ABOUT THE CENTER
Villanova University’s Irish history began in 1842 when it was founded by Irish Augustinians as a school for Irish immigrants. Since then, Villanova’s connections—to the Irish community in the United States, and to the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland—have grown deeper and stronger.
Today, Villanova is the heart of Irish activity in our region for educators, authors, artists, athletes, business leaders and politicians. Our faculty come from a range of disciplines, and the Center facilitates courses in Irish literature, history, language studies, art, politics, theatre and philosophy, offering a minor to students from all colleges and a major through the Department of Global Interdisciplinary Studies.
Visiting scholars, writers and lecturers from Ireland, including our visiting Charles Heimbold Chair of Irish Studies, keep alive our dialogue with Ireland. Outside the classroom, the Center organizes vibrant study abroad opportunities, particularly at the National University of Ireland, Galway, and the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, Dublin.
In 2016, Villanova University received a transformational gift from the Connelly Foundation, elevating the longstanding Irish Studies Program to a Center. In recognition of the Connelly Foundation’s generosity, the Center’s directorship was named for Emily C. Riley, Executive Vice President for the Connelly Foundation and a former member of the Villanova University Board of Trustees.
We are grateful to the Society of the Friendly Sons and Daughters of St. Patrick who have made many important initiatives possible, including the Charles A. Heimbold Jr. Chair of Irish Studies and experiential learning programs for our students in Ireland.
The Center for Irish Studies stands with marginalized people, particularly those in the Villanova community who identify as Black, indigenous and persons of color (BIPOC). As protests have spread across the United States against the killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and many others lost to institutionalized forms of white supremacy, we stand in solidarity and support the Black Lives Matter movement. For too long, Irish-American organizations stood silent while whiteness wrought damage to communities of color.
We want our BIPOC students, staff and faculty to know that we hear you, see you and stand with you. We pledge to renew our work to combat racism on campus and beyond and to support ongoing struggles for equality, dignity and justice. Further, we work against systemic and individualized oppression of Black people in our present and in our shared past, throughout our colonized histories and diasporas. We hope, through education and advocacy, that our Center can exist as a place of allyship on campus. We will not let these issues fade away, and we hope to learn, grow and develop as an ally in this struggle.
Too often have white supremacists claimed Irishness as a veil for cruelty and oppression. As scholars and teachers of Irish Studies, we commit actively to expose such moves and encourage scholarship and learning that fosters equality, social justice and respect for everyone. We are committed to exploring these issues and challenging white privilege and racism through our teaching, research and programming. Please feel free to reach out to find out more or to share ideas.
On the occasion of the 23rd anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement, we wish to acknowledge the momentous achievements of the Northern Ireland peace process as well as the challenges it continues to face, as sadly witnessed in the recent violence on the streets of Northern Ireland. Addressing those challenges and securing long-term peace and justice in a post-Brexit Northern Ireland was the subject of our discussions at the recent symposium "The Northern Ireland Peace Process after Brexit" where we heard from speakers including Professor Monica McWilliams, co-founder of the Northern Ireland Women’s Coalition and participant to the 1996-98 peace talks that led to the Agreement and Professor Brendan O’Leary, Lauder Professor of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania. You can view their lectures here: Monica McWilliams lecture and Brendan O'Leary lecture.