The U.S. Senate today confirmed the nomination of University of Notre Dame alumnus and former senator Joe Donnelly as ambassador to the Holy See. A 1977 graduate of Notre Dame with a bachelor’s degree in political science, Donnelly went on to earn his law degree from the University four years later. He represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Notre Dame, for three terms and served one term in the U.S. Senate.
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College of Arts and Letters alumna Irla Atanda has been named a Thomas R. Pickering Graduate Fellow and alumna DeJorie Monroe has been selected a Charles B. Rangel Graduate Fellow. Atanda graduated from Notre Dame in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in American studies and a minor in international development studies and Monroe graduated in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in Spanish and minors in Latin American studies, Middle Eastern studies, and theology.
Notre Dame alumnus Adm. Christopher Grady, the first and only four-star flag or general officer from Notre Dame, has been nominated vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the No. 2 military officer in the country. A history major and three-time monogram winner for fencing, Grady is commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, Naval Forces Northern Command, and Naval Forces Strategic Command.
As a managing director in Accenture's Information Security group, John Blasi ’90 is constantly evaluating new security technologies. His goal is to stay ahead of would-be hackers and other malicious activity and to protect the company’s more than 500,000 employees worldwide. To do so, the Chicago-based executive needs more than just technical skills in the people he hires — he needs a multidisciplinary team that is creative, adaptive, and responsive. He needs liberal arts majors.
Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., extended his congratulations to Notre Dame alumnus Joe Donnelly on his nomination today as U.S. ambassador to the Holy See. “Joe has been an exemplary public servant in Congress, an invaluable friend of Notre Dame and of me personally, and he is an ideal choice to represent the United States at the Vatican,” Father Jenkins said. “He will bring to this role a deep understanding of the issues currently facing our nation and the world, a genuine Catholic faith and an understanding of the role the Church can play in our world. On behalf of the Notre Dame family, I offer my congratulations and prayers as he prepares for this new responsibility.”
Members of the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame (HAND), a University of Notre Dame Alumni Association affinity group, gathered virtually Sept. 21 for the second annual Hispanic alumni success stories panel. The event is one of several hosted by the Institute for Latino Studies in celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
The event, titled “Call to Action: Crossing the Political Divide to Address Climate Challenges,” featured American studies alumna Anne Thompson and U.S. Sen. Chris Coons exploring the global climate crisis broadly while also focusing on changes big and small that could help turn the tide. When asked if the political will to do something about the climate crisis has changed, Coons indicated that he thought it has, “but the challenge is that it has not been changing fast enough,” he said. Citing significant technology breakthroughs on various sustainability fronts, such as solar, wind and other renewable energies, the senator broadened the conversation to focus on the moral and human toll.
Matthew Canonico ’20 has won the Dante Society of America’s Dante Prize for best undergraduate essay — the third time since 2014 that a Notre Dame student has received the award.
A mathematics and Italian major, Canonico combined his two academic interests to explore deeper truths in Dante’s Divine Comedy.
“There are a lot of hidden treasures in Dante,” he said. “Sometimes when reading Dante, something would click, and I’d get tingles down my spine. It’s an inexhaustible piece of art that, 700 years later, is still inspiring scholarship.”
Nick Nissen ’16 saw his decision to major in Spanish while preparing for a career in medicine as a leap of faith — and one that has paid off. After Notre Dame, he went on to medical school at Brown University and is now completing his residency at Harvard Medical School. In addition to working in a hospital, Nissen is a doctor on the medical unit for ABC News, and recently appeared on Good Morning America to discuss the relationship between insomnia and COVID-19. He's also written and published a children's book on empathy and launched a podcast on mental health. “In the College of Arts & Letters, I felt encouraged by my advisors to go ahead and do something that was really interesting to me. And it worked out perfectly,” he said. “It is so empowering to say, ‘stop thinking about what everyone else is doing, stop thinking about what you feel obligated to do, and start thinking about what your true interests are.’ Because if you pursue your true interest and pursue it well, you'll be able to achieve your career goals through it.”
