Following a rigorous and extensive selection process, we are pleased to announce our Class of 2015. These 30 exceptional emerging leaders come from 13 different universities and institutions across Ireland, Northern Ireland and Great Britain. They study a broad range of disciplines including law, business, engineering and history to name just a few.

The introduction of our 21st Class is a milestone that offers us an opportunity to reflect on a key priority for WIP – a commitment to excellence, equality and diversity. Where you come from, your religion, economic background, gender, race, ethnicity or sexual orientation should not hinder you from leading and serving your community and your country. Who you are is less important than your passion and commitment to overcoming the differences of the past, and to chart a new course for all the people of Ireland and Northern Ireland in the 21st Century.

The first attributes WIP looks for in our search is for students who demonstrate leadership potential and have a substantial track record of service. We look for students who excel both in influencing their environments and in making significant contributions for the benefit of others. This emphasis on identifying excellence guides us as we shortlist the hundreds of students who apply each year.

Each year we are impressed by the quality and calibre of students we see. We aim to make the process a learning opportunity for candidates, and provide feedback and mentoring to unsuccessful applicants where feasible. Many candidates apply over a number of years before being selected for the Program.

Over the years, WIP has always sought to ensure that at least one-third of students selected to join the program come from disadvantaged and marginalized communities. In 2009 WIP began a new outreach effort by creating a partnership with the “All Ireland Scholarships” program allowing WIP to actively recruit exceptional academic students from economically constrained backgrounds.

Three years ago, WIP made an even stronger commitment to excellence, equality and diversity by taking a series of pro-active steps to revise its recruitment policies. As a result, over 50% of students in our last three classes have met our scholarship criteria and received additional financial support. Commenting on this, WIP’s Chair Kevin Sullivan noted “It is a WIP core value that we recruit and engage leaders from all economic and social backgrounds. Our new Class continues to uphold this key goal of achieving equality and diversity in the selection of each new class.”

To support this organizational value WIP has significantly expanded our scholarship program and made significant alterations to our selection and short listing process. These have included:

• Increasing the number and value of scholarships which we offer
• Actively working with University and College access programs in Ireland and Northern Ireland to ensure that all students in these programs are aware of WIP’s scholarship opportunities
• Creating a new partnership with Institutes of Technology Ireland
• Reviewing and updating our marketing materials, to ensure WIP’s message engages students in under-represented communities
• Adding positive action statements to our materials, encouraging under represented communities to apply for the program
• Providing application writing and interview training to build the skills of potential applicants through our ‘WIP Academy” project

We have also updated our selection process to build in best practice monitoring systems as outlined by the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland. At the completion of each selection process we assess our recruitment and selection process to identify communities for whom we could improve our outreach.

WIP would like to thank the Office of the First Minister and deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, the Irish Department of Education and Skills and our private donors for providing the financial support to support these opportunities.