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Limerick Native appointed Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education at MIC

Dr Jennifer McMahon

Limerick native Dr Jennifer McMahon has recently been appointed as the Head of the Department of Educational Psychology, Inclusive and Special Education (EPISE) at Mary Immaculate College (MIC).

Dr McMahon—originally from Garryowen but now living in Corbally—is on secondment from her role as a Senior Lecturer in Psychology at the UL Department of Psychology to take up the position until 2026. She is an MIC alumna and has distinguished herself as a leader in her field. Her main area of research is the promotion of school, child and youth mental health and wellbeing—specifically exploring how best to promote a school environment that supports teacher and student wellbeing.

She is one of 40 scholars chosen from across Ireland for the Young Academy of Ireland at the Royal Irish Academy which brings together talented and emerging leaders, researchers and scholars. During her career she has attracted over €2 million in funding and has published many research articles related to her research.

She commented that she is looking forward to returning to MIC and to the challenge of taking up the role in a busy department “in the context of a really rapidly changing educational landscape nationally and globally”.

“There is a lot of exciting work going on in EPISE and I’m really looking forward to collaborating with the departmental staff and the wider College community. As a member of Young Academy Ireland, I hope to support and encourage early career staff in a number of areas like involvement in research, attaining funding, being innovative around teaching and learning, and to contribute to large societal challenges.”

MIC Dean of Education, Professor Emer Ring, welcomed Dr McMahon: “On behalf of all colleagues in the Faculty of Education, I am delighted to extend the traditional MIC ‘céad míle fáilte’ to Dr McMahon. In the Faculty of Education we have a strong commitment to inclusion and special education from teaching, learning and research perspectives. We look forward to working with Dr McMahon and know that we will all greatly benefit from her experience, experience and insight as we strive too cultivate a more inclusive society for everyone.”

For Dr McMahon, coming to work at MIC feels like a ‘homecoming’. She commenced her BA as a mature student at MIC in 2002—the first year that Psychology was offered as a subject on the programme on what was to become the first accredited programme in Limerick. She credits that coincidence as setting her on her career path

“I feel very passionate about what I do. My passions have brought me to some interesting places. When you're working with great people and you're doing things that you're really interested in that can have very positive results and it never feels like work. But I never imagined I would be doing this type of work now or aspired to come back in a job like a head of department. It’s really wonderful to come back; it’s a full circle moment really.”

In another first, she was the first PhD student in MIC’s Department of Psychology and was awarded her doctorate in 2012.

Other previous posts include working as an evaluator for Jigsaw, the National Youth Mental Health Centre, and as project manager for the design and implementation of a mental health service for young people aged 12-25. She is the founder and Director of the School, Child & Youth Mental Health and Wellbeing research lab or SCY-lab in the Faculty of Education & Health Sciences in UL.

Dr McMahon is currently leading the development of the wellbeing resources for the national curriculum for Junior Cycle students, funded by the Department of Health and Department of Education. She co-founded the T-REX initiative with colleagues from MIC, University of Galway and the Marino Institute of Education as well as being the UL lead for this online network for teachers and other educational researchers. She is also the lead researcher in the development of MY-Psy (MY Psychology)—a psychology-led curriculum to promote adolescent mental health and wellbeing funded by Science Foundation Ireland. This is a collaboration with the Limerick Clare Education and Training Board, the Junior Health Sciences Academy and a range of youth stakeholders, which is currently being piloted in schools in this region.

She is also the Irish lead for CoSPACE IRELAND, a study tracking the mental health of families and young people throughout the pandemic and beyond and is a member of the CoSPACE International Consortium which among others brings together researchers from Oxford, Yale, University of Brisbane and Aarhus University to explore the long-term impacts of the pandemic on child and family wellbeing.

Jennifer is also known to people in Limerick for her community engagement and has won several awards for this work. In the past she was the chair of the Jigsaw Limerick Advisory Committee, the Chair of the Limerick City Development Project and Chair of the Limerick Mental Health Association. Most recently she was a member of the planning committee for the national ‘Hello, How Are You?’ Campaign for Mental Health Ireland.