Syracuse University Magazine

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Micha Crook '08

Journey of Learning

Micha (pronounced Mee-sha) Crook knew she wanted to learn more about her Irish heritage while cultivating her love of filmmaking, and understood that a college degree would help her achieve that dream. Her tenacity and drive earned Crook a bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in English and textual studies through University College (UC). She then moved to Ireland to complete an M.A. degree in cultural policy and arts management at University College Dublin.

Crook says continuous assistance from UC assistant dean Rosemary Kelly and a strong support system from professors ensured her success. She met Kelly while working as a manager at Starbucks on campus. “I wanted to go back to school and finish my degree, but was uncertain it could really happen,” Crook says. “Rosemary told me to just come in for an appointment first and talk about my goals.”

By the end of their conversation, she had filled out an application. “The rest of the process seemed so effortless, but it was Rosemary and the rest of the UC staff being spectacular at their jobs,” she says. “Trying to find the balance between raising a child, work, and going back to school seemed like a gigantic undertaking.”

Crook says flexibility is key, and understands now that she shouldn’t have been so hard on herself in trying to juggle everything in her life. “The house will never be perfect or tidy, and you’ll eat takeout more than you know is healthy,” says Crook, whose son, Addison, was age 5 and starting kindergarten when she began her studies. “You may be reading your child your assigned readings as their bedtime story, but let go of the guilt.”

While her educational journey was challenging, Crook says it was a sacrifice worth making. It also gave her son a chance to witness the importance of education. “If you really care about something, you should work hard for it,” she says.

Micha and sonAfter graduation, Crook and her son moved to Ireland so she could pursue a master’s degree. While there, she served as executive producer on a feature documentary, Older Than Ireland, which won best documentary at the Galway Film Fest in July 2015. The film, which focuses on the lives of Irish centenarians, premiered in the United States at the Palace Theatre in Syracuse in March. It is the second highest grossing Irish documentary to date. “It was a pleasure to work with director Alex Fegan and the rest of the people at Snackbox Films,” Crook says. “I couldn’t have asked for a better group.”

During the filming, Crook became friends with 113-year-old Kathleen Snavely (pictured above), a Syracuse resident who was the oldest living Irish-born person on record. “She came to the U.S. at 19 and moved to Syracuse,” Crook says. “She built a successful dairy business with her husband in the middle of the Depression, paid for her nieces and nephews to attend college, and donated more than a million dollars to Syracuse University for scholarships.” Sadly, Snavely died two days before the film’s Dublin premiere.

Crook returned to Central New York and is now working in arts management as a consultant and cultural events promoter with several local companies. “I hope to continue to write and produce more films,” she says. “I’d like to start directing, and eventually bring contemporary Irish films to Syracuse.”

Looking at a picture taken at her graduation with Addison giving her a congratulatory hug, Crook reflects on the importance of her journey. “That picture was the first thing I unpacked and hung up in our new home in Ireland,” she says. “To me, it was a symbol of how hard I had worked, and who I continue to work for.”     —Eileen Jevis