Impact & Opinions | Tionchar & Tuairimí

Breaking down Barriers at NUI Galway 

Breaking down Barriers at NUI Galway 

26 April 22
 | 19 MINS

Donors to NUI Galway Scholarship programmes join with the university to break down barriers to a university education, to recognise and celebrate excellence and to ensure that our university continues to be a diverse and vibrant community. Scholarships help shape the vision for NUI Galway supporting us to attract and retain the best and most deserving students.

About me

I am 21 and from Donegal town. I’m in the final year of my BA (Joint-Honours) in psychology, sociology and politics. I am also the National Co-Ordinator for MindTheMind Ireland, the Irish wave of the European Federation of Psychological Students Associations’ MindTheMind campaign. I have one older sister. My dad has a heart disease, so I continued to return to Donegal at weekends to look after him throughout college. Due to Covid restrictions, I couldn’t return home as often as I needed too, which caused extra stress for me and my family.

My mother works in Donegal Women Domestic Service. This was more than likely where my interest began as a result of helping my mum with her work in the women’s refuge. I continued to work two jobs while studying and still receiving first class honours. I have completed Sexual Assault Disclosure Training with Galway Rape Crisis Centre (GRCC) and in my first year of university, I organised the 16 Days of Action campaign, protesting violence against women to raise money for the GRCC. This focused on education through guest lectures, social media campaigns and social events. 

My Interest in STEM

I have pretty much always been interested in science. I used to do loads of random experiments as a child and I loved that precise actions resulted in a very specific result. I then became interested in psychology and the impact that mental disorders, trauma and substance use impact the brain at a young age. This developed into an interest into neuroanatomy, neurodegeneration and traumatic brain injury during my time at university. I do hope to pursue cognitive and clinical neuroscience, analysing the link between the brain and behaviour.

My Inspiration

I have always wanted to go to college. I’m not sure why, I just always felt as though it was the right decision. I have always loved education, though not necessarily school, so I never really thought of doing anything else. My volunteer work also helped me with course selection as I gained an interest into substance use issues, sexual violence and domestic abuse. It has always been an interest of mine as to why some people choose to hurt others or themselves, and volunteering helped me solidify this interest into a viable career. 

Breaking down Barriers at NUI Galway 

Feeling as though I shouldn’t be in university because of my background was definitely my biggest struggle, and I know it is for other students.

Scholarships don’t just pay fees for people, they give you options.

What the Scholarship has Meant for me

The scholarship for me matters more in terms of long-term influence rather than short-term gain. To begin, through networking via Optum Ireland, I was employed at NUI Galway, met wonderful people and gained immeasurable experience with professionalism and interview skills. I have also been able to volunteer extensively throughout my degree in many fields as I did not need to work extensively to cover fees. This experience, as Ireland has few undergraduate psychology internships, is of immense value for my career.

My University Experience

Throughout my degree, I have participated in many societies and was the secretary for NUI Galway PsychSoc. I have also participated in the Céim programme, providing academic peer support for first year psychology students and the Seas Suas student crisis intervention programme. Unfortunately, a lot of my university experience was during Covid, so I have not been able to meet many people face to face, but luckily, online education itself didn’t hinder me. I also got the NUI Galway President’s Award for volunteering each year of my degree, as well as the employability award last year.

The Importance of Scholarships

“Scholarships don’t just pay fees for people, they give you options. You now have the option, years prior to when you would usually have, to save for postgraduate education or your future in general. Instead of upwards of €50,000 debt, you are given the opportunity to decide what you would like to do, instead of being forced into something due to financial strain or debt.”

Navigating the Costs of University

I have always worked part-time to allow me to save for postgraduate education, as I have always known I wanted to pursue a PhD. However, I must admit, due to the scholarships, the financial issues were less of a concern to me in comparison to the status attached to having money. The scholarship gave me the opportunity to purchase a laptop which I needed to complete my studies. I would not have been able to afford rent, which was extremely high in first year. 

When I began university, I felt as though I did not fit in as I could not rely on my parents to pay my way for me. Perhaps it was more of a mental thing than reality, but feeling as though I shouldn’t be in university because of my background was definitely my biggest struggle, and I know it is for other students. Many of the people I know in university are struggling to find feasible student accommodation in Galway.

My Future Career

I hope to pursue a research and clinical career in cognitive and clinical neuroscience, specialising in neuropsychology. I am immensely interested in neurodegeneration, neurological injury/trauma and the influence of substance use on the brain and behaviour. I aim to pursue a PhD on completion of my Masters to aid with this.

