From peacekeeping contributions to the United Nations, Consul General of Ireland in Atlanta Shane Stephens brought the Irish experience to campus on Thursday.
Stephens represents Ireland to the seven southeastern states in the United States. Thursday marked Stephens's third visit to Auburn.
“I can’t resist this university,” Stephens said. “Not only because it was named after an Irish poet but there’s such a strong and substantial relationship between Auburn and Ireland.”
Stephens visit included meeting with administrators in the College of Human Sciences and the College of Architecture.
Anna Gramberg, senior counsel to Auburn President Steven Leath, invited Stephens to give a presentation to her global fluency class.
Stephens said Ireland has a great appreciation for the United Nations. According to Stephens, Ireland has contributed the most peacekeeping troops to the UN and is seeking a non-permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council
“If you know any presidents or heads of states, if you ask them to vote Ireland to be a non-permanent member of the Security Council in the period 2021-2022, that would be nice," Stephens said as he joked with the students.
Stephens discussed Ireland's current state of affairs in terms of its relationship with the European Union and its dedication to the organization.
“We’re at the heart of the European Union and we’re not moving out of there unlike some of our neighbors,” Stephens said. “We think it was a pity that the UK decided on Brexit. We campaigned against the decision, but it was a democratic decision by a democratic country so we fully respect that.”
Stephens said Ireland will soon be the sole English-speaking country in the European Union.
Stephens said learning about football has been a great insight into an important aspect of the culture of the south. He said the passion is amazing and how professionally it is managed at the university level.
“I’d love to see Auburn play its opening game of the season in Dublin,” Stephens said. “Georgia Tech did that in September 2016, they played Boston College and the best team won, the southern team.”
Gramberg and the Consul General met with the Dean of the College of Human Sciences to engage in talks on combatting world hunger. Stephens connected Irish officials with the college’s world hunger program.
Gramberg and Stephens also met with Auburn University's Provost Bill Hardgrave to discuss different study abroad and internship programs among the different colleges.
Over 100 Auburn students study in Ireland every year. According to Gramberg, the process is made easy as the student visa in Ireland is easier to achieve than many other countries.
Gramberg said she enjoyed Consul General Stephens’ visit. She said the luncheons that accompany a dignitary’s visit typically last around an hour but this one was much longer.
“It was a very lively discussion,” Gramberg said. “The Consul General is obviously a very personable person.”
The consul general took a tour of the industrial design facilities as there are strong ties to Ireland. The industrial design group was the first at Auburn to take students to Ireland.
Gramberg said at the end of the day the consul general looked tired and she asked him if they overtaxed him.
“He said 'I have to admit, I’m very exhausted,'” Gramberg said. “I asked him if we overtaxed him and he said no, no I want to have a full agenda. It’s really good, but now I’m very tired.”
Stephens urged the students to bring their Auburn tradition and academic studies to Ireland as it would be a valuable experience.
“We have many commonalities with the United States," Stephens said. "But I think what you would value most by spending a period in Ireland is coming to terms with the ways in which Ireland is different from the United States and different from Alabama."
During the question and answer session, Stephens was asked about popular Irish figures Conor McGregor and Michael O’Leary. He said they are both examples of Irish entrepreneurship and that he greatly respects O’Leary for what he has done to reduce travel costs in Europe.
“He’s (O’Leary) a little bit extreme though because he actually talks a little bit like Conor McGregor sometimes and uses the same sort of tacky approach to comic relations,” Stephens said.