Study in Ireland
Staidéar in Éirinn
SUMMER TERM IRELAND®
The year 2018 marks the tenth anniversary of CIRT's provision of study-in-Ireland programs. A decade ago, CIRT conceived of and created the five-week, full-credit program called Summer Term Ireland®, which it rendered viable by partnering with the European Council of the University System of Georgia and Waterford Institute of Technology, a doctoral-research university in Waterford, Ireland's oldest city. That initiative continues, and has thus far served in excess of 550 University System of Georgia students.
As regards designing, recruiting for, and executing Summer Term Ireland®, no single participating unit has provided more leadership than CIRT. Howard Keeley PhD — CIRT's Director (through June 30, 2018) — reflects, "We're proud of this program. Regularly, student assessments of it use such phrases as 'life-changing' and 'my best college experience.' There's no doubt that CIRT worked tirelessly over many years to shape the program's value-added learning model, which continues to empower Georgia Southern and other University System of Georgia students with participative educational opportunities in Waterford City and its hinterland."
Each student selects two courses from a menu of ten choices. Many of the offerings are specifically Ireland-focused, such as the upper-division courses, Revolutionary Ireland, 1913-1922 and Doing Business in and with Ireland. Each of the remaining courses has significant Irish and/or Irish-diaspora content. Consider, for example, the lower-division course, World Literature since 1650: Irish Emphases, whose students engage in a variety of field experiences. Perhaps the most popular is a one-day trip to the coastal village of Ardmore in County Waterford to assess how Molly Keane, who lived there for 50 years, incorporated the place into her masterpiece Good Behavior, a novel from 1981. En route to Ardmore, the students enjoy a visit to nearby Coláiste na Rinne (Ring College), a renowned center for Irish-language instruction, founded in 1905. Another instance of value-added learning: students in the lower-division course, Introduction to Marketing, embed for a day with top professionals in the sales-and-marketing division of Waterford Crystal, the definitive luxury-glass brand, whose HQ occupies a portion of Waterford City's Viking Triangle district.
Beginning in 2014, CIRT developed an additional full-credit study-in-Ireland program: Savannah-Ireland Inquiry®. Its overarching goal is to give high-achieving undergraduate students enrolled at Georgia Southern University a chance to participate in primary-source research connected with a world-class scholarly project. Over three weeks in Savannah and two subsequent weeks in Ireland, the students find and analyze archival material that helps illuminate the mid-nineteenth-century transatlantic trade-and-migration pathway that operated between County Wexford, Ireland, and Savannah, Georgia.
Since its establishment in 1733, Savannah has had significant Irish connections. When James Oglethorpe founded the city and the greater Georgia Colony, much underwriting of the original settlers' transatlantic passage came from an Irish nobleman, the Earl of Abercorn (hence the north-south Abercorn Street in Savannah). Later — on St. Patrick's Day 1812 — Presbyterian Irish merchants were the driving force behind the creation of the Hibernian Society of Savannah, which sought to "tender the aid of a delicate charity" to appreciable numbers of poor, mainly Catholic Irish newcomers then entering the city. That organization is still extant and maintains its charitable mission.
However, during "prime time" for Irish immigration into Savannah, from the late 1840s to the mid-1850s, around 56% of those arriving came directly on vessels from New Ross and Wexford Town, ports in the county of Wexford in southeastern Ireland. To this day, Wexford family names (such as Corish, Doyle, Kehoe, Rossiter, and Stafford) feature prominently in Savannah. Until recently, though, the story of the Wexford-Savannah Axis had become all but lost to history.
Having been successfully selected, by an essay-and-interview process, to participate in the Savannah-Ireland Inquiry® program, our smart and committed Georgia Southern students work painstakingly at the Georgia Historical Society, the Wexford County Archive, and other venues to rediscover the fine details of the Wexford-Savannah narrative. By means of traditional and web publications and public-history events and exhibits, the young scholars are beginning to restore this important trade, migration, and integration story to the people of Savannah and Georgia, as well as their "Green Atlantic" cousins in and beyond Wexford.
While many citizens of Ireland automatically think of Irish America in terms of Boston, New York, and Chicago, this project is expanding their knowledge by helping to reveal the American South as consequentially Irish, too. By 1860, around a quarter of Savannah's non-slave population was Irish by birth, so it's perhaps little wonder that the city hosts the second-largest — and the best — St. Patrick's Day in North America.