Notre Dame theology and psychology professors are using science and technology to understand how people respond to sacred art. Robin Jensen, James Brockmole, and G.A. Radvansky received a nearly $1 million grant award from the Templeton Religion Trust for five related research studies that assess sacred art’s impact on viewers’ individual experiences, memories, and spiritual understanding. The grant will help the research team expand upon research done thanks to a previous award from Templeton. In 2020, the interdisciplinary trio began exploring ways in which looking at sacred art informed and enhanced spiritual growth and whether that changed based on time and place.
As political scientists, Rachel Porter and Erin Rossiter know the importance of being fluent in several languages. Porter understands R, Stata, and Python, while Rossiter is adept in R, C++, SQL, and Java. Their tech skills make the assistant professors of political science two of the top young quantitative data scientists in political science today, greatly improving and expanding the research opportunities and course offerings for graduate and undergraduate students.
A new graduate minor in visual and material culture has been created for Notre Dame students interested in gaining foundational knowledge in global art and architecture history and conducting image-centered interdisciplinary research. The minor was added to enrich the experience of Arts and Letters students in Master of Arts, Master of Fine Arts, and Ph.D. programs through Department of Art, Art History & Design (AAHD) courses in ancient, medieval, early modern, modern, and contemporary art.
John P. Meier, University of Notre Dame professor, Catholic priest, and renowned biblical scholar, died Oct. 18, at age 80.
Meier, the William K. Warren Professor of Theology emeritus, published nearly 80 articles and 18 books during his distinguished career, including the acclaimed A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus series.
Hate crimes, discrimination, and harassment against Asian Americans in the United States have risen rapidly in recent years, and Notre Dame psychologist Lijuan (Peggy) Wang wants to know how that has impacted adolescents’ mental health and what factors can be leveraged to protect and promote their mental health. To lay the groundwork for building evidence-based and urgently needed interventions, Wang is part of a research team developing the first longitudinal study to fill research gaps and learn about how racial discrimination affects adolescent Asian Americans’ mental health.
Intellectual humility — being free to think and listen without being concerned with the need to “be right” — could be an antidote for some pressing personal and societal problems. An interdisciplinary group of philosophers and psychologists, led by Laura Callahan and supported by a John Templeton Foundation grant, are hoping to identify how the characteristic can be used by individuals to improve their lives and how it can be more inclusive.
Notre Dame historian Sarah Shortall’s debut book, Soldiers of God in a Secular World: Catholic Theology and Twentieth-Century French Politics, which chronicles an influential French theological movement that reimagined the Church’s role in the public sphere, has now earned four awards in the 10 months since it was published. The assistant professor of history has received the Giuseppe Alberigo Junior Scholar Award from the European Academy of Religion, the Best Book Award from the College Theology Society, the Laurence Wylie Prize in French Cultural Studies from New York University, and the first place Book Award for History from the Catholic Media Association.
As an undergraduate at Notre Dame in the 1970s, Ann Combs was often the only woman in her classes. But that didn't faze her — in fact, it prepared her for a successful 40-year career in public policy affecting retirement and health care benefits. Combs served in the Department of Labor under three presidents, culminating in being appointed assistant secretary for employee benefits security by President George W Bush. She also worked in the private sector, helping trade associations and private companies navigate Washington, D.C. Throughout it all, the skills she developed and knowledge she gleaned from her Notre Dame liberal arts education served her well in her career.
Emilia Justyna Powell, a Notre Dame professor of political science and concurrent professor at The Law School, has won two International Studies Association (ISA) awards for her 2020 book, Islamic Law and International Law: Peaceful Resolution of Disputes. Lauded for its originality, significance, and rigor in international law and religion and international relations, the book covers differences and similarities between the Islamic legal tradition and international law.
Ulrich L. Lehner, a leading expert on early modern Catholicism and the William K. Warren Foundation Professor in the Department of Theology, has been elected a member of Academia Europaea, also called the Academy of Europe. He’s in excellent company — 75 Nobel Prize recipients are among its members, including the three 2021 laureates in physics. The academy promotes research, advises governments and international organizations, and furthers interdisciplinary and international research.
