Jennifer Cunningham – The Sustainable Sports Development Champion
Jennifer Cunningham (Jen) has been involved with sports development for well over a decade and has delivered pathway and recreational rowing programmes to all ages. Jen recently became involved with Corrib Beo and assisted with drafting a concept note on the possibility of developing a seamless and sustainable multi-trail network encompassing the entire Corrib catchment area.
Jen’s formative pre-teen years were spent in Africa where she developed a lifelong love of the great outdoors. She worked in Brussels for a number of years in the field of Sales and Marketing and returned to Galway working for a multinational organisation as Regional Sales Manager for East, West and Southern Africa, travelling extensively throughout the African continent.
A return to college as a mature student brought the opportunity to take up rowing which resulted in her competing with NUI Galway Boat Club for 3 years. She went on to establish a Masters and Recreational rowing programme geared primarily for alumni to remain engaged with the sport and to encourage recreational participation amongst university staff and mature students.
In 2014, Jen rolled out an inaugural Rowing Ireland schools’ programme in Connacht and introduced several thousand of students to the sport, creating a strong local school-to-club pathway which still exists today. Jen remained closely aligned with NUIG Boat Club over the years and was assigned the role of NUI Rowing Development Officer where she helped to identify and assist with applying for critical equipment funding, mentoring students, instigating multiple fundraising efforts and overseeing a club refurbishment. Jen has simultaneously captained the Alumni Boat Club, Gráinne Mhaol RC for the past 10 years and has delivered programmes and managed adventure row tours both locally and abroad..
Jen is also a recent team member of the environmental education group EcoEd4All which has developed the first online educational modular programme for Transition Year students in Ireland. This collaboration is a great fit with Jen’s own vision of the need for increased outdoor learning to truly appreciate first hand how sustainable practices can impact directly upon biodiversity and our natural environment.