A STRABANE woman has been named as a runner-up in 2018’s Study USA ‘Student of the Year’ prize.
Alice McElroy, a student of St Mary’s University College, spent a year studying business at Shenandoah University, Virginia and hopes to use her new-found knowledge and skills to become an entrepreneur.
The 22-year-old was among 50 students from Northern Ireland to successfully graduate from the programme and was honoured at a graduation ceremony at the MAC in Belfast recently.
Study USA, formerly known as the Business Education Initiative, is managed by British Council Northern Ireland on behalf of the Department for the Economy.
Since its formation in 1994, the initiative has sent over 2000 students from Northern Ireland to all four corners of the United States where they have successfully completed a year studying business at one of 140 institutions.
Alice was named as runner-up in the ‘Student of the Year’ prize after achieving top academic marks and for an essay highlighting how her experience has helped further her employability.
This year’s top award, which was sponsored by Clarendon Fund Managers, went to Niamh Mackin, a Law student at Queen’s University.
Speaking about the programme, Alice said: “The skills I have learned in America are transferable to any working environment and I feel confident stepping into the working world to implement and improve upon my existing and new knowledge.
“And although I loved my academic experience in Shenandoah, my favourite memories are definitely the student life. I loved living on campus as my dorm was like a huge family – I am forever thankful to have made the best friends of my life.”
Congratulating the Alice and fellow Study USA graduates on their academic achievements in the US and their performance as excellent ambassadors for Northern Ireland, Noel Lavery, Permanent Secretary at the Department for the Economy, said: “Improving the skill base, and consequently the employability, of our graduates is vital in a very competitive and global workplace, especially in attracting inward investment from international companies.
“It is something we would seek to encourage for the benefit of the Northern Ireland economy.
“Therefore we will require a highly skilled, outward looking workforce to help us take advantage of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.”
He added: “International student and staff mobility is recognised in our Higher Education Strategy as a key element in enhancing the reputation of our universities and colleges, attracting inward investment and improving career prospects for students.
“Study USA has now developed into the Department’s flagship international mobility programme and we continue to provide it with significant funding, even in challenging economic times, because we recognise its value.
“It holds distinct benefits, both academic and personal, for the individuals involved.
“It is my hope that many of you will go on to shape our economy and support good international relations in years to come.”
Also commending the programme was Jonathan Stewart, director, British Council Northern Ireland, added: “Congratulations to Alice and all of this year's Study USA graduates.
“Year on year we find that those who take part in the programme not only enhance their employability skills but also develop intercultural skills, which helps them to prepare to work in a global economy.
“Throughout its history Study USA has enabled students to become great ambassadors for Northern Ireland and helped strengthened cultural, economic and educational links and connections between the two countries.
“Next year for the first time students will also be able to study STEM subjects as well as business and this can only enhance and grow these vital links between Northern Ireland and the USA - I would therefore encourage those from a range of subjects to apply as you never know where this opportunity may lead.”
Students interested in applying for the Study USA 19-20 programme can now apply online now at http://nireland.britishcouncil.org.
This year students can opt to study business and/ or STEM subjects and the deadline for applications for Higher Education institutions is Monday, November 12 and for Further Education institutions - Monday, January 14, 2019.