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Taking risks, achieving success, gathering battle scars and following dreams

  • Date: Fri, May 3, 2024

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By Beth Gormley, Communications and PR, UCD College of Business


“I have learnt more on the MBA programme than I did in the five years before it combined,” said 2023 Aspire Fellow and full-time MBA student Luke Byrne. 

“The Aspire Scholarship gave me the opportunity to upskill across a broad range of subjects and competencies, giving me confidence that I can add a range of value when I return to the workforce.”

A native of Ballybrack, County Dublin, Luke had a successful and exciting career in the media industry across a range of roles. However, he had always wanted to do a Master’s degree after completing his undergraduate programme more than a decade ago. 

After a redundancy process, Luke was left at a crossroads. He asked himself, “Should I go straight back into the workforce, or should I go back to university to complete a goal I set aside many years previously?”

In the end, it was the invitation to join the Aspire Fellowship that allowed him to join the full-time MBA programme at UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School.  

“The MBA is something which, put simply, I otherwise wouldn't have been able to do without the Aspire Scholarship,” commented Luke.

The Aspire Scholarship Programme was established after the 2010 financial crisis in order to support the recovery and development of future Ireland. The initiative provides talented graduates from across the country with financial support to complete a postgraduate qualification from Ireland’s leading business school and helps high-potential candidates unlock their unique talent and drive to become future business leaders.

To date, around 150 graduates have benefitted from the programme and alumni have gone on to establish their own business ventures or are employed in leading companies such as Accenture, Citi, Google, KPMG, McKinsey, Microsoft and PwC, among others. In 2023, ten Aspire scholarships were awarded, with nine spread across Masters degrees and one towards a student pursuing an MBA.

“The MBA is such a rich and diverse programme that it has opened a whole new horizon of job opportunities,” continued Luke. “Not only that, it has expanded my perspective and understanding of how to be successful in a holistic way. I want to apply what I’ve learned with the skills I've acquired in my career in a new industry. The MBA has given me a framework not just to do that, but added many more.”

Beyond financial support, the Aspire Fellowship is made up of a hugely talented and diverse membership pool. “The Fellowship has connected me with a lifelong community of engaged and inspiring alumni, who have already been hugely supportive and helpful,” continued Byrne. “Everyone else in the network is just a phone call away and ready and willing to help. It's a fellowship full of great stories about taking risks, successes, battle scars and following dreams.” 

“The community is a testament to UCD and I've really never come across anything like it.”

Karl McEntegart, Associate Director in Management Consulting at KPMG, is the President of the Aspire Fellowship as well as a 2017 Scholar recipient. “The Aspire Fellowship and UCD Smurfit School MBA were the catalysts I needed to transition from running my own business to pursuing a professional career with a globally recognised firm like KPMG.”

“The donor’s generosity is helping to shape the Irish leaders of tomorrow,” continued McEntegart. “The financial support provides high potential candidates an opportunity to study at Ireland’s leading business school, but what is even more beneficial is the network and strong bond that has been created amongst the Aspire Fellows.”

Upon the launch of the 2024 Aspire Scholarship Programme Professor Anthony Brabazon, Dean of UCD College of Business said, “Over the last fourteen years, we have seen how the power of the Aspire Scholarship Programme continues to support recipients well into the future through the dedication of the Aspire Fellowship to support the incoming cohort. We have seen our students thrive as the scholarship empowers them to pursue their goals. We extend our sincere gratitude to the donors for their vision and continued support of Ireland's future leaders.

“For anyone considering applying for Aspire, I would point out that while the financial help is invaluable, don't forget about the network it connects you with,” concluded Luke. “There are regular events that range from conferences to lunches and dinners and speaker events. There is a strong feeling of being a part of something important and I've found huge value in that.” 

“I will be forever grateful to the benefactors and members for accepting me.”

The 2024 Aspire Scholarship Programme application window is now open. Fifty-percent funding is available for up to nine MSc scholarships and three MBA scholarships for the 2024/25 academic year.

Applications can be made online here before May 13, 2024.

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