Gay White is a member of the DCU Educational Trust Council of Trustees and a member of DCU’s Alumni Council since 2010, chairing it from 2012 to 2016. Her longstanding support for the DCU Access Scholarship Programme was recognised at our recent Leadership Circle Dinner when she received the Individual Leadership Award for 2017.
Gay is a chartered Work and Organisational Psychologist who graduated from DCU in 2001 with a BA in Humanities which she completed as a part-time student through Oscail followed by an MSc in Organisational Psychology from Birkbeck College, University of London. Gay has enjoyed a distinguished career working as an HR consultant and as Head of Human Resources at the Institute of Banking in Ireland from 2013 to 2017.
What are your strongest memories of DCU as a student?
As a distance learning student through Oscail, I was rarely on campus and so my experience of DCU was probably different to that of most students. My first impressions were of the clarity and quality of the information I received which convinced me that DCU was the right place to study.
Another key memory was the pre-study programme before my BA in Humanities actually began. The support from the tutors was incredible and set the tone for the next few years. Like a lot of others on my course, I had been out of the education system for a long time and I wasn’t really sure that I could do a degree but they helped to restore my confidence and to instil the belief that I could do it.
What does DCU mean to you today?
DCU is a really practical university. Practicality screams out here – what you get in DCU is not academia for its own sake but a huge focus on practical application in the real world. For me, this is what differentiates DCU, it gives the theory but it also focuses on practical application, which prepares students for their future careers.
I also find DCU to be a very ambitious, energetic, young and vibrant university; and that opinion is enhanced every time I set foot on campus and I can feel the energy about the place.
What inspires you to support the DCU Access Programme?
I first heard about the Access programme when a student called me during a telethon in 2004 and it was a ‘no brainer’ to support it. There are so many bright people who deserve to participate in third level education and the inequality of opportunity that exists is a sad reflection on our society. Life has been good to me and it’s always nice to be able to give back in some way.
My father has inspired me a lot through the value that he placed on education. Although he didn’t have the gift of a higher education himself, he believed in equality of opportunity, in particular for women, which was quite progressive at a time when the marriage bar was still in force.
I share his value and love of education – I see it as the answer to most of society’s ills. The more that we can educate people and open minds, we will have a greater impact on problems such as poverty and social inequality in all its manifestations. Unfortunately, recent cuts to funding for third level education mean that universities now rely more than ever on the support of employers, alumni and philanthropy in order to achieve their ambitious goals and to continue to have a positive impact on society.
What advice would you give to current DCU students and alumni?
Stay in touch with the University and get involved in any way that you can! Even if you can’t give money, the gift of time is also really valuable to the University.
I have gotten more back from DCU than I have ever put in. Being involved in things like the mentoring programme is a great personal development opportunity for alumni and supports the development of another young person. When I was first asked to mentor, I thought, “What would I have to offer anybody?” But if you look back, you can remember the things that you found difficult in your career. It might seem obvious now, but navigating office etiquette and politics can be challenge for a DCU student on their first INTRA placement.
Finally I would say that reflection and continuous learning are critical. Without the ability to learn throughout our lives, our skills can become extinct very quickly!