The UA Blog

UA Alum Helping Babies Breathe in Sudan

This year, UA 2013 winner, Siobhán O’Connor was selected to participate in an international training programme called Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) to educate and support community midwives in Northern Sudan. Siobhán was the Irish category winner for Nursing and Midwifery. She is a graduate of University College Cork, Ireland. Here’s what she had to say about her involvement with HBB and how UA helped her in this novel global educational initiative!

Since winning the Nursing and Midwifery category of the UA in 2013 I was privileged to take part in an international training programme to help educate and support community midwives in Northern Sudan. Professor Anthony Ryan, a Consultant Neonatologist at Cork University Maternity Hospital and Dr Sami Ahmed, a Consultant Pediatrician at the Bons Secours Hospital, Cork, Ireland established a long running teaching, research and clinical partnership with Omdurman Maternity Hospital, Sudan in 1999. I was asked to join the team due to my multidisciplinary background and my academic achievements recognised by UA.

In January 2014 I visited Khartoum for one week to help deliver the Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) programme in conjunction with a team of international trainers. HBB is a neonatal resuscitation training programme specially developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics for use in low resource settings.  My experience of participating in UA’s Global Summit imbued me with so much enthusiasm and motivation to follow my passion and I jumped at the chance of getting involved in this global educational initiative.

HBB consists of a pictorial learner flipchart, newborn simulator and simple bag and mask ventilation equipment. The programme delivers a series of practical hands-on skills based workshops using dyad or paired learning to teach resuscitation skills. This includes a physical assessment of an infant at birth, temperature support, stimulation to breathe and assisted ventilation as needed. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health we delivered a HBB Train the Trainer programme to 80 paediatricians and midwives from across Northern Sudan who will in turn train hundreds of village midwives on neonatal resuscitation. This simple educational programme will help reduce infant deaths by building the knowledge and skills of healthcare workers throughout Northern Sudan. The words of UA 2013 keynote speaker Dr Mae Jemison were ringing in my ears, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has”. Thanks UA & HBB for an amazing experience!

For more information on HBB in Sudan please visit:

Affiliate Universities Growing

The number of Affiliate Universities continues to grow. This week we’re announcing three more institutions who have recently signed up to the programme. The University of Leeds and the University of Strathclyde, in the UK; along with Western University, Canada, will join our other affiliates in promoting the 2014 UA Programme amongst their student body.

To check out a full list of out Affiliate Universities, and to learn more about what that means, just click here.

The Undergraduate Awards is committed to expanding our global reach. If you are a representative of a third-level institution and are interested in having that institution becoming a University Affiliate, then contact us!

UA Global Summit Speakers Announced

We are delighted to announce the first eight speakers for the 2014 UA Global Summit, taking place from November 19th-21st. The Summit, taking place in Dublin, Ireland, is an exclusive three-day event for the category winners of the 2014 Undergraduate Awards. Highly Commended entrants in each category will also be given the chance to attend.

At The Undergraduate Awards our main aim is to identify the world’s top students across all disciplines. As part of recognising these brilliant minds, we want to inspire them to continue being ambitious – but also to inspire a sense of responsible leadership among these future thought leaders. The UA Global Summit provides the appropriate forum in which to achieve this. Students from across the world come together for a though-provoking, challenging and enlightening three days in Dublin.

Our first confirmed speakers below will contribute to that aim later this year. Students participating in the 2014 Programme have the opportunity to meet and listen to these amazing individuals.

Lord David Puttnam is a British film-maker, educator and member of the British House of Lords. He is best known in the film world for working on such pictures as Bugsy Malone, Midnight Express and Chariots of Fire. He has previously served as the Chancellor of the University of Sunderland and currently serves as Chancellor of the Open University. Lord Puttnam is also Ireland’s Digital Champion.

Patricia O’Brien is an Irish barrister who served as United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Legal Affairs from 2008-2013. She is a world-renowned expert on legal issues pertaining to foreign policy, having gained extensive experience in the area serving as Legal Advisor to the Office of the Irish Attorney General, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish Permanent Mission to the European Union.

Dr Maggie Aderin-Pocock has spent her career making novel, bespoke instrumentation in both the industrial and academic environments. Dr Aderin-Pocock runs her own company, Science Innovation Ltd., through which she conducts “Tours of the Universe” and other public engagement activities, showing school children and adults the wonders of space. Dr Aderin-Pocock also spoke at the 2013 UA Global Summit.

