Student Spotlight: Daniel Barabasi

Posted on July 14, 2015 in Research, Students, Uncategorized by Jenn Lechtanski
Daniel Barabasi at our EU day celebration.

Daniel Barabasi at our EU day celebration.

Daniel Barabasi (’17) received a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors for his research in Transylvania, Romania.  Daniel is currently an honors student working on a degree in neuroscience and behavior in the College of Science.  What does neuroscience and behavior have to do with Europe?  Quite a bit.  It involves the study of human behavior and how it can be applied to other fields such as medicine, law, or education.  Daniel, who reviewed literature on poverty and development, also interviewed leaders and government entities working on child welfare and child protection services.  We hope to see more College of Science students take this kind of initiative!  Read on to learn about his experience:

            My initial contact at the Sapientia University of Miercurea Ciuc, Dean István Kósa, referred me to the leading village policy researcher and professor at the institution, Andrea Sólyom. Dr. Sólyom took it upon herself to not only guide my search for literature on poverty and development in Transylvania, she also arranged meeting with the leading organizations and government entities in the area.

            Though I had specified early on that I was interested in the broader picture, my previous experience with the Dévai Szent Ferenc Alapítvány led Dr. Sólyom to focus the meetings on child protection and development services, which turned out to be very rewarding in hindsight. Due to this slight miscommunication, the research I was able to accomplish spread itself into two parts: first, actual literature in the first leg of the trip, which was sent to me by Dr. Sólyom as background information and second, interviews with various members of the aforementioned organizations.

            I was provided with various articles, both scholarly and general audience, on the topics of child protection services and employment, as well as various surveys on the issues deemed to be important for families living in the region. Strong progress had been made in these areas after Romania joined the European Union in 2007, however this bolstering effect seems to have declined since 2012, when the last of the optimistic general audience articles that I examined was written. In the past years, Harghita County, the capital of which is Miercurea Ciuc, has seen declining wages, despite rising costs of living. Nevertheless, the surveys show more families concerned with the future of the “Szekler Land” and the Transylvanian Hungarians than the economic stability of the country. Nevertheless, in a question focused on family life, it becomes clear that the greatest concern seems to be for the welfare of one’s children, with the income of the family coming second.

            In the interview portion of my research, I was continually reminded of the regional interest in the upbringing of progeny. My first meeting was with Zoltan Elekes, who was the head of the county branch for child protection, and gave deep insight in the development of current systems set in place. Coming out of the Soviet Union, Romania had large governmental orphanages with anywhere from tens to hundreds of children at a time. When Romania petitioned to join the European Union, among many other accommodations, it had to update its child protection services. The teeming homes were dismantled, being replaced by “adoptive families,” who took in one or a few children at a time to their own homes in exchange for modest stipends and payment. This was especially important for children under the age of three, who could legally not be in larger homes, where a guardian would be responsible full-time for eight to ten orphans. Recent efforts have been focused on making the adoption process more fluid and offering stronger incentives for guardians.

            Zoltan Elekes and Dr. Sólyom also connected me with representatives from two NGOs involved with child protection in the area. The first, The Csibész Foundation, provides an alumni network for adults leaving the governmental child protection services. Houses run by The Csibész Foundation develop the independence and work ethic of these adults, giving them marketable skills and job opportunities, if possible. The Dévai Szent Ferenc Foundation, mentioned previously, works with underprivileged children, providing them with food, shelter, and a community focused on their wellbeing and education. Parents and guardians still have custody over their children, and most children are returned to them during breaks from school. One of the greatest struggles for this foundation is accrediting their homes, as Romania recently erased the dated standards of accreditation, but never when through the trouble of establishing new ones.

            The interviews, with the background of literature I was provided with, provided me a clearer understanding of the ongoing poverty levels and frustrations in a supposedly developed country. Hearing about the hurdles present for both government-run and civil organizations in developing futures for underprivileged and orphaned children has pushed me to shed light on the inefficiency of the Romanian government in addressing these measures, while at the same time developing measures by which Notre Dame students or Americans in general can volunteer or assist in the progress that Transylvania needs. The Nanovic Institute for European Studies has provided me with a strong framework for following through with the promises I have made to myself and the individuals and groups I met while abroad, and I hope to work side-by-side with the Institute in addressing the issues I encountered throughout the course of this project.

