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Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Economic Affairs met the 25@25 and UU Alumni from Boston

'How to build a brighter, more inclusive future for generations to come' was the message delivered by Joe Kennedy III, United States Special Envoy for Northern Ireland, at an exclusive Ulster University Connects: Leadership event in Seaport Boston last night, Wednesday 27 March.

Joined by Ulster University Provost, Professor Cathy Gormley-Heenan and Babson College President, and Ulster University Honorary Graduate, Stephen Spinelli Jr., Joe Kennedy III addressed the cohort of 25 aspiring future leaders as they celebrated a significant milestone in the prestigious 25@25 Leadership Programme; a core part of Ulster University's Belfast Good Friday Agreement programme.

Speaking to the cohort and guests, which included the members of the newly launched UU Connects Boston Chapter, he shared his aspirations for the future of Northern Ireland, saying;

“This incredible group on the 25@25 programme that we celebrate today is nothing short of transformational: developing the changemakers and leaders of tomorrow, today. It is making a positive difference to Northern Ireland that will leave a legacy built for generations to come. Ulster University has rightly encouraged its students to think as global citizens – I see it first hand with the relationship with Babson College: a multi-faceted and mutually beneficial connection that has existed for nearly two decades.

"I know that the cohort that is gathered here today will help drive an economic, social and environmental condition to ensure that Northern Ireland thrives. My commitment to you is that America stands with you in this for the long-haul, as a partner and as a friend. You’ve got a special place in the hearts and minds of Americans, we want you to succeed and thrive."

He finished with some advice for the 25 Leaders:

“To the cohort, I’m grateful to be with you, to see you and to learn from you – I urge you to keep the faith, apply that leadership that you so genuinely emanate and continue the positive influence in your neighbourhoods, your communities and wider society. It has never been as important.

“This is your world, so hurry up and grab it, we cannot wait to see what you do.”

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

“Ulster University has strong ties with Boston, with many of our graduates living and working in the Boston area – many of whom we are delighted to welcome here this evening. We are especially excited to launch the UU Connects Boston Chapter, which invites our graduates living and working in Boston to reconnect at regular meet ups. Over the years these graduates have supported Ulster students through the Boston Discover Scholarship and ensured Ulster University connections remain strong in Boston.

“This event is a brilliant opportunity for our 25 future leaders to make international connections and network with our community and industry leaders, gaining fresh perspectives and valuable insights which we hope will bring new opportunities and spark exciting ideas.”

The 25@25 future leaders are visiting Boston as part of a week-long residential at the renowned Babson College, where they are developing their entrepreneurial skills and learning how to apply them effectively for their future leadership roles across a multitude of sectors in Northern Ireland. The residential - the only US-based portion of the programme - offers students an immersive experience in the world of entrepreneurial education.

Professor Gormley-Heenan continued:

“The 25@25 Leadership Programme is itself rooted in Babson's renowned Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® methodology which is designed to empower participants to drive positive change and innovation in various sectors, which are crucial to the future of Northern Ireland."

Babson – Ulster partnership

Ties between Ulster University and Babson College go back seventeen years, when, in 2006, a partnership was formed to support entrepreneurship education in Northern Ireland through teaching and research collaboration and faculty and student exchange programmes. Babson College President Stephen Spinelli Jr., then a visiting Professor and Ulster University Honorary Graduate, was instrumental in establishing the partnership. Speaking at the event he said:

Your participation in 25@25 signifies your commitment to lifelong learning. At Babson and Ulster, we assert that learning doesn’t end after a student graduates. That is especially true of entrepreneurship education. Learning is a lifelong process that doesn’t begin when you enrol in an academic program, nor does it end at completion. We learn new approaches and new things every day. We learn from each other every day.”

Designed to promote connections, networking and inspire, the UU Connects: Leadership Event was the latest in a series of sessions which has seen the cohort explore leadership through the themes of inclusivity, creativity, innovation and sustainability.

During the event, 25@25 participant Gemma-Louise Bond addressed the room:

“When the US Trade Delegation visited NI last year my PwC colleague and fellow 25@25 participant said something that I strongly agree on ‘the best is yet to come’. So - as a leader, I know we have a crucial role to play in shaping that future. We must invest in Northern Ireland's economy, creating jobs, fostering innovation, create opportunities and empowering our communities. We must champion diversity and inclusion, ensuring that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed. And we must continue to support the peace process, standing up for the principles of reconciliation, and respect for all.”

Gemma-Louise took to the stage in a beautiful, hand-made gold linen coat, designed and crafted by a fellow 25@25 leader, Amy, who founded and runs Kindred of Ireland.