Award-winning Irish social entrepreneur joins students for degree ceremony in Belfast
Social entrepreneur, Caroline Casey, was honoured by The Open University (OU) with the award of Master of the University at a ceremony in Belfast’s Waterfront Hall today (Friday 4 October).
Ms Casey was recognised for her contribution to public services and had her award conferred alongside 224 graduates – of all ages and backgrounds and from a range of careers. She is an award-winning social entrepreneur and founder of #valuable – a catalyst for an inclusion revolution that exists to position disability on the global business leadership agenda. Committed to building a global movement on inclusive business for the 1.3 billion people in the world with a disability, over the past two decades Ms Casey has set up several organisations and initiatives centred on disability business inclusion. Her latest initiative, The Valuable 500, is an ambitious year-long campaign to get 500 businesses to commit to putting disability inclusion on their leadership agendas. Caroline is also a TED speaker, Ashoka Fellow, Eisenhower Fellow, a past advisor for the Clinton Global Initiative, a One Young World counsellor and a Young Global Leader of the World Economic Forum.
The Open University makes honorary awards in line with its mission to be open to people, places, methods and ideas, and the promotion of social justice through the development of knowledge and skills.
Many of today’s graduates have fitted their studies around work or family commitments; some have a disability or live in a remote or rural community, while others did not have traditional university entry qualifications, or came from low-income households. For all of them, today’s ceremony marks the culmination of years of hard work and commitment to learning.
One graduate is Paul Cavanagh, from Belfast. When working in the voluntary sector in the 1990s, Paul realised he needed a degree to progress in his career. He chose The Open University to undertake his qualification because it enabled him to continue to work, and he could fit his studies around his family life. He was also able to transfer credit from a previous course at a different university that he didn’t manage to complete, which meant he could pick up his studies easily. Since gaining his degree, and seeing the value of gaining qualifications to his career progression, he has also achieved two Master’s degrees with The Open University, and now works as a Lead Commissioner in the Health Service.
Paul says: “Undoubtedly my motivation was to further my career, and my decisions on postgraduate study reflected not only my personal interests but also subjects which I felt would be applicable to current and future employment.”
He also believes that the flexibility of the OU helped him achieve around other commitments in his life: “The OU provided good study materials and support and was flexible enough for me to navigate through three degrees despite having a busy job and family life. “I could study in the evenings and at weekends.”
I would never have had the time to attend weekly classes at another university and doubt I would have gained Master’s degrees by any other route. I have a great sense of achievement and am immensely grateful to my wife and children for all of their support throughout my OU journey.”
John D’Arcy, National Director of The Open University said:
“On this our 50th year of opening education for all, I am immensely proud of all of our Open University graduates today and I would like to congratulate each and every one of them. They have shown real dedication by fitting in their studies alongside their jobs, families and commitments in life. They have shown how part-time higher education really can transform lives.
We are also delighted today to welcome Caroline Casey to The Open University family.”
Caroline Casey, Doctor of the University, said:
“I am absolutely thrilled to have been nominated for this prestigious award of the honorary degree of Master of the University. To receive such an honour from The Open University, that truly believes in full inclusion, means a great deal. It is also a recognition of the need to continuously push to broaden the business inclusion agenda to equally include disability.
What we hope to see eventually is business commitment to the inclusion of people with disabilities in the same way that has been demonstrated by The Open University.
It is a real honour for me to get this wonderful award from an organisation who truly invests in, and respects, the value and contribution of people with disabilities.”