Monday, June 13, 2011

Irish students widening their horizons once again at Daytona State College

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (June 7, 2011) – Nineteen students participating in Ireland’s Wider Horizons program have returned to Daytona State College this month for the eighth consecutive year to learn the intricacies of television production. But their visit here, which began in April and runs through late June, has been greeted by an added twist in an academic experience that only a native son can bring them.

Instructor Pat Murphy (right) poses with student participants
in Ireland’s Wider Horizons program.
Their instructor, Pat Murphy, is an award-winning videographer and former WDSC producer/director who recently retired as a lecturer in the communicating arts department at the State University of New York College at Oneonta. He is a dual U.S.-Irish citizen and has traveled the emerald isle extensively, most recently filming a documentary about the ongoing peace process in the northern part of the country. 
He knows well about the environment and culture of Northern Ireland, where the students attending Daytona State through a grant from the country’s Tyrone-Donegal Partnership live.
“These kids come from a place that is not only struggling economically, but also culturally and politically,” he said. “The issues of Northern Ireland span generations and are not easily resolved.”
Murphy’s documentary focuses on how art can drive a wedge through the conflict between Protestants and Catholics that has been waged since the early 20th Century. “Its premise is that the conflict can be resolved by uniting people through art,” he said.
The Tyrone-Donegal Partnership works to improve employment opportunities for local young people by providing access to training, work placement and personal development programs. Founded in 1994, the partnership identifies, develops and implements cross-border initiatives for the rural Irish northern communities of West Tyrone and Donegal by sending selected students to host institutions in the U.S., Canada and Europe. Each institution features an academic focus that immerses participating students in career-specific skills training in line with their individual interests.
The students here, age 18 – 24, are studying television production and Photoshop, receiving intensive exposure in the real-world setting of the college’s television station, WDSC TV. “The curriculum is more rigorous than in past years due to the Tyrone-Donegal Partnership’s recent accreditation, which will allow it to award the students credentials when they complete the program here and return to Ireland,” said Frank Mercer, director of Daytona State’s Center for Business and Industry, who is coordinating the initiative.
Murphy’s perspective as a documentary filmmaker adds to the secondary focus of the program – promoting a greater understanding between the two traditions of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland with hope of fostering peace and reconciliation through mutual understanding. “The students here are a mix of Protestants and Catholics. This blend of participants is critical to the development of better understanding and appreciation for other backgrounds in their own communities,” Murphy said.  “It also paves the way for the students to challenge their own long-standing values and preconceptions when they experience new cultures.”
WDSC General Manager Robert Williams said, “Initiatives such as this one help us demonstrate how the principles of the Daytona State College mission can enhance people’s lives, not only here at home, but the world over.”
The program concludes on June 24, and the students will return to Ireland soon after. Don Matthews, the college’s director of planning, who originally spearheaded the Tyrone Donegal - Daytona State initiative in 2004, said the experience for the students here is one that cannot be matched in their home country. “At home, these students don’t have access to the hands-on training they are getting here,” he said. “That’s why the Tyrone Donegal Partnership has continued its relationship with us through the years. Because of the experience they gain here, these students are getting a jumpstart on their careers. And that’s the difference.”