Dr Maria Hinfelaar, President of Limerick Institute of Technology (LIT), Ireland
Since her appointment as President in 2004, Maria has overseen significant development at the Institute and, with over 6500 students and 550 staff, it is the fourth largest Institute of Technology in Ireland. Maria has led the Institute in securing substantial funding from the national funding agencies and from the EU for access projects and teaching and learning innovations and for applied research in science and technology domains. LIT has launched an ambitious campus master plan to 2030 which is dovetailed with redevelopment plans for the city and the region.
Maria has a B.A. (Hons) Degree in English Language and Literature, Leiden University, The Netherlands; an M.A. Degree in Modern English and American Literature, Leicester University, UK and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Education, Leicester University, UK. In 2004 she was conferred a PhD for her thesis ‘Key Success Factors in International Retailing’, by Maastricht University, The Netherlands.
Maria wrote ‘Teaching Methods for Business English’ which is widely used throughout Dutch education. Since then she has published various articles on the subject of international retailing, and more recently international research publications about developing Irish higher education policy and collaborations, alliances and mergers in the sector. Maria is an alumna of TMP 32.
What is the best piece of management/leadership advice you have ever been given? Never be too far ahead of the troops or there is nobody behind you to catch you when you fall.
Who would you most like to have worked with/for? Who would you most like to have worked with/for? George Bernard Shaw – would have been a very critical friend and
What is the biggest change you have seen in management/leadership approaches? Both in The Netherlands and in Ireland there is a shift towards a more listening and empowering style. That doesn’t mean of course that the organisation loses direction and anything goes – it simply means that vision and values run deeper.
Who is your inspiring leader and why? Mary McAleese, former Irish President. Even though this is a largely ceremonial role she has been truly influential and recently entered the Irish referendum debate on gay marriage, stating she would vote yes because she wants her gay son to be treated equally. This no doubt contributed to the resounding victory for the Yes campaign a few days later.
What was the best professional move you made and why? The leap into the unknown when I left my position as Head of School of Business with a large Dutch higher education institution to take up my current role as President of Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland. I had only been to Ireland a couple of times as a tourist, but I have never looked back.
Which six leaders, past or present, would you invite to a dinner party and why? Doris Lessing the author and a great champion of African culture; Barack Obama who could have fascinating conversations with Doris about that topic; Princess Maxima who left the South American continent to marry her Dutch Prince Alexander (now King) and is immensely popular; why not also Alexander himself; Jeannie Longo, French doyenne of cycling who still raced internationally aged 50; Brian Cookson, current chief of the International Cycling Federation.
What will you remember most about TMP? The simulation exercise of ‘Severn Valley University’ where all 21 of us drew role cards and I ended up being ‘Associate Dean’ in some obscure part of the organisation, completely out of the loop. A salutary lesson!
What will be the most enduring learning point? Brilliant guest speakers and worthwhile theories and models, but at the end of it all synthesising that into your own personal views and concepts of leadership.
Have you continued to meet/engage with your TMP Fellows? Yes and in fact we recently had a reunion event in Dublin. Apart from catching up on everybody’s news and enjoying good food, we had organised a fascinating seminar about fundraising which was kindly hosted by Trinity College Dublin.
What piece of advice would you give to someone starting off their career? Education is one of the most rewarding sectors to work in. Never lose sight of that, whatever role you end up carrying out.
What one thing would make your job easier? A magic filing system operated by fairies – the ultimate cloud solution.
What’s been your biggest professional challenge and how did you overcome it? Leading the incorporation of Tipperary Institute into LIT – any merger is contentious. How to overcome it? Consultation, consultation, consultation.
What would be your priority activity if you were invisible for a day? Relax and have a game of Scrabble.
Who would you choose to be stranded on a desert island with? That would have to be my husband Graham as he is a good cook and also knows how to chop logs. No seriously, nobody else would be in the running.
Tell us a secret about yourself? I successfully auditioned for the national Dutch Student Chamber Choir during my time at Leiden University and we toured Holland and Germany. Had almost forgotten about it myself actually!