In her first statement as interim president of the University of Limerick and the first female leader of an Irish university, Professor Kerstin Mey acknowledged the significant opportunity of her appointment and alludes to the challenges that lie ahead.
To say that the next semester will be challenging may prove to be an understatement. This week, she informed students that the majority of them would spend just one month out of the next 12-week semester on-campus.
UL, like all Irish universities, is also facing serious financial fallout due to the pandemic. University staff and lecturers nationwide are concerned, and UL is among the institutions that have recently implemented recruitment freezes.
Over the next 18 months, while Professor Mey is at the reigns, UL is to begin reassessing its strategic plan, an ambitious plan published last year that set out to increase student number by 4,000 and promised 300 new jobs.
This is due to the “significantly changed external and internal situation.”
Raised in East Berlin, Professor Mey completed her PhD in Art Theory and Aesthetics at Humboldt University. Before she joined UL, she held the role of pro-vice chancellor and dean of the Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design, and Professor of contemporary art and theory at the University of Westminster, London.
Women remain woefully underrepresented for the most part in senior academic positions here. Her appointment is historic, a glass ceiling shattered "finally" according to Simon Harris, the newly appointed Minister for Higher Education.
Professor Mey has promised to foster a strong approach to science, technology, engineering, the arts and humanities.
She wants UL to be inclusive, to continue widening access to higher education. She says she wants graduates to "embrace complexity and develop resilience" so that they are prepared to deal with the significant societal and personal challenges ahead.