Mary Burke is Associate Professor of English and Director, Irish Literature Concentration, University of Connecticut. She is a member of the MLA Irish Forum and the former president of the New England Region of the American Conference for Irish Studies.
When asked to discuss the impact of the NEH fellowship on her life and career trajectory, Professor Burke wrote:
"When Professor Fox called to tell me that I would be the 2003-04 NEH Fellow at the Keough-Naughton Institute at Notre Dame, I was close to completing my dissertation at Queen’s University, Belfast. I went on to enjoy a great year at South Bend, where I worked on the manuscript subsequently published as “Tinkers”: Synge and the Cultural History of the Irish Traveller (Oxford University Press, 2009) and made lasting connections with the wonderful faculty and students at the Keough-Naughton Institute. (The ever-generous Institute launched the U.S. edition of my book!) I went straight from Notre Dame to a tenure-track position in UConn’s English Department, which hired me to develop its Irish Studies program. We now have a thriving program: ten current Ph.D. dissertation projects with an Irish focus, a Fulbright instructor in Modern Irish, a Concentration in Irish literature for English majors, and the annual Gerson Irish Reading, which in recent years has featured writers such as Anne Enright and Colm Tóibín. In the case of my very rewarding job, my manuscript, and two other fellowships and a Research Excellence Award (for “Tinkers”) that I have subsequently received, I am absolutely certain that my NEH Fellowship was a key factor in getting me noticed. It was the opportunity that facilitated all the subsequent opportunities, the first thing I list at the top of my CV. That call from Professor Fox changed the course of my life."