Children love to act things out. Some pretend to be a mother or a father, others act as a shopkeeper or pose as a singer. At age 6, John Draves wanted to be a priest. Now a senior at Notre Dame, he never abandoned that passion for his faith. As a seminarian in the Congregation of the Holy Cross, Draves uses his faith as backdrop through which he pursues his academic interests — majors in American studies and philosophy and a minor in theology.
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Sophomore Mariko Jurcsak remembers the moment she became hooked on ancient history. She was in her high school Latin class, reading a poem by the Roman poet Catallus about the death of his brother, when her teacher shared that he had connected with the poem after his own brother had passed away. Connecting with history on the basis of shared humanity gave Jurcsak a new perspective on the subject — and inspired her to major in Greek and Roman civilization in the Department of Classics.
Notre Dame senior Margaret “Meg” Burns, an art history major from San Antonio, Texas, has been awarded a 2021–22 Luce Scholarship. The scholarship provides a stipend, language training, and individualized professional placement in Asia, with a goal of enhancing the understanding of Asia among potential leaders of American society. Burns is Notre Dame’s 10th Luce Scholar in total and its third since 2014.
Seven Notre Dame students with majors or minors in the College of Arts & Letters have been awarded spring Gilman Scholarships to study abroad, for a total of 15 students so far for the 2020-21 academic year. Two Notre Dame students, both Arts & Letters majors, have been named alternates for the award.
What do Stephen Colbert and an ancient Greek political satirist have in common? After taking the advice of a professor to pursue any topic that interested her, junior Ella Wisniewski decided to answer that question in a research project on political comedy. That simple suggestion from Collin Meissner, an assistant dean for undergraduate studies, during a Glynn Family Honors Program seminar set her on a path that included a trip to New York, adding a second major, and embracing learning for the sake of learning.
The University of Notre Dame has launched the Initiative on Race and Resilience, a new interdisciplinary program focused on the redress of systemic racism and the support of communities of color both within and beyond the Notre Dame campus. Led by the College of Arts & Letters with additional support from the Office of the Provost, the initiative will bring together scholars and students in the humanities, arts, social sciences, and other disciplines to challenge systemic racism and promote racial equality through research, education, and community empowerment.
With a record number of students enrolled in the sustainability minor and an increasing interest in careers incorporating sustainability, there was no question of canceling this semester's Environmental Career Trek. In light of the pandemic, the sustainability minor partnered with the Meruelo Family Center for Career Development to host a virtual career event. More than 100 students from a wide variety of majors participated in panel discussions featuring more than 20 sustainability professionals.
This year’s unprecedented mid-year break led the University to create for the first time a Winter Session. This unique two-month period between semesters has removed the guardrails of what academics, researchers, counselors and service coordinators could normally imagine. Assistant Dean Collin Meissner said what could have been dead time has instead spurred some very creative ideas inspired by “just sheer intellectual enjoyment.”
A single sociology class in her first year changed the course of Kiersten Hogan’s undergraduate career — and opened her eyes to the connections between social structures and health. The coronavirus pandemic confirmed for her the importance of providing mental health support and services, particularly for minority communities, and she added minors in Africana studies and gender studies as a senior in order to better understand the populations she'd like to serve.
Four Arts & Letters undergraduates have been named winners of the 2020 University of Notre Dame Library Research Award. This annual award, given by the Hesburgh Libraries, recognizes undergraduate students who demonstrate excellence in research skills by using a breadth of library resources and services for their course assignments, research projects, and creative endeavors.
Each summer and school year, a dimly lit computer lab in the basement of Jenkins-Nanovic Hall on Notre Dame’s campus hums with the activity of undergraduate interns working to find solutions to complex, poverty-related issues. As an intern for the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities, Emily Merola ’20 helped collect data for the Catholic Charities Fort Worth's Stay the Course project and Padua program. “It was really great to be close to the actual operations of the provider and know that each data point is a person,” Merola said. “I think everybody knows, but sometimes you need that salient reminder.”
What’s senior Liam Karr’s secret to juggling three majors, writing a thesis, and still finding time to practice and perform with the Notre Dame Glee Club? A little time management and a lot of love for what he does.“I just totally do the whole ‘study what you love’ thing, and don’t really care if my schedule looks a little busy,” he said. A self-described “history nerd” with an interest in politics, Karr quickly discovered how much natural overlap there is between his first two majors. Deciding to pursue a third major — Arabic — was more of an unexpected development.
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.
Francie Shaft has discovered intersections between her theology and Japanese majors through her classes and research — both on campus and in Japan. Those opportunities would not have been possible, she said, without the support she found at Notre Dame. “Notre Dame wants you to start pursuing what you’re passionate about, even as a freshman. If I didn’t have these people who have believed in me from the start, I don’t think I would be as creative and as bold in the sorts of experiences I want to have.”
