Villanova University’s Irish Studies Program

Villanova_AerialVillanova University in Pennsylvania was founded by Irish Augustinians in 1842. Two years later, rioters (opposed to Irish settlement) threatened to destroy the College. Despite the tensions, the school survived.

Perhaps it is fitting, then, that Villanova University is home to the country’s oldest Irish Studies program, founded in 1979 by Dr. James Murphy.

Student Allison Duran is minoring in the program and interning for the department. “I saw that Villanova had an Irish Studies program, and that’s not something that’s offered at many colleges,” said Duran. “I took my first class and fell in love with it.”

The Irish Studies concentration is interdisciplinary, so students can take courses in literature, politics, history, music, film, Irish Gaelic and more.

The opportunity to learn in Ireland is also appealing. “The Irish study abroad program is very popular because we have an established professor who is working for Villanova in Ireland,” explained Duran, referring to Dr. Mary O’Malley Madec, Director of The Villanova Center National University of Ireland, Galway.

Duran went to Galway last fall. “We did a class with Dr. Madec where we looked at poetry and history and she took us on a couple trips, to Westport and Dublin,” she recalled. “She gave us the opportunity to experience many different sides of Ireland.”

Next summer will mark the beginning of a new exchange program organized by Villanova and Abbey Theatre in Dublin. Students will study Irish theatre from a literary, performance and historical perspective. Interested students from across the U.S. are welcome to apply.

Duran says concentrating in Irish Studies has been a “life changing experience.” From exploring the famous Joseph McGarrity collection in her university library to living with Irish university students during her time abroad, she has been able to further immerse herself in Irish culture.

“I’m from an Irish family and it’s always been a part of my life growing up, hearing about the famine or about how my great grandparents moved here from Ireland. But I never really knew much of the history. So the program has definitely been a personal connection to my identity.”