Everything was going according to plan for senior Jenna Sulecki. She needed only six credits to graduate from Gannon University in December 2016 with a degree in theatre and communication arts. Then her advisor, the Rev. Shawn Clerkin, sent her a text one morning out of the blue asking how she would feel about spending a year studying in Ireland.
Not even a month later, Sulecki became one of 22 students in the world, and three in the United States, to be awarded a Government of Ireland International Education Scholarship.
Sulecki received a full-year fellowship, funded by the government of Ireland, that will cover her tuition at Mary Immaculate College in Limerick, plus a stipend of 10,000 euros.
To receive the scholarship at Mary Immaculate, Sulecki had to compete with master’s degree students and visiting research scholars at the master’s or doctoral level. Yet there was a time when she was unsure whether she should even apply.
“My first instinct was to say no,” Sulecki said. “I have never traveled alone, let alone to another country, and the thought of doing both was really terrifying. But eventually I came to my senses and realized that doing the things that scare me and are outside of my comfort zone are the experiences I will probably grow from the most.”
At Mary Immaculate, Sulecki entered a new Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary and Applied Theatre Studies degree program. The program uses the facilities of the Lime Tree Theatre, a state-of-the-art, 510-seat venue on the Mary Immaculate campus. “I am an aspiring director and youth theater educator,” Sulecki said. “I work with 250 to 300 kids each year teaching acting classes, directing and other various projects I’ve helped with along the way. Anything I learn in Ireland is something I can give back to these kids.”
Mary Immaculate College became a partner institution of Gannon University in 2013. Under the agreement, the two institutions will exchange students through study abroad programs and will explore opportunities for exchanges of faculty and staff, as well as research and professional collaborations. Gannon University has similar agreements with universities in Australia, Germany, Jordan, Poland and Thailand.
“I just want to learn more, experience more, and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way and hopefully it’ll make me a more knowledgeable, cultured and open-minded individual”
“As we continue to talk about having a globalized campus, it’s notable to have a student who is not only recognized as outstanding, but who is also recognized by the government of Ireland,” said Meagan McHugh, associate director of learning abroad program at Gannon University. “That Jenna could have graduated in December, but instead chose to go abroad and spend two semesters in Ireland speaks to our efforts to create a global community. Having these experiences will help to set her apart in the world.”
For her part, Sulecki, said, “I hope I’ll come back with the super awesome Irish dialect, but in a more serious vein, I just hope it makes me a better theater educator. I just want to learn more, experience more and take advantage of every opportunity that comes my way. Hopefully it’ll make me a more knowledgeable, cultured and open-minded individual.”