November 27, 2011 - 1:31 PM
Yesterday was a lifetime first for me: I attended a Ducks football game! I had a wonderful time-it was the UO/OSU game, so things were very spirited (despite the marked one-sided score). This was the last home game of my six University of Oregon years, so a good time to finally step out into Autzen stadium and witness Duck pride at its loudest and most rowdy.
It was a great time.
I went at the invitation of the University, which included me in the faculty honors spot because of the Mitchell Scholarship. So this meant a moment of fame up on the big screen in front of all those thousands of football fans. It also meant that I attended the President's pre-game, and sat in the President's Box for the game.
I had a wonderful time. My friend Madeline came as my +1, and we had the opportunity to mingle with some of our favorite professors, some university administrators, and local leaders on many levels. I had a long chat with Senator Merkley and his family, and got a second picture with Congressman Peter DeFazio. It was a funny atmosphere for a football game: half schmoozing and have cheering.
And again and again, I feel honored and humbled by the attention I've received because of the Mitchell.
I really hadn't imagined this much attention when I applied for this opportunity. I was focused on the goal: on arriving in Ireland for a perfect next step toward my future goals, with the opportunity for organizational contacts and cultural experiences in Ireland/Northern Ireland. I did not anticipate website fame, or being invited to the President's box for a football game. But I am very excited and grateful that my success is being celebrated as a victory for the University as a whole, and being attributed (quite rightly) to the excellence of the education and opportunities I have enjoyed here in Eugene. When meeting folks at the game, I could honestly report that my scholarship success was because of the chance to work with Inside-Out, and because of the kind of peers and mentors I have encountered here at the UO. I have benefitted enormously from the education and networks here, particularly from my work with David Frank, Shaul Cohen, and Cheyney Ryan.
Even as I was enjoying the game and the surroundings, I was very aware of the pall cast by the news about President Lariviere's termination as UO President. The atmosphere was one of profound regret and frustration, and the desire to maintain our university's identity and integrity through this process. Many students wore fedoras to the game. Others wore T-shirts and utilized moments on the big screen to express their support for President Lariviere. In the midst of a sports-focused event, there was an outpouring of sentiment and support for our UO President.
So yesterday was a bizarre day in many ways. I was thrilled to launch my sports attendance with such an important game (Rose Bowl, here we come!), and with the humbling attention paid to my status as a Mitchell scholar. I was also excited to be in the spirit of Ducks football, with the thousands of shouting fans and the display of athleticism from my student athlete peers. But I was also very present with the tension surrounding our University's leadership, and the movement standing with our President.
So it was a strange day for this reluctant sports fan, and a pivotal time for the University's future.
Go Ducks! And let's hope this week holds good news for all of us.
November 24, 2011 - 7:24 PM
I have a lot to be thankful for during this Thanksgiving weekend. For one, and at its most basic, I am grateful to have spent today with my friend Madeline, who is home from California for the holiday. I just had a fabulous turkey dinner with Madeline and her family, which included some hilarious dinner preparation as well. This family has taken me in on many occasions, and I was so happy to be part of this holiday in their home.
But the long weekend is also giving me time to think a little more about how lucky I am this year. The biggest thing on my mind, of course, is the Mitchell Scholarship. It's been a little overwhelming, actually. I am the first thing you see when you click on the University of Oregon these days (http://uoregon.edu/) and have an article and video posted about me as well (http://champions.uoregon.edu/katie-dwyer-uos-first-mitchell-scholar ) As I said, it's been a bit overwhelming. The UO has taken a flattering and humbling interest in me and in my scholarship, and I'm trying to figure out how to deal with the sudden fame.
Plus, my thoughts keep wandering back to what I'll be doing this time next year-whatever it is, it will be over there in Belfast, or perhaps on a weekend trip elsewhere in Europe. I am the luckiest girl...
This is also the last part of the term, which always makes me think about how lucky I am to be studying here, and to be pursuing a Masters degree. Education is something I am always, always thankful for.
I have also spent a good amount of this Thanksgiving Day thinking about the recent turmoil in the UO community. On Tuesday, University of Oregon students and faculty were informed that our university President, Richard Lariviere, has not had his contract renewed for the next academic year. You can read a bit of information about it here: http://uonews.uoregon.edu/archive/news-release/2011/11/uo-president-state-board-higher-education-wont-renew-his-contract-presi There is a growing movement around campus to protest his firing by the state Board of Education. I've started to get emails from professors and deans, and to see student activism on Facebook, from wall comments and group formation to the very creative "I Follow the Hat" slogan, which references the fedoras that Richard Lariviere favors.
