Department of History

Learning to change lives and communities in the heart of Ireland

Learning to change lives and communities in the heart of Ireland

Marion Royston at Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium

Royston at Royal Palace in Brussels, Belgium

Rolling hills of clover, the dew-filled smell of the air after a fresh rain, and “Danny Boy” softly plays in the background as a frothy pint of Guinness sits idly on a bar are images that come to mind almost instantly when one thinks of Ireland. The ones that might not be so readily available are those of famine, strife, disunion, warfare, and heartache. In some ways, this region’s tortured past mirrors that of the southern United States in tragic ironies and superficial as well psychological wounds. The linkages between these two regions are what undergraduate history major Marian Royston wanted to uncover when she decided to apply for the prestigious George J. Mitchell Scholarship to study in Ireland for the 2013-2014 academic year.

The scholarship is one of the most highly competitive in the nation and attracts candidates with an outstanding track record of community service, scholarship and leadership capabilities. Only twelve are awarded annually throughout the nation, and Royston was the first Auburn student to receive the scholarship in its sixteen year history which has funded a year of postgraduate study for her at Queen’s University in Belfast studying Leadership for Sustainable Rural Development. The interdisciplinary nature of the program incorporates topics as diverse as environmental policy, economics, management, and agricultural sciences to give the participants widely applicable skill sets for approaching problems of community improvement that they can translate to their local communities.

Royston chose to apply for the scholarship because she wanted to gain a deeper understanding of community development with an eye toward pursuing a career in that field in the future. This being her first time abroad, Royston has stated that her experience with the scholarship thus far has pushed her out of her comfort zone in unique and exciting ways, requiring her to be “independent in ways I never knew I would need to be…and a lot more adventurous than I once was.” She credits the mentorship of Auburn University’s Department of History with her successful application, and cited the efforts of Drs. Jennifer Brooks, Joseph Kicklighter, David Carter and Mark Wilson from the College of Liberal Arts as being particularly helpful. She declared that “all four of these individuals have been amazing mentors. They encouraged and challenged me to be my best, and I really appreciate that more than I can say.”

According to Royston, the Mitchell Scholarship has allowed her to partake in experiences outside the traditional bounds of the classroom which have “been life changing” and have pressed her to “think about what I want to do in a meaningful way.” Meeting Senator George Mitchell and the Lord Mayor of Dublin, visiting the set of the History Channel show The Vikings and traveling to such culture-rich environments as London, Brussels, Bruges, Ghent, and Barcelona are just a few of the extracurricular activities in which Royston has participated. Royston whole-heartedly recommends the scholarship to anyone with an interest in community development and rural community-based initiatives who wish to close the gaps between wealth and inequality which seem to be ever-widening in American society.

Royston in front of a Christmas tree at Belfast City Hall

Royston in front of a Christmas tree at Belfast City Hall

Last Updated: August 07, 2014