Watson Chronicle


Student Opportunities and Student News

Higher Ed Students Complete Internships at Maynooth University

Monday, December 05, 2022

Ten graduate students enrolled in Higher Education programs at the Watson College completed internships at Maynooth University in ​the Republic of Ireland in October. The program, coordinated by Andy Ryder, chair of WCE’s Department of Educational Leadership and Symphony Oxendine, Ed.D. program coordinator and assistant department chair, was designed to give students a global perspective of higher education and hands-on experience in a variety on campus offices.

“All of our students worked hard applying their professional and academic experiences in higher education in support of the work of our Maynooth University colleagues,” Dr. Ryder said. “Doing so in an international context enriched and amplified their learning, and a variety of individual and shared experiences helped to affirm their commitment to higher education.”

Dr. Colleen Doyle, Maynooth University’s Student Services Officer, hosted a tea for the UNCW group at the Student Services Centre the day they arrived on campus, where she provided an overview of the organization of Irish higher education and shared differences between Irish and U.S. student experiences. Over the next two weeks, the students completed internships in campus offices including:

Student Services Office

Evan Widney (Ed.D.) and Cearra Selbrade (M.Ed.) worked alongside Dr. Doyle and other leaders of the Student Affairs Ireland (SAI) Professional Competencies Special Interest Group. Over the past two years, the SIG with some consultation by Dr. Ryder, has begun developing a competencies framework for student affairs professionals. During their internship, Evan and Cearra developed a feedback tool to be distributed to student affairs professionals across Ireland on the current framework and draft competency domains, a set of procedures for data analysis, and a set of project management tools to help this work continue moving forward.

Student Success Project

Courtney Hughes (Ed.D.) collaborated with Dr. Eddie Corr, the Student Success Project Officer, in finalizing the penultimate draft report of the university's two-year Student Success Initiative. Courtney prepared a literature review on student success and an overview of programs, interventions and outcomes at Irish and UK universities, including identifying activities Maynooth University may wish to explore further based on identified needs and institutional culture. During the internship, she also conducted a thematic analysis of feedback received from various stakeholder groups on the five pillars of student success articulated in late-stage report drafts, using findings to strengthen the penultimate draft.

International Office

Megan Hinson and McKenzie LeFlore worked with Alena Jurikova and the Maynooth International Office staff, where they developed preparatory modules to support study abroad programs offered in Europe through the Erasmus Programme and other locations worldwide. During the internship, the graduate students researched best practices among other universities and international program departments in Ireland, the UK, and the US, met with academic and student services stakeholders to seek their recommendations for the module, and conducted a focus group with students to make sure their final work met their needs. Megan and McKenzie both work in UNCW's Office of International Programs and are enrolled in the higher education master’s program.

Other students who completed internships were Dusty Brandon, M.Ed., Chaplaincy; Ivana Hanson, Ed.D., Career Center; Mary Stuart Peaks, Ed.D., Head of Student Skills & Success; Sophie Ritchie, M.Ed., Experiential Learning;  and Marcus Robertson, M.Ed., Student Engagement & Clubs and Societies.

In their downtime, the group enjoyed an Irish dancing lesson, dinner together at Brady's Pub, along with a trad session of traditional Irish music performed by the MU Trad Society, and an early evening Ghost Walk where Dr. Ryder shared local lore and stories of hauntings he has picked up over the years. Several students also participated in a day-long consortium titled “Foundations for Futures: Thinking About Europe” where a range of issues were explored including Europe’s cost of living crisis, migration, populism and nationalism, the future of work, and the climate crisis.

Students said the experience was enriching – academically, professionally and personally.

“The Maynooth internship is an engaging feature of the UNCW doctoral program,” said Courtney Hughes. “The ability to learn from and exchange ideas with others in a professional setting abroad gave me insight into my own career, and I was able to share what I learned with my colleagues back at NC State. I also made a group of lifelong travel friends, uniquely rare in a post-COVID world. This trip restored my faith in our resilience and the need for connectivity and community. I'm a better person and practitioner for participating in this program.”

“The greatest strength of the program is the internship placement component,” said Mary Stuart Peaks. “The program strategically places cohort members with departments that could be beneficial to their roles back here in the states. I found it fascinating to learn about the differences that exist between Irish and US academic structures. However, it was even more enriching to unearth the similarities at play. While we may be separated by an ocean and a few time zones, our students need the same services and are seeking the same engagement/enrichment opportunities. I learned so many lessons that will be used in my position at East Carolina University. The transferability of lessons gleaned from the collaborative process is the most valuable aspect of the program.”

“Although the Higher Ed program at UNCW is a distance education program, the Maynooth Study Abroad experience builds community among students within this program,” Sophie Ritchie said. “In regard to the internship piece, working with colleagues at Maynooth University was beneficial for young professionals exploring different resources for students and finding their niche. Working with the Experiential Learning Office guided me and helped me explore new opportunities in the global education field. If I could do it all over again, I 100 percent would because of the people I met. The building of community/feeling a sense of pride in UNCW was a major take-away for me.”

The next Maynooth internship will be offered in fall 2023. The program is open to all higher education M.Ed. and Ed.D. students who have completed at least 6 program credits with a cumulative g.p.a. of 3.0 or higher. For more information, please contact co-leaders, Dr. Symphony Oxendine at oxendineS@uncw.edu or Dr. Andrew Ryder at rydera@uncw.edu.

About Watson’s Higher Ed Programs

UNCW’s Watson College of Education is home to one of the region’s most dynamic master’s degree programs in the field of Higher Education and Student Affairs. A doctoral program is also offered for professionals looking to advance in their careers at postsecondary education institutions as student affairs educators, administrative professionals in academic or student services, academic executive positions, or key leadership roles in education-related organizations. 

The programs feature an intellectually challenging curriculum, award-winning faculty members, extensive research and applied learning experiences, and a strong track record of placing students in jobs at colleges and universities within the region and across the country. 

For more information visit the program websites: