Colleen Curran \'11

Hi all. Remember me? It’s been a while.

I’m Colleen Curran, Class of 2011. Well, now it’s Dr. Colleen Curran, but we’ll get to that in a moment. In September 2007, I was appointed the First-Year Blogger, which was supposed to be a year-long position. I ended up holding the position for five years, in which I also documented my study abroad experience at the University of Oxford in 2009–2010 and my first year of post-graduate experience from 2011–2012. ¬

It’s been ten years since I graduated from Holy Cross. So many things have happened, so let’s catch up! I am now Dr. Colleen Curran. I completed my MPhil in Medieval English at the University of Oxford in June 2012, and then my PhD in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies at Kings College London in January 2017. Since April 2017, I’ve been a Postdoctoral Researcher on the Consolidated Library of Anglo-Saxon Poetry project as well as a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College at the University of Oxford. I’ve been focusing my research on the Anglo-Latin poetic tradition in early mediaeval England, particularly in the manuscripts in which these poems survive.

My field is a bit niche. Even my fellow medievalists would tell you that there aren’t too many palaeographers running around. When people ask how I became interested in this field, I say ‘Holy Cross’ and then explain my undergraduate experience. I realise now that Holy Cross was one of the few places that could nurture my love of Latin, history, literature, philosophy, and theology all under one roof. It was through my study abroad experience that I was able to undertake palaeography classes when I was an undergraduate, which is very uncommon. Holy Cross made all the difference: the professors I met, the friends I made, the classes I took. I’ve been able to see the world, to carve out a very different path for myself, to start my life in a new country. Holy Cross equipped me with all of the necessary skills to undertake all of this: my Latin classes and my study abroad experience have been particularly useful. If you would’ve told 22-year-old me that I would be holding ninth-century books on a daily basis and working in Montecassino, St. Petersburg, and the Vatican, I’m not sure I would’ve believed you. But, here I am, and welcome to my job.

My academic connections to Holy Cross didn’t necessarily end after graduation. I actually see Prof. Dan DiCenso quite regularly at conferences, and I’ve written a piece for one of his upcoming publications. I talk with Prof. Ellen Perry quite regularly, and I cite her class (and the research paper on the Libri Carolini) as a particular influence on my academic career. I actually made a ‘guest appearance’ in her last ‘Ideological Destruction of Art’ class this year. I’ve seen Prof. Jonathan Mulrooney in London a few times when he’s over for a regular Keats conference. One very happy coincidence was the day I submitted my PhD thesis, and Prof. Jim Kee and his wife, Joanne, just happened to be in London, so I was able to celebrate with them. I even gave a talk about my current research at Holy Cross in March 2019! That was my first time back on campus since September 2011, so I was able to (finally) stop by Fr. Brooks’ grave and say a quick prayer of thanks for him.

At the rate of making this sound like my life has been perfect, there have been difficulties, challenges, and changes along the way. There have been some significant personal losses, including Professor Rick Murphy and Fr. John Brooks. There have been some tough times, including a few weeks during the PhD where I had £10 to my name. There’s precarity in academia, especially for early career academics. There are times that navigating the U.K. Immigration system can feel like a second job. And yet, throughout all of those tough times, my Holy Cross friends supported, loved, and encouraged me.

Colleen Curran

And my story is not unique. Over the past ten years, I’ve been able to see my friends grow up, follow their dreams, and thrive. My friends are now accomplished lawyers, government advisors, fellow academics, teachers, and priests. Some of them have been Fulbright fellows, too. Some friends married fellow Crusaders, and I can now assure you that there is nothing better than a Crusader wedding. Some friends have started beautiful families of their own. It’s a joy and utter delight to see how all of us have grown up and yet remain true to the people we were on The Hill. Despite how far away I live, I always feel immediately connected with my Crusader friends.

