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It's 35 years since Owen Kelly was an Edinburgh student - and now as a member of the Business School staff he sees a University that has evolved for the better.

Owen Kelly

My background

I started working at the University at the age of 54 and count myself very lucky indeed to be doing so, because in my previous jobs the best experiences usually involved working with educational institutions of one kind or another. So working outside the University inspired me to be part of it.

After graduating with a degree in Chinese, which at the time was a very unusual thing to study, I worked for quite a long time in the UK Civil Service. That included living in Japan for a while, promoting Scotland as a place for Japanese companies to invest, as well as having a sometimes bewilderingly wide range of other jobs, from dealing with unexploded munitions to building hospitals.

After that, I worked for the financial services industry as its representative in Scotland, taking up the post just as the global financial crisis broke (the two events were entirely unconnected). Working for government and for the finance industry made me realise that the world is short of wisdom, so I decided to look for it in the most obvious place, namely ancient philosophy. This brought me back to the University to study for a part-time PhD, which I currently combine with my work in the Business School. From my window here, I can see the Chinese department where I studied (some of the time) 35 years ago. But I feel no nostalgia, because while the buildings are the same, the University feels like a very different place, which is a good thing – universities endure because they are constantly renewing themselves.

At Edinburgh

I am Director of Engagement at the Business School. The purpose of all engagement activity is to support the School in achieving excellence in research and excellence in teaching. It includes working with external partners, like companies, not only to enhance the experience of our students but also to keep our research grounded in the world of business and the role it plays in society.

We are one of the most international parts of the University and the diversity and quality of our students gives the place a real buzz, which is invigorating. Because business plays such a large role in society, in all sorts of ways, the Business School is a first port of call for a lot of other organisations and we aim to act as a conduit between them and the University as a whole.

The University feels like a very different place, which is a good thing – universities endure because they are constantly renewing themselves.

Owen Kelly

Something I know...

Something that perhaps we native English speakers know, but take for granted: we work with so many astoundingly good linguists. Having spent years trying to learn other languages, I am daily stunned by the incredible ability of so many colleagues, staff and students, to operate in what is at least a second language and often a third or fourth. ‘Chapeau’, as they say in French.

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