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WCU Partners with Irish College

Linking Limerick and West Chester: Nancy Witmer and Ken Witmer, WCU Dean of
Education; Sandra Weisenstein and Greg Weisenstein, WCU President; Michael A.
Hayes, MIC President; and Holly Cowman, Director of MIC’s International Office.

The "luck of the Irish" must have been with West Chester University during the development of its latest international partnership, with Mary Immaculate College (MIC) in Limerick, Ireland.

"We went from the conceptual stage to the signing of a formal memorandum of understanding in just six months," notes West Chester’s College of Education Dean Ken Witmer, who was instrumental in developing the collaboration. Witmer was a visiting professor at MIC for one semester earlier in his career and as a result of his contacts, he was able to jump-start discussion and help the process move expeditiously.

This summer, WCU President Greg Weisenstein and MIC President Michael Hayes signed a formal memorandum of understanding at a ceremony in Limerick.

MIC, founded in 1898, offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in its College of Education and the Liberal Arts and is academically linked with the University of Limerick. There are approximately 3,000 students at the city campus enrolled in undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs. MIC partners with universities in more than 15 countries.

WCU's relationship with Mary Immaculate College opens the door to student and faculty exchanges plus collaborative research. The partnership will involve many WCU departments, with initial programs presented by the College of Education.

"We will welcome the first Mary Immaculate College student to WCU in January, at the start of spring semester," Witmer notes. In a competitive process, four WCU students were selected to head to Limerick next spring. Eventually, cohorts of 12 to 16 WCU students will study in Ireland annually. The College of Education also plans faculty exchanges and research collaborations.

Other WCU-MIC programs currently under development include a study abroad program on the media in Ireland with WCU’s communication studies professor Edward Lordan. Lordan has taught similar courses and has met with MIC officials to discuss plans for a 2015 summer course.

West Chester also is in discussion with two other Irish institutions about possible partnerships: St. Patrick’s College and Trinity College, both in Dublin. President Weisenstein met with St. Patrick's College President Daire Keogh in late June. Any formal arrangement is on hold while St. Patrick's is merged with Dublin City University, but Witmer and Peter Loedel, director of WCU's Center for International Programs, will work with St. Patrick's officials to develop interim collaborative projects. Weisenstein’s visit to Trinity College focused on common research interests as well as study opportunities.

Twenty-year-old Hollie McDonnell will be the inaugural MIC student at West Chester University this spring. A resident of Dooradoyle, just outside Limerick City, McDonnell is in her third year of the BA (Liberal Arts) program studying to be a secondary teacher of English and history.

"American history is such a small section of our course and was a module I really enjoyed," she says. "I'm extremely eager to learn more about the history of the U.S and this is one of the main reasons why I was so drawn to WCU. Not only does the college have fantastic history modules, but also the history within the surrounding area."

While at WCU, McDonnell hopes to see Gettysburg National Park, the Liberty Bell and Valley Forge National Historical Park. And one venue that is decidedly not historical in nature – the King of Prussia Mall.

WCU's CIP manages international study opportunities in over 50 countries, from winter and summer study to short-term spring break programs to semester and year-long exchanges and other programs.

For more information, contact CIP Project Director Jeff Conradi, CIP.