End of Term reception for Chris Morash Vice-Provost/Chief Academic Officer

Saloon

Friday 21st June 2019

Good afternoon,

It’s great to see so many here – so many who have worked with Chris on Board and Council, and across all three faculties and divisions.

Chris arrived in Trinity just five short years ago – although, having been a doctoral student here, it was a return rather than an arrival. He returned in a really significant role – the inaugural Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing. He immersed himself thoroughly not just in the School of English, but in the whole life of the university. And in 2016 he stepped up to the role of Vice-Provost and Chief Academic Officer.

Perhaps, it’s because I come from engineering that both recent vice-provosts have come from the humanities. Certainly, I have benefitted from their perspective, articulacy and sense of narrative that the humanities bring to the running of the university

As Vice-Provost and CAO, the Vice-Provost deputises for the Provost, as required, and has overall responsibility for academic activities - that involves coordinating strategic planning and research, as well as undergraduate and postgraduate education and the student experience.

This is, it goes without saying, a very large and significant role.

Chris has served as Chair of:

  • the Planning Group,
  • the Heads of Schools Committee,
  • the Quality Committee,
  • the Junior Academic Promotion Committee.
  • And he was interim Chair of the Equality Committee.

As well as serving on Board and Council, and all appointment committees for professorial posts.

In these roles, he served with distinction. As Chair of the Planning Group, he worked with many stakeholders to establish a new mechanism for allocating Faculty and School budgets.  The Baseline Budgeting Model – or BBM – was implemented in 2017 as the mechanism for allocating budgets. Bringing the BBM into existence was a major achievement as budget allocation is by far the most difficult internal task in any university. 

While acting as Chair of the Equality Committee, he chaired a working group of the Equality Committee to draft a plan for implementation of the important HEA National Review of Gender Equality in Irish Higher Education Institutions.

The past three years in which Chris has served as vice-provost have been particularly busy and focussed ones for the college. Among our great missions has been the renewal of the undergraduate curriculum, the Trinity Education Project.

The final story has yet to be written on  ‘TEP’, but when it is, it will be clear that Chris has been instrumental to its success. He acted as overall Project Sponsor and chair of the TEP steering committee and Workstream 1 “Transition”.
Another piece of major work was Chris’s role in coordinating – or masterminding - the move from Two Subject Moderatorship, or TSM, to the recently launched Trinity Joint Honours Programme.  The Joint Honours programme is so much more flexible, creative and contemporary than TSM. It will make a profound difference to the formation of our students. It is a particular legacy of Chris’.

Another legacy project is the new Strategic Plan which we’ll be launching in the autumn. A good Strategic Plan is essential to progressing the university. Just two days ago, Chris presented a draft of the new Strategic Plan to the a joint meeting of the board and council, setting out vision, values and mission and providing a conceptual framework for the strategy and a summary of high-level cross-cutting goals.

As anyone familiar with Chris’s books would expect, the Plan is hallmarked by clarity, expressiveness and elegance of language and a wonderful absence of jargon, cliché and policy-speak. It will no doubt go through more drafts before it reaches its final form, but Chris’ articulacy must be retained. Language is the medium through which our strategy is delivered. If the language is imprecise or tired, so too is the Strategy. We’re very fortunate to have Chris’ work on the Strategy.

On a personal note, I’ve enjoyed a warm working relationship with Chris which has made it possible to progress many important and difficult initiatives for the university.  Chris can always be relied on to bring a fresh perspective, cogently and positively articulated, on all subjects. He is motivated by a well-honed sense of what passes muster academically, and is a sound judge of what matters within the academy. He got to grips with finances, strategic planning and project management. In manner, he is calm and considerate of others and this is much appreciated at board and council.

After an extremely full three years, he is now returning to research. His scholarship is such that it goes beyond his discipline – my holiday reading last summer was a history book on Irish nationalism - Ireland, Inventing the Nation - and came across an encomium to Chris’ work on the Irish theatre.

The role of vice-provost is all-consuming, but he found the time to teach a module on the M.Phil. in Irish Writing, to supervise two PhD students, and to keep several book projects on the go - but I know that he has missed having the time to do in-depth research.

He holds, as I’ve said, a key position in the college – Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing. Those of us who love Irish literature must be glad that he will now have time to complete his research into the theatre of W.B. Yeats and Dublin as a city of literature. We look forward to the book and other research outcomes.

First I imagine, he will wish to take a well-deserved holiday!

Chris, on behalf of the whole university, I thank you for the past three years and for all your service to the university. 

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R.V. Comerford, Ireland Inventing the Nation