead the university “into the next phase of its remarkable development”.

“My own studies in UCD, starting at the age of sixteen, transformed my life, and I witness the University’s continuing transformative impact every day,” she said upon being appointed by the governing authority today.
“I want to lead a UCD that makes a clear positive difference to the lives of our students through the educational experience we deliver. I want to grow our impact in Ireland and in the wider world through our work in areas such as sustainability, health and secure societies.”

‘Significant milestone’

Marie O’Connor, who chairs the UCD governing authority, praised Feely as an “outstanding university leader” with a “distinguished academic track record” in research and teaching who has greatly contributed to the reputation of UCD.

“Prof Orla Feely is an exceptional person who has the drive and ambition to lead UCD as a public university that values its community, that sets standards and embraces wider participation in order to make a real impact on society,” O’Connor said.

Minister for Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science Simon Harris, TD also congratulated Feely on her appointment and described it as not just a “huge personal achievement” for her but also “a significant milestone” for UCD.

“Prof Orla Feely becomes the first female president of the university. She also becomes our seventh female president of a higher education university. Two and a half years ago, we had no female presidents,” he said.

“I hope it sends a strong message to everyone involved in the higher education sector and beyond – a message of inclusion, equality and opportunity for all.”

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