Bio in Brief

This is me…

Well… this is mostly the academic and professional me. I aim to share bits of the personal me with you too, of course. You’ll find the personal me interwoven in my Reflections, as the personal me influences my professional and teaching identity and I believe that you shouldn’t keep them separated. Our experiences and our learning journeys (both formal and informal) have a significant influence on who we are and how we interact in the social world. You will certainly see the personal side of my life come out in my Reflections, starting with my first Reflection entitled ‘Why I Teach’. This here is my learning journey… a lifetime of experiences, and you have to start somewhere, don’t you?

I absolutely love the English artist and author, Charlie Mackesy His gorgeous book ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’ speaks so deeply to my soul. I have read my physical copy of the book and listened to Charlie narrate it on a thousand times this past year, and you will likely see the boy and his companions appear frequently in my Reflections (I hope Charlie doesn’t mind). The boy and his friends are on a journey and the learning that happens through the ‘aha’ moments they experience together are transformative. Perhaps if you take the time to reflect on the experiences in your life and your learning journey, I think you will see those ‘aha’ moments as well.

My Undergraduate Journey

I started my higher education properly in January 2010, while working full-time as an admissions and enrolment coordinator in student affairs at Ferris State University and caring for my teenage boys. I graduated in 2014 with a Bachelor of Integrated Studies in Sociology and Communication from Ferris State University, Big Rapids, Michigan, USA. It was an incredibly eye-opening experience, after having served in the US Navy for two years right out of high school, and then taking off 20+ years to raise a family.

Graduated Summa Cum Laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Integrated Studies from Ferris State University in Big Rapids, Michigan, USA in December 2014. My focus was in Sociology and Communication. I am all ‘thumbs up’ here with a cardboard cutout of our university mascot – bulldog, Brutus.

My Graduate Journey

I entered the Master’s program with the School of Education the following spring in May, 2015 and graduated with my Master of Science in Career and Technical Education in 2016, from Ferris State University, School of Education, Big Rapids, Michigan, USA.  My experiences on this program fuelled my passion for education and teaching. I quickly realised that I very much disliked my ‘administrative’ role in higher education and wanted to teach. I had always mentored young people informally and my job felt empty and lacking passion. Of course, I also wanted to fulfil my dream of being the first generation in my family to earn a PhD.

My Postgraduate Journey

I  submitted a research proposal on community based learning and school and community relationships, with the School of Education at Trinity College, Dublin. I also applied for a studentship and then waited… In May, 2016, I received the amazing news that not only did I get accepted as an international student to do a PhD by research, but I also received a full 3-year faculty studentship. I was moving to Ireland! With blessing from my boys and my extended family, I sold nearly all of my belongings, packed up my side-kick, Mugzy, and moved to Ireland on the 1st of August 2016.

4 big bags, 2 carry-ons, a set of left-handed golf clubs on a wheelie cart, and my English bulldog, Mugzy… did I mention that I dragged him on this little adventure of a lifetime with me?

Living, studying and working in Ireland has certainly been an exciting and colourful adventure, but I am going to save some of those stories for my reflections! Fast forward to 2019. I successfully defended my PhD in Education in November, 2019 and graduated from the School of Education @ Trinity College Dublin, Ireland amidst the Covid_19 pandemic in April 2020.  My commencement date was the first ever degree to be conferred on remote video by Trinity College, so I guess there’s that. Sitting in my living room, isolated and alone, watching my name scroll across my laptop on a live feed was a very sad and sureal moment.  Dreaming about getting to one day wear the red robes of the School of Education and get my pictures taken in the square with all of my friends and family around is what kept me going over the previous three years. So, being denied that honour and celebration was a hard pill to swallow… Damn you, Covid.

It was very disappointing at the time… but I guess that the conferring of my PhD and saying of my name will live forever on YouTube. My name is announced at minute 11.38.

 My PhD Research

My thesis entitled Finding Volunesia: An exploration of how volunteer identity, and volunteer learning through the life course, transforms participants and develops enduring leaders examined life course influences on volunteer identity and learning through volunteering toward a contribution to adult and lifelong learning. My research investigated the learning experiences of Active Volunteers in Ireland within the context of wider society and changing social structures. It closely examined the concept of identity and learning throughout the life course, and why it is considered an issue of critical importance in the context of community engagement, volunteer leadership, and longevity. ​ 

The much coveted but rarely opened ‘Blue Book’ embossed in gold.

If you are interested in the research, you can find the electronic copy, here:

My Teaching and Learning Journey

I have had the privilege and honour to work for the School of Education throughout my tenure as a PhD researcher on various academic teaching, workshops and other administrative projects. I am delighted that they have allowed me to continue as a Teaching Fellow in Sociology of Education for the Professional Master in Education programme at Trinity College, Dublin.

I am also currently on th research team for the DEEPEN Project.  

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DEEPEN stands for Droichead: Exploring and Eliciting Perspectives, Experiences and Narratives. It is a Teaching Council funded research project which explores teachers’ lived experience of the Droichead professional induction process. The focus of the research is on 4 key settings:

  • DEIS schools
  • Gaelscoileanna/ Scoileanna Gaeltachta
  • Small schools
  • SEN settings

The research is a joint MIE/TCD project, led by Dr Julie Uí Choistealbha (MIE) and Dr Melanie Ní Dhuinn (TCD). It is supported by an International Research Advisory Team, Teaching Council advisors, research assistants and a team of field researchers from across MIE and TCD. You can read more about it here:

My Program of Research

*Sociology & Foundations of Education 

* Social and Educational Stratification 

*Teacher Education 

* Formal, Informal and Lifelong Learning 

* Volunteer Leadership

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