Student Spotlight: Madelynn Green

Posted on July 7, 2015 in Students by JACF

Green, Madelynn 14-15Madelynn Green (’15) recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a major in Political Science. She has spent years researching graffiti and street art across Europe, funded in part by Nanovic grants. The last Nanovic grant that she received before graduation was a Senior Travel and Research Grant; she traveled to Berlin to study the connections between street art and urban development. What is the result of all of this research? Madelynn has a first-author publication in the Cornell International Affairs Review. She completed her senior thesis. And she was selected to be a Fellow in the New York City Urban Fellows Program, where she will continue working on urban policy and development. Where will your Nanovic grant take you?

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Street art in Kreuzberg

With the help of a Senior Travel and Research Grant, I traveled to Berlin, Germany to complete fieldwork for my senior thesis project titled “From Decay to Cool: Street Art and Urban Renewal in the East End of London and Kreuzberg, Berlin”. This travel grant was extremely valuable for my senior thesis research and I enjoyed experiencing the culture and language of Germany. In my project, I analyzed if there is a relationship between illegal street art and urban development. I examined this relationship in Berlin by surveying individual street blocks for neighborhood conditions and street art concentration. My fieldwork was well-complemented by educational visits to the Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg Museum (FHXB) in Kreuzberg, which offered impressive exhibits on the history of the historically impoverished neighborhood. At FHXB, I spoke with museum staff and saw highly detailed exhibits on Kreuzberg’s history. For example, the museum had a miniature version of the neighborhood with points of interest and historical events highlighted in the background. Overall, the most helpful exhibit was one where a map of Kreuzberg was painted onto the floor of a huge room. There were numbers on points on the map and each number-point (there were over 120) contained a personal anecdote from a resident of Kreuzberg. The tour was self-guided and the audio files were on an iPod. I think this exhibit really gave me a true sense of the neighborhood’s character, identity, and history. This valuable qualitative resource assisted me immensely as I wrote my thesis. Another helpful aspect of the museum was its special exhibit on Gorlitzer Park, a large park centrally located in Kreuzberg that has been plagued by violence and drug activity. This focused exhibit taught me how the park was conceived, developed and what its future holds. I visited the FHXB multiple times because of its wealth of information and friendly staff. One historian even took me out to lunch. Visiting the FHXB definitely filled gaps in my knowledge about Kreuzberg and was crucial to writing a well-rounded thesis and forming a sound comparison to the East End.

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Street art in Kreuzberg

I completed and turned in my thesis on April 1st. This research trip was invaluable to the in-depth analysis I was able to do in my paper. Thanks to my museum visits and observations, I was able to describe how Kreuzberg was established in the late 18th century for French immigrants and rapidly grew into a hub for industry in Berlin. Consequently, it was home to many poor immigrant families. During WWII, Kreuzberg was extremely damaged by bombing campaigns and spiraled further into destitution. Rebuilding from the war began in the 1950s and the construction of the Berlin Wall plunged the district into another dark period. During this period, Berlin was a peripheral and unattractive district of Berlin closed in on three sides by the Berlin Wall. As a result, its cheap rents and abundance of old factories made the area attractive to artists, students, punks, Turkish immigrants and countercultural groups in need of affordable housing. The traditional countercultural and immigrant character of the neighborhood endures today, but with real estate developers’ efforts to redevelop the neighborhood, rents are rapidly increasing and traditional residents are being pushed out. The future of Kreuzberg is uncertain, but for now immigrants and new, wealthier residents coexist. I was also able to visit the obligatory sights of Berlin, including the East Side Gallery, the TV tower and Checkpoint Charlie. However, my most memorable experiences were when I did neighborhood observations. Learning the history of Kreuzberg made walking down its streets much more meaningful.

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The TV Tower in Berlin Alexanderplatz

I will continue to focus on urban studies in the future. I was recently selected to be a Fellow in the New York City Urban Fellows Program, where I will work on urban policy issues in the City of New York government for nine months. After this, I hope to begin graduate studies in England, France or Germany, as I am currently learning German and French. I am incredibly thankful to the Nanovic Institute for supporting this project and helping me to unearth Kreuzberg’s transition from to decay to cool. Finally, I deeply appreciate the Institute’s generous commitment to my project since I began it my sophomore year. These experiences have changed my life and made me a better scholar and person.

