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WKU student awarded Gaeltacht grant to study in Ireland

Emily Potts, a WKU student from Owensboro, will spend the summer studying in Ireland, thanks to a prestigious grant.

Emily Potts

Emily Potts

Potts, the daughter of Mark and Terri Potts, has received the Gaeltacht Summer Award from the Ireland-United States Commission for Educational Exchange, funded by the Irish Government’s Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and National Lottery.

The history, religious studies and anthropology major and Honors College student, who will graduate in May 2015, will study the Irish language at the National University of Ireland Galway in Carraroe.

“Emily has used her tremendous drive and passion for Celtic studies to create opportunities where none appeared to exist,” said Dr. Melinda Grimsley-Smith, Coordinator of International Scholarships in the Office of Scholar Development. “She used one of our office’s Lifetime Experience Grants to fund intensive Irish language study in the west of Ireland last summer and spent the fall working through Irish grammar books to keep building her skills.”

Dr. Grimsley-Smith said the Gaeltacht Summer Awards are normally reserved for students taking Irish language for credit at one of a handful of American universities that offer it, “but the selection committee recognized Emily’s hard work, her initiative, and her ability to articulate a clear and feasible trajectory toward a Ph.D. in medieval Celtic history. Emily’s example is precisely what we have in mind when we challenge students to dream big.”

Dr. Beth Plummer, Associate Professor of History, has guided Potts’ research and serves as primary advisor of her Capstone Experience/Thesis project on the relationship between medieval Celtic Christians and the Roman Church. In particular, Potts is interested in whether the Roman Church’s labeling of Celtic Christians as heretics was due to cross-cultural misunderstanding and anti-Celtic prejudice rather than theological principle. Irish language skills are essential to developing strong applications for the doctoral programs to which Potts intends to apply, as well as postgraduate awards such as Fulbright, Mitchell and Marshall scholarships to study Old Irish and other Celtic languages in the United Kingdom.

“I always look forward to seeing how she brings together anthropological techniques with the methodologies learned in her history and religious studies courses in all her work, which will certainly lead to innovative results in her thesis project,” Dr. Plummer said. “The print materials she is using for her project are in Old Irish, which she will be improving this summer through the language program in Galway.”

Potts said OSD has played a crucial role in her development as an academic.

“Dr. Grimsley-Smith in particular has helped me to hone my application writing skills (and refuses to let me stop believing in myself,)” Potts said. “In addition, OSD awarded me a Lifetime Experience Grant graciously funded by the WKU Sisterhood. If it were not for that grant, I would not have been able to go to Ireland last summer to study Irish language, and I most certainly would not have won the Gaeltacht Summer Award for this year. Moreover, I am now in a much better position to apply for graduate school and nationally competitive scholarships to study medieval Celtic history (for which language is imperative).”

About the Office of Scholar Development: The Office of Scholar Development is committed to helping WKU students in all majors and degree programs develop the vision, experience and skills to be independent, engaged scholars. OSD welcomes the opportunity to work with students interested in nationally competitive scholarships. Contact: Dr. Audra Jennings, (270) 745-5043.

Contact: Office of Scholar Development, (270) 745-5043.

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