Saturday 7 December 2019

US college to open Wexford learning centre

CG Stephens, the Irish Consulate General for Southeast US, meets with the Wexford delegation before the announcement of the partnership between Georgia Southern University and Wexford
CG Stephens, the Irish Consulate General for Southeast US, meets with the Wexford delegation before the announcement of the partnership between Georgia Southern University and Wexford

Maria Pepper

An American university is establishing a new learning centre in Wexford, which will be located in the old County Hall building in Spawell Road.

Georgia Southern University's Centre for Irish Research and Teaching is the first third level institution in the United States to open an outreach learning facility in Ireland, according to its its irector Howard Keeley.

The Centre for Irish Research provides an opportunity for Georgia Southern faculty and students to examine the connection between Savannah and Ireland.

Research being carried out by Wexford-Savannah Axis shines a light on why so many people from Wexford and the South East of Ireland emigrated to Savannah in the 19th century and highlights the impact that their emigration had on Irish and American generations in both countries.

The announcement of an outreach facility in Wexford was made last week during a visit to Georgia by the chairman of Wexford County Council Cllr. Keith Doyle, the Mayor of Wexford Cllr. Tony Dempsey and Deputy Chief Executive Tony Larkin.

The County Council which has forged a partnership with Georgia Southern, is providing the university with space to create the learning centre for students who will travel here from the United States.

The centre will offer US students greater access to Europe, to historical documents and to the descendants of Irish immigrants who have played such a significant role in the region.

The first group of students will arrive in the learning centre in Wexford this summer. The facility will feature classrooms and student apartments built in a section of the old County Hall.

'Georgia Southern is a university that is focused on student success and it is fitting that this project started with students, whose curiosity led them to new countries, new people and new ideas', said the President of Georgia Southern, Shelley Nickel.

The visiting Wexford group was accompanied by the Honorable Shane Stephens, Consul General of Ireland for the Southeastern United States.

Wexford County Council chairman Cllr. Doyle said he is delighted at how the relationship between Wexford and Savannah has developed and he believes it has the potential to increase the international reputation of Wexford, not just as a place to live and do business, but also to study.

'It adds an international dimension to our growing reputation', he added.

The announcement was made on the 24th anniversary of the founding of the Center for Irish Research and Teaching at the same time as news of its re-location from the university's Statesboro Campus to the Armstrong Campus in Savannagh, was made known.

Thanks to efforts by the centre, the Savannah Economic Development Authority (SEDA) selected Ireland as one of its six target countries. As a result, several trade-and-investment delegations have taken place, and last March a formal initiative, Wexford-Savannah TradeBridge, was launched.

TradeBridge has already resulted in a number of positive outcomes, including a major Southeastern US distribution deal for Survipod, a Wexford manufacturer of innovative surveying tools.

The Savannah Bee Company has contracted a broad-based distribution deal into Ireland, while Raceix, an Irish company in the motor-boat tech sector, has announced Savannah as the choice for its North American headquarters.

'From SEDA's perspective, the connection between Georgia Southern and Ireland can only further support the trade and investment projects that we've worked on thus far." said John Coleman, vice chair of the Board of Directors of SEDA.

'Georgia Southern's presence in Ireland presents immeasurable opportunities not only for students but also for the local economies involved. We know that a strong economy would not exist without a strong educational system with international studies and priceless experiences giving graduates the competitive edge as they enter the workforce.'

Georgia Southern University, a public Carnegie Doctoral/R2 institution founded in 1906, offers 141 degree programs serving nearly 26,500 students through nine colleges on three campuses in Statesboro, Savannah, Hinesville and online instruction.

The university is a leader in higher education in southeast Georgia.

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