Patricia “Trish” Culligan remembers hearing a regular refrain at the dinner table. “Nobody can ever take your education away from you,” her parents would often remind her and her four siblings.
“My parents were very invested in our education. And I think it goes back to their mantra, that no matter what, nobody can take your education away from you. There was a feeling that there was some dignity associated with education, no matter where you found yourself in life,” she says.
To be sure, the Culligan family found itself all over the world during Trish’s youth. Culligan’s early years read like a world geography quiz, with addresses on three continents before the age of 9. From there, an idyllic if nomadic time preceded high school, where a budding interest in the relationship between science and humanity would take root that influences her work to this day. Now, as Culligan begins her new role as the Matthew H. McCloskey Dean of the College of Engineering, she hopes to help future engineers from a broad spectrum of society take ownership of their own education and integrate their knowledge to take on some of humanity’s most pressing challenges.