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Commencing Ulster University's 25@25 Leadership Programme at Stormont last night [Thursday 28 September], Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women's Coalition and former elected representative who is celebrated for her pivotal role in the Northern Ireland peace process, delivered an address to the cohort of aspiring leaders taking part in the programme.

The twenty-five future leaders were joined by over 100 guests to officially launch the programme, which forms part of Ulster University’s wider programme of events celebrating the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

The 25@25 Leadership programme is tailored for Ulster University graduates living and working in Northern Ireland who aspire to shape the region's future.

The programme aims to expand their experiences, enhance leadership skills, and establish a robust network of change-makers, focusing on Northern Ireland's next 25 years.

Emeritus Professor of Ulster University, Monica McWilliams captivated the audience at Stormont by showcasing her remarkable leadership journey of more than two decades and her profound impact on Northern Ireland politics.

In addressing the cohort, she shared pivotal milestones from her illustrious career, candidly recounting her triumphs and obstacles including her seat at the table during the signing of the Belfast Good Friday Agreement.

Speaking at the launch, Monica McWilliams shared her leadership journey and inspired the cohort with advice:

“To every problem there needs to be a solution. We all need to branch out, to be curious with each other: reach out to person you least know and find humanity in each other.

“Learn to believe in yourselves and each other, and the amazing things you can go on to achieve. Believe you are the makers of the progress and the change you want to see.

“Manage and delegate but have a good vision of where you want to lead to and who you want to bring with you -  I'll be cheering you on each step of the way - you're the kind of leaders we need. 

“You do what you can because what you have done has brought you here today and what you go on to do now may be more than you can ever imagine, for generations to come.”

Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan, University Provost, Ulster University said:

“We are delighted to officially commence Ulster University's 25 @ 25 Leadership Programme in the company of Emeritus Professor Monica McWilliams. Monica is an exemplary figure, celebrated for her significant contributions to peace and social justice in Northern Ireland, making her the ideal person to inaugurate our programme and inspire the future leaders of tomorrow.

“25@25 is more than just a programme; it is a visionary undertaking designed to uplift, educate, and nurture the next generation of leaders and innovators. We have 25 exceptional participants selected from diverse sectors spanning business, technology, health, and education who will make significant gains over the next few months.”

Throughout the year, the leadership cohort will benefit from one-to-one coaching and engage in nine one-day sessions featuring an impressive line-up of guest speakers, including BAFTA-winning screenwriter Lisa McGee, former Irish Rugby international player and TV presenter Tommy Bowe, Northern Ireland Civil Service Head Jayne Brady, and Nextdoor CEO Sarah Friar. Additionally, Samantha Barry, Glamour magazine's American Editorial Director, will share her leadership expertise in the creative industries.

25 @ 25 is proudly supported by the Garfield Weston Trust and partners: the International Coaching Federation Ireland, The Community Foundation Northern Ireland (NI) and mentors from the Institute of Directors and Ulster University Alumni Community.

To learn more about the programme and those taking part, visit