Four academics presented with GMIT President's Award for Teaching Excellence

Monday, December 11, 2017 Press Office
Press Release

Lucia Cloonan, Business; Paul Leamy, Furniture & Wood Technology; Dr Paul O’Dowd, Mechanical & Industrial Engineering; and Dr Cormac Quigley, Science & Computing

The President of GMIT, Dr Fergal Barry, presented four outstanding GMIT academics, Lucia Cloonan, Paul Leamy, Dr Paul O’Dowd, and Dr Cormac Quigley, with the GMIT President’s Award for Teaching Excellence at this year’s GMIT Conferring ceremonies, attended by their families, friends and colleagues.

Lucia Cloonan lectures in Multimedia, Visual Design and Marketing in the School of Business; Paul Leamy is Programme Chair (and lecturer) of the Bachelor of Science Honours in Furniture and Wood Technology programme in the Letterfrack campus; Dr Paul O’Dowd lectures in Mechanical & Industrial Engineering in the School of Engineering and Dr Cormac Quigley lectures in Chemistry and Forensic Science in the School of Science & Computing.

Lucia Cloonan from Sallins in Co Kildare, and now living in Claregalway, has been a lecturer in GMIT since 1992.  She has also lectured at Saxion University, Deventer, The Netherlands.  Lucia has a BA in Hotel & Catering Management, an MBS in Tourism & Travel Management, an MA in Interactive Media, and a Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching, Learning & Assessment.  She is currently completing a research study on integrating a blended learning approach into a Multimedia Applications module as part of an MA in Teaching & Learning at GMIT.      

Head of Department of Accounting and Information Systems, Eamon Walsh, paying tribute, says: “Lucia is the embodiment of life-long learning, constantly evolving and updating her skills as part of her professional development.  She is supremely dedicated to her students. Lucia holds high academic standards and is never afraid to adopt innovative teaching strategies to the benefit of the students and academic staff”. 

“Lucia’s teaching practice has evolved over her 25 years at GMIT.  Her concept of teaching is both student-centred and subject-centred.  She loves teaching and is enthusiastic about it.  Lucia believes in the importance of getting to know something about each student, so that she can engage students as individuals, and gain mutual respect.  When students see that the lecturer is enthusiastic, flexible and wants to provide the best possible learning experience for them, they “buy into it”.  And as a result, students find Lucia “approachable” and “interested in them” as well as being an excellent lecturer”.

“Lucia’s teaching is informed by research, scholarship and up-to-date practice and her teaching philosophy is very much about engaging students, so that they are not passive learners, but rather, they are active creators of knowledge and generators of ideas.  Her students engage in applied learning through community related projects.  An example of this, is in the development of a local community magazine article in the Visual Design module. Lucia aspires to ensuring that project work is enjoyable and fun for her students, such as making short-films as part of Multimedia Applications.  This approach allows her students to connect what they are learning, with what is happening in the world around them”.

“Lucia has made a profound and long-lasting contribution to teaching and learning within The School of Business at GMIT.  She is a shining light for ensuring our students are the centre of the learning process and a beacon for adoption of new technologies and innovative approaches. We are very lucky to have her on our team!”.

Senior lecturer in Business at the Mayo Campus, Hugh McBride, paid tribute to his former colleague: “Lucia embraces collegiality, and is always prepared to share, to help, to consult with, and to encourage colleagues. She has a warm, friendly, patient and unfailingly courteous manner, and is greatly valued as a colleague.” 

Lucia will present her most recent research on engaging students using mobile devices in the classroom, at the International Conference for Engaging Pedagogy in Dublin on 15th December 2017.

Paul Leamy, originally from Derrymore, Roscrea, Co Tipperary, and now living near Letterfrack, has been a lecturer in GMIT Letterfrack since 1999 and is currently the Programme Chair of the Bachelor of Science Honours in Furniture and Wood Technology programme. 

Dermot O’Donovan, Head of GMIT Letterfrack, paying tribute, says: “Paul has demonstrated the highest standards of professionalism in his approach to students, pedagogy, assessment and academic quality assurance. Paul demonstrates and sets extremely high standards through the pieces he makes with his students, and he encourages and inspires them to do the same. Paul epitomises the approach at the GMIT Letterfrack campus, whereby quality is recognised as a central pillar. Paul’s making skills were recognised when he worked with Declan O’Donoghue in SF Furniture in England, where he was awarded the coveted UK Bespoke Guild Mark for outstanding quality of design and craftsmanship. Currently, Paul is an adjudicator for the WorldSkills Ireland national finals in cabinetmaking.

“Within his core teaching area, Paul consistently explores new innovations in materials, construction, design and manufacturing. He has also spearheaded developments on campus in respect of modern finishing techniques and materials, as well as integrating metal work and upholstery into the curriculum. Equally, Paul has been both an innovator and pioneer in respect of integrating technology into his teaching and assessment strategies.

