Where Are They Now?

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BICS Chairperson, Ríona Hughes caught up with some past winners of the BICS Best Individual Award to see what they were doing now, what it meant to them to have won the award and why being involved in societies was so important to them.

Lily McGarry:
Best Society Individual Award Winner 2012.

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Lily McGarry won Best Individual while in NUI Galway

What are you doing now?
I currently work as the administrator with the Association of Irish Choirs, based in UL and have been with AOIC just over a year. AOIC supports and promotes excellence in choral music in Ireland. My responsibilities include membership, helping organise courses including Sight Singing, Annual Choral Conducting Summer School and the Irish Youth Choir, looking after our social media and PR, maintaining AOIC’s website and more. In my job, I get to meet so many people from all walks of life who love to sing just as much as I do. Certainly is a busy office but I love my job.

Also I currently sing in a choir based in Limerick called Ancór and direct the Something to Sing About Limerick group for cancer survivors.

What was the importance of your involvement in societies?
I have always loved music, especially singing in choirs so when I went to study music in NUI Maynooth it was no surprise to anyone that I joined two choirs, the NUIM Choral Society and the NUIM Gospel Choir as they were both previously known. Joining the gospel choir was my first involvement in societies, I had become a member of the Music Society but didn’t attend any events in my first year (I was very shy!).

At the end of first year a group of us from my class went to the AGM for the free refreshments, this was when becoming part of the committee became of interest to me. I had previously organised events and been secretary for other committees in school etc. so I thought why not, and got elected as secretary. Little did I know at the time, this was going to change my career direction!

As secretary for the music soc, I was involved in looking after the membership, recording minutes, emails, organising events, music balls and more. Alongside this I was departmental class rep and was involved with multiple department events and stewarding at concerts. In my final year, I was also elected President of the Gospel Choir for the second semester; again this was similar in running events and meetings.

I enjoyed the organising and administration side of everything so much, I decided to apply for the MA Arts Policy and Practice in NUI Galway and I thoroughly loved every minute of this course. I studied different forms of the Arts, Law, Marketing, Accounting and more. I knew coming to Galway, I wasn’t going to give up music and knew I was going to join the Choral Society so in advance I liked their Facebook page. When I heard they were looking for a conductor, I decided to apply (even though I had no training or experience as a conductor) and was given the role.

The two and a half years, I conducted the NUI Galway Choral Society are indescribable, they were just amazing. At the start it was very daunting as I had never had formal training but the committee and choir made me so welcome.  I met so many fantastic people and musicians, many I’m still close friends with. During this role we sang a variety of pieces from early music to popular songs, attended the Limerick Choral Festival and won three prizes (best accapella performance of the festival, came 1st in early music and 2nd in chant), sang at many different events from Chorchestrad to charity events, recorded a Christmas single Witless and much more.

I chose to sit on the committee as conductor during the first year but as it went on, we lost members of the committee and this is how I had other roles as Secretary and PRO. Looking back this was a crazy decision but I wouldn’t change any minute of it! During this time I was awarded a bursary to attend the Association of Irish Choir’s Choral Conducting Summer School to help develop my skills as a conductor.

After completing my masters, I worked in the SocsBox in NUIG where I was in charge of events and PR. Working with societies was challenging at times, as it was demanding (never a quiet moment) but was very rewarding, I got to help socs run their events, with Riona I organised the Society awards, Theatre Week and more. This was also my first year judging at BICS and have continued to do so since.

As you can see, being involved in societies and winning at BICS has had a huge impact on both my career and personal development. I would encourage anyone to get involved no matter how big or small a role it may be because it may create opportunities you don’t expect.

What did it mean to win Best Individual at BICS?
I was delighted to win Best Individual 2012 in NUIG and even more so at BICS, it really wasn’t expected and I can say it and societies as a whole has really helped me shape my life and career. It gave me confidence and showed me that I am good at what I do, that I made a difference and it made all the hard work and crazy hours worth it. The support in preparation for BICS and response from everyone at NUIG when I won was overwhelming and really amazing.

This also has led me to judge for the last 2 years at BICS because I know what an impact it can have on an individual and the contribution societies make to student and campus life.

Looking forward to BICS 2015!

Katherine Long
Best Society Individual Award Winner 2013.

Katherine Long won Best Individual while in GMIT

What are you doing now?
After my three years in GMIT, I Graduated with a Level 7 Honours Degree in Event Management with Public Relations. From here I transferred to LIT (Limerick Institute of Technology) to finish my Level 8 in Business and Event Management graduating with a Level 8 Honours Degree. I spent my Summer doing unpaid work experience and then interviewed for a few positions.