My Advice 

If you are struggling financially, don’t feel the need to pursue third level education as soon as you graduate from secondary school. Take time off, take time to figure out your career aspirations, financial worries, or even look into mature student education or PLC’s. Most, if not all, of my friends who attended university chose a subject they weren’t interested in, and needed to drop out and start again, impacting their financial situation, student grants and so forth. Take the time you need to figure yourself out and try not to compare your progress to someone else’s. It will happen for you; it just may take more time.

Our Scholarship Donors

NUI Galway has been inspired by the tremendous commitment of all our donors who have remained steadfast to their commitments to our students.

Máire Brazil Scholarship in Engineering

The Máire Brazil scholarship in the College of Engineering and Informatics was launched in 2017 by distinguished engineering alumna of NUI Galway, Áine Brazil. It celebrates women in engineering and is awarded to the highest achieving female student in Civil Engineering. 

Pauline and Bonnie Jones Scholarship 

The ‘Pauline & Bunnie Jones Scholarship’ was established by the Jones Family in 2019 to promote excellence and celebrate academic achievement in secondary schools in Co. Roscommon.

Optum Scholarship

The Optum scholarship was established in 2018 by a health Services and Innovation company based in Letterkenny, Optum has developed a scholarship scheme to particularly support young people in County Donegal, those who are less advantaged, in order to give access to third-level education and to allow successful candidates to fully participate in college life and alleviate the financial burden on students and their families.  

The McGinty MBA Scholarship 

The McGinty Scholarship is funded by alumna, Dr. Geraldine McGinty, a graduate of NUI Galway’s School of Medicine, Nursing & Health Sciences. Dr McGity’s passion for diversity in medical leadership has led her to create an endownment, representing her lifelong commitment to the empowerment of women and their impact as leaders on the healthcare system. The current McGinty Scholars are…

The Galway Wind Park Scholarship

The Galway Wind Park Scholarship Fund is targeted at full- and part-time undergraduate and postgraduate students living within 20km of the Galway Wind Park in Connemara, Co Galway. The Scholarship Fund provides third-level education opportunities for local students to gain qualifications and build strong careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects and in the areas of energy efficiency, sustainability, environment, health, safety and social skills.

DLA Piper 

Terence O’Malley DLA Piper Scholarship, is named after Terry O’Malley, Chairman Emeritus (US), will provide funding to support students in financial need studying at NUI Galway School of Law Our Global Scholarships program supports outstanding and aspiring law students exclusively in Co Mayo to reach their potential and contribute to the rule of law in their communities.

The Community Foundation Ireland

The Community Foundation for Ireland and its partners believe in equality for all in thriving communities. We work with individuals, families, corporates and other trusts and foundations as well as Government to translate giving in the moment to giving that is strategic, sustainable and impactful. We use our skills and knowledge developed over 21-years to help donors turn aspirations into effective investments.

Through the Meenadreen Windfarm Community Benefit Fund at the Community Foundation for Ireland, Energia has supporting the local community in Donegal by awarding grants to community organisations since 2015. In 2020, in light of the difficulties facing young people, Energia introduced scholarship grants and has awarded scholarships to 5 students at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Tarpey Scholarship

The Tarpey family established the Hazel and Tanya Memorial Fund in 2018. Hazel and Tanya Tarpey were sisters had a rare genetic autoimmune disease that affects the endocrine glands called APECED (autoimmune polyendocrinopathy-candidiasis-ectodermal dystrophy). Their parents, Tim and Mary and siblings, Ruth and Dermot wanted to honour the memory of Hazel and Tanya by fundraising to establish these two annual scholarships in their names. 

Nursing: Paula Tiernan- Bachelor of Nursing Science General Programme (4BNG1)

Medicine: Caoimhe Newell, Bachelor of Medicine- 4th year student.

Our strength has always been how our community comes together to support and encourage others.

Support our Students

Scholarship support is vital to attracting and retaining students from all over Ireland and the world to NUI Galway. Our strength has always been how our community comes together to support and encourage others. Our scholarship programmes are developed with the support of donors to ensure we can offer opportunity to students of all backgrounds. 

If you are interested in learning more about how you could support a scholarship programme at NUI Galway please email or to make a donation to the scholarship programme please visit:

Irish & Other Non US Donors 

US Donors



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