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"Learning Through the Soles of Your Feet": Idaho State Students Study History and Culture in Ireland

September 6, 2022

A group of students stand near a sign.

In May, graduate students from the Master of Arts in History program, Cassie Ashdown, Tyler Holman, and Jon Madson, traveled to Dublin, Ireland, to experience the city and conduct research relevant to their respective areas of study. 

The trip came at the end of the spring semester, during which the students took HIST 4445: Modern Irish History with Department of History Associate Professor Justin Dolan Stover. Stover was already in Ireland conducting his own research when the students arrived.

Stover, who holds a Ph.D. in history from Trinity College Dublin, has spent a great deal of time in Ireland conducting  research, giving presentations, and maintaining his network of connections with colleagues there. This summer he had a fellowship researching collections in libraries and working with Maynooth University Social Sciences Institute.

His area of expertise and focus includes modern European history; transnational history of nationalism, war and revolution; environmental history of war; modern Ireland, Britain & France; First World War; and interwar Europe. 

“It’s important for me to be in the cultural setting visiting museums, archives, memorials, and speaking to people in their country, of their memories of historical events,” Stover says. “This directly distills down into the students’ experience.”

Stover strives to give his students an immersive experience as an educator. He says that it was thrilling to watch the students experience first-hand the history they had learned in class.

 “I loved experiencing Irish culture and talking to locals at the different pubs we went to," Ashdown said. 

Ashdown was also, unsurprisingly, impacted by her visit to the Trinity College Long Room Library. The main chamber of the Long Room is 213 feet long, and according to the library, houses 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books, including important national documents, and historical works.

“The Trinity College Long Room Library was an emotional experience for me,” she said. “I could have spent the entire day there.”

Stover says that it was a really special experience seeing the students’ faces when they came across something they had learned in class with him. 

“My long-term dream is to be able to take students abroad,” he says. “I would like to be able to explore France and England with students, to provide connections between the classroom and the real world for students.”

“You have to learn through the soles of your feet sometimes,” Stover said, “and go to a place to really understand it.”


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