Ariane Koek is a renowned cultural producer and strategist. She is currently head of International Arts Development at CERN, the world’s largest particle physics laboratory, located outside Geneva. She created and implemented the laboratory’s first arts policy. She has previously worked as a producer and director for BBC Radio and TV, as well as the CEO of the Arvon Foundation for Creative Writing.

Ingrid Vanderveldt is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at Dell, where she created and manages Dell’s $100 million credit fund. Ms Vanderveldt is also a member of the UN Global Entrepreneurship Council and is the leading person behind “Empowering a Billion Women by 2020.”

Paul Adams is the Vice President of Product and Design at Intercom. He previously worked as Global Head of Brand Design for Facebook. Paul is internationally recognised as one of leading thinkers in social design and technology. His work on social networks and brand design has been widely published and cited.

Dr Rachel Armstrong is an Applied Scientist and Sustainability Innovator, who creates new materials that possess some of the properties of living systems. She is a huge advocate of inter-disciplinary co-operation – both within the sciences, but also across the arts and humanities. Dr Armstrong is a TED Fellow.

Kyle Abraham is a critically-acclaimed choreographer. He has previously performed with a variety of modern dance companies before starting his own company, Abraham.In.Motion. As well as winning a Bessie Award and a Princess Grace Award in 2010, Mr Abraham was also awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2013.

Alum Reflects on her UA Experience

Éabha O’Leary Fitzpatrick reflects on the reasons why she submitted to The Undergraduate Awards below, and how it has impacted her life since. Éabha is a University of Limerick graduate and is currently studying an MSc in Innovation Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship in University College Cork. Éabha was named as Highly Commended in the Irish Language category in 2012.

I remember the exact moment it happened, I had finished class, I had an essay due and was eager to get home to finish it. I was walking towards the entrance of the Main Building when in the corner of my eye I spotted a green poster with ‘The Undergraduate Awards’ written across it in bright bold. Although I was in a rush to get home I retracted my steps to read what was on the poster. I wrote down ‘The Undergraduate Awards’ on my hand and thought to myself, I must Google this when I get home. Little did I know at the time, that simple decision to stop would have a momentous effect on what was to follow.

The wonderful thing about The Undergraduate Awards is that students submit work they have already completed. I had worked on my project; an analysis of the discourse of Existentialism in the poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill for several months, as part of my final year project and I absolutely loved it. I called it my baby! Receiving the email from The Undergraduate Awards to say that my project was one of the top ten percent selected gave me a huge sense of recognition, and confidence. Despite working all those long hours, doubt niggles at the back of your mind as to whether the work you do is good enough. Suddenly, following one email that doubt dissipates… but not for long.

I was terrified to attend the UA Global Summit, I knew that I would have the opportunity to meet many students from all over the world who were incredibly accomplished and talented and I did not feel like them. I felt like an impostor. Interestingly this is the reason why many friends did not submit their work to the UA, believing it was a case of ‘us versus them’. ‘Them’ being the prodigies of today who are so very far removed from us to the point that it would be impossible to relate to any of the participants.

I promise you this is not the case. The impostor syndrome wears off after ten minutes as I came to realise that the participants were wonderfully kind people from all walks of life who had intriguing stories to tell. They were so passionate about their own work and everyone I met was equally passionate to hear about mine. We shared stories, ideas and anecdotes. The UA Global Summit made me realise that in life you cannot be the best at everything but it’s important to be comfortable with that. Everyone has something to bring to the table.

The wonderful thing about the UA Global Summit is that you build a fantastic network of eclectic people who are passionate, hardworking and excited for what the future holds. The 2012 participants stay in contact and meet up from time to time. All of the participants from 2012 have gone on to do incredible things, and it has been a privilege to share successes with them, I was so proud to read Meicen’s blog on her attendance at the Clinton Global Initiative. I think to myself; I have the coolest friends.

Before the UA Global Summit I had never thought I had placed a glass ceiling over my head, I thought of myself as ambitious and determined. That was of course until I began to listen to the wonderful, enlightening speakers at the Summit, and there came a sudden realisation that I had placed many limitations on what I believed I was capable of.

These wonderful speakers from many diversified backgrounds were people who had not taken the conventional path. Listening to their encouraging and exciting stories, I could see that the glass ceiling of limitation was cracking and by the end of the Summit it had shattered completely.
The UA Global Summit gave me the confidence to embark on a completely new adventure. I was offered a placement on a fantastic and prestigious graduate program before the Summit, but on the train home I knew I wouldn’t take it. Instead I asked a very inspirational lady could I come work for her where I was offered an internship that completely changed the path I took.

