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Graduate Interview: Helen Concannon BSc '98

Thursday 30 August 2018   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Lisa McCarthy
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As we look forward to hosting Class Reunions on campus in September 2018, here we catch up with one of our returning alumni. Helen Concannon graduated from UL in 1998 with a BSc in Biological Sciences.

Tell us a little about yourself…

I have been teaching Sciences in Killinarden Community School, Tallaght for the last 18 years. Living in Dublin with my husband and son, who is about to start primary school. Currently doing a PhD in DCU looking at the factors that affect cultural change in rural Kenya. 


That’s an interesting subject for your research, how did this become your area of focus?

I became interested in that topic because I have been going to this area of Kenya since 2002 and have developed a good relationship with the local community. During this time, they identified female circumcision (or FGM as it is called internationally) as an area of concern for them. Working with them, it became apparent that there were multiple interconnected factors affecting a community’s decision to continue the practice. This was my motivation for the research and I hope it will help others to understand the complexity of the issue. 

My PhD involves a study of a distinct area in the Rift Valley in Kenya. It examines the factors that lead a community to change their practices around female circumcision. It has involved a number of visits to Kenya where I work with a local team of women who have helped with the research interviews and collection of data. It builds on my Masters research which was on a similar theme

In 2007 you received the UL Alumni Award for your Outstanding Contribution to Society for your volunteering and charity work. Is this something that you are still involved in?

I am a serial volunteer! My current role as Chair of the Board of Directors and Chief Commissioner of the Irish Girl Guides is a very rewarding (and busy!) one with almost 12,000 members nationwide. In particular am proud of how we as an organisation encouraged girls and young women to be whatever they want to be and how we tackle stereotypes such as girls in STEM. Most recently, we teamed up with the Lego Innovation Studio in DCU to run robotics course for our girls, instilling confidence in them to solve the world’s problems. 

What do you remember most about your student years?

The friends I made, with whom I am gladly still in touch with; the good foundation in science education we received; the (long!) 3-hour lab sessions; the biology field trips.


Were there any faculty/staff/fellow students at UL who made an impression on you?

As a class, we were only 30 or so in number so many of us are still in touch with each other. A group of six of us meet regularly and are still firm friends. Some of my housemates have become lifelong friends!  Faculty wise, Frank McGourty was a legend in science education as was Peter Childs, George Mullan, Con Trass and especially John Breen


How do you maintain your relationship with UL today? 

I keep in touch with the Alumni Association. 


What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?

I am still a student and availing of discounts with my student card!  


What do you know now that you wished you knew when you were a student?

IT! I remember setting up my first email address while in final year in UL. And now considering how things have changed in those 20 years since! Google was set up just after we left, so we spent a lot of time in the library with actual books! Now as a researcher, I think I use only 2-3 printed books and everything else is online. 


What message would you like to send to other alumni?

Being in UL was a unique time in each of our lives - queueing at the Hurlers to ring home once a week with a call card; the opening night of Kilmurry Lodge; no internet; new buildings; the stables being renovated; no such thing as mobile phones or laptops - a unique time!


Is there anything else you would like to add?

I would like to pay tribute to Patricia Toher from Bonniconlon, a classmate, who sadly passed away during our time in UL. 

This September 29th the Class of 1998 will celebrate their 20 year Reunion in The Stables Club on campus.

If you would like some more details on this milestone event or would like to register to attend please click here


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