Student Spotlight: Sara Bramsen

Posted on June 30, 2015 in Students by JACF

Bramsen, Sara 14-15 (2)Sara Bramsen is a graduate student in the PhD in Literature Program. The Nanovic Institute for European Studies recently awarded her a Graduate Professional Development Grant to present a paper at the annual conference of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies. As is often the case, the experience wasn’t just about the presentation. It was also about the opportunity to connect with other scholars in the field and to share ideas with them. Sara recently sent us an account of her experience:

As a recipient of a Graduate Professional Development Grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame, I was able to attend and present my work at the annual conference of the American Society for Eighteenth Century Studies, held in Los Angeles, California, March 19-22, 2015. This was a great opportunity for me, as I got to participate in a panel on the British writer Frances Burney, which particularly focused on her later life and career (“Frances Burney After 40”). I presented a paper entitled “Responsibility, Terror and Virtue in The Wanderer:  Illuminating Burney’s ‘Ethic of Fear.’” My presentation questioned earlier readings of Burney’s fiction as promoting an “ethic of fear” adhered to by Burney herself throughout her life. Reading The Wanderer as a response to Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France, I argued that Burney’s use of a Burkean language of “responsibility,” coupled with her choice to set her last novel against the background of the French Terror, actually exposes a modern ethic of responsibility as an ethic grounded in fear, and, as such, one to be wary of. This paper represented a portion of my larger dissertation (“Responding to Responsibility in the Fiction of the French Revolution, 1789-1814”), which I have since finalized and defended. I am grateful to have had the chance to share and get some feedback on my work prior to my dissertation defense, and to have made some important connections with other scholars in my field as I move into the next stage of broadening my project into a publishable work.

Besides the invaluable opportunity to share my own ideas, attending the conference also gave me the chance to hear new ideas and become more familiar with current trends in my field. I attended several sessions that suggested new directions in which I might develop my own research. Of particular interest was a panel chaired by my advisor Julia Douthwaite on French immigration patterns and laws during the Directoire period of the French Revolution (“The Directoire (1795-99): A Forgotten Milestone in European Immigration”). As a scholar of French revolutionary fiction, I was glad to become better acquainted with a period of the Revolution that has historically been neglected. I was especially intrigued by Ourida Mostefai’s tracing of the etymology and shifting connotations of the term “émigré,” and by Kelly Summers’s history of changes in emigration law throughout the revolutionary period. A session on debt and finances in eighteenth-century British women’s fiction (“Debt and the Maiden: Women Writers and the Economics of Authorship”) was also quite helpful to me, as it related directly to one of the issues I raise in my dissertation, one that I am seeking to develop further as I contemplate publication. This year’s ASECS conference revealed a growing interest in the interplay of eighteenth-century fiction and economics, a theme that I touch on in my own work. The conference thus confirmed to me the relevance of my research on the concept of responsibility in fiction, and the demand for projects like mine.

Student Spotlight: Agustin Garcia

Posted on June 23, 2015 in Students by JACF

Garcia, Agustin 14-15 (4)Agustin Garcia (’16), a Finance major, received a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to research European financial education. In the process, he found an issue that he feels is worth fighting for. Continue reading to learn more about Agustin and his passion for financial education:

Even during this era of globalization, it is easy to lose track of what is going on in the world. Our natural tendency to be self-centered, specially in a developed country, often leads us into thinking that what is going on around us is unique and in some ways more advanced than what is going on anywhere else. We study and we read what goes on in other continents, but yet we never truly grasp reality until we experience it first hand. Even with much technological progress made in the area of communication, the extent to which we understand situations in other parts of the world is still limited by the increasingly relevant physical barrier. To be in a place and to talk face to face will forever beat reading a story or looking at a screen.

