Opinion: Wexford Campus Summer 2023

The Savannah-Ireland Connection

As the St. Patrick’s Day season persists, we continue to discuss the cultural and historical connection between Savannah and Ireland. More specifically, we’re talking about the relationship between ourselves and Wexford, a small town in Ireland to which we have largely traced the roots of Irish immigrants in Savannah.

This summer will herald in the latest incarnation of the Georgia Southern Wexford trip, which has grown significantly since its earliest endeavors and even from just last year.

“The Honor’s Inquiry program was sort of the pilot which launched the whole Wexford campus,” Dr. Meaghan Dwyer-Ryan, the Associate Director of The Center for Irish Research and Teaching said. This original trip version was started by Dr. Steve Engel, the Dean of the Honor’s College, and Dr. Howard Keely, Director of the CIRT.

This “pilot”– The Honor’s Inquiry program—was designed to further our research on the history of our connection, getting curious about why so many Irish immigrants came to Savannah, why so many of them were from Wexford, and what we can make of that information within our culture.

While the Honor’s Inquiry program is still in effect, this year marks a sure sign of growth within our Wexford connection. Just last year, the entire program was a single term concentrated on the research of the Savannah-Ireland connection, with 18 students in attendance. This year there are four terms and a projected 200 students.

“It’s kind of evolved over the years, but the main theme is this connection between Savannah and Ireland,” Dr. Dwyer-Ryan said. We have certainly not gotten less curious about that connection (as the more we learn, the more questions we find to ask), and that focus is still present in its most concentrated form within the Honors Inquiry program.

This year, a Term A, Term B, and Term C have been added onto the list of possibilities to engage with the evolving Wexford campus.

Term A runs from May 20th to June 15th (synchronous with the Honor’s Inquiry) and hosts a variety of courses like Biology, Geography and other sciences like Public Health and Psychology.

Term B runs from June 25th to July 21st and has a larger emphasis on humanities—there are History classes that focus on Irish and US conjoined history, as courses in Philosophy, English, or Religious Studies. As well the study of Irish poet Brendan Behan’s work, along with other opportunities for humanities students. This term also includes Nursing and Political Science courses.

Term C runs from June 4th to June 30th and has an emphasis on Education and Special Education.

The growth of the Wexford summer program and the research therein is accompanied by a physical growth of Georgia Southern within Ireland as efforts build towards the foundation of our Wexford campus, a complete wing of Georgia Southern University with the capacity to house 42 students. This is projected to be completed and ready for use in January 2025.

The benefits of studying abroad in an undergraduate college experience is well preached. Here it will be again: Beyond being a sparkling addition to a resume when in the future into future academic endeavors like graduate school or when looking for a job in the field you have achieved your degree for, a study abroad experience is widely considered an invaluable addition to a person’s individual repertoire.

Experiencing a different geography and culture is an expression of universal humanity, and especially for students with roots in Ireland, it may be a profound one. Conducting your studies in a different environment comes with the potential of revolutionizing your mindset completely and maybe even altering your course within your degree by way of broadened horizons.

Students can attend more than one term—such as Term A and B combined—and every student of every term will receive some intrinsic financial aid. Applications for the program close at the end of March.

And, of course, curiosity and engagement with our Irish connections are more than possible without even having to leave Savannah–if you’d like to know how to stay tuned.