Monday, November 14, 2016
Mercyhurst University announced today that it will commence a yearlong study to determine whether it will expand its academic center in Dungarvan, County Waterford, Ireland, into a full-fledged international campus.
A Memorandum of Understanding providing the framework for shared analysis of the proposed project was signed today by Mercyhurst University President Michael T. Victor, Waterford City and County Chief Executive Michael Walsh, and Mercyhurst College Ireland Chair Heidi K. Hosey.
Mercyhurst has a longstanding relationship with Dungarvan stemming from recruiting initiatives at St. Augustine College (high school) dating back to the mid 1980s. The association evolved in 2010 as the Mercyhurst Intelligence Studies Department began hosting its biennial Global Intelligence Forum in Dungarvan and the university established an academic center, known as Mercyhurst College Ireland, in the city proper. The latter has afforded small groups of Mercyhurst students and faculty to study-away for a semester at a time.
“This step represents a natural progression of what has been a highly productive and enriching relationship between our university and the people of Dungarvan,” said Victor. “With today’s increasingly global economy and the value of international study, we owe it to all concerned to do our due diligence in evaluating this unique opportunity.”
Victor further said, “We must be visionary in our approach to the future of Mercyhurst University, and this opportunity fits that bill. However, we must also be responsible stewards.”
The invitation to expand Mercyhurst’s academic operations in Dungarvan was extended by Dungarvan officials with support from Mercyhurst alumnus John Deasy, a member of the Irish Parliament.
The confluence of a number of other timely circumstances played a part in Mercyhurst’s decision to undertake the feasibility study. Among them: an offer by the Dungarvan government to make available a six-acre parcel of land to Mercyhurst for development, access to low-interest capital, and the availability of experts in capital development who would volunteer their skills to advance the project.
Beyond the relationship of trust that Mercyhurst and Dungarvan have built, as well as the fruitful Sister City relationship between Erie and Dungarvan, there is another important connection. By locating in a country where its founders, the Sisters of Mercy, originated, Mercyhurst has the opportunity to fully integrate its Irish Catholic heritage and solidify that core feature of its identity.
“That is definitely a differentiator for Mercyhurst; the connection to our heritage,” Victor said.
From the student perspective, increasingly students are expecting to have an international experience as part of their college education, and rightly so, said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs David Dausey. “Some schools, Yale, for example, require an international experience to graduate,” he said.
Dausey said Mercyhurst students could pay extra to take a full semester of study in Dungarvan, but the university is also exploring the idea of offering all students a mini-semester in Ireland with only the cost of air fare.
Meanwhile, Dungarvan has long embraced the chance to become a university town, said Heidi Hosey, who chairs the board of directors of Mercyhurst College Ireland. Dungarvan has many parallels with Mercyhurst, she noted. It is beautiful. It is safe, caring and welcoming. It is a place where the people know Mercyhurst students by name and consider them part of their community.
Mercyhurst is in the process of assigning a project manager to lead the internal organization and planning efforts. The manager will help develop a business plan that includes a comprehensive market analysis, competitor analysis and financial appraisal. The plan also will consider effects on student recruitment and retention and developing partnerships with other educational institutions. All will be in collaboration with contemporaries in Dungarvan, led by Waterford Chief Executive Michael Walsh, with a final decision slated for no later than Oct. 31, 2017.