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.
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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.
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.
Brady Stiller of Madisonville, Louisiana, has been named valedictorian and Love Osunnuga from Granger, Indiana, was selected as salutatorian of the 2020 University of Notre Dame graduating class. Stiller is a biological sciences and theology major and guided small groups of first-year students in weekly philosophical discussions as a dialogue facilitator in the God and the Good Life Fellows Program directed by Meghan Sullivan, the Rev. John A. O’Brien Collegiate Chair and Professor of Philosophy. Osunnuga is a biological sciences and honors mathematics major and a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program.
Morgan Peck didn’t know what she wanted to major in when she was applying to colleges. But an enthusiasm for learning and an openness to new experiences has helped her discover three disciplines she loves — sociology, Spanish, and constitutional studies. And all three — plus her desire to serve others — intersect in an issue she hopes to devote her career to. “In immigration law, I see a combination of my passion for learning about the Spanish and Latino cultures and my desire to help people,” she said. “That's something that's been instilled in me since I was very young — build a career by doing good.”
Parker Revers has a full-time job in Morgan Stanley's healthcare group after graduation, but dropped his finance major this year so he could spend more time studying history and complete a senior thesis. "I want to take classes that expose you to a new way of thinking or a new perspective, and history was always what was doing that for me," he said.
Notre Dame junior Patrick Hidalgo McCabe has been named a 2020 Truman Scholar, becoming the ninth Notre Dame student selected for the award since 2010 — a list that includes three eventual Rhodes Scholars. McCabe is a political science and Arabic major with a minor in peace studies from Vienna, Virginia. He is a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, a Kellogg International Scholar, a Glynn Family Honors Scholar and a Boren Scholar.
Georgia Twersky loves diving deep into data when she’s studying economics. But her experiences at Notre Dame have helped her see the value of understanding the people behind the numbers, as well. An international economics major with a Spanish concentration and a minor in peace studies, the senior has found numerous ways that her academic disciplines support one another, preventing her from missing perspectives that might be lost by focusing on just one area.
Students, parents of students, alumni, faculty and staff, have donated nearly $40,000 toward the coronavirus response in St. Joseph County — specifically for personal protective equipment (PPE) for health workers and others who may come into close contact with the virus.
Three University of Notre Dame students, juniors Leah Harmon, Alex Kokot and Theodore MacMillan, have been named Goldwater Scholars for the 2020-2021 academic year, the most for the University in a single year.
From philosophy to musical theatre to economics, Arts and Letters faculty are using technological innovations — as well as creativity, patience, and empathy — to continue the educational experience for their students as the University shifts to online classes in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The sudden shift has prompted adaptation in the face of adversity — from defending a dissertation via Zoom meeting to posting and analyzing behind-the-scenes clips of rehearsal for a musical that won't be performed — but it has also already helped faculty and students forge new bonds with each other.
In a letter today to the Class of 2020, University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., announced that the University Commencement Ceremony on May 17 will be held online rather than in Notre Dame Stadium, and that an on-campus celebration has been scheduled for the spring of 2021. Father Jenkins made the decision after discussions with experts on infectious diseases, University deans, and student government and class officers as he continued to monitor the spread of the novel coronavirus.
English major Isabel Weber worked last summer as exhibitions development intern at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Duties included writing text for displays, cataloging artifacts, and collaborating with other developers and interns on exhibit installations. Career discernment is a critical aspect of internships for many students, and Weber’s experience was no exception. “I went into this summer knowing that I wanted to do museum work, not really sure what kind,” she said. “I've really fallen in love with exhibitions development.”