DENVER - The Irish Ambassador to the United States, Michael Collins, listened intently as University of Colorado Denver students and faculty talked about the profound experiences they’ve had on the Emerald Isle.
Collins, his wife, Mary, and the Irish Consul to the Western United States, Jerry Staunton, met with a dozen CU Denver representatives for an hour on Nov. 3 in the Alumni Conference Room of Lawrence Street Center. The lively conversation focused on the university’s current activity in Ireland as well as possible future collaborations in higher education and entrepreneurial projects.
After each student explained their Irish study abroad programs – Holli Gilvaie, College of Arts & Media undergraduate, and Bradd Williams, MBA student – Collins asked why they chose Ireland and what they got out of the experience.
“I really feel like my experience in Ireland has changed my art completely,” Gilvaie told the ambassador of her Interdisciplinary Art in Ireland program last summer. “I was able to bring it back here and apply it. I didn’t just do photos. I made things; I painted for the first time. I did all these site-specific things I never thought I would.”
Williams took part in an Entrepreneurial Studies Leadership program in May, headed up by Jan Rutherford, adjunct professor, Business School.
Rutherford said the 15 MBA students met with 39 Irish representatives in academia, government and business during the two-week trip. He said he was struck by how collaborative, innovative and humble the Irish leaders were. “We’re very excited about building this bridge between government, academia and business,” Rutherford said, “and at the same time building a really great learning experience.”
Others at the meeting included Wendy Guild, director of the Sports and Entertainment Management Program in the Business School, Business School Dean Sueann Ambron, School of Public Affairs Dean Paul Teske, and representatives from the Skaggs School of Pharmacy and the Bard Center for Entrepreneurship.
Guild said her program offers an annual two-week trip to England. About 25 CU Denver students travel to London to learn about high-profile sports and entertainment operations. Staunton said Ireland has a renowned amateur sports organization that students would be welcome to visit in future programs.
Collins rolled out the welcome mat for other collaborations, highlighting the innovative work of Enterprise Ireland in incubating fledgling businesses, even those from other nations. He told Williams, “We can support you to the tune of $200,000 to $500,000 if you have a bright idea (for a business) and bring it back to Ireland.”
Collins said Ireland receives $190 billion of U.S. investment annually. There are 40 million people in the United States who claim Irish ancestry.
Collins said Irish colleges have “far more capacity” than is being used, and he emphasized that the nation is trying to be as competitive as possible in attracting students who have many choices. “We are very much in the business of trying to attract international students to Ireland for whatever duration,” he said. “We need to do a better job of promoting ourselves as a destination for students. We think we have a lot to offer, on a scale that many students have found more human. There’s a human dimension to these things as well. These experiences can have a lifelong impact.”
After listening to prospects for collaborations in biotech, pharmaceutical and other business studies and entrepreneurial projects, Collins enthused, “We’d love to work with you in these proposals you have.”