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Bringing future US leaders to Ireland

Taking cue from Rhodes scholarships to Oxford, Mitchell program opens door to Irish universities.

While peace studies is an obvious focus for scholars in Ireland the profile is changing and last year ranged from neuroscience and music therapy to playwriting and immunology. Trinity College Dublin is a favorite destination as it is ranked among the top 50 universities in the world.

Vargo maintains that the U.S.-Ireland Alliance is keeping alumni connected to the island and to the program.  “Seventy percent have already returned to Ireland or Northern Ireland since they returned from their year as a Mitchell Scholar.”

Outspoken on sensitive Irish-U.S. issues such as undocumented immigrants, Vargo has ruffled the feathers of some leaders of the Irish American community, and there has been criticism in Ireland of the money spent on the Mitchell scholarships at a time of education cutbacks.

Vargo said the program has served to put Irish and Northern Irish universities on the map in the U.S., and that she knows of several people who did not win a Mitchell “but then decided to go to a university in Ireland as a paying student.”

The Mitchell Scholarships complement the Fulbright Program, the U.S. government’s educational exchange program which awards some 4,500 grants annually to American academics to study and teach in over 140 countries. Under Fulbright, which is also supported by the Irish government, three American post-graduate scholars will come to Ireland in the next academic year, while 23 Irish academics will study in the U.S.

The year-end reflections of the class of Mitchell Scholars that just left Ireland can be found here; click on "view reflections" for each scholar.