How does one find meaning and a mission in our restless world? How can we make decisions that help ourselves and others? How do we find the path that leads us to discover the deepest desires of our hearts and aspirations to make the world a better place? “The Heart’s Desire and Social Change,” a new podcast series and online community produced at Notre Dame, helps us explore these issues and navigate these big questions in our lives. Rev. Dan Groody, C.S.C., vice president and associate provost at Notre Dame, will host the program, which is based on the popular theology course of the same name that he teaches to undergraduates and students in the Inspired Leadership Initiative, which sponsors the podcast.
The Notre Dame Alumni Association announced its second annual Domer Dozen cohort, honoring 12 graduates ages 32 and younger for significant contributions in their fields, as well as in service to others. Four of the young alumni are from the College of Arts & Letters and have excelled in the fields of health care, education, youth ministry, and cultural advocacy.
The musical production My Heart Says Go has come a long way since Jorge “Jay” Rivera-Herrans ’20 began writing it in his dorm room at the University of Notre Dame. Rivera-Herrans had recently switched majors – from pre-med to film, television, and theatre (FTT) – and that became his inspiration for the production. But going from concept to a fully developed musical has been a winding journey.
For Arienne Thompson Plourde ’04, the first step toward a successful journalism career was to study history and Japanese. Although it might seem an unlikely combination for an aspiring journalist, it gave her a strong foundation to build on — and just as importantly, four years to study what she loved. “For me, I always knew that I wanted to be writing and thinking and reading — and being immersed in the world of letters. It was almost like breathing. What else could I have done?”
Molly Spencer ’94 knows how much words matter. As a writing instructor in the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy and and the author of two books of poetry, she appreciates the connotation, the shades of meaning, the nuance in every word. “People often ask me how it is that I teach policy writing and write poetry because they seem like such opposite pursuits. But I feel that they’re actually very closely aligned — policy practitioners and poets all care so deeply about the world,” said Spencer, who majored in economics. “And as in poetry, in policy work it’s important to get the words just right because of the way policy shapes our society and our everyday lives.”
Retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, a 1967 University of Notre Dame graduate and the first African American justice to serve on Minnesota’s highest court, will join G. Marcus Cole, the Joseph A. Matson Dean of Notre Dame Law School, for a virtual “fireside chat” at noon Jan. 18 (Monday) as part of the University’s commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
At Notre Dame, Choi chose to major in economics and enjoyed pursuing courses on statistics and the economics of education for her major, as well as classwork in psychology and theology. Now, after a cookbook, a doctoral degree, and a spot on the Cooking Channel, she’s using emerging technology and her extensive knowledge of the role food plays in people’s lives to reinvent the idea of a recipe.
When Lily Falzon ’18 started at Notre Dame, she thought she wanted to be a doctor. But a course on culture in medicine she took while studying abroad gave her a different perspective on health care and inspired her to study sociology and Chinese instead. It also led her to research China's success in building an integrative health care system — and her own Chinese ancestry. After graduation, Falzon was named a Yenching Scholar at Peking University in Beijing.
A small but growing number of tenure-track faculty have roots in Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS), a program of the Division of Student Affairs at Notre Dame that provides access to opportunities and resources for historically underrepresented students to thrive at Notre Dame and beyond. “Because of MSPS, I was lucky enough to have professors that took an interest in me and pointed me in the right direction to come to the idea that graduate school was something that I could do,” said Camille Suarez, a 2013 Arts & Letters graduate.
The College of Arts and Letters is introducing Beyond the Dome — a new set of tools and resources to help guide Arts and Letters students through the career discernment process. The program features a number of opportunities that are exclusive to A&L students — including a peer-mentoring program, an online discernment tool linked to a job-matching board, an alumni speaker series, and a year-by-year guide to career readiness — that are designed to enhance and increase awareness of the resources at the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development.
