Gathering for the Inaugural Alumni Conference, over 150 alumni, speakers, US Embassy representatives and invited guests enjoyed a wonderful, stimulating day at The Four Seasons Hotel Dublin. In the beautiful atmosphere of the hotel, Ambassador Rooney officially launched ‘Ireland and the United States: A Decade of Change’, welcoming in particular Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programs, Meghann Curtis, and keynote speaker, Mike Feerick. Recalling the official launch of the IUSA at the National Gallery last March, Ambassador Rooney congratulated the IUSA on delivering the conference And encouraged all to be active participants in the panel discussions.
The conference opened with a plenary session on the ‘Internationalization of Education’ moderated by RTE broadcaster and Fulbright alumnus, Myles Dungan. Deputy Assistant Secretary Curtis gave the opening presentation on the importance of globalizing education and the role of alumni, followed by a discussion including panelists Prof. Brian Norton, President, Dublin Institute of Technology, and Ms. Brigid McManus, General Secretary, Department of Education. The discussion focused on the need for greater integration of opportunities to study abroad in higher level education and the role of online learning in the globalization process.
After a networking coffee break, conference participants had the option of attending parallel sessions on education, culture and sport, including inputs from one of Ireland’s leading theatre directors and Tony award winner, Garry Hynes (IVLP alumna), famous artist and creator of the set for Riverdance, Robert Ballagh (IVLP alumnus), President of Dublin City University, Prof. Brian MacCraith, and Basketball Coach of the Year, Jerome Westbrooks. Trying to decide which panel discussion to participate in was a challenge for some, as all panelists made interesting contributions to their panel topic.
Mr. Mike Feerick, Founder and CEO of Alison.com, entertained at the luncheon with his engaging presentation on his company and his ideas for the future of education and e-learning in Ireland and around the world. He kept the audience in his rapt attention with his quick-paced presentation on advances in technology and their relationship to the future of learning. He also spoke about a volunteer community project he founded called ‘Ireland Reaching Out’, which looks to connect communities in Ireland with their diaspora through the innovative use of social networking and communications technology. An inspiring speaker, Mr. Feerick closed the conference by challenging the alumni to get involved to connect Ireland around the world.
Overall, the conference set the tone for future alumni events for the collaboration between the US Embassy and the IUSA. Alumni enjoyed the many presentations, the quality and caliber of the speakers and the opportunity to network and share stories about their time in the United States on their US government funded exchange programs.