Professor Owen Priest writes about his experience at the UA Global Summit 2016.
Professor Owen Priest is a Professor of Instruction in the chemistry department’s Organic Chemistry Division at Northwestern University. He has been a judge with The Undergraduate Awards since 2014, and this is the second year he has served as the Chair of the Chemical & Pharmaceutical Sciences category. Below, Professor Priest gives his account of attending the UA Global Summit in Dublin last November.
I was teaching last fall so, to attend the summit, I had to rearrange my schedule a little and ask some colleagues if they could help cover a few assignments for me. I am so glad I made an effort to attend because it was a memorable and rewarding experience.
There were some delays with my flight from the U.S. to Dublin (onboard electrical fires while over the Atlantic will do that) so I missed some of the student presentations on the opening day of the summit. I’m glad I was able to catch the tail of the presentations because I was able to see students from other divisions showcase their talent and creativity. Because I had read chemical and pharmaceutical science papers for a few years, I was familiar with the astounding level of talent exhibited by the students in my division. Watching the students from other divisions present their work was a humbling experience.
After a few hours to rest and get cleaned up, I was taken to the opening dinner. At one point, all the judges who were in attendance were introduced and we had an informal panel discussion with all of the students. This was really the first chance that the students were able to see some of the people who had worked behind the scenes. After dinner, I was able to mingle and talk with students. I had such a good time that I didn’t notice the hall had nearly emptied out.
The following morning was the colloquium which took place in Farmleigh House. I learned that Farmleigh Hous is the ancestral home of the Guinness family. Because Ireland’s president uses Farmleigh House to host visiting dignitaries and guests, it has earned a nickname – The White House of Ireland. Throughout the day we heard inspirational presentations and could attend (or host our own) breakout sessions. At one point, I took a break and just wandered around the house and the surrounding estate. It was a little hard to believe we were spending the day hanging out with the undergraduates in a stately mansion where the only rule we were given was “DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING”. I felt like we were participating in the filming of an episode of Downton Abbey: The Promise of a New Generation.
After being transported back to the hotel and changing into formal attire, I attended the awards ceremony, which was opened by the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
Finally, after the students received their awards, we walked over to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where we sat at dramatically long tables and ate with the students. Throughout the evening, it felt like Dumbledore could appear at any minute with the sorting hat, and we would all have to switch seats. It was a day/night to remember.
I am attending the summit this fall and look forward to meeting those of you who will also be there.