We'll see what happens in the coming days. My sense from what I've read so far is that this is based primarily on Lariviere's stance that the UO should have more control and autonomy, and should be able to leverage our success beyond the control of the Oregon University System. Lariviere has campaigned to move the UO into the private sector. While I am not sure how I feel about this move from a philosophical angle, I do agree that this makes structural sense: we receive only a tiny fraction of our budget from the State, and Lariviere's creativity so far has meant that the UO is improving as a university in any measure taken. Since Lariviere has been president, we have better freshman to sophomore retention rate, improving grades and graduation rates, increased alumni giving, and even excellence in sports.
All day today I thought about what Thanksgiving at the Lariviere home must look like today. So while I am thankful for my own recent news and my exciting future in Ireland and Northern Ireland, I am also hopeful that our community might band together in support of our university president.
I hope good news will follow this Thanksgiving.
November 20, 2011 - 8:14 PM
Next year I will be a Mitchell Scholar, studying in Ireland and Northern Ireland! I am one of twelve to receive this scholarship which will support us through a year-long masters program, and will create a community of American scholars and encourage us to travel, embrace the culture, and serve as ambassadors between the Island of Ireland and the United States.
I could not be happier.
In addition to hearing I received the scholarship, the program director also let me know that I have been placed in my top choice for programs. I will be studying International Human Rights Law through a cross-border program in which I will start at Queen's University in Belfast, and then at the National University of Ireland in Galway, through the National Human Rights Centre. This means I will be living in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and learn from the different pasts and cultures of each place.
I am chose that program as my first choice because of the opportunity to advance my interest in human rights and social justice through a law program, and to gain the practical and international focus on the universal rights of all people, focusing on humanitarian law, immigration, and criminal justice.
To pursue an LLM (Masters in Law) in a topic like Human Rights Law in the United States, you first must obtain a Law Degree, and then return to school for a Masters in Law. It is possible that Law School is in my future. But for now I feel that my focus is on learning enough to continue to be an effective and empowered advocate and social justice worker. This degree in International Human Rights Law is the perfect next step.
Over the next few months I will have additional information to share regarding the details and timing of my studies next year. For now what I know is that I will leave some time in August and go first to Belfast for the foundational studies, and then to Galway to pursue a focus in my chosen field. In the summer I will write a thesis, choosing either Belfast or Galway as my home institution for research and for graduation in the fall.
If you want to read more about the selection process, and the other finalists, the Mitchell Scholarship news release can be found here: http://www.us-irelandalliance.org/content/334/en/Scholarships/Program%20News/Class%20of%202013%20Mitchell%20Scholars%20Selected.html
Pictures from the Friday night reception, including one with all scholarship finalists with the Irish Ambassador, can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/usirelandalliance/sets/72157628069181311/with/6371256725/
If you're interested in reading about previous Mitchell Scholars' experiences in the program, check out the program's blog here: http://blog.mitchellscholars.org/wordpress/
I am so happy and honored to have this opportunity. If this finalists weekend was any indication, then next year I will be surrounded by inspiring and talented fellow scholars, and supported by a community of active, influential folks in the US-Ireland Alliance community. I can't imagine a better next step in my life.
Ireland, here I come!
November 19, 2011 - 4:42 PM
Greetings from the nation's capitol! It's been a whirlwind couple of days out East for the finalists weekend for the Mitchell Scholarship to study next year in Ireland/Northern Ireland. Not only have the events surrounding the Mitchell been exciting and engaging, but I've also enjoyed my time in Washington immensely. In the day and a half I've been here, I've reconnected with some old friends from the UO; visited Senator Ron Wyden and Representative Peter DeFazio; toured the capitol building; mastered the metro system; and done some wonderful browsing through book stores and chocolate shops in the Dupont area of downtown Washington DC.
All that, of course, in addition to the formal Mitchell reception for all finalists, panelists, and supporters; and the interview for the scholarship, which was earlier this afternoon. The other finalists are interesting and engaging folks, and I am excited that some of us will be colleagues and fellow travelers through a year of study in Ireland next year. But I'm trying to put results somewhat out of my mind for now.
