USI Student Achievement Awards 2017

THE Union of Students in Ireland (USI) held its annual Student Achievement Awards on Thursday evening, the 20th April, in Dublin Castle.USI’s Deputy President and VP for Academic Affairs, Jack Leahy, says the aim of the awards is to celebrate “the outstanding breadth of extracurricular activities, student-led initiatives and grassroots work that enhances the student experience”.This year, awards were given out in seventeen categories. Leahy says USI attempts to “capture the full breadth of the student experience in the awards”. A new addition to the ceremony this year was the ‘Student Rights Champion’ award which, according to Leahy, aims to highlight those “fighting hard to assert and improve student rights”.Leahy says there were dozens of standout nominees this year. Judges had a difficult time choosing a winner for the ‘Class Representative of the Year’, ‘Journalist of the Year’, and ‘Student Leader of the Year’ categories as they “attracted a particularly high standard of application”.The judging process takes a month to complete and consists of several stages with “transparency and fairness” throughout. Firstly, a screening process by USI officer board sieves out ineligible applications. Then, nominees are whittled down to three by external subject experts. Finally, expert judges review the shortlisted nominees and choose a winner.Awards were presented by staff from organisations such as Amnesty International, Microsoft and Senator Lynn Ruane was also a guest speaker and delivered a keynote address. Ruane said: “activism is about change and progress” even if it takes decades to achieve a goal and stresses the importance of continuing the fight after college.Leahy says students don’t need to be encouraged to make contributions. He believes “higher education brings out the best in people and our campuses are extraordinary places”. If any extra encouragement is needed to get involved, Leahy says winners “make contacts, enhance their CVs, and gain huge confidence in their abilities”.There is added incentive for the ‘Journalist of the Year’, however, in that the winner gets to spend two weeks with, paid. This year’s winner was Sinéad Baker of the University Times. Christine Bohan, Deputy Editor of, was the judge in this category and says Baker’s work “stood out for its sharp, excellent reporting”.As UCD is not affiliated with USI, no UCD student or related organisation could be nominated for an award as they are exclusive to USI member institutions.Although, The University Observer and The College Tribune couldn’t be nominated in the ‘Publication of the Year’ Leahy said that both papers “have had a great few years now and it’s disappointing to see them miss out on the prospect of due recognition”. He remains hopeful that USI and UCDSU will be together again soon. The full list of winners can be seen below.
Award CategoryWinner
Student Leader of the YearSeán Fearon (QUBSU)
Part-Time Officer of the YearNiall Cooke (TCDSU)
International Student of the YearCyndi Lou (TCDSU)
Equality Activist of the YearStephen McCrystall (QUBSU)
Welfare Campaign of the YearYour Welfare Week (AITSU)
Education Campaign of the YearRep Academy (QUBSU)
Outstanding Mental Health ActivismAIT Please Talk Society (AITSU)
Mature Student of the YearCarly Bailey (TCDSU)
Class Representative of the YearBarabara Bollard (ITTDSU)
Feachtas Gaeilge na BlianaCumann Gaelach TCD & AML Coláiste na Trionóide (TCDSU)
Student Rights Champions of the YearDale Whelehan & Glen Byrne (TCDSU)
Activist of the YearNiamh Herbert & Laura Beston (TCDSU)
President of the YearJane M.Hayes Nally (ISSU)
Publication of the YearThe University Times (TCDSU)
Journalist of the YearSinéad Baker (TCDSU)
Outstanding Contribution to Student LifeMU Mental Health Society (MSU)
Charity Champions of the YearSurgeon Noonan Society (UCCSU)