E M I L Y. M. C O L L I N S '99

The following feature story appeared in the campus publication MOSAIC in March, 1999.


student.gif (101158 bytes)Political science major Emily M. Collins '99 never believed she would learn all she needs to know about politics from books. Consequently, she has immersed herself in hands-on learning opportunities to develop an in-depth, "real-world" knowledge of the discipline. Whether serving an internship with a veteran legislator in Boston, spending a year abroad in Galway learning about the strife in Northern Ireland, or being a member of the College's Debate Club, Collins has sought experience outside the classroom setting to provide her a fuller understanding of politics.

Collins' interest and education in politics began before she enrolled at Trinity. As a high school junior attending Our Lady of Nazareth Academy in Wakefield, MA, she was chosen to participate in "Presidential Classroom," a leadership seminar started by President John F. Kennedy for high school students from all over the world. In the course of the weakling program held in Washington, DC, she met senators and other government officials during the day and debated contemporary topics with other students at night. The experience left her hungry for more direct experience in the field.

Once enrolled at Trinity, Collins immediately applied herself to the study of the field that had captured her attention. As a first-year student, she became a member of the College's Debate Club, immersed herself in her studies, and earned faculty honors, and as a sophomore she was inducted into the Pi Gamma Mu honor society for the social sciences.

Interested in learning more about the field of politics, she spent the summer after her sophomore year serving as an intern in the Boston office of Massachusetts State Sen. Paul White (D-Dorchester). She said the experience was valuable because it taught her a career in politics wasn't for her. "I became disenchanted with the day-to-day bureaucracy and realized how difficult it often is to get needed legislation passed. Though I knew I didn't want to pursue a career in politics, I knew I still wanted to have some connection to it."

Study abroad in Ireland

During her junior year at Trinity, Collins studied at the University College of Galway, which is located in an area she describes as "a heartland of Irish culture and language. Being of Irish descent, I knew I wanted to go to Ireland and study one specific socio-political entity," Collins says.

While in Galway, Collins became so intrigued by a class she took in contemporary Northern Ireland that she decided to extend her time abroad to include her entire junior year. (The class piqued her interest so much that, upon her return to Trinity, she developed her own minor in Irish studies.) She joined the university's Law and Political Society and through it had the opportunity to meet Irish students and discuss their perspectives on the violence in Northern Ireland. And in December 1998, she made the first of six visits to Northern Ireland, a country that left her with lasting impressions of its beauty and sadness. "There are terrorist murals lining the streets of Belfast and Derry," she explains. "Though some places in Northern Ireland are the most beautiful in the world, the areas of conflict are tense with a sense of terror."

Collins returned to the United States, but her connection to Ireland continued. For her senior thesis, she is researching the contributions of two social movements to the peace process. Entitled "Silent Voices: People Power in Northern Ireland," her thesis focuses on the civil rights movements in the late 1960s and the "Peace People" of the 1970s, a movement started by Betty Williams and Mairead Corrigan, who received the Nobel Prize in 1976 for their efforts. Collins says her thesis supports her own belief that to change a country, one must first change the hearts and minds of its people.

learn2.gif (50525 bytes)Associate Professor of International Studies Michael E. Niemann, who is Collins' senior thesis adviser, observes, "Emily is a dedicated and conscientious student. On her own initiative she developed an Irish studies minor. She's now immersed in writing her senior thesis on conflict resolution in North Ireland, but finds time to do such things as serving as a student commentator at last week's human rights lecture on Northern Ireland. Her study abroad sparked a deep interest in Irish affairs, and she is pursuing that interest in a variety of dimensions. That's what study abroad should be."

Collins has rounded out her college experience by working as a writer and editor on the student newspaper, The Tripod, a mentor in a first-year dormitory, and an instructor in the Sunday religious education program at Hartford's St. Augustine Church. "There's much more to being a student at Trinity than what goes on in the classroom," she says. "I feel you need to be involved in a wide array of things in order to be connected to the community and society."

-Linda S. Pacylowski ‘99