Bridgewater State University (BSU) recently launched a new Irish Studies program, which will be an interdisciplinary minor.
According to Dr. Ellen Scheible, the coordinator of the new program, the goal of the program is help students understand “how histories of colonization and modernity overlap in western culture and how that overlapping is part of both the Irish and American experience,” and for students to understand “how maintaining tradition and history alongside progressive modernity is a unique experience that connects life in New England to modern Irish culture.”
Scheible has been with it since the beginning. “The program was originally my idea and I have organized and coordinated it from the very beginning. My area of study and research is modern Irish culture, so I teach classes in Irish literature,” said Scheible.
She saw an interest in her students, and thought the program would fill a void.
“Since coming to BSU in 2010, I have noticed that my classes continuously fill with folks interested in learning about Ireland,” said Scheible.
Additionally, Scheible expects the program to resonate with students. “Many BSU students, faculty, and staff identify as Irish or Irish-American and have some connection to Irish history and culture,” said Scheible.
The program was a natural fit into the current programs offered at BSU.
“Many classes at BSU have Irish content.,” Scheible said, discussing the formation of the program. “We decided to bring together the strong sense of Irish heritage shared by our community with pre-existing curriculum that teaches Irish culture. The Irish Studies minor allows students to bridge a connection between their personal experiences with Irish heritage and their college study.”
Students from every walk of life can benefit from the program.
“I think our students often struggle to connect their personal experiences to their life as college students,” Scheible explained. “ It is often difficult to understand how one fits into college as a first-generation student who also has family and work obligations.”
One of her goals for the Irish studies program is to “help students to better understand the relationship between a personal sense of culture and intellectual development.”
Additionally, BSU, being located so close to Boston, is in a unique position for an Irish Studies program. Boston has a long history of Irish-American culture.
“Boston is the single, best place to be if you are interested in Ireland and Irish history and culture,” said Scheible. “We plan to build relationships with community organizations to create internship opportunities and market cultural events to our students. We are very excited to encourage students in Irish studies to explore the many resources Boston offers for those interested in Ireland.”
One of those students, Tina Worton, first heard about the program through the Student Announcements. Worton, an English major who is taking on the new minor, has been interested in Irish culture for a while now. “I took an Irish Cinema course a few semesters ago with Professor Vejvoda,” said Worton. “I fell in love with the culture. Our school offers a number of Irish studies courses, so I continued learning about Ireland.” As to why she cares so much about the program, Worton said “I want to have a better understanding of Ireland because it is a land so rich in history and culture.”
Emma Johansen is a Staff writer for The Comment.