Everyone has passion for an issue. At Notre Dame, students often get engaged with a particular topic related in some capacity to social justice. Most of us serve with nonprofits during our summers and even during the school year. We are also avid readers and constant debaters of the things we are passionate for. In fact, the commercials of our University promote this spirit of “What would you fight for?” as if asking “What is going to be the issue you dedicate time to these four years?”. For me, that issue is financial education, and thanks to a Nanovic grant I was able to take my involvement to the next level.

Garcia, Agustin 14-15 (3)The Nanovic grant that I received allowed me to experience what was going on in Europe in regards to financial education. I had read about many initiatives in different countries and reports of progress from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. As mentioned before, however, reading at a distance can not be compared with being there physically. In my research trip I was able to attend a conference in Brussels, headquarters for the EU. Well, it was more than just a conference, it was a conference that gathered the most important thought leaders in the world in the issue of financial education. Every field was represented, from academics to business to government and nonprofits. It was truly incredible to see many actors joining efforts, but it was even more incredible to have access to them and discuss their and my ideas. I guess the exchange of ideas is one thing that field research gives you, you don’t get to rebuttal a text.

Additionally, I had access to the office of the OECD in Paris and nonprofits in Amsterdam and London. Many surprises came with my visits. For example, in Amsterdam I met with the lead researcher for Child & Youth Finance International. Little did I know from their website, that they were running a behind the scenes initiative to build a consensus within the academic community on the most appropriate way to teach financial education. They had produced many reports on a concept called economic citizenship. This concept was so captivating to e, it now on track to shaping my senior thesis and future work with the issue of financial education.

Ultimately, the research trip was a huge success. I certainly had the opportunity to benchmark several financial education efforts across Europe and notice how they are different from the ones I have worked with in the US, Bangladesh, and Latin America. The knowledge and connections acquired gave me new perspective, refreshed my passion, and opened doors that will prove essential to my research. As I build a worldly view on the issue of financial education, I am grateful for the support of the Nanovic Institute as this would not have happened without it and grateful also for Notre Dame for inspiring me to find something worth fighting for.

Student Spotlight: Prinz Jeremy Llanes Dela Cruz

Posted on June 16, 2015 in Students by JACF

Dela Cruz, Prinz Jeremy Llanes 14-15Prinz Jeremy Llanes Dela Cruz (’15) recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame with majors in French and Philosophy. Jeremy has always had a passion for Catholic expressions of spirituality, and so the Nanovic-sponsored research that he has conducted has always addressed different aspects of that. During spring break of his senior year, for example, he used his Senior Travel and Research Grant to travel to Portugal to research the development of Marian devotion within Portuguese Catholicism. Jeremy recently sent us a report of his experience:

Blessed with maternal grace and tender virtues, the Virgin Mary remains a captivating figure in Roman Catholicism. Centuries of scholarship and art have explored the primacy of her theological role as the Mother of God, a testament to the faithful’s fascination with the fiat of the Handmaid of the Lord. Portugal continues to be one such cultural crossroad for Mariological study: the country maintains a distinctively Marian history characterized by zealous monarchs, fervent consecrations, and miraculous apparitions. I am grateful for having received a Senior Travel and Research Grant to travel to the Terra de Santa Maria during spring break. My research project explored the development of Marian devotion in the context of Portuguese Catholicism, a spiritual study greatly assisted by both scholars and laymen.

My foray into the Portuguese Catholic experience began even before we arrived in Lisbon. Feeling the desire to make a Confession before the journey, I approached a priest in the Newark Liberty International Airport for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Rev. Ricardo Lameira was surprised by my ability to switch into Portuguese after my initial remarks in English proved incomprehensible to his Lusophone ears. After he discovered my plan to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima, he offered his personal insights regarding Marian devotion and the future of the Church in Portugal. He was even so kind as to offer to take me to the bus station at our arrival. My conversation with Fr. Lameira inspired me to simplify my research question to study the cultural role of Marian consecrations in Portugal. It was also fortunate that he was a priest of the Diocese of Évora, the same ecclesial district in which the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception (Vila Viçosa) was erected by the monarchy to honor the national patroness. Although I was unable to visit the Shrine, Fr. Lameira provided me the contact information of Fr. Serra, a cleric who has performed research on the subject of the numerous Marian consecrations of the country.