I am currently working full time with Supermac’s Ireland as their Digital Marketing Executive. This means I take care of all the Social Media, Website work, Point of Sale Materials and other area’s of Marketing. Unfortunately working full time during the week means I can not do as much volunteering, I get out to Madra in Connemara when I can, I take part in the Concern 24 hour fast every year and the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon in aid of the Irish Cancer Society. However, weekends are also taken up sometimes as I am learning how to drive with lessons every Saturday.
What was the importance of your involvement in societies?
The importance of my involvement with the Societies in GMIT and further afield can not be underestimated. They were my life, my passion and my heart. They gave me so much purpose and I was so so glad that I was able to give back in some way. That is all I have ever wanted to do. I feel during my time with Best Buddies GMIT, The Student’s Union, The Engineering Society and all other area’s that I did change things and I made things happen. It is one thing about talking about doing something, but it is another actually seeing it through to the end. I always saw things through to the end, therefore bringing the societies on and making developments. Getting the societies adequate recognition was also very important, and I feel my involvement helped in this way. I would hope my involvement gave other people direction and inspiration, I would also hope that the way I left things and handed over aided those who continued in my place in continuing to build the Societies and carry on the great work.
It built me as a person, and gave me strength, knowledge and skills which have aided me in my career and which will continue to stand to me in the rest of my life. It has also given me confidence in myself and my abilities – which for any young person or adult is extremely important especially during a time where Mental Health is so prominent, and during a time when it is so important to be someone’s role model and the person who gives another confidence.

What did it mean to win Best Individual at BICS?
Winning Best Individual to me was one of the highlights of my life, it meant the world to me and I will never ever be able to thank those who chose me enough for this wonderful feat. I was so happy to be able to bring it home for GMIT, The Student’s Union and for every other Organisation I had ever been involved with including Best Buddies GMIT. It was an Honor and it still is.  I miss GMIT and I miss being as involved as I once was, as stated above it really did mean the world to me and still does to this day. BICS is a wonderful Organisation and I wish to thank them for what they have done for College Societies across the Country.


Best Society Individual Award Winner 2014.

Tríona O’Sullivan won Best Individual while in UL

What are you doing now?
What a difference a year makes, one year ago  (Feb 14) I was invited to the University of Limerick’s Annual Chinese New Year Celebrations as the President of the UL International Society by the University of Limerick International Education Division (IED), and this year I was organising it. I am currently working within the Full Degree Team in the IED dealing with Non EU Students but primarily Chinese, India and Saudi Students, I have organised our Diwali Celebrations in November, received regular phone calls from Immigration, attended meetings about students arriving in Ireland, assisted students in so many different issues that have arisen both personally and academically, really been given so many opportunities that one year ago I didn’t have and while celebrating Chinese New Year on the 18th of February this year, it suddenly hit me just how much has changed in the last year, just how many doors have opened for me since I was given those two awards in Thomand Park last March, and that beautiful glass trophy in the Titanic Centre in April (even the locations of the ceremonies were unreal!) I have a job in an environment that I genuinely love, I am still located in my beloved UL and I am still surrounded by my UL Wolf Family (I have even been a cover girl on the UL Links Magazine!).

What was the importance of your involvement in societies?
It was the Year of the Horse in 2014 and Chinese Birth year/Zodiac Sign and according to our Chinese members I was to be brought good luck and fortune for the year ahead. Fast forward one month at the annual UL Wolves Clubs and Societies Awards our Society swept the boards and I was awarded two specific awards, Best Society Individual and the Mike Sadlier Outstanding Achievement Award. It certainly seemed that my luck was in town, a few weeks later we travelled to Belfast for BICS and beyond my wildest thoughts (and hopes!) I received the Best Society Individual Award and gave a cringe worthy and teary speech (Thanks to DCU Media Society for streaming the awards, the clip is now widely available and my little brothers had it on a loop at a previous family gathering!).

What did it mean to win best individual at BICS?
Since winning the award last April, it really has opened up doors for me, I was giving opportunities that I hadn’t thought available to me and I have been able to do the one thing all Socs Heads wish to be able to do when they are graduating from college, turn a society hobby into a paying job! Last May I walked out the door on a Friday evening as a student in UL, and the following Monday I strutted in the door as a paid employee in the UL International Office. This is undoubtedly a direct result of my successes last year both within the UL Wolves Community and the National Board of Irish College Awards and I haven’t forgotten that once.

Winning the BICS Best Society Individual Award last year meant a lot to me on the night, but looking back one year on and it means even more to me.

Emma Nolan
Best Society Individual Award Winner 2014.

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Emma Nolan won Best Individual while in ITT Dublin

What are you doing now?
I graduated from Creative Digital Media last November and hope to be starting a research Masters at the college in the coming months, researching the history of ITT Dublin as it becomes part of DIT and creating a multimedia documentary of the 23 years of ITT Dublin.

What was the importance of your involvement in societies:
I don’t think I could overstate the importance being part of societies at college was to me. It enhanced everything. I made friends, memories and hilarious society videos. I gained skills, confidence and became super organised!

What did it mean to win best individual at BICS?:
Getting the nomination for Best Individual from ITT Dublin in the first place was a surprise, but it was great to think that the efforts I and my committee had put in to our society and the support of and connections made with others were noticed and appreciated. To go to the BICS and to meet, speak with and be considered alongside people who were mad about their society too was fantastic. The best part of having my name called out on the night as having won Best Individual was the reaction of the rest of the ITT Dublin! Loud.


Thanks to all the participants and Antoinette Canavan (GMIT), Michelle Whyte (UL) and Tim O’Connor (ITT Dublin). If you are a past winner and would like to share your story in the next edition e-mail info@bics.ie and include a photo.

Ríona Hughes (NUI Galway)

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