Lisa Caulfield is Director of Notre Dame International’s Kylemore Abbey Global Centre, located in the Connemara region in County Galway. [Lisa is in the far right of the adjacent photo, which portrays Notre Dame's Ann Bryce Scholars at Kylemore in Spring 2020, just before lockdown. Scholars were led by Professors Maria McKenna and Patrick Clauss.]
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Lisa moved to Ireland in 2003. She is a graduate of the University of Toronto with an Honor’s BA in English and History and a minor in Theology. She is also a graduate of Ryerson University, where she obtained a finance background. She spent six years working in publishing in Toronto.
Lisa completed her master’s degree in modern Irish literature from the National University in Maynooth, County Kildare. She has worked for the University of Notre Dame since 2004. After the University formed a partnership with the Benedictine Community at Kylemore Abbey in 2014, Lisa was appointed Director of the Kylemore Abbey Global Centre by the Provost and was responsible for the renovation and building of the Global Centre, which opened in May of 2016. By 2018, she had created an opportunity for Notre Dame students to spend a semester abroad at the National University of Galway.
With her team, Lisa has established the Global Centre at Kylemore as a place for the Notre Dame family and the wider Irish community to engage in meaningful and authentic ways.
“Together with our local partners,” she explains, we strive to provide multi-disciplinary programming for leaders, thinkers, and creators with a focus on nourishing mind, body, and spirit.”
From the Kylemore Abbey Global Centre, Lisa answers a special set of our “Three Questions.”
(1) What have been the Centre’s challenges during the pandemic and, conversely, the opportunities?
The hardest part of the pandemic was not having our study-abroad students here during the academic year or for our normal summer courses and programmes. It really forced us to get creative in offering different types of programming in different formats. We moved from face-to-face programming to virtual formats. The move to the virtual setting actually opened a lot of doors for us in terms of creating international connections across many disciplines.
Our first Kylemore Book Club in June of 2020 was with Professor Barry McCrea, Keough Family Chair in Irish Studies. We partnered with the Notre Dame Alumni Association's Think ND platform and attracted over 1,200 participants from six continents in 25 countries. For that book club, Professor McCrea adapted a class he taught during the Spring 2020 semester to Notre Dame students brought home from abroad—“Literature & Film in Lockdown—” into a four-week virtual book club. In their surveys, many participants said that sessions provided welcome insights and meaning in a time of high anxiety.
From there, we grew our engagement with virtual gatherings and really got to know people from all over who had an interest in Ireland. We have been running a number of online events and series that are really open to anyone who has interest in the work we are committed to. What is refreshing is being able to have as much Irish participation as we possibly can. Through our book clubs, reading circles with Irish authors, webinars with business leaders and athletes, and virtual symposia and lecture series, we have managed to connect with international, local, and US audiences.
(2) What has the summer been like at Kylemore?
As the country opens up and travel restrictions ease, we are slowly welcoming back in-person short programmes—for example, archaeological hiking retreats and writing residencies in partnership with local Irish faculty from National University of Galway.
We have partnered with Healthcare Heroes’ Retreats run by Irish humanitarian and sportsman Alan Kerins, and we look forward to welcoming Dr. Dominic Vachon, Director of Notre Dame’s Ruth M. Hillebrand Center for Compassionate Care in Medicine, for a session. These retreats will offer frontline workers and their partners a free three-day retreat sponsored by a local company, with the hope that other sponsors will join this great cause.
We have a creative writing short-stay workshop with Betsy Cornwell, Notre Dame graduate, New York Times best-selling author, and NUI Galway lecturer. There is also a virtual summer Pre College Global Scholars program as well—not to mention our current book club series “To Hell or to Connacht: Stories of Irish Resilience.” [Please register hereon the ThinkND platform if you are interested in joining this series, in which we examine the history, music, and geopolitical reality of the West of Ireland through the lens of sport, specifically rugby.]
(3) What do you anticipate this fall in Galway and at the Global Centre?
We are thrilled to be able to welcome study-abroad students back to Galway this Fall 2021 term. We have 11 students coming from Notre Dame, five of whom will be conducting laboratory research with Principal Investigators at the National University of Ireland Galway in the areas of cancer and neuroscience research.
As Ireland begins to ease restrictions and more of the population receives their vaccines, the more hopeful we are for a close-to-normal semester for the students. We are planning field trips to the Cliffs of Moher, the Kylemore Global Centre, the Aran Islands, Northern Ireland, and much more.
In addition to the students arriving, we will be hosting a number of conferences, spiritual retreats, seminars, and programmes at the Notre Dame Kylemore Global Centre, and we look forward to welcoming back all of our great partners, Notre Dame faculty, and the wider Notre Dame alumni family to Kylemore in the fall. The warm “céad míle fáilte” awaits all here!