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Twenty-five aspiring leaders from Ulster University’s prestigious 25@25 Future Leaders Programme are returning from the ‘trip of a lifetime’ to Boston, as part of an intensive, week-long, residential at Babson College, a global leader in business and entrepreneurship education.

While there, participants engaged in a series of practice-based workshops and sessions* led by innovative and celebrated speakers and experts in the field of entrepreneurship with the aim of assessing and developing their own entrepreneurial skills and learning how to apply them in any organisational setting.

The residential -- the only US-based portion of the programme - offers students an immersive experience in the world of entrepreneurial education. The trip represented a significant milestone in the 25@25 Leadership Programme; a core part of Ulster University's Belfast Good Friday Agreement 25th Anniversary programme.

During the week the group attended an exclusive UU Connects: Leadership event in Downtown Boston. Addressed by Joe Kennedy III, United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, participants had the opportunity to network and connect with Ulster University alumni based in the Boston area. Joe Kennedy III said:

25@25 is an absolutely extraordinary programme. Its extraordinary because of the opportunity it provides, but what sets it apart is the calibre of the participants. These are extraordinary leaders from Northern Ireland but they’d be extraordinary leaders anywhere in the world. The opportunity, the optimism, the vision, the dedication and the potential that they represent is really inspiring. I can’t wait to see what they are going to do in the future. My hopes for this group of leaders is sky high.

They also enjoyed a visit to Massachusetts State House - the seat of government for the state which is one of the oldest state capitols in use in the US. There, they met with the Governor of Massachusetts, Maura Healey and heard about her journey from a career in law to Governor.

The cohort, who work across a range of professions and sectors, will take with them the lessons learned from their time at Babson, leaving empowered to act and solve any problems encountered as they navigate uncertainty and ambiguity resident in their environment.

Reflections from the 25@25:

James McCarthy, journalist and 25@25 participant said of the week;

“This week has been absolutely transformational – we arrived here on Sunday and we really got into the detail of the programme. I have to say that through personal reflection and through different aspects of the entrepreneurial programme that we’ve done, I am leaving Boston a completely different person. 

"The highlight for me was visiting the Massachusetts Statehouse and meeting the Governor, it was so interesting to hear her story how she progressed from Attorney General. Also speaking to US Special Envoy to NI, Joe Kennedy III and hearing from Alumni and understanding their stories – I made a lot of connections and look forward to building on them in the future!”

Conor Largey, youth worker in Belfast and 25@25 participant said of the week;

“It has been absolutely fantastic for me. Babson College really put a lot into creating a really intensive, experiential programme. I got a lot out of it and another layer has been sharing it with our 25@25 cohort. Together we have really created an environment where we can get the most out of the teaching and learning experiences and get the most out of the facilities here. I’m taking home so much.

"I’m going to apply all the knowledge, experience and skills that have been shared with us to a context that wouldn’t traditionally be matched with entrepreneurial thinking: youth and community work. Its going to enable me to bring more ethical investment into the communities that I work with and using Babson’s Entrepreneurial Thought in Action methodology is really going to create new life for where I am working and the young people I am working with and create a better legacy for years and years to come.”

Aine McCaughey, software engineer and 25@25 participant said of the week;

“What I took from this week is the idea that in being an entrepreneurial leader, vulnerability is a key element. We’ve been really vulnerable with each other this week, we’ve had the time and space and intensity of the week to get a lot closer and we’re coming home from this week all feeling like we know each other much better – its vulnerability that helps you build those connections. My favourite session was design thinking with Heidi Neck – we thought our group project was quite well formed when we came but after throwing ourselves into the process with Heidi, we’ve come away with a completely new idea. Its scary but incredibly exciting and testament to the design thinking process and how much it works.”

Babson College President Stephen Spinelli Jr., visiting Professor and Honorary Graduate of Ulster University, said:

“The 25@25 cohort’s participation in this special program represents their dedication to deepening their understanding of the entrepreneurial mindset. Their embrace of entrepreneurship will play a significant role in Ulster University and Northern Ireland’s continued success.”

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

“We have enjoyed a wonderful week in Boston with our friends and colleagues from Babson College, who have made us feel very welcome. Over the course of the week participants were encouraged to uncover, develop, and put into practice Babson’s proven methodology of Entrepreneurial Thought & Action. It is our hope that each participant will take home a new skillset which will accelerate their mission, whether that is to revitalise an existing organisation, start a new one, drive social change or re-energise a social good within the creative arts, health care, sustainability or some other sector critical to the future of Northern Ireland.”

*Highlights of the week included learning and workshops on:

  • Examining an ‘entrepreneurial identity’ with Babson Professor, Lily Cosina
  • Immersion in design thinking with Heidi Neck, an award-winning Professor of Entrepreneurship and Academic Director of Babson Academy
  • Discussing leading and influencing with Wendy Murphy, Associate Dean and a Professor of Management at Babson College
  • A fireside chat with entrepreneur Rich Palmer
  • Foundations for partnerships across Business, Government and NGOs with Cheryl Kiser and Craig Bida, global leaders in CSR and social innovation at Babson
  • Social value creation and social entrepreneurship with Phil Kim, an internationally recognised expert on entrepreneurship

Over the past 15 years, over 100 students from Ulster have completed courses at Babson College as the two universities have enjoyed a two –decade-long partnership.