AUGUSTA – An Oakland student at the University of Maine at Augusta was awarded the George Mitchell Peace Scholarship during student award ceremonies Sunday on campus.

Michelle Smith, 23, a junior majoring in English, said she will study international development for a semester this fall at University College Cork of the National University of Ireland.

The award was given to Smith by UMA President Allyson Hughes Handley. Students selected as George Mitchell Scholars are recognized for their outstanding academic achievement and exemplary contributions to their communities.

“It’s really exciting — I feel like it’s contributing to developing a greater sense of purpose in me, personally; it feels really significant,” Smith said earlier in the day Sunday.

Smith, a 2006 graduate of Messalonskee High School in Oakland, said international development is a course of studies unique to University College Cork.

She said her experiences visiting Asia, the Middle East, Europe and Central America with church groups has her yearning for more experiences.

International development immerses a student in the study of building and food systems to provide aid and service to rural and poverty-stricken areas.

The program is aimed at people who are interested in understanding global development and who wish to pursue careers addressing global economic and social inequalities.

“Through UMA, I traveled to Guatemala and Nicaragua in the past two years — both of those nations are poor, and you see a lot of the issues of poverty really right at hand in those places,” Smith said. “That was what lead me to want to study it more in an educational environment. I’m just really excited about getting that educational foundation.

“The premise of the scholarship was based on George Mitchell’s peace relations in Ireland. Me studying international development will lead to bringing aid and service to poorer nations.”

Smith said the practical application of what she learns in the classroom will come once her studies are done, when she can join a nonprofit organization and get to work.

She plans to graduate in the fall of 2012 or the spring of 2013.