As with so much of life during the coronavirus pandemic, Notre Dame Stadium is operating under "business as unusual" — with choir rehearsals taking place in the Leahy Gate, near the south endzone. “Before now, the gate had been just a passageway and the only way to get from the first floor of O’Neill to other buildings,” said Mark Doerries, director of graduate studies and head of the graduate choral conducting program for Sacred Music at Notre Dame. “But now it holds rehearsals, classes and study space — a living incubator of music and teaching.”
Political science major Oneile Baitlotli spent most of her junior year planning the summer research project abroad she needed to earn a minor in International Development Studies: a study of how to help low-income families in her native Botswana gain access to affordable early childhood education. But in March, the coronavirus largely suspended overseas travel and closed international borders. And Baitlotli and nearly a dozen other juniors in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies’ IDS program were forced to abandon their original capstone projects. With help from their faculty advisors and the Kellogg Institute, they developed new research projects they could do virtually within a matter of weeks.
Whether he’s studying in Uganda or France, South Africa or South Bend — or speaking English, Luganda, French, or Swahili — Trevor Lwere has one topic at the forefront of his mind. No matter where he is, the economics and global affairs major is driven to investigate what different cultures and perspectives can teach each other about forming the best society. “Every time I move to a different place, I get curious about how different societies imagine how they should be organized and how they approach life,” he said.
Senior Meg Burns says that the tagline to her experience at Notre Dame could be, “It’s OK to change your mind.” After three semesters majoring in biochemistry, Burns decided to follow her passion and major in art history. Then, during her junior year, she dramatically shifted the focus of her senior thesis after having completed research in Dublin. Looking back, Burns said these moments became valuable learning experiences themselves.
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.
Senior Sam Cannova’s affinity for problem solving has driven him to pursue a diverse range of experiences at Notre Dame. It has inspired him to dive deep into classic texts, volunteer for a nonprofit in the South Bend community, and travel to South Africa to conduct research on hip-hop culture. He entered Notre Dame intending to major in business but was inspired to try out some Program of Liberal Studies classes after hearing about the experiences of other students in the program.
The Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS) has selected 17 University of Notre Dame students — including 14 from the College of Arts and Letters — for its NDIAS Undergraduate Research Fellowship Program. The 2020-2021 fellowship class will serve as research assistants for NDIAS faculty and Ph.D. fellows, who are focusing on the theme The Nature of Trust.
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.
At Kylemore Abbey in western Ireland, the presence of pure beauty overwhelms. A mere picture will not suffice; you must draw or write or paint. That’s the idea behind two summer programs that Notre Dame runs at the abbey in the Connemara mountains. The debut of a month-long graduate art residency last summer adds another option on top of a three-credit creative writing seminar that began in 2016. The 19 students spent the first week at the Dublin Global Gateway soaking in the city arts and lit scene, then spent the remainder at Kylemore Abbey, a 19th-century castle where Notre Dame has renovated a section for hosting guests.
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.
Firing a portable X-ray fluorescence scanner at 2,000-year-old artifacts last summer, Claire Stanecki discovered the value of hands-on education. A 2020 graduate who majored in anthropology and Spanish, Stanecki’s Arts and Letters education has been defined by exploring nontraditional forms of learning — from conducting research at a museum to studying the benefits of bilingual education in a local school. “The ability to learn about something and actually go interact with it is so incredibly mind-blowing,” she said.
At Notre Dame, senior Emily Pohl found a passion for social change — and put it into action. An international economics major with a concentration in French, Pohl worked to combat the cycle of poverty by researching and implementing microfinance initiatives. She is graduating with a portfolio of real-world research experiences, a published journal article, and a position at LEK Consulting in Chicago. And it was her Arts and Letters education that empowered her to take action.
The Program of Liberal Studies’ motto — Learn what it means to be human — is a phrase that Notre Dame senior McKenna Cassidy has taken to heart. She grappled with big ideas in her Arts and Letters courses, traveled to Italy to research Renaissance mealtime rituals, and followed her passions to a career in the wine industry. “That motto is a wonderful goal for each individual,” Cassidy said. “It is important to understand who I am and why I’m here, and I’m grateful for the space that the College of Arts and Letters has created for me to discern that question.”
Seniors Kendrick Peterson and Andrew Jarocki are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but they brought their perspectives together for research they hope will make an impact on the South Bend community. The pair chose to team up for their Hesburgh Program in Public Service capstone project — searching for a solution to reducing recidivism that Democrats and Republicans can agree on.
What Karen Graubart didn’t find in archives in Spain and Peru was, in some ways, as valuable as what she did. An associate professor in the Department of History, Graubart has spent more than 15 years conducting archival research on women and non-dominant communities in the Iberian Empire for her first two books. But she is also considering how the archives themselves have shaped her research — by questioning who is represented in them and why.