Alumni Spotlight

Tanya Ward - Chief Executive of the Children's Rights Alliance

15 May
Tanya Ward

Tanya Ward is the Chief Executive of the Children’s Rights Alliance. She played a major role in the Children’s Referendum of 2012 and was also a former Vice President for the International Federation of Human Rights. She has a keen interest in international human rights monitoring and lectures widely on the topic. Tanya speaks to us about her time at UCC and how the Geography Department, UCC played an important role in shaping her career.

Course/subjects studied in University College Cork:

I majored in Geography for my BA (Arts) and my Geography MPhil examined how Ireland and Norway responded to the needs of refugees.

Best memory of UCC:

I remember geography field trips in Ireland and abroad most. Active learning in the field was definitely the highlight.

How has your time at UCC helped you to get to where you are now?

Geography is a well-rounded subject and a good basis for many careers. I was most interested in human and political geography and developed an interest in migration studies. I completed my masters under Piaras MacEinri and it directly helped me get my first position in the Irish Refugee Council as a researcher. On foot of that I also completed major studies for government on the education needs of refugees and separated children. The subject matter also introduced me to human rights which is now the basis of my career.

What is your advice to current UCC students?

I'm a great believer in not letting people set boundaries on you. Anything is possible with the right focus. That's difficult when you're away from home for the first time. Try and chose the right subjects. I didn't always get this right. Get involved in clubs and societies. It's a chance to develop contacts and links. Take any opportunities going. I really benefited from Geography Department support to attending and giving conference papers.

What person/people at UCC had the most positive influence on you?

Who could ever forget Prof WJ Smyth in your first geography lecture? I learned a lot from other Masters students from my programme. Piaras MacEinri played an important role in introducing me to the field of migration studies which still plays a role in my work to this day. I recently served on the Department of Justice Working Group on Direct Provision and the Protection Process and the Children's Rights Alliance just established a Child Refugee Initiative to address gaps in the protection of their rights.

Were you involved in any Clubs or Societies?

I was very active in the Geography Society in my undergraduate years and edited the Geography Department's student journal 'Chimera' when I completed my masters. Clubs and Societies are a great way to meet people and develop other skills. I'm currently a member of the National Advisory Council for Children and Young People and I have served on many boards. My Societies background was useful for this type of work.

Favourite UCC legend or superstition:

Well there were many but one of the silliest was that you could donate your body to the Medical Faculty for money. You could then buy your body back later in life when you had a job!

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