“Paul’s generosity and passion for sharing his skills with others is evident in his recent visit to Morocco where GMIT Letterfrack is involved in a project with furniture designer David Bult of Green Sahara Furniture, and the Eve Branson Foundation who have set up a woodwork training centre in the high Atlas Mountains south off Marakesh. It offers an opportunity for young men from the local Berber Community to learn vocational and enterprise skills in order to generate opportunities for a better quality of life for themselves and their families. Paul raised funds through a Teacher’s Union of Ireland Third World fund and with support from GMIT and the Eve Branson Foundation almost €2,000 worth of equipment was transported with him to the Centre. He also brought with him two third year student volunteers, Daniel O’Driscoll and Craig Shanahan. Paul’s passion for learning and his ‘can do’ attitude was infectious. The collaboration proved hugely successful and was recognised by all parties as significant in the development of the Centre. 

“Paul is a proud Tipperary man so it is no surprise that he was involved in setting up the GMIT Letterfrack hurling team here on campus, the culmination of which saw the first All-Ireland Hurling title delivered this year to the smallest third level campus in Ireland. Paul is also a founder and leader of the Bengoora Scout group in Letterfrack where he continues his teaching to a younger generation,” adds Dermot O’Donovan.

Dr Paul O’Dowd, from Galway, has been a lecturer in the Mechanical & Industrial Engineering Department since 1998, and has taught and supported undergraduate and postgraduate students at all levels from Certificate to PhD.

Head of the Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, Dr Carine Gachon, says: “Paul has made an invaluable contribution to our department, and the Institute as a whole.  He lectures in some non-technical modules which engineering students can find challenging. His students speak highly of him, saying he always finds a way to make the subject fun while helping them to think like engineers, by using fun, hands-on activities. Paul believes that teaching and learning should be as enjoyable, active and interactive as possible. He makes an effort to get to know his students and is prepared to go the extra mile for them. He believes that they deserve the highest quality attention to detail, and that all students, whatever their level of engagement, deserve fairness, respect and assistance.”

“Paul encourages students to think laterally - a skill which he exemplified in the development of our new Manufacturing Engineering Apprenticeship programme, where he demonstrated innovation and creativity in parallel to his trademark organisational skills, professionalism and dedication to his work.  He has also shown leadership in developing links with secondary-level schools through the CANSAT project, which he introduced into GMIT. Together with Emer Cahill, of the Department of Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Paul worked with local companies to help second-level students build the best satellite in a can, for a Science Foundation Ireland and European Space Agency competition.”

“Paul is known for his support of students. A graduate remembers, when he was studying on the National Certificate in Industrial Engineering programme back in 2000-2002, their class lost a fellow student and friend to cancer. Paul took the lead in consoling the class, and subsequently led the establishment of a soccer tournament to remember Conor Sweeney. This was 15 years ago and every year since then Paul puts on his soccer boots to organise the Conor Sweeney tournament. The same graduate also commented that all actions and decisions Paul takes are to push his students, and he does this in an unbiased and fair way.”

“Paul has been a pillar of our department’s first-year student assistance plan, which has significantly increased the number of students who progress to second year. Paul is always prepared to offer students the benefit of the doubt and encourages them to reach their potential. At Postgraduate level, he has led GMIT’s team on a Framework 7 research project, called FutureSME, working with 26 partners all over Europe. To date, Paul has successfully supervised research at Masters and PhD level. In his application for the President’s Award for Teaching Excellence, Paul said that he feels privileged and proud to have worked with so many excellent students over the past twenty years. I can say that we are privileged and proud to have him in our team, and we are delighted to see his hard, work and dedication rewarded today.”

Dr Cormac Quigley from Rathmines, Dublin, is a lecturer in the new Dept of Natural Sciences in the School of Science and Computing, having joined GMIT from AIT in 2014.

Paying tribute to Cormac, Dr Lisa Ryan, Head of the Dept of Natural Sciences, says: “Cormac’s contribution to teaching has been significant since the day he joined.  He spends a considerable amount of time thinking about his teaching practice and has experimented with different modes of delivery over the years to enhance student engagement and manage large student groups. Cormac’s innovation through evidence based teaching practice and research is one of the real strengths of Cormac’s teaching.

“Teaching methods have changed considerably over the last few years and Cormac has been at the forefront of driving innovation in teaching in our School. Students appreciate the diversity of methods that he brings and speak highly of his teaching style. Through engagement with technology and online collaborative tools Cormac has created a more interactive student experience and introduced new methods for the management of large groups, allowing for the efficient delivery of personalized feedback to hundreds of students across the School of Science and Computing. Cormac has worked hard to develop an active community of teaching practice across the three departments within the School and is always keen to share the new teaching tools he has developed with colleagues.

“True teaching excellence is not only in the delivery of information to students but also how you yourself keep evolving as a scholar. Cormac has continued to pursue additional qualifications in Learning and Teaching and is currently completing a MSc in Forensic Science – all while working full-time. He really thinks about the student experience and how to develop and foster a love of science. He leads the outreach team within our School and has accompanied the Irish Chemistry Olympiad Team, as head mentor, to Azerbaijan and Thailand as they compete in the international final. Cormac is also the regional coordinator for Sci-Fest in GMIT, a national science competition held annually for secondary school students around Ireland. He is an active member of the GMIT Academic Council and subcommittees and recently hosted the National Congress of the Institute of Chemistry Ireland within GMIT.

“Cormac also has a unique talent in getting us all involved in the various activities he is organising and his enthusiasm and commitment to teaching are infectious”. adds Dr Ryan.

Watch some of the videos Dr Cormac Quigley has developed as part of his learning and teaching: