On her toes

Irish dancer Jillian Collins ’24 competes for a world title during her final semester on College Hill.

Three nights a week, psychology major Jillian Collins ’24 makes the three-hour trip from Easton to Long Island, trains for three hours in her dance studio, then turns around and drives right back to campus.

It’s hard work, but it’s paying off: The intense practice regimen has made her a three-time national champion and six-time New England regional champion in Irish dance. In March, Collins, who is from Ridgefield, Conn., will leave school and head to Glasgow, Scotland, to compete in her 10th World Championship. (Last year, she placed fourth.)

Although her commute to Long Island is taxing, it’s offset by support on College Hill. “School is important to me, and dance is important to me,” Collins says. “And there are a lot of people in the administration who want to help, because part of what makes Lafayette so vibrant is how multifaceted the students are.”

In addition to serving as an Office of Admissions tour guide and senior interviewer for prospective students, Collins works as an associate facilities supervisor for Recreation Services. She also has leading roles in two of the Psychology Department’s research labs; one maps the effectiveness of teaching art in virtual reality, and the other looks at mental health trends in neurodiverse populations.

The latter, which takes place in the neurodiversity lab of Jessie Greenlee, assistant professor of psychology, is closely related to Collins’ interest in special education law and, specifically, disability advocacy. This work is rooted in the relationship with her younger brother, who is neurodiverse. And, this is why, despite a busy schedule, Collins is also studying for law school in the fall. “My hope is to make sure that the people who are most marginalized by society are being fought for and getting the accommodations and accessibility that they deserve,” Collins says.

While pursuing her career, Collins is keeping dance in her life. She’s becoming certified to teach Irish dance and wants to eventually judge these same competitions. Says Collins: “Dance is such a cornerstone of who I am that I can’t ever let go.”

Madeline Marriott Avatar