Dr Eric A. Derr, Coordinator of the International Office

As Coordinator of the International Office, Eric leads the Irish Experience team in making sure that every facet of our programme meets the needs of every study abroad learner and our American partners. Eric graduated magna cum laude from St. Ambrose University (Davenport, IA) with a B.A. majoring in History, Philosophy and Theology. He later continued his studies at the University of Limerick where he attained an M.A. in History graduating with first class honours. After spending several years teaching junior high school in Illinois, he received a full scholarship to pursue his Ph.D. at Maynooth University, a degree he completed in 2014.


While pursuing research in history, Eric has been able to continue his professional development in International Education. Initially he served as International Liaison for the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP), an organisation established to promote study abroad opportunities to community college learners in both Illinois and Wisconsin. He was later asked by the Carlow College administrators to take over as Coordinator of the International Office. His primary responsibilities are to lead a team of faculty members to teach the Irish Experience course, monitor immigration compliance, organise the American learners’ orientation and provide academic advising to American study abroad learners.

Elizabeth Parks, Study Abroad Ambassador


Elizabeth Parks is the Study Abroad Ambassador for Carlow College, St. Patrick’s. Her primary responsibility is to identify potential partners for study abroad programs at the College and to represent and promote international education opportunities to colleges and universities in the United States. Her affiliation with Carlow College began when she made a site visit in 2007 on behalf of the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs (ICISP). The visit proved to be fruitful, and the study-abroad program was established for students attending partner colleges in Illinois and Wisconsin. The first group of students arrived in 2009, and the program has operated continuously since then. Beth served as the first coordinator for the program, overseeing all aspects of the program on the US side, including marketing and promotion, curriculum articulation, student orientation and support, selection of faculty liaisons, and program assessment. Beth has twice served as the faculty liaison in Carlow.

Beth taught at Kishwaukee College in Illinois where she was the International Education Coordinator. She also served the Illinois Consortium for International Studies and Programs as the Executive Chair, Vice-Chair, and Curriculum Coordinator.





Sr Mary Murphy, R.S.M. (Celtic Spirituality/Chaplain)

As Campus Minister and coordinator of field trips, Sr. Mary has the unique opportunity of meeting the international students on an informal basis while facilitating their adjustment to a new and different culture. Sr. Mary, a Sister of Mercy, received her M.A. in Education from Cardinal Stritch University (Milwaukee) and an M.A. in Religious Studies/Youth Ministry from Loyola University (New Orleans).


With her many years of experience in working with young people in Florida she has had the privilege of taking students to conferences, on mission trips, on retreats and on social trips to almost every state in the United States as well as to: Kenya, Ghana, Australia, Germany, Rome, Venice, Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, Lourdes and Fatima. In organising and planning the field trips she gives the learners the opportunity of exploring Ireland’s ancient heritage, the cultural and historical areas of the six counties in the south east.


 Working as a team member with the International learners enables her to help the learners: build relationships, connect to other Irish learners, provide positive affirmations in times of illness and home sickness and give encouragement with travel arrangements across Ireland and Europe.  As the campus minister she has an open door policy and helps to facilitate the spiritual, the social, the emotional and psychological growth of the learners while on the Irish experience by advocating for them and empowering them to make a new home away from home. 

Elaine Callinan, Irish History (Lecturer)

As a lecturer on the Irish Experience module, Elaine provides the American learners with a solid foundation in Irish history so that they can make sense of their cultural experiences. Elaine attained a first class B.A. honours in Humanities at Carlow College and continued her studies at the University of Dublin, Trinity College (TCD) achieving a first class M.A. in History. She is currently a history lecturer in Carlow College and a continuing Ph.D. postgraduate student at TCD. 


While reading Irish history at TCD she studied and worked with fellow learners from Irish, English and American universities. The combined knowledge and diverse perspectives paved the way for cross-national comparative studies in Irish history. Ireland, America and England are the pivotal countries involved in, and affected by, the events that transpired in Ireland from the 1600s to the present day. It is this focus and understanding that has led to a grounded interest in working with learners from the United States to both educate and promote edifying and analytic studies in the field of history.


In addition to many vacations in the United States, Elaine spent two years on a DVII Visa in New York from 1995–1997. During these two years she travelled extensively, which inspired both a love for, and an understanding of, the broad range of peoples, their politics, histories and societies. She also came to appreciate the academic potential Irish-American studies can attain. The Irish Experience module in Carlow College allows for a two-way dialogue between American and Irish learners and faculty which will hopefully inspire a further generation to exchange knowledge and experience to create a more enlightened approach to academic study, particularly in the field of Irish Studies and Irish History. It is this potential that drives and inspires her involvement in the International Studies program.

Eddie Sheehan, Irish Music (Lecturer)

As a lecturer on the Irish Experience module, Eddie blends together both music and history allowing our American learners to appreciate this important facet of Irish culture. Eddie attained a first class M.A. honours in Community Music from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick. While there he had the opportunity to study Sean Nós singing (old style Irish singing) for his elective studies. That year he won the Sean Nós Leinster Fleadh Title and qualified for the All Ireland Fleadh in Tullamore in Co. Offaly. 


Eddie has been lecturing on the Irish Experience programme for three years, sharing his knowledge of, and enthusiasm for, Irish music with our American learners. Eddie has twenty years’ experience as a touring musician and has recently released his second solo album which comprises self-penned songs and cover versions of some of his favourite songs from down through the years of performing live. When lecturing on the Irish Experience programme, Eddie’s focus is on sharing with the American learners the importance of traditional Irish music; he not only explores the importance of this historical tradition but explores how it continues to be an area that clearly defines us as a people.


 The learners are introduced to and learn songs in the Irish language, songs by the travelling people, humorous songs and songs about the British in Ireland. They also study songs written about the Great Famine and the fight for freedom. Another fascinating topic in the music course is the Irish Harp and its importance in Irish history, both as a national symbol and a musical instrument. The learners also learn to play the Tin Whistle and towards the end of the semester Eddie records them singing a selection of the songs they have learned and present them with a CD of the recordings at their final presentation. 

What our past study abroad students had to say...

It was my first taste of independence, and it was exciting. I learned so much about my own life, about culture, about friendship, about necessities, about family.

MikeHarper College Spring 2014

Traveling around Ireland and Europe and getting to visit places that I had only ever dreamed of was absolutely amazing! I gained a deeper appreciation for other cultures and I have a more worldly view of things.

Caitlin Fall 2014, St. Ambrose University