Colleen Curran

Shortly after my graduation, I remember myself and a few others wanting to go back to Holy Cross to see everyone, to relive those late nights in Dinand with far too much coffee from Cool Beans, to wake-up to Amarylis’ omelettes and fresh waffles. Very recently, my friend, Margaret, helped organise an adaptation of the Examen for the Class of 2011 with Marty Kelly in which we reflected upon our time at Holy Cross. Throughout that reflection, more than a few of us referred to Holy Cross as home. But as my graduation date goes farther and farther away from me, I realise that Holy Cross and my experience isn’t just about the physical place — it’s about the people that I met there, how they helped me form myself during those four short years, and how we’re continuously still helping each other grow. For me, it’s about the classmates who became my life-long friends, my professors who helped me become the academic that I am today, and, most of all, the Jesuits who helped me discover an unknown beauty and depth of my faith. So, to Holy Cross: thank you for the most formative four years of my life. To any future Crusaders reading this, enjoy it and take advantage of all the opportunities Holy Cross will offer to you.

I realise that I’ve said good-bye to this blog a few times, but I really think that this is it: good-bye, all, and, to quote Fr. Brooks, ‘Keep reading’.

Yep, it’s me again, making another phantom post (I really don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop blogging completely). When I found this article on The Jesuit Post, I had to share it because every single point is spot on about life at Holy Cross.

Right now, my friends and I are having a field day on Facebook reminiscing about all of these points and then some ones unique to Holy Cross. Once a Crusader, always a Crusader, right?

Well, after about two months of not blogging for Holy Cross, I’m back with some pretty big and exciting news. Next year, I had planned on taking a year off from academics and working in England, which would give me some time and money to prepare for commencing my PhD next year in 2014.

Well, I found out last week that I was successful in my application for a fully funded PhD scholarship at King’s College London, which was my dream school due to my ideal advisor being there. The scholarship application just opened in June, and I was lucky enough to find out during my family vacation on Cape Cod. The scholarship is the first that King’s has given out, and it’s good for all three years of my PhD (yeah, getting a project done in three years. Welcome to higher education in the UK!). My project will focus on 10th century Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, specifically how the construction and layout of the Anglo-Saxon manuscripts works within the matrix of manuscripts imported from the Continent. In reality, the project emerged from the research that I started for Professor Perry’s seminar paper on the Libri Carolini (nearly four years ago now), and some of those questions that I encountered with that research just still keep on popping up even in my research now.

I’m extremely shocked (yet grateful) that I won the scholarship. Had you told me when I first arrived at Holy Cross nearly six years ago next month (uhm…what?) that I’d be pursuing a PhD in medieval manuscripts, I would have laughed. Yes, I came to Holy Cross with an interest in literature, but it was really at Holy Cross that I was able to discover this passion and then meet so many people along the way who continue to inspire and encourage me.

So, if you need to find me in the next three years, odds are that I’m in some library looking at 10th century manuscripts. After that, you’ll be able to find me as Dr. Curran…which is a really scary thought.

When I first took up this post in September of 2007, I never imagined that I would still have this blog into 2013. Frankly, I couldn’t even see beyond my graduation date, but I also didn’t think that people would find my life interesting enough to continue this blog as long as it has. I’ve loved keeping this blog. It’s been a way for me to show the rest of the world how much I love Holy Cross, and how much Holy Cross has changed me. If I take a look at some of my freshman year posts compared to senior year, I can tell a drastic difference, even in my writing style (‘Thank goodness,’ said the English Department, and Professor Ireland heaved a sigh of relief.). Throughout these past six years, you’ve all seen me grow from a freshman who wanted to go to law school, to a sophomore who first discovered the medieval period, to a junior who was able to work with senior scholars in my field,  to a senior who researched Julian of Norwich all day, to a graduate student who plays with manuscripts for a living. You’ve seen me grow from a freshman who just dabbled in ballroom dance, to a senior who came second in a national competition in England, to a graduate student who continues to compete in the open and university circuits in England and is about to start training for open amateur competitions. The Interdisciplinary Honors Program that I worked with Prof. Matlak to establish just inducted their first class of students in April; Medieval Studies at Holy Cross is growing as a major and general academic area of interest, and the Manuscripts and Documents Club is promoting Paleography at the undergraduate level. I think this blog has really been able to document just how full circle my path at Holy Cross has become.