Consequently I decided to do a Masters in Innovation Commercialisation and Entrepreneurship which is something I would have never before considered, (I didn’t even use mobile applications on my phone and I was about to undertake an MSc that had technology at its core). It was a risky move but as I am a few months short of completing that Masters, having recently returned home from participating in the International Graduate Competition in Montreal, I know in my heart that I would never have taken this route if I did not submit to the UA and thus attend the UA Global Summit which invariably led me down the path less travelled to the point I am at today.

I shout it from the rooftops, the UA Global Summit offers you the opportunity of a lifetime! I implore, urge and plead ANYONE who reads this, or walks by a UA poster to submit your work!

At the end of the day, however, it boils down to the decision that is made – to submit or not? Certainly that one decision I made shaped me in ways I would never have expected. In the words of F.W. Boreham, “We make our decisions, and then our decisions turn around and make us.”

What will your decision be?

Submissions are open until June 2nd 2014. Students in the penultimate and final year of their degree are eligible to submit, as well as those who graduated from their degree in 2013. The submission page is available to view here.

Judges Confirmed from Australia, UK and Ireland

The UA Team continues to work hard in putting together the panels of academics and industry experts to judge each of the 25 categories.

We are delighted to confirm three more extremely high-calibre academics as the Chair Judges for the Earth & Environmental Sciences, International Relations & Politics, and Nursing & Midwifery categories.

Dr Glen Fox is based in the University of Queensland’s Centre for Nutrition and Food Science, having previously worked for 25 years, conducting research projects with the Queensland Government. He obtained his PhD from Southern Cross University in the area of barley genetics related to barley and malt quality. In 2011, Dr Fox was appointed Adjunct Associate Professor at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. Since 2013, he has worked as an Affiliated Scientist at the Biosciences eastern & central Africa (BecA), International Livestock Research Institute in Kenya. We are delighted to have Dr Fox on board as the Chair Judge for our Earth & Environmental Sciences category.

Dr Nick Robinson is an Associate Professor of Politics at the University of Leeds. He currently holds a four-year research grant from the Swedish Research Council and is part of a multinational research team investigating the militarization of social media and video games. Prior to that he has been engaged in research on the EU which covered issues such as the equitable distribution of EU resources and issues centred on the exercise of power. Dr Robinson will be the 2014 Chair Judge for the International Relations & Politics category.

Prof. Imelda Coyne is Head of Children’s Discipline in the School of Nursing & Midwifery in Trinity College Dublin. She is also a former Director of Undergraduate Studies in the school. Prof. Coyne has over 20 years experience in children’s nursing, firstly as a practicing nurse then as a lecturer. Prof. Coyne previously served as the Chair Judge for the Nursing & Midwifery category in 2013, and returns to that post for UA this year. We’re delighted to have her with us again.

If you’d like to apply to become a judge for the 2014 Programme, as part of one of our 25 panels, then fill in the form here.

New Affiliates in Canada, USA and Australia

This week we’re announcing three more institutions who have recently signed up to our Affiliate University programme. University of British Columbia, Canada; University of Connecticut, USA; and Australian National University, Australia will join our other affiliates in promoting the 2014 UA Programme amongst their student body.

To check out a  full list of out Affiliate Universities, and to learn more about what that means, just click here.

The Undergraduate Awards is committed to expanding our global reach. If you are a representative of a third-level institution and are interested in having that institution becoming a University Affiliate, then contact us!

UA Alum attends Clinton Global Initiative

Last week, UA 2012 winner, Meicen Sun, attended the Clinton Global Initiative University conference, which took place in the Arizona State University. Meicen was the international category winner for International Relations and Politics. She is a graduate of Princeton University. Here’s what she had to say about her involvement with the CGI U and how UA helped her to get where she is today!

It was a little over a year after I won the 2012 Undergraduate Award when I got accepted to the 2014 Clinton Global Initiative University conference. The acceptance came as a surprise. Used to reading books and writing papers, I’d long held the mistaken belief that the so-called start-up culture was an antithesis of academia. Even when CGI U later honored my project for its “exemplary approach” to addressing a global challenge, I was prepared to believe that I was one of CGI U’s “admissions mistakes.”