For generations, North Americans have seen media images of poverty, disease, civil war, and crime in Central America, including photographs and videos of Central Americans fleeing violence and of children, some just 2 or 3 years old, kept in cages at immigration detention camps. Even when well-intentioned, the images can feed into negative stereotypes, said Tatiana Reinoza, an assistant professor in the Department of Art, Art History, and Design. Reinoza has won a competitive Getty Scholar Grant that will support her effort to more fully represent the seven-country region, its people, and their stories with her book project, tentatively titled “Retorno: Art and Kinship in the making of a Central American Diaspora.”
The European Group for Organizational Studies (EGOS) has presented Notre Dame sociologist Erin Metz McDonnell with its 2022 Book Award for her original contribution to the knowledge about organizations, organizing, and the organized. In her award-winning book, Patchwork Leviathan: Pockets of Bureaucratic Effectiveness in Developing States, McDonnell argues that while corruption and ineffectiveness may be expected of public servants in developing countries, “some spectacularly effective state organizations thrive amid institutional weakness and succeed against impressive odds.”
Eileen Hunt, a professor in the Department of Political Science, has won the David Easton Award for her 2021 book, Artificial Life After Frankenstein. The annual award from the American Political Science Association’s Foundations of Political Theory section recognizes a book that “broadens the horizons of contemporary political science by engaging issues of philosophical significance in political life through … approaches in the social sciences and humanities.” In the book, Hunt develops a theoretical framework for how to bring technology-based ethical issues — like making artificial intelligence, robots, genetically engineered children and other artificially-shaped life forms — into debates on human rights, international law, theories of justice, and philosophies of education and parent-child ethics.
Shakespeare at Notre Dame recently won a prestigious award for its efforts to convene Shakespeare in prison practitioners from around the world as well as a new grant for its work bringing the Bard to a local residential treatment facility for juveniles. “Shakespeare at Notre Dame is the social justice mission of the University in action through the performing arts,” said Scott Jackson, Mary Irene Ryan Family Executive Director. “We can be a community driver of change.”
The annual honor recognizes Jeff Harden as the top scholar in the field of state politics and policy who has earned a Ph.D. within the previous 10 years. He said it’s a meaningful time to be studying state legislatures because they have enormous power in what people's lives look like as citizens of this country.
Michelle Karnes, a Notre Dame associate professor of English, has been chosen as a Mellon Fellow by The Huntington, a collections-based research and educational institution in California. During the yearlong fellowship that begins in July, Karnes will work on journal articles and a chapter for her next book project, tentatively titled “Interanimalia: The Species of the Medieval World,” which focuses on the value of species diversity in the natural world.
Karl Berg ’22, who earned an M.A. in Early Christian Studies from Notre Dame’s Department of Classics, is co-organizing the Inaugural Graduate Conference on Early Christian Studies, to be held May 23–25 in Jenkins Nanovic Halls and on Zoom. The conference, which will be the first of its kind in the United States, is free and open to the public. Berg will present a paper, “Augustine of Hippo and Late Roman Slavery.” Next up for the Littleton, Colorado, native: pursuing a D.Phil. in ancient history at the University of Oxford.
When the COVID-19 pandemic suddenly halted international travel, Mary Shiraef’s fieldwork plan to investigate the outcomes of communist-era border policies in Albania was postponed indefinitely. So she pivoted.The Notre Dame political science doctoral candidate decided to map pandemic-induced border closures around the world. Two years later, the project has been reported on in more than 40 news outlets, the data was peer-reviewed and published in the Nature Portfolio’s Scientific Data, Scientific Reports published the open-source results, and the National Library of Medicine posted the study. The international research collaboration is still active and continues to provide valuable skills-development opportunities for Notre Dame undergraduates.
Josiah Broughton started off as a computer science major at Notre Dame, but the courses didn’t align with his interests or strengths. So he stepped back, re-evaluated, and chose to take a more creative route — majoring in film, television, and theatre. The classes, he said, are fascinating and fun and offer a more comprehensive perspective on the concepts involved in video game design, from story and structure to character and graphics. Now, his dream of being a game designer is a lot closer to reality now thanks to coursework on 3D digital production for animation and video games, creating film as social action, elements of computing, and scriptwriting.
Cara Ocobock, assistant professor of anthropology, received the Human Biology Association’s 2022 Michael A. Little Early Career Award for her significant contribution to the field of human biology and the promise of more. She is the second Notre Dame anthropologist to earn the award in the last two years, after associate professor Lee Gettler won it in 2020.