But now, for various reasons, I’ve decided that this blog has reached its end. These entries and photos will still be available, and I still have access to it, so I might very well make a random post in the future. But, for now, I think this is a fitting place in my story to end this blog. I’m turning in my (second) Masters’ Dissertation, and I’ll graduate from Oxford with my degree in Medieval English Literature with distinction on 20 September in the Sheldonian Theater. Next year, I’ll still be in Oxford, but I’m taking it off to just do some research and attend some major international conferences in my field, all of which will help me when I start my DPhil at King’s College London in Fall of 2014. I’ll still be dancing for my new university as well.  I don’t know exactly what the future holds for me after I complete my PhD (probably in 2016) – depending on the job market, maybe I’ll work in England as a post-doc, in Rome as a researcher, or in the States as a professor/lecturer. But for right now, I’m still working on my beloved Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. Did I imagine that this is where I would be right now? No. In fact, I thought that I’d be finishing up my second year of law school. As I’ve said before, I never imagined that I would be where I am, and I can only thank Holy Cross for placing me on this path.

Holy Cross truly did change my path – with the people I met, the friends I made, the classes I took, and the life direction I found. And you all have been such an important part, since you all saw this transformation happen – from my first days on the Hill to my Graduation and beyond. Thank you all for being such an important part of my Holy Cross experience; thank you for continuing to read this blog, and thank you for your comments and e-mails of support and encouragement.

I could end this blog with a final word about my Holy Cross experience, but I think I’ve written quite extensively on that already. You all know how much I love Holy Cross, and you all know how much I value my experience there. So, instead, I will end this amazing blogging experience with just some of the many photos (well over 5,000) that document my past six years as a blogger.

Thank you all again.

Signing off for one last time,


Tonight, I had the pleasure of skyping in to the first Alpha Iota Sigma Honors Society Induction Ceremony to give a speech about the honors society. If you remember, this was a joint pet project for both Prof. Matlak and myself during my senior year, and it has finally come to fruition. (Skyping in was a touch weird, but it did work out).

It is incredible to know that this project finally became a reality, and that future interdisciplinary students can now benefit from such an honors society. But the entire honors ceremony took me back to where I was just a few years ago, when I submitted my application to CISS for my Medieval Studies second major. I didn’t really think that I’d be sitting here in Oxford pursuing a Masters degree just a few short years later. When people ask me about my experience with CISS and how I came to find the program, they typically think that I came into Holy Cross with the idea of making my own major from the get-go. And that couldn’t be farther from the truth. I just happened to take so many courses in the medieval period, and I fell in love with the themes that I found there. And the rest is truly history.

I guess now is a good time to announce that I will be staying in Oxford next year to begin my DPhil research. I do plan on coming back to the States one day, I swear! But for now, I’m staying here to complete the manuscript projects that I’ve begun (and, maaaaybe do some dancing on the side). So, here’s to the late nights, the dissertation crises, and the many, many manuscripts that I will look at over the next three to four years.

When I was at Holy Cross, I used to start a countdown when I returned from Thanksgiving and Easter Breaks. Typically, I had 19 days left between those breaks and the end of the respective semesters. Those 19 days were typically filled with study periods, deadlines, and exams, so my breaks were always a re-charging session.

I just returned from a brief visit back home, and that’s exactly what the past eight days at home were. I didn’t look at any of the books I brought (which, in hindsight, is probably an error). Instead, I just focused on hanging out with family, friends, and the pooch. So here’s my countdown now:

-59 days until I hand in my dissertation. In these 59 days, I will also have the Varsity ballroom competition against Cambridge, a conference in Dublin, a friend visiting for a week, and still working at Fishers. Yikes.

-98 days until I fly to Boston

-102 days until Cape Cod.

So, here we go!

