Maeve Moynihan at Oxford

Maeve Moynihan ’13: A conversation with a true global citizen

You graduated from Middlebury in 2017.  So you are only 3 years out from college graduation, and yet it seems like you have already accomplished so much. What were your next steps immediately after graduation?

I can’t say that any of the past three years were planned strategically at all. Most of the choices I’ve made have been due to chance and timing. After I graduated from “Midd,” I headed off to Madrid (I spent a semester studying abroad there in college), and I continued doing things that I found interesting or that I enjoyed. During the past three years, there have been ups and downs that have been challenging, but very formative. From the outside, I think prestigious names like Fulbright and Oxford give the impression that I know what I’m doing with my life, but don’t be fooled—I am figuring that out day by day!

You spent some time in Spain on a Fulbright? What did you study there?

I spent a year in Madrid on a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship working with high school students in English, History, and Geography. My primary focus was a program called Global Classrooms, which closely mirrors Model United Nations. That year, the program focused on migration, which was obviously of interest to me. Freshman-age students were assigned a delegation country, and they had to work together to find solutions to the world’s challenges with migration.

How did you end up doing graduate work at Oxford?

Completely by chance! Mid-year in Madrid, I realized I needed to start thinking about my next move. I had originally planned to go to Ireland to do post-graduate work, but I happened upon the Migration course at Oxford and found it very interesting. I actually thought my acceptance email was a “You’ve won a free cruise” kind of scam—the subject line was something along the lines of “YOU’VE BEEN OFFERED A PLACE” all caps with a strange no-reply email. Luckily, I opened it and discovered I had been offered a place at a college at Oxford.

What was your focus of study at Oxford? Were there any particular personal experiences that focused your interests in that area?

My degree (Master of Science in Migration Studies) was housed jointly between the Department of International Development and the Department of Anthropology. The course covered a wide breadth of material surrounding human movement. As a particularly polemic topic, it was a privilege to get to study the facts behind the growing xenophobic trends around the world. Our coursework explored immigrant detention, border securitization, diaspora studies, the nation-state and its importance (or lack thereof), the often problematic nature of international development work, and more. My elective courses focused on gender in refugee law and the economics of migration.

What are you doing professionally these days? Is your work a culmination of your studies or is it sending you in new directions?

I’m working on a couple of different projects in the academic world at the moment. During my time at Oxford I was a Dahrendorf Scholar and worked on a research project entitled “Europe’s Stories”  under Professor Timothy Garton Ash. The project explores contemporary narratives of Europe, what moments make up our understanding of Europe and the EU, and what Europeans want for their continent in the 21st century. After graduating, I have continued to work with Professor Garton Ash and the Europe’s Stories team and also joined a research centre at the University of Warwick called the Warwick Interdisciplinary Research Centre for International Development.

Both roles involve work on migration through topics like the freedom of movement and migration in the Global South, but neither is exclusively focused on migration, which I think is a good thing, as I continue to learn across a wide range of topics.

Do you plan to continue in this same field…or are there other areas of interest you would like to pursue?

I’m actually hoping to go to law school sometime in the near future. I’ve always thought of the legal world as an interesting path, but I specifically chose not to go to law school straight out of college. I wanted to be intentional about that choice and get a bit of life experience under my belt. Given my interest in migration, I’ve explored immigration law, but find myself interested in a range of aspects of the legal world.

You had multiple global experiences while you were at CA (China, Scotland, Ireland, and more?). Talk a little about these experiences and how they inform who you have become today and some of the choices you have made.

My brother (Fergus Moynihan ’09) and I were very lucky to grow up in a very international family and spent a lot of time with family in Ireland, so I caught the travel bug early on. After traveling to Scotland as a Fifth Grader at CA, I tried to take advantage of every travel opportunity I could. Subsequent trips to Costa Rica in Seventh Grade and to Guadalajara, Mexico in Ninth Grade cemented my interest in intercultural exchange and the Spanish language, which have obviously stuck with me over the years. Because of my familial background and international experiences like those with CA, I was able to learn about a whole variety of different lifestyles, languages, cultures, and perspectives. That diversity has definitely informed my interests and work today.

It feels like you are living the life of an ex-patriate. Do you think of yourself as an ex-pat? Or an Irish citizen? As the U.S. undergoes so much turmoil, how does it feel to be on the outside looking at this country? At this point, do you plan to continue living outside the U.S.?

I’m incredibly grateful to hold dual citizenship of two of the most mobile areas in the world—the U.S. and the EU. That dual citizenship undoubtedly influences my perspective as well as my academic work. I’m hoping to make my way back to the U.S. sometime in the future, but obviously things are quite unpredictable at the moment with the pandemic.

Looking back, can you draw a dotted line…or even a direct line…from experiences, classes, and teachers you had at CA to the successful and fulfilling life you are living today? How much of who you have become started with your family and how much can be traced to CA? Or is it a combination of the two?

My parents sparked, and CA fomented, two essential aspects of my life: intellectual curiosity and the strength of community. I would say that my parents built the foundation of both of these pillars and CA helped to build and solidify them.

In the age of “fake news,” I am constantly reminded of, and grateful for, the academic rigor of CA. Regardless of your perspective, you need to justify it, cite it, and present it professionally and clearly at CA. I still hear the voices of my writing teachers in my head to “omit needless words” and make an argument out of your writing. Obviously, the Spanish department in the Upper School had a huge impact on my life, as I continue to live in Spain and communicate in the language every day.

What are your favorite memories of CA—experiences, teachers, classes, you name it?  And why have these memories stayed with you?

After spending 12 years at CA, I have a whole library of favorite memories that ebb and flow through my consciousness quite regularly. My strongest and fondest memories are from my earliest days at CA—baking cinnamon bread, reading railcars, and Field Day popsicles. If I had to distill my life down to one thing that has formed who I am today, it would be a love for reading and books, which Paula Osborne fostered every single day and Susan Andrews and Suzanne Kolsun Jackson continued to develop in the following two years.

Last, but certainly not least, my Advisory in Upper School with Katy Hills was the source of endless humor and stress-release, so I hold a lot of very humorous memories from that aspect of my time at CA as well.