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Seton Hill University students Adrienne Bracken and Katelyn Stanley will experience Irish culture and study for a semester in Northern Ireland through the competitive Irish-American Scholars Program.

“I am always delighted when our students embrace an opportunity to study abroad; these experiences are truly the most transformative form of education. But of course, given my research field, I was especially excited to learn that Adrienne, an advisee and a student in the Honors Program that I direct, had an interest in studying in Northern Ireland,” said Christine Cusick, Ph.D., associate professor, English and composition. “Irish culture is so often oversimplified in America, we only have to look at some of the St. Patrick's Day's celebrations to see this, and while it is always a good thing to celebrate cultural pride, I think sometimes in the midst of this oversimplification we fail to see the diversity and richness of Irish experience.”

Bracken and Stanley have been awarded scholarships through the Irish-American Scholar Program for the 2013-14 academic year. Bracken, of Lower Burrell, Pa., will study English literature and psychology at the University of Ulster at the Coleraine campus in fall 2013. Stanley, of Burlington, Ky., will attend Queen’s University in Belfast in spring 2014.

"Queen’s University is ranked in the top one percent of universities throughout the world and is ranked number one for medical science and pharmacy in Ireland,” said Stanley. “As a biology major, I know studying at Queen’s University will prepare me for graduate school and provide me with an academic edge.”

Stanley plans to become a doctor and hopes to participate in healthcare mission trips in the future.

She continued, “What I appreciate about this study abroad opportunity is that it will allow me to focus on my interests in healthcare.”

Like Stanley, Bracken, an English literature major, believes studying abroad will prepare her for additional study. “The opportunities I will have at the University of Ulster will help me stand out, especially if I choose to conduct my graduate education abroad.”

Bracken plans to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree in English literature and teach at the post-secondary level.

“Literature offers us a lens through which we can learn about a culture and place, but this understanding is deepened and enriched when we encounter the material nuances of living in this place. It gives us a chance to experience a place through our senses, to listen to stories, to engage in conversations. Northern Ireland in particular has such a layered and complex history, and its writers give voice to the power of this collective memory,” said Cusick. “While there are certainly deep cultural connections between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the political boundaries are powerful and the history is intricately textured, and many Northern Irish writers, poets such as Seamus Heaney or Ciaran Carson, for example, have taken the time to help us see the beauty and tragedy of this texture. I am so grateful and inspired that Adrienne is courageously seeking to experience this powerful connection between human story and creative impulse. She will have much to teach us all when she returns!”

Bracken and Stanley learned of the scholarship program in January 2013. Both completed an application that included a 500-word essay describing educational objectives for study in Northern Ireland and provided references and academic transcripts.

Bracken is the daughter of David and Lisa Bracken of Lower Burrell, Pa. She is a junior at Seton Hill and serves as a Resident Advisor. Bracken is a member of the English Club, English Honor Society, Eye Contact Literary Magazine staff and Setonian, Seton Hill’s newspaper, staff. She participates in Service Saturdays through the Office of Campus Ministry.

Stanley is the daughter of Dennis and Gina Stanley of Burlington, Ky. She is a sophomore at Seton Hill and also serves as a Resident Advisor. Stanley is a member of the softball team, Biology Club, Chemistry Club and American Red Cross Club.

The Irish-American Scholar Program is sponsored by the Association of Presbyterian Colleges and Universities, the United Methodist Church and Association of Catholic Colleges and Universities. The program operates in cooperation with the Business Education Initiative of Northern Ireland, Queen's University, University of Ulster, Belfast Metropolitan College, Saint Mary’s College and Stramillis University College.