DSC09362The Shrine of Our Lady of Fátima served as a home base for my travel through Portugal. I was able to spend considerable time in conversations with pilgrims and shopkeepers about the country’s historical passion for Mariology. One shopkeeper, a British expat, gave me several books regarding the apparition of Our Lady of Fátima. He shared stories about his wife’s mother, who had personally met and interacted with Lúcia dos Santos and Jacinta and Francisco Marto, the three shepherds who witnessed the Virgin Mary during a period of six months in 1917. Having once been a quiet hamlet, Fátima has transformed itself into a bustling pilgrimage site, welcoming individuals from across the world. During the week, I had the opportunity to travel to neighboring Coimbra and Leiria. Founded in 1290, the University of Coimbra offers visitors informational tours of their sprawling campus. I was particularly humbled by the history of such an intellectual institution, whose local influence has earned Coimbra the reputation of being the city of students. The ornate Capela de São Miguel was of particular interest to me because it continues as the liturgical heart of the University in which students honor the Virgin Mary under her title as Our Lady of Light, invoking the luminous imagery associated with knowledge. I visited several churches in Coimbra, including the Monastery of the Holy Cross, erected by the Canons Regular of the Order of the Holy Cross. No study of Portuguese Catholicism would be complete without research on the Order of the Holy Cross, which built churches around the country and established the University of Coimbra. The Order also claims that it is due to its Marian spirituality that King João IV consecrated Portugal to Our Lady in 1646. In Leiria, I was able to explore the Castelo overlooking the city which was inhabited by King Afonso Henriques, who selected the Virgin Mary as the patroness of the country and his dynasty. The castle contains the ruins of the Igreja de Santa Maria da Pena, a house of worship once served by the Order of the Holy Cross.

My interview with Dr. Marco Daniel Duarte, the Director of Studies and Propaganda at the Shrine, yielded many fruits. He emphasized the vitality of the Fátima apparitions as being both Christological and Trinitarian: unlike other Marian sites in Portugal, Fátima attracts hundreds of pilgrims because of its explicitly evangelical message of conversion and penitence as a means of growing in greater relationship with Jesus. The Portuguese affinity for the Virgin Mary is rooted in a desire for spiritual renewal and to overcome the challenges of life. The several consecrations of the country to the Blessed Virgin have certainly played a role in safeguarding the faith of the people against the onslaught of 20th century secularism by inspiring successive waves of new interest in the Church. Dr. Duarte believes that the special character of Portuguese Mariology revolves around the nation’s maritime past. In the manner of the great explorers like King Henrique the Navigator, Portuguese Catholics consider Mary as a path leading towards God within a contemporary spiritual age of discovery.

My travels and research in Portugal have inspired me to compose a paper and presentation on the sociological role of Marian consecrations in Portuguese culture. I was struck many times by the meaning of kneeling down in prayer inside centuries-old churches once filled with individuals performing the same acts of adoration throughout the ages. I appreciate the support of the Nanovic Institute in my formation as a Catholic scholar who understands that devotion transcends time.

Student Spotlight: Khaoula Morchid

Posted on June 9, 2015 in Students by JACF

Morchid, Khaoula 14-15Khaoula Morchid (’17) is a Civil Engineering major and an Anthropology minor. The Nanovic Institute awarded her a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to conduct research on Arab entrepreneurs in the Netherlands and Sweden over spring break. We also awarded her a grant a year ago, when she was in her first year of studies, to research the same topic in Germany. Khaoula has clearly benefited from being able to begin pursuing her academic passion at an early stage! She recently wrote to us about her experience:

Last spring break, I received a Nanovic travel and research grant to go to Amsterdam and Stockholm to do research on Arab Entrepreneurs and their engagement in the Dutch and Swedish entrepreneurial scenes. I was very interested in learning stories of migrant entrepreneurs in the Netherlands where 70.8% of immigrants are from Arab countries with Morocco being the main country of origin, and in Sweden where it is 55.3% with Iraq being the main country of origin according to Jean-Christophe Dumont.

Having spent the previous spring break doing research on Arab migrants in Germany, thanks to the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, I was eager to do a comparative analysis between Sweden, the Netherlands and Germany, especially after reading about their different immigration policies and learning about migrants’ experience in Germany first hand. Being on the ground for research has been a tremendous learning experience. The process itself reminds me of how continuous the learning process is and makes me more passionate about pursuing research and coming to stronger conclusions.