Carrie Sweeney ’03 has spent much of her career learning on the job in fast-paced, high-tech environments. As she has risen through the ranks of companies like Google and Pinterest, Sweeney has drawn on the strong foundation she built as a Program of Liberal Studies major at Notre Dame. “Spending those four precious years on campus doing something that you can’t do any other time — shaping your worldview, your ethos by engaging with great texts — that’s just irreplaceable,” Sweeney said. “You can go learn about balance sheets afterward, whether that’s on the job or by getting an MBA. But there’s never going to be a time in life when you can really grapple with foundational ideas as effectively as you can while you’re at Notre Dame.”
The Kylemore Abbey Global Centre, along with six partners from across the University of Notre Dame campus, has launched the Kylemore Book Club, an open, multimedia, educational enrichment program featuring Notre Dame’s expert faculty. The debut program, “Literature and Film in Lockdown,” is led by Professor of English and the Donald R. Keough Family Professor of Irish Studies Barry McCrea.
Michelle Gaseor ’11 doesn’t meet many other history majors in the tech world. But in her career, which has taken her from educational publishing and user experience design to the forefront of conversational artificial intelligence, she continually builds upon the foundation she established in the College of Arts and Letters.
Twenty-six University of Notre Dame students and alumni — including 20 from the College of Arts and Letters — have been awarded Fulbright U.S. Student Program grants to teach or study abroad during the 2020-21 academic year. Notre Dame has been a top producer of Fulbright students for six consecutive years.
Nikole Hannah-Jones, a 1998 University of Notre Dame alumna and an investigative reporter for The New York Times Magazine, has won the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for criticism, journalism’s highest honor. Hannah-Jones was recognized for her introductory essay to the newspaper’s landmark The 1619 Project, an ongoing and interactive series she created that focuses on the 400th anniversary of when enslaved Africans were first brought to what would become the United States.
“I think being a lifelong learner is important, both in a career and in life,” said Chris Wilson ’85, senior partner at Stonehill Capital Management in New York. Wilson started at Notre Dame as an engineering major, but realized early on that it wasn’t a good fit for him. “I thought, ‘Somebody really needs to know the forces acting on that bridge and somebody really needs to know that really well, but it doesn't have to be me,” he said. Fortunately, he loved the elective courses he had been taking in government, so he switched majors.
Adriana Pratt ’12, head writer and a senior producer for Good Morning America on ABC, majored in political science and minored in the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy. Multiple newspaper, magazine, and broadcast internships helped her land an assistant position at ABC News when she graduated, and she has been at that network ever since. Internships are the primary qualification she looks for when hiring — for the skills students gain from those experiences and the insight it gives them into working in broadcast TV.
By the time Conor Hanney ’14 sat down to start his senior thesis for his film, television, and theatre major, he knew exactly what he wanted to do for a living — write for live-action TV targeting the kids and family demographic. And within 16 months of graduation, that’s exactly what he started doing. Hanney, a writer, lyricist, and composer for Netflix, works on various family programming, including the live-action comedy series The Expanding Universe of Ashley Garcia, The Healing Powers of Dude, and Prince of Peoria. He is currently working on the upcoming Kenny Ortega musical series Julie and The Phantoms.
A neuroscience and behavior major, Giglia traveled to Ireland four separate times as an undergraduate — once for a semester at University College Dublin through the Dublin Global Gateway, and three times for Summer Language Abroad programs at Oideas Gael in County Donegal. After graduation, she was awarded a Naughton Fellowship to complete a master’s degree in neuroscience at Trinity College Dublin. She now works as a research assistant in the neurology department at Trinity, focusing on motor neuron disease.
University of Notre Dame alumna Ashley Zhou will study medical science at the University of Cambridge this fall as a member of the Gates Cambridge Scholar class of 2020. Zhou is a 2019 Notre Dame graduate from Gaithersburg, Maryland. She received a bachelor of arts degree in neuroscience and behavior and minored in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Before Beth Gee ’10 studied abroad in Tokyo during her junior year, the Japanese and political science major had never left the United States. Now, as a U.S. foreign service officer, Gee travels for a living. She is currently working at the American Embassy in the Republic of the Congo — where she employs the language, communication, and critical thinking skills she cultivated as a student in Arts and Letters.