RIGHT: The Traveller Graduate Network was founded by Leanne McDonagh. Photo: Jim Coughlan

National Traveller graduate initiative to launch at MTU

The national launch of the Traveller Graduate Network will take place in Munster Technological University (MTU) on Wednesday 6 April.

The Traveller Graduate Network, founded by Leanne McDonagh, alongside her cofounders Breda Hogan, Gavin Hennessey, and Ann-Marie Quilligan is the first alumni network of its kind in Ireland, set up by, and run for, Irish Travellers. Within the Travelling community, just 1% graduate with a third level education.

“As Travellers we found that finding employment and progressing in education is not always easy; as the saying goes ‘it's not what you know, it's who you know’. Due to the lack of Travellers in employment and education, it is hard for Travellers who want to progress because of lack of connections and understanding of the processes,” said Breda Hogan, Acting Traveller Education Co-Ordinator in MTU.

TGN will promote inclusive learning environments and encourage more Irish Travellers to strive towards the benefits that third level education brings. TGN will educate Traveller students on third level options, encourage Travellers into third level and in turn improve employment opportunities.

To do this, TGN will take a multi-pronged approach for supporting Travellers at second and third level, while also supporting Travellers to access employment after graduation.

TGN provide information sessions for secondary Traveller students and their parents/guardians on the options that exist for pursuing a third level course. TGN members will share their own personal experience of third level, and be additional role models for Traveller children who dream of going to college.

At third level, TGN will encourage, mentor, and advise Traveller students on issues including grant applications, scholarships and internships.

Post-graduation, TGN will support and assist Traveller graduates to secure employment through the alumni network or if they wish, help them pursue further education at MA or PhD level. TGN will also work with prospective employers to source Traveller talent.

TGN will support Travellers in making third level a welcoming and inclusive space. As a result of TGN’s work, the founders anticipate that a third level education will become a natural and achievable goal for all Travellers. In addition, more Travellers should get to enter the workforce with an abundance of degrees, Masters and PhDs. This is a future TGN is excited about.