Following my advisor’s recommendation, I was open to learning beyond my research question and making vivid observations about aspects of life in both Amsterdam and Stockholm that shaped the journeys of Arab entrepreneurs. That led to interactions with Arab shop owners in their work place, who shared their stories moving to Amsterdam and starting small businesses that grew to provide employment in the area. Their entrepreneurial journeys were eye opening and inspiring given the obstacles they faced institutionally, socially and linguistically. The common struggle makes them build a strong community of citizens from Arab origins and draws more migrants to their circles, which is one of the reasons Moroccans are the largest migrant population in the Netherlands and they still embrace aspects of their culture regularly. The amount of Moroccan Darija I heard walking down the streets of Amsterdam is incomparable to anywhere else I have been, yet Dutch Moroccans seemed to master the country’s language fully. Moroccan migrants did not only work on integrating in the host society, but they also kept parts of their identity strongly present on a daily basis.

Language played a big role in the equation. Sweden and the Netherlands were two of the first European countries to pay much attention to migrants’ language command while other nations rarely included language courses in the workers’ package because “manual work could be organized without language skills and long-term settlement was not intended”. I read about this particular aspect on a paper published by the International Migration Review, co-authored by Jutta Hoehne and Ines Michalowski and titled “Long-Term Effects of Language Course Timing on Language Acquisition and Social Contacts: Turkish and Moroccan Immigrants in Western Europe.” However, observing it first hand gave my understanding other dimensions.

Some of the most visible enterprises in both Stockholm and Amsterdam were food related and served Middle Eastern food that was highly demanded by locals, tourists and migrants who see more in that Shawarma meal than the food itself. The people who started them also didn’t need technical skills and made good use of their unique background and that of new migrants who work with them. It was noteworthy to learn about the enterprises created to address needs of these communities such as the growing Halal meat business sector.

My visits to the University of Amsterdam, Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (KTH) and the National Library of Sweden among others gave me access to resources I hadn’t considered before and that’s a very useful lesson I am taking moving forward with my research. Besides, I learnt about the limitations of international research as the National Library of Sweden for instance was renovating the large section with books in English and had few displayed in a smaller section.

My research trip broadened my understanding of entrepreneurship in the first place and taught me more about the anthropological aspect of entrepreneurs’ lives. It also helped me refine my plans for senior thesis and inspired me to learn more in my home country Morocco and other Arab countries to grasp the full picture I am investigating.   

Finally, I am incredibly thankful to the Nanovic Institute for European Studies for the opportunity to pursue a question I am passionate about from my unique perspective as a migrant and aspiring entrepreneur. I am grateful to the donors and staff members for their generosity and their efforts to promote the intellectual growth of students and help them explore ways to contribute to academia from an early stage and shape the development of the world today from their respective backgrounds.

Student Spotlight: Victoria Lew

Posted on June 2, 2015 in Students by JACF

Lew, Victoria 14-15 (2)Victoria Ellyn Lew (’17) is a double-major in Political Science and Peace Studies. She received a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors in order to conduct archival research in Paris. Not only did Victoria learn about her topic, she also gained academic and cultural experience and increased her confidence in her own ability to conduct independent research. She recently sent us an account of her experience:

My research conducted in Paris, France lasted for a week in early March and was done via analysis of historical texts at the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP). These texts constituted a group of personal journals written by French women during the years of the German Occupation during World War II. While I arrived in Paris with a hope of discovering a relationship between social class standings and measure of acceptance towards Nazi occupation, my findings at BHVP narrowed my scope of research towards the experiences of French women under the occupation, including how wealth affected their sympathies towards German victory. The lessons I gained while researching in Paris proved to be dualistic in nature—I not only learned the methods of adapting to the multi-faceted nature of doing research, but also furthered my conversational and formal French language skills.