But upon a second thought, it all made sense. Whereas UA recognized my academic achievement, CGI U provided me with the validation to take it one step further into the real world. The issue of international justice has always been a major area of interest to me, and my CGI U project specifically examines the International Criminal Court’s prosecution of the Kenyan state leaders for crimes against humanity. Partly in an effort to balance depth and impact, I have adopted a two-pronged approach for my project: It will at once generate policy feedback for the ICC and the relevant UN agencies, and assist the victims of the Kenyan crisis following the violence. In so doing, I’m hoping to help establish a communication network for international justice facilitators, as well as an avenue for victims of injustice to express their needs.

Rather than a “distraction” from my academic coursework, I see my CGI U project as a logical extension. It gives me a special opportunity to both supplement theoretical learning with real-world experience and more importantly, to transform such learning into a concrete, positive impact that hopefully will gain its own momentum in the process. In today’s world, it is becoming increasingly counterproductive to treat “academia” and the “start-up scene” as two distinct if not opposing spheres. Instead, what we need to do is create synergy between these two tremendously energetic “poles” that can, and should reinforce each other.

My experience of attending CGI U just a few weeks ago confirmed my speculation that this trajectory was taking place around the globe. It was as inspiring to hear the distinguished individuals speak as it was to mingle with hundreds of brilliant young minds from all over the world, each with a big, bold idea. Ultimately for me, those three days in Arizona were about breaking boundaries, treading new grounds, and unleashing that creative, innovative energy that I never knew had existed within me.

“Let me get to know the guy/girl who has half of an idea that I can combine with my own,” said my friend and mentor Kyra Maya Phillips whom I met at the 2012 UA Summit. Those words have since stayed with me, as I have continued collecting numerous such “half ideas” while having my breath taken away time and again by just how quickly the imaginary boundaries retreat. Like UA, CGI U is yet another signpost that will remind me of the simple fact that the sky is the limit, and that plus est en vous.

Photograph: Barbara Kinney/Clinton Global Initiative. Meicen Sun pictured with NFL star, Jay Feely.

Judging Chairs Confirmed

As we draw nearer to the close of submissions, the UA Team is hard at work putting together panels of academics and industry experts to judge each of the 25 categories.

We are delighted to confirm three extremely high-calibre academics as the Chair Judges for the Historical Studies, Design and Psychology categories.

Dr. Stefan Auer is an Associate Professor at both the University of Hong Kong and at La Trobe University, Melbourne. He is an expert researcher and author in the field of Modern European History, European enlargement and international relations. As such, Dr. Auer will be our Chair Judge for the Historical Studies category.

Barry Sheehan is Head of Design and Assistant Head of the School of Art, Design and Printing at Dublin Institute of Technology. Barry comes from a background in architecture. Before taking up his present post in DIT, Barry worked with the Royal Institute of Architects in Ireland. Barry will be the Chair Judge for our new Design category.

Dr. Suzanne Guerin is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Psychology at University College Dublin. Dr. Guerin is the Director of the UCD Centre for Disability Studies and jointly coordinates the MSc there in Rehabilitation and Disability Studies. Dr. Guerin will be our Chair Judge for the Psychology category.

If you’d like to apply to become a judge for the 2014 Programme, as part of one of our 25 panels, then fill in the form here.


New Affiliate Universities

We’re delighted to announce three institutions who have recently signed up to our Affiliate University programme. Monash University, Australia; University of Dundee, United Kingdom; and the Karolinska Institute, Sweden will join our other affiliates in promoting the 2014 UA Programme amongst their student body.

To check out a  full list of out Affiliate Universities, and to learn more about what that means, just click here.

If you are a representative of a third-level institution and are interested in having that institution becoming a University Affiliate, then contact us!

UA Award Winner in The Irish Examiner

Great feature focusing on Katharine Griffith, our Engineering & Mechanical Sciences winner from GMIT Letterfrack in the Irish Examiner today. Check it out!

A school chair that could reduce back problems in children and help improve their concentration has earned a young furniture designer a major award.

Campus Ambassador Tees

We’re sending out these snazzy T-shirts today to our Campus Ambassadors. If you’d like to become a Campus Ambassador and represent the world’s only pan disciplinary academic awards programme on your campus then contact

30 Under 30 Competition

Congrats to Lynn Rothwell, a highly commended entrant to the Visual Arts category in UA 2012, who has been shortlisted as one of the top photographers in the ’30 Under 30′ competition. She’s now in the running to win a People’s Choice award for her work.

She’s got our vote! Pick your favourite here.

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