Two years ago, I sat with Cecilia, the Junior Co-Chair of HCBDT, in the Science Cafe (which was brand new at the time) to talk about the future of the club, where we wanted it to go, etc. I felt my BlackBerry (affectionately called PurpleBerry by friends and family) vibrate, and I saw an email from Oxford University. I knew what it was – the decision letter regarding my MPhil application. I debated about whether or not to open it, and then Cecilia just told me to do it. So, I inhaled and then opened it. I only read, ‘We are delighted to inform you…’ and I just started jumping up and down and up and down (much to the chagrin of several Chemistry students cramming for a very important exam).

Today, I returned home from the library (I’m in the middle of essay season with two articles due on Wednesday) to find an email from Oxford – the result of my DPhil application. Once again, I inhaled and opened it. I’m happy to say that I’ve been accepted to the DPhil program at Oxford (and King’s College, London, as well). I’m extremely happy! I’m just waiting for some other things to settle before making a decision about where I’ll be later on this year. And, yes, I did jump up and down, but just not in front of the Science Library, which was probably much appreciated by this year’s group of Chemistry students. And, now, back to my essays.

Bonjour! At the moment, I’m typing from Boulogne Sur Mer, where I’ve been studying a manuscript that’s vital to my research for the past day. Kind of a romantic life over here – visiting Rome and France for vital manuscripts. Anyway, I’m about to head into the busiest three weeks of my life. University Circuit Dance Nationals are this weekend (gulp), and Dean and I have made the Latin semi-finals for the past two competitions now, so we’re hoping to finally climb to the top over the weekend. Stay tuned….

I also have my Paleography exam next Thursday *gulp*, and then two articles due in two weeks from then. So…yeah. A bit busy over here, especially when one of my articles is going against most current scholarship in the field (see why I’m in France…for an essay…yeah, stakes are high). But, I’ll be visiting home for the first week of April, and then it’s back to just writing my dissertation. So these next three weeks will definitely be stressful (and I’ll be faked tan out the wazoo), but it’ll all be worth it.

Until then, a bientot!

  • February 17th, 2013

Today is the 14th Annual Holy Cross Ballroom Dance Competition. I’m so excited to see how the event has grown since I first participated in it back in 2008. By the end of my time at Holy Cross in 2011, we had over 30 universities represented, despite the snow fall on the morning of the comp. The Ballroom dance team has really taken off at Holy Cross in the past three years or so, and it’s just wonderful to see the club/team grow. I myself just returned from Regionals yesterday, where I came 10th in the Latin three dance. Photos and such will be posted soon.

But, more importantly – do you all remember when I went to San Diego in my senior year to discuss the need for an honors society for interdisciplinary major students? I am beyond excited to say that such an honors society has been founded (Alpha Iota Sigma), and that Holy Cross now has a chapter. The first inductees will be sworn in on April 25th. This particular project was one that was very close to my heart, and I’m so happy that it’s finally come to fruition. To the first members of AIS at Holy Cross – congratulations!

  • 2013

  • January 8th, 2013

Want to know something scary? Then guess what I’m doing right now. Give up? I’m in the final editing stages of my DPhil/PhD applications. Yeah. Kind of scary. That realization hit me when I flew back into England and realized that my Visa expires in October of this year. When I first received the visa, 2013 seemed so far away. And now, here it is. It honestly seems like it was just yesterday that I was applying for my Masters and then heading back for my final semester at Holy Cross.

After quite a stressful term, I had about two weeks to really relax and enjoy some time off. I was home for a week, and then I headed off to Ireland for New Year’s. Both were a very welcome vacation to the term that lies ahead. After I finish and submit these DPhil applications (probably tomorrow. Eeeek), I’m headed back to the grindstone, since, like this term last year, I have two essays and an exam in the end of March. That means that I need to start writing one of those essays now (a handy little tip that I learned from last year!), and finish it up in about six weeks’ time. Everything kind of starts back this week – the studying, the dancing, the working. But, after my two week reprieve, I’m definitely ready to handle the beast that is known as Hilary Term.