Sile Dolan is the 2015-2016 Fulbright language teaching assistant at Elms College.

Fulbright Foreign Language Teaching Assistant Brings Irish Language to Life at Elms College

The 2015-2016 Fulbright language teaching assistant (FLTA) at Elms College is Síle Dolan of Ireland.

Fulbright FLTA Brings Irish Language to Life at Elms College 

Síle Dolan of Ireland had a simple but powerful reason for majoring in the Irish language. “It's part of my heritage -- part of who I am and what my people are,” she said. “I have been raised to appreciate my culture and my roots, and learned about the history of my country from an early age.”

Dolan, the 2015-2016 Fulbright language teaching assistant (FLTA) at Elms College, arrived on campus at the beginning of September, and began her teaching and scholarly activities right away. Throughout the academic year, she will teach Irish classes, lead activities with the International Club, deliver guest lectures in other classes, and develop Irish programs in the community through the Irish Cultural Center of Western Massachusetts.

“The Fulbright FLTA program enables us to offer a broader range of languages that support our other academic programs,” said Joyce Hampton, Ed.D., the director of student success and strategic initiatives at Elms. “Síle will use creative media such as music and sports to give our students a unique view into Irish culture and the context to support their language learning.”

In 2014, Dolan graduated from National University of Ireland Galway with a degree in Irish and French. She completed a master’s degree in writing and communication of Irish in 2015 at University College Dublin, where she also worked as a tutor. But her study of the language started long before she went to university.

“My parents and grandparents influenced me hugely in this regard and spoke the 'cúpla focal' (couple of words in Irish) to me when I was growing up,” Dolan said. “I remember distinctly realising that I knew only the Irish words for certain things, and it made me curious and hungry to learn more.”

She hopes to pass that hunger on to the students she teaches this year. “I hope Elms students will learn about the Irish language in a way that will encourage them to visit Ireland someday,” she said. “I hope they will also feel confidence in basic conversation 'as Gaeilge' (in Irish) and feel enriched by the cultural experience on the whole,” she said. “I want them to develop an understanding of my country, and realise the huge links between our history and that of the U.S.”

Dolan is one of over 400 young educators from 50 countries who will travel to the U.S. for the academic year through the Fulbright FLTA Program. Recipients of Fulbright FLTA grants are selected based on academic and professional achievement, as well as demonstrated leadership potential; Fulbright FLTA scholarships are awarded by the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board. The program’s aim is to help internationalize U.S. colleges and universities, a key goal of many institutions as they prepare students for the globalized 21st-century workforce.

The Fulbright Program, established in 1946, has given approximately 360,000 students, scholars, teachers, artists and scientists the opportunity to study, teach and conduct research, exchange ideas and contribute to finding solutions to shared international concerns. Since 2001, more than 4,000 Fulbright awardees have been FLTAs.

The Fulbright FLTA Program is administered by the Institute of International Education. The primary source of funding for the Fulbright Program is an annual appropriation made by the U.S. Congress to the U.S. Department of State. Participating governments, universities, corporations and foundations in foreign countries (as well as in the U.S.) also provide direct and indirect support.

“Learning a language and a new culture is a huge enhancement to any student's education,” Dolan said. “The FLTA program helps to broaden the minds of those teaching and of those learning too.”

The campus community greeted Dolan and the college’s new international students at an International Welcome Reception on Sept. 25 in the Borgia Gallery. View the photo gallery from that event on Facebook.