IMG_2249Upon gaining a library membership at BHVP, and after going through an extremely lengthy process of obtaining books that I had researched for my proposal’s bibliography, I soon realized that the wealth of information at my hands would not lead to an easy answer to my research question. In fact, with so much material to make my way through, I realized that my research scope was much too broad if I wanted to formulate strong analyses of my findings. As a first-timer in pursuing research, my experience at BHVP showed me how flexible one must be when utilizing a great number of sources that contain information one might not have even thought of when proposing a research topic. It truly takes a great amount of independent thought to be able to utilize texts and resources in a way that is purposeful for your own project. In the case of my own work, my research really found its focus when I limited my bibliography to only female-written work based upon firsthand accounts of the German Occupation. This decision allowed me to essentially put on blinders and deeply analyze the works in front of me. Delving into these female wartime narratives led me to the conclusion that besides the exception of having a family member (usually a male family member) directly involved with the fighting and war, being a member of the upper class in French society did indeed lessen the tension of living under Vichy rule and created more sympathy towards Nazi soldiers occupying the city. Reading accounts of the war from girls in their adolescent years to women at their youthful peak to older mothers, I was so very aware of how lucky I was to be sitting in Paris and turning pages that crinkled with age and told stories of people who had struggled in the very place I was now doing research.

Lew, Victoria 14-15Although my main focus was to be a student researcher, it is undeniable that my personal worldview was expanded by living in Europe and being at the center of French popular culture.  Receiving a grant from the Nanovic Institute to pursue academic work in Europe gives you a sense of purpose in the country that you travel to—unlike the experience of being a tourist, you fall somewhere in between the travelers and the locals. In a short amount of time, you learn the city routes from your residence to your research site to restaurants or cafés nearby; no longer just a tourist, the city becomes your own in a way that would not have been possible without Nanovic’s funding. Being in Paris immersed me in French mannerisms and culture, which shifted my mindset away from American norms. I found that everyone, from the hotel employees to the BHVP staff to the Parisian vendors, were very welcoming if you were open to the idea of adapting to French culture. And by doing just that, I was forced to speak only French to everyone I came into contact with. The words, “bonjour” and “bonsoir,” soon became more familiar to my tongue than “hello.” Everyday interactions with both people and places took on a more stimulating quality because everything around me shared common French history and provoked reflections on French values and perceptions. While in the library I furthered my research skills in the context of French texts, on the streets of Paris I was able to explore the dynamics of French living firsthand and make use of my conversational French skills that I had not been able to do previously. 

The entire experience of living and working in Paris has been one of the most rewarding times as a Notre Dame student thus far—this opportunity that the Nanovic Institute afforded me has allowed me to gain experience in pursuing original research, and helped further my interests on the implications of war on the human narrative. While fearful of exploring an academic passion in Europe where English is not the first language, this trip ultimately proved to me that I am indeed capable of sifting through materials to discover a point of original thought and expand upon a field of study in a way that synthesizes my academic interests with research that already exists, whether that be in English or French. This trip has prompted me to more positively reflect on the prospect of writing a senior thesis and gives me confidence in both developing a focused research topic and remaining adaptable when executing this research. This research grant turned another school break into a meaningful experience for my academic career that will translate to any future research I choose to pursue here at Notre Dame, abroad in London, or anywhere else throughout the rest of the world.

Student Spotlight: Christina Jones

Posted on May 29, 2015 in Students by JACF
Paul Quast, Christina Jones, Felicia Caponigri, and Francesca Genova, all recipients of a Graduate Professional Development Grant.

Paul Quast, Christina Jones, Felicia Caponigri, and Francesca Genova, all recipients of a Graduate Professional Development Grant.

Christina Jones is a law student at the University of Notre Dame. She is also one of four students to whom the Nanovic Institute awarded a Graduate Professional Development Grant to participate in a Moot Court Competition on Law and Religion in Venice. The experience was not simply about a chance to compete; it also provided a good education on the differences between American and European courts and the ways issues are addressed. Christina recently sent us a fascinating reflection on her trip:

Through the support of the Nanovic Institute of European Studies, I was able to attend a three-day Moot Court Competition on Law & Religion in Venice, Italy. This was truly an opportunity of a lifetime that I will always regard as foundational to my law school career.

Representing Notre Dame, we were one of three teams arguing in front of a mock United States Supreme Court. Perhaps even more interesting, we got to watch four European teams argue their case from the same set of facts are ours, but applying European law and arguing in front of a mock European Court of Human Rights. It was a real cross-cultural (and cross-legal) experience that left me with a deeper understanding of the issues and a different perspective on how the different systems approach them.

