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Our Future: The College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies

Our Future: The College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies

15 December 22
 | 14 MINS

As part of our focus on University of Galway College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies Executive Dean Rebecca Braun discusses the college’s ambition to inspire transformation through its ‘Looking Out to the World with Ambition’ strategy. 

As a Professor of Modern Languages, I have been trained to think about the value and challenges of linguistic and cultural differences, something that I bring to my role as Executive Dean of College of Arts, Social Sciences, & Celtic Studies. Together with my colleagues, I apply these insights to our College Strategy 2021–2025 which sets out the College’s ambition to inspire transformational thought and action across society, while fulfilling our mission as a public university serving the public good.  

Transformation is core to our Strategy, in terms of how we critically look at existing practices and assumptions and propose new ways of doing things but also how we address the knowledge and skills that are required to make sense of our world, and of an ever-changing study and work environment. Our Strategy is driven by the distinctive expertise at the heart of our four Signature Research Areas; (1) Creativity, Culture & Inclusion; (2) Transnational Encounters & Global Legacies; (3) Childhood, Youth & Family and (4) Human & Environmental Health. Common to all our research is the drive to work with other like-minded partners and institutions around the world to create real impact in line with the United Nations SDGs [Sustainable Development Goals]. 

There has been much activity in our College in the last year alone, which has highlighted the impact that our College has in our local communities and beyond. Our UNESCO Chair in Children, Youth & Civic Engagement is one of many contexts in which our work has received national and global recognition. The recent publication of Ionbhá: The Empathy Book for Ireland, edited by Professor Pat Dolan and Gillian Browne of the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre here at University of Galway with Professor Mark Brennan of Pennsylvania State University and actor Cillian Murphy, has received significant recognition, topping the Irish Times book charts in November. The proceeds from this book will go directly to delivering the Activating Social Empathy education programme in Irish schools and youth work organisations which was developed by researchers at the UNESCO Child and Family Research Centre, in collaboration with partners at Foróige and Penn State University. 

Undoubtedly, creativity is core to our College and goes across everything that we do in terms of research, teaching, partnerships and engagement. We will be investing in creativity to cement our position as a key facilitator and nurturer of creativity on a national and global scale.

Active* Consent is one such College-led programme where we see the impact of research taking hold in the experiences of young people at crucial stages in their lives. Lead by our staff and researchers in Psychology and Drama, with support from the Higher Education Authority, Lifes2Good Foundation and Rethink Ireland, Active* Consent supports young people and those that are important to them in building their knowledge of consent as a key component of positive sexual health and well-being. The programme is brought to life in a truly creative way, through the original Active*Consent play, The Kinds of Sex You Might Have at College, which combines humour, satire and drama to share diverse experiences in order to equip audiences with a more proactive understanding of consent. The play has been devised by over 40 University of Galway students, alumni and staff members and counting and has just completed a comprehensive nationwide tour of seventeen third level institutions. The next iteration of the play, How I Learned About Consent, will be rolled out for secondary schools and will stage positive examples of consent communication in an age-appropriate manner. This play is the latest part of the Active* Consent for School Communities programme for senior cycle pupils and since it launched one year ago, more than 500 teachers have been trained to deliver the Active* Consent workshop, nearly 1,000 parents have attended information webinars, and approximately 4,000 pupils have taken part in the workshop. 

During the coming years, I will be working with our talented people to realise the potential of this College on a national and global scale as set out in our Strategy. Undoubtedly, creativity is core to our College and goes across everything that we do in terms of research, teaching, partnerships and engagement. We will be investing in creativity to cement our position as a key facilitator and nurturer of creativity on a national and global scale. This includes the development of an exciting new Centre for Creative Technologies which will be based at the Moore Institute. Leveraging our strengths in the creative arts, especially in such areas as Digital Media, Film, Music, Theatre Studies, and Writing, this centre will engage in teaching and research that will critically reflect upon the intersections between creative practice and technologies, including in such areas as Augmented Creativity, Immersive Technologies and Artificial Intelligence. 

Furthermore, in line with the university’s commitment to further developing our pathways for accessing education, we will welcome a broader mix of students into our College, and fully embrace the diversity of thinking that this can bring to our College community. 28% of our new entrant undergraduate students come from non-traditional entry pathways and it is so important that we continue to facilitate this access to our courses. Our ambition also includes growing our international student body in the College and this brings an enriched classroom experience for all students. Each year we welcome almost 1,200 international students to our College across undergraduate, postgraduate and exchange courses. We look forward to further growing our international student population as well as enabling more students to study abroad and gain an international experience. Last year 262 students in the College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies studied abroad and this number will continue to grow as we develop new partnership links through initiatives such as ENLIGHT in Europe and beyond. 

Our College Strategy is called “Looking Out to the World with Ambition” and we want to ensure our students have the skills to make a difference, personally and professionally, on a global scale, like so many of our alumni are already doing. We know that the world of work is undoubtedly changing and we want to equip our students with a holistic skill set to succeed in increasingly dynamic working environments. The Designing Futures initiative is a programme designed to educate and empower students to lead better lives and succeed in a rapidly changing world of work. This year alone, we have 232 undergraduate College of Arts, Social Sciences and Celtic Studies students registered on transdisciplinary elective modules that enhance their professional skills as part of this initiative. 

Furthermore we have over 100 students registered on the flagship Introduction to Sustainability module. This future orientated module explores the concept of sustainability in the face of global change and reflects our students’ commitment to creating a more sustainable environment. This commitment is evident in much of the work of our students, including in the literary works of our MA Literature and Publishing class of 2022 who wrote about sustainability through a series of poems in the 30th edition of the Ropes Literary Journal. We know our alumni are also committed to, and working in the field of sustainability, including BA graduate Elaine Nevin who is the Executive Director of ECO-UNESCO, an environmental education and youth organisation aimed at channelling the creativity of our youth into positive environmental change. Read more about Elaine’s work in our Cois Coirbe online publication. 

 Finally, I’ve mentioned community several times and our alumni are a key part of our community. We are so proud of your contribution to this College and of your successes across a wide range of industries. During the coming months we will be in touch with you about upcoming events and about getting involved in College initiatives. We hope you will feel excited by our Strategy and of your important place within it.  

Go raibh maith agat. 

Rebecca –



Rebecca Braun

Executive Dean of the College of Arts, Social Sciences & Celtic Studies


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