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Michelle K. Smith Photo by: Handout

In Focus: Michelle K. Smith IrishCentral intern and NYU history grad student

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Michelle K. Smith Photo by: Handout

Background: Smith is a graduate student at NYU. She is also an editorial intern for our sister website Irish Central and will take a course modern history in Trinity College Dublin this summer.

Tell us about your Irish heritage.

“I’m Irish American with connections to Ireland on both sides of my family a couple generations back. My dad’s side comes from Co. Armagh and mom’s side comes from Co. Cork. I did Irish dance in college with the Villanova Irish dance team.”

You are undertaking a master’s degree in world history at NYU and Glucksman Ireland House. What prompted you to take this program?

“During undergraduate at Villanova University I was drawn to history courses covering various parts of the world. World History program allows me to continue this. Additionally, NYU has a strong Irish studies program with faculty members who are experts in their field. Also, Glucksman Ireland House hosts great events covering different parts of Irish studies and is a great resource.” 

What was the most memorable experience from when you studied in Galway?

“Learning about sean-nós song and dance. The west of Ireland and in particular the Gaeltacht is a great place to learn about these old traditions that are still practiced today. Some sean-nós songs are in English and the genre as a whole is a lot more accessible than some people might think at first.  Sean-nós dance, which bears some similarities to hard shoe in Irish step dance is wonderful to watch and harder to do than it looks.”

This summer you will take part in the NYU study abroad at Trinity College, Dublin. What will this involve?

“I am taking a course on modern Irish history at Trinity College, Dublin. This will include research at the National Library of Ireland and visiting historical sites in Dublin. The National Library has a lot of great records and primary sources that are really useful for historical research. Dublin has a lot of great sites like Kilmainham Gaol, National Museum of Ireland and the Four Courts. There will also be a couple weekend excursions to the west and Northern Ireland. 

You recently presented an Irish paper at an academic conference. Can you tell us a little about this?

“I presented ‘Global Media: Television and the Civil Rights Movement in Northern Ireland’ at the 35th annual Warren and Beatrice Susman conference at Rutgers University. 

“The paper studies the impact of global media on the development and progress of the civil rights marches in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, which sought to end socio-economic discrimination against Irish Nationalists. The paper examines how Irish and British television and newspaper reports on the African American civil rights marches alongside Northern Ireland’s cultural history of parades influenced the development of the civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. 

“It also examines how and why the Irish, British and American audience and media misinterpreted the goals of the civil rights marches as the old goal of Irish reunification and how this impacted the civil rights marches themselves.” 

Describe Irish history in three words.

“Three words to describe Irish history are perseverance, bittersweet and progressive. The Irish have gone through several famines and rebellions and they always survived and tried again.”

Interview by Molly Muldoon

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