The problem itself was thorny and fascinating. We got to tackle the issue of whether claims of religious exercise by any employer can justify discrimination against an employee. This has become an increasingly contentious issue, as recent cases like Hobby Lobby v. Burwell have deemed for-profit corporations capable of exercising religion. This directly challenges the application of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which protects employees from being discriminated against on account of their religion. As we struggled to draw the lines (albeit in favor of our fictitious client, the employee), my teammates and I had to embrace the complexity of the issue, and spent hours upon hours debating which policy we should be advocating. These are big issues the courts will have to address, and it was thrilling to be on the cutting edge of the law devising arguments. The American judges included Notre Dame Professor Bill Kelley, as well as a professor from St. John’s University and a federal district judge from New York; they absolutely grilled us during oral argument, and demonstrated just how difficult a question this is. It forced me to think about these issues much more deeply than I had ever done.

Listening to the four European teams (2 British, 1 Belgium, 1 Italian) argue added another layer of complexity and learning.  It was stunning just how differently the sets of arguments proceeded. For one thing, the interplay between judges and attorneys was astonishingly different — the oralists delivered their remarks uninterrupted, then were given a few questions at the end, time to prepare answers, and the opportunity to address the questions. This is a marked difference from the constant interruption from the bench Americans are accustomed to in oral argument. But we also noticed a lack of reliance of case law as precedent, and more reliance on the European Convention itself and policy arguments.

I’m taking European Union Law and International Human Rights Law this semester in Notre Dame’s campus in London, but I have a much clearer understanding of how the ECHR operates as a result of the tournament. It quite literally came to life. The outcome of the case and a discussion with a European judge also revealed how little I knew about the European Convention. Going into the tournament, I thought this was a slam dunk case for the employee, given the rights to privacy and religion. I learned, however, that the court is much more likely to rule under the freedom of expression provisions than the rights to religion. A Belgian law student explained this to me as a judicial preference for ruling on grounds of secularism over religion. It really changed my perspective of European conceptions of religion, and made me realize that there are alternatives to our American jurisprudence on this topic.

Outside the subject of religion, it was enjoyable and informative to mingle with the European law students and hear about their educational experiences and career prospects. Their system and trajectory is so different from ours. It was a real intercultural interaction. The academics who presented also left us all with deeper questions about the place of religion in society — stepping away from precedent, what should religion’s role be? Europeans seem to think more deeply about these issues from a philosophical framework than I am accustomed to; I hope to mirror their example and be able to see the bigger picture when I’m getting bogged down in the details of a case.

Even though we didn’t come home with a plaque, we had an incredibly enriching learning experience. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to explore a new area of law in-depth, and challenge my own assumptions in a cross-cultural arena. 

For more information about this trip, go to the the Law School’s website.

Student Spotlight: Kelly Smith

Posted on May 28, 2015 in Students by JACF

Smith, Kelly 14-15Meet Kelly Smith (’18), one of the two recipients of the FYS (First Year Studies) Spring Break Travel and Research Grant awarded by the Nanovic Institute this past year. Kelly is a History major who traveled to London to research the Kindertransport internees of World War II. She certainly learned about the subject, but she also understands perfectly part of the purpose of the FYS Grant: to help students learn how to conduct research in Europe, in the midst of a foreign culture. She recently wrote to us about her experience:

The moment I stepped out of the tube station and into the London sunlight, I could tell that I stuck out like a star-spangled thumb.  Despite my resolution to blend in with the London locals, I naively displayed blatantly American habits of walking on the right side of the street and eating hamburgers without a knife and fork.  I knew there would be quirky cultural nuances that I could only learn in my time in London, but after accidentally pouring Caesar salad dressing into my afternoon tea under the assumption that it was creamer, I began to feel slightly dubious about my ability to adapt.  However, this discouragement was put into perspective once I dived into my research on the Kindertransport internees.  As I studied the plight of these refugee children in the archives of London, I discovered a wealth of information on their experience and found that my flubs were not detrimental, but, rather, opportunities to learn about research in a foreign country.

The Kindertransport internees are the teