Mercyhurst University today announced the official opening of an international center in Erie’s Sister City of Dungarvan, Ireland, a bricks-and-mortar manifestation of Mercyhurst’s longstanding relationship with Dungarvan and an illustration of the potential for substantive collaboration between sister cities.
The Mercyhurst in Ireland initiative paves the way for the university to expand its existing study-abroad opportunities, forge partnerships with European institutions on academic programs, research and other educational ventures, and establish a European base for the Center for Intelligence Research, Analysis and Training (CIRAT), an arm of the university’s internationally known intelligence studies program.
“The establishment of a Mercyhurst center in Ireland is an exciting new development,” said Mercyhurst University President Dr. Tom Gamble, who was in Dungarvan March 23 to make the formal announcement with Michael Noonan, TD, Ireland’s Minister for Finance. “As the world becomes increasingly smaller, it is incumbent upon us as an institution of higher learning to give our students an international perspective and increase our understanding of global issues. We look forward to doing our part in building that bridge toward international understanding and mutual respect in Erie’s own Sister City of Dungarvan, where we already maintain close ties and a collaborative spirit.”
Waterford County Manager Denis McCarthy agreed. “The success of both the study abroad program and the Global Intelligence Forum, hosted by the university’s intelligence studies program in Dungarvan the past two summers, is a clear expression of what can be achieved through the collaboration of Mercyhurst University and the Dungarvan Town Council for the benefit of both our communities,” McCarthy said. “Dungarvan offers Mercyhurst an opportunity to expand its international programs and, as a result of today’s announcement, I think we can now refer to Dungarvan as a university town and a center of academic excellence.”
Mercyhurst’s Irish facilities are situated in a recently refurbished historic building on Lower Main Street in the heart of Dungarvan, where it houses classrooms, faculty and corporate offices and a dedicated space for CIRAT.
Although actively recruiting students from Ireland since 1985, Mercyhurst began seriously contemplating Dungarvan as a potential location for a permanent center three years ago when it took a group of students and faculty there for a 10-week spring term of study. The program was so well received and the Dungarvan experience so rewarding that enrollment in subsequent offerings reached capacity within days.
This spring, 25 students and six faculty members are on site, the first cohort to use the new facilities. Now with a designated space, Mercyhurst intends to expand the program to include fall and spring terms. In addition, the university is contemplating a plan that would enable Irish students who enroll in Mercyhurst University’s Erie campus to begin their core courses at the Dungarvan center.
“We have been very strategic in our plans and our goal is to maximize opportunities as they emerge,” said Dr. Heidi Hosey, dean of international education, who directs the Dungarvan initiative.
Now incorporated in Ireland, Mercyhurst is already pursuing a number of academic partnerships with European educational institutions, among them the Waterford Institute of Technology. The university’s intelligence studies program, meanwhile, looks to strengthen its presence in Europe by expanding its online graduate certificate offerings as well as research and training opportunities with European partners in both the public and private sectors.
While at a very basic level, sister cities build the foundation for increased tourism, business contacts, and cross-cultural awareness, Mercyhurst has advanced the sister city concept to the level of a bricks-and-mortar presence in Ireland and a conduit for opportunity.
“Our sister city relationship with Dungarvan has been one of our most fruitful,” said Erie Mayor Joseph Sinnott. “Mercyhurst has helped to expand the educational facet of this relationship beyond our greatest expectations by now creating a presence in Dungarvan. This moves our sister relationship to a new level of success, one which former council president, the late Jim Thompson, who cultivated the relationship with Dungarvan, had envisioned for many years.”
Hosey, meanwhile, called the new Mercyhurst in Ireland experience a win-win for all involved. “I think the whole idea of Dungarvan developing into a university town has generated a lot of excitement on both sides of the Atlantic,” she said.