What Are You Like?
Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh

Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of the UCD Schools of Business

By Kate Overbeck, Irish America
October / November 2014

Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of the UCD Schools of Business, discusses the future of studying in Ireland, effective leadership, his first job, and Irish determination.

Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh was appointed Dean of  the UCD Schools of Business (UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and UCD Lochlann Quinn School of Business) in 2011. Under his leadership, the school’s revenues have increased by over 12 percent, and new faculty members are on the rise.  At a time when Ireland is striving to rebuild its reputation in the global economy and attract international business to its shores, the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School – the only school in Ireland that is triple accredited by the three major international accreditation bodies – stands to play a more important role than ever before.

Born in Dublin and raised in an Irish-speaking household in Galway, Ó hÓgartaigh has a background in accounting and academia. A first-class-honors, first-in-class graduate of NUI Galway with a Bachelor of Commerce degree, he qualified as a Chartered Accountant with Arthur Andersen  in Dublin and holds a Ph.D. in accounting from the University of Leeds.

A former Fulbright Fellow at Northeastern University in Boston, he has published widely on financial reporting and on accounting history in international peer-reviewed publications. He led the UCD Smurfit School’s facilitation of the Global Irish Economic Forum in 2011, and is currently chair of the Final Admitting Examination Board of Chartered Accountants Ireland.

Ó hÓgartaigh joined the UCD accounting faculty in 2008, from the School of Accounting and Commercial Law at the Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. In addition to his responsibilities as dean, he continues to teach the undergraduate accounting course Financial Accounting III in the UCD Quinn School of Business.

What makes for an effective leader?  
Appoint the best people and let them get on with the job within a clear, supportive framework. A-star leaders appoint A-star people, B-star leaders appoint C-star people.  In universities in particular, we have a lot of bright people who just need to be energized.

What makes the UCD School of Business different?  
UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School is the only business school in Ireland which is triple accredited and whose programs are consistently ranked in the top 100 in the world. In addition, we are in the only English-speaking country in the Eurozone. We have intense clusters of industry and therefore expertise in areas such as digital business and society, food innovation and financial services. Our students tell us that we have an open, friendly learning environment which fosters discussion and debate.

What’s your vision for the school?
To build on Ireland’s strengths and needs to enhance our international reputation and reach. This is an ‘act local, think global’ strategy: we are of Ireland but international at the same time. Our future as a school (and as a country) depends on internationalization.

How many students come from outside of Ireland?  
In 2013-14, 47 percent of the 1,200 students entering the UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School are foreign. This enriches the learning experience substantively for all our students. China, India, Germany and the USA comprise the most significant countries of origin (in that order).

What are the greatest challenges facing business students today?
Having something different to offer. Our U.S. students often tell us that this is why they come to us to study: having an MBA from a leading international business school outside the U.S. gives them something different from their peers.

What advantages do they have?  
A great sense of confidence that we didn’t have.

What stands out to you from your own education?
I remember an excellent teacher, of Irish, Bernie O’Connell, who used the short stories of Padraic Ó Conaire (which are full of misfortune) as a way of telling us that everybody has problems and what matters is how you deal with them.  And then there was the Jesuit, Liam Greene, who used to say that “you can have your cake with jam on it and eat it.” A great attitude.

What was your first job?  
A summer job just outside Paris, a company called Gaupillat which manufactured copper molds. I got it through AIESEC, a great student-run organization which still sources international placements for students.

Best advice ever received?  
I get lots of good advice. Growing up, we spoke Irish at home and my parents always said “Déan do dhícheall” – do your best. There is both a great sense of security and a great challenge in that. Robert Louis Stevenson’s advice, “Be supple in things immaterial,” helps me in sleeping in a job like this.  My colleague Peter Clarke’s advice, “People don’t remember what you say, they remember how you made them feel,” helps me in speaking in a job like this.

Best advice ever given?  
That’s not for me to judge.

Best opening line in a book or piece of music?  
Can I have a closing line instead? The last line of The Road by Cormac McCarthy: “In the deep glens where they lived all things were older than man and they hummed of mystery.”  There is a great sense of security and sanctuary there in a book that is steeped in the uncertainties of life. The father’s journey evokes for me my own father’s commitment to progress and to his family.

What drives you?  
Following my parents’ advice, doing my best.  We are merely servants, we only do our duty. After that, a Toyota Prius.

Do you strike up conversations on long plane journeys?  
It may be a long plane journey, but I generally prefer short conversations.

What is on your bedside table?
A lamp, a radio alarm clock, a book (currently The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes) and a pile of receipts for expenses as yet unclaimed.

Where do you go to think?  
My walk to and from work is the most precious part of the day.

What is your hidden talent?  
Keeping my hidden talents hidden.

What quality do you seek in friends?

Favorite quote?  
Patrick Kavanagh’s line in his poem “Advent,” “Through a chink too wide there comes in no wonder,” which reflects the value of innocence and curiosity.

What event changed you the most?
The year I spent in Boston as a Fulbrighter.  I came back with a great sense of ambition, several new friends in research and a determination not to complain about Irish weather again.

What don’t people get about you?
My determination.

What don’t people get about the Irish?
Our determination.

If you weren’t doing what you are doing, what would you do?
I’d be Professor of Accounting at UCD and just as happy.

What is your greatest passion?  
My wife, Margaret.

Your proudest moment?  
I’ll take a recent one: meeting a student from Frankfurt, Germany who had come especially to the UCD Smurfit School to enroll in our MSc in digital marketing. He came to us in September 2013 to enroll in September 2014!  This is our vision for the school playing out in life.

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