Chelsea Niemann

November 19, 2019

When Chelsea Niemann ’13 attended human resources training at Maynooth University in Ireland in 2018, her plan was simply to observe. However, a discussion about how the university should respond to a student receiving inappropriate, harassing messages at night through social media led Niemann to share her perspective, gleaned from nearly 10 years of experience in prevention and response to sexual violence in the United States.

“After I finished, the staff sat silently, processing the idea that students do not stop being students when they go home at night,” recalled Niemann, an applied learning operations specialist with the College of Health & Human Services. “I was asked to write down exactly what I said, because it was going to be the scope for a new sexual harassment policy.”

The discussion sparked the idea to develop a program to train Maynooth staff on campus sexual assault, said Niemann, who was interning at the university as part of her master’s degree program in higher education at Watson College of Education. The internship program gives students an opportunity to engage in applied experiences related to their professional goals and interests.

Niemann tapped into her experience and conducted research to create a training program called “Addressing Campus Sexual Assault.” She studied sexual assault from the Irish perspective – research articles, legal statutes, news reports – and asked Irish students, studying abroad at UNCW, about the culture around sex and sexual violence in Ireland. The training program focuses on individual- and relationship-level interventions.

With funding provided by ETEAL, Niemann and associate professor of higher education Andrew Ryder returned to Maynooth in May 2019 to provide seven training sessions to 65 staff members.

“I learned so much from the conversations that took place during the training sessions,” Niemann said. “I gained perspective that I don’t believe would have been possible in the United States. My hope is that I provided a new perspective for the participants as well, and that both of our institutions will benefit from this exchange.”
-- Venita Jenkins