Notre Dame Creative Writing Program director and poet Joyelle McSweeney has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in recognition of her creative ability in the arts and potential in future endeavors. McSweeney, who is also a playwright, novelist, translator, critic, and English professor, is in extremely good company — Margaret Atwood, James Baldwin, Ken Burns, Rachel Carson, and Zora Neale Hurston are previous fellows — and 19 Arts & Letters faculty have won Guggenheims in the last 22 years. “I’m still taking it in, to be honest,” she said. “It’s a spectacular show of confidence from the universe.”
Essaka Joshua, associate professor of English, has been elected a fellow of the Society of Antiquaries of London, an international educational organization that promotes understanding of the human past. She earned the accolade because of her expertise in myth and folklore, but her understanding of and appreciation for the human past has transformed and significantly deepened since her introduction to disability studies, which she’s researched for the past 20 years. The evolving discipline of disability studies centers the experiences of people with physical, psychological and/or psychiatric differences who, like other oppressed groups, are marginalized because of exclusionary social structures and prejudices.
On the pages of her novels, Azareen Van der Vliet Oloomi creates female characters who insist on being themselves. That’s something the award-winning writer and Notre Dame faculty member knows quite a bit about. Growing up in Iran — a country where laws restricted her mobility because of her gender — she loved marching by herself through a deep eucalyptus forest to go to the beach on the Caspian Sea. “I have a very adventurous spirit,” said Van der Vliet Oloomi, an associate professor of English and the MFA in Creative Writing Program. “I write female characters who are equally themselves. They insist on being who they are in the world.”
In the early days of the pandemic, when students of all ages were learning at home, Notre Dame senior Renee Yaseen noticed how much her 10-year-old brother, Daniel, missed his friends. Since they couldn’t get together to play, they played online games — for hours. So she started brainstorming ways to help him be more physically active while safely and meaningfully interacting with his friends online. The result: FriendOver, a startup that is harnessing computer vision technology (artificial intelligence that enables computers to process images and videos in the way people do) and machine learning to promote goodness in gaming.
Ingrid D. Rowland, a professor in Department of History and School of Architecture, is one of three winners of the inaugural Grace Dudley Prize for Arts Writing. The award was among the Silvers-Dudley Prizes — named after the late Robert B. Silvers and his partner, the late Lady Grace Dudley — given to nine writers, including The New Yorker’s theatre critic, The New York Times’ critic at large, and journalists from Mexico, Germany, and Sudan. Rowland, who is based at Notre Dame's Rome Global Gateway, was commended for “extraordinary career-long achievement writing at the highest possible level on, in particular, Italian Renaissance art and culture, with such power, penetration, grace, and style.”
For 75 minutes every fall Tuesday afternoon, junior Grace Ryan steps, slides, marches, smiles, and laughs. The business analytics major who’s pursuing a career in aerospace was hesitant to sign up for an Irish dance course given her already busy schedule, but she eventually agreed to try it out. Now she’s hooked — and that combination of having fun while becoming proficient in Irish traditions is exactly why the Department of Irish Language and Literature began offering 1-credit old-style Irish dancing [course] and tin whistle courses this year.
Three faculty members in the College of Arts & Letters — philosopher Sara Bernstein, theatre scholar Tarryn Chun, and historian Katie Jarvis — have won National Endowment for the Humanities fellowships, extending Notre Dame's record success with the federal agency committed to supporting original research and scholarship. The University also received a significant grant for a digital scholarship project that will develop a new platform that makes digital archives easier to analyze, present, and reuse. Since 2000, Arts & Letters faculty have received more NEH fellowships than any other private university in the country.
The image of Black inmates working in fields where enslaved African Americans once toiled has been seared into Notre Dame senior Aysha Gibson’s mind since she went on a high school field trip to the Louisiana State Penitentiary. Gibson, a history and neuroscience and behavior major, is now writing her senior thesis about the prison to provide a deeper understanding of America’s penal system. The independent research project, advised by associate professor Rebecca McKenna, considers race, morality, state law, labor, and geography — and is the culmination of an undergraduate career full of academic and service experiences that helped her consider how to support communities experiencing hardship.
The University of Notre Dame has been awarded nearly $1 million from Lilly Endowment Inc. to equip students in the Master of Divinity Program (M.Div.) and Master of Arts in Theology program to better serve in and learn from a diverse, ever-changing world. The grant will support cultural immersion programs and Spanish proficiency courses for 13 to 18 lay and seminarian students, as well as opportunities to meet with and learn from peers at other colleges.