Visiting Congress yesterday was such a joy. The UO Communications department put me in touch with the offices of Wyden and DeFazio, and I got to meet briefly with both. I had a very surreal moment as I hustled from the metro station past the Senate buildings, past the Library of Congress, past the Capitol building, and into the House of Representatives. That isn't an experience you have every day.
Both my congressmen were gracious and encouraging of my bid for the scholarship, and were interested to hear about my activities and interest in Ireland. As former Ducks themselves, they were interested in how my UO life has led to this opportunity for the scholarship. I was honored to meet them both, and was also happy to share a little of my own story, and to thank them for their leadership in our state.
I also got a backstage tour of the capitol with one of Peter DeFazio's staff members. We sat and watched House deliberations for almost twenty minutes, and she talked through some of the behind-the-scenes procedures on the Hill.
I have also had the wonderful support friends during this weekend. All my community across the country has been sending their support and encouragement, especially this afternoon in the count down to my interview. But I also have the spectacular good luck of having three of my best undergraduate friends, Leah, Olivia, and Maddy, all wind up in Washington DC this weekend. This meant that I had a kind of UO reunion, in addition to everything else.
Of course, what I'm not writing about so far is the elephant in the closet. I think I'll be hearing back about the scholarship tonight. My interview this afternoon went really well. The panelists were friendly and asked interesting follow-up questions, mostly focusing on my work with Inside-Out and No More Deaths. I have no idea what the outcome will be, and cannot wait to hear. But I feel a kind of jittery calm, and at least know that I did everything in my power to prepare, and that I had all the best people supporting me through the process.
Hopefully I'll have good news to report tomorrow! Either way, I am so happy with this weekend.
November 13, 2011 - 1:24 PM
I have fabulous news: I am a finalist for the Mitchell Scholarship! A Mitchell is in the family of Distinguished Scholarships, and is something like a Rhodes Scholarship: the students chosen for a Mitchell study for a year in Ireland or Northern Ireland to receive a Masters Degree from an Irish institution. The scholarship is named for Senator George Mitchell, whose courageous leadership was instrumental in brokering the peace agreements in Northern Ireland after the "Troubles" of ethnic conflict during the 1970's, 80's, and 90's.
That's the kind of leader I hope to emulate in my life.
I am one of 19 finalists, vying for 12 scholarship positions. If I do receive a Mitchell, I will graduate from the UO in June and then leave in the fall for a second Masters program in Ireland. My program of choice would be studying International Human Rights Law. There is a very exciting program offered by Queen's University of Belfast which is taught in both Belfast and Galway, which would allow me the opportunity for formal study in both Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
This would be the perfect next step for my studies, and would open my horizons for work in human rights on the international scale.
In addition to the opportunity for further study, this would be an entry into the US-Ireland Alliance, which fosters a strong network of collaboration and support between the island of Ireland and the United States. Through their alumni network, I would have access to some of the powerful movers and shakers of the world, and a chance to rub elbows with ambassadors, politicians, activists, scholars, and peacemakers.
The final selection process takes place next weekend. To get this far I have already completed the lengthy paper application as well as a Skype interview. For the finalists' weekend, the 19 applicants are brought together in Washington DC for a reception and an interview with the selection panel for the US-Ireland Alliance. The reception will be held on Friday at the Irish Embassy, and involve program alumni, leaders, and distinguished guests. The Mitchell class of 2013 will be announced shortly after our interviews on Saturday.
I am thrilled to have made it so far in the application process. Professor Shaul Cohen is in charge of mentoring the Mitchell applicants from the UO, and he has done a fabulous job of helping me prepare for these final interviews. I've participated in a mock interview, met with faculty who have served on scholarship selection panels, and prepared for different lines of questions and ways to present my interests and qualifications. Five days before I leave for Washington DC, I feel as ready as I could ever be.
I don't know what the outcome will be next weekend. If the result is a year studying in Ireland, pursuing my passion for international human rights, I will feel so incredibly honored and excited. But if the end of this experience is to meet these international leaders and the other finalists who are future leaders themselves, that also will feel like a victory and an honor to me.
Regardless, I hope to represent the UO well, and to have a great adventure in Washington DC. I look forward to reporting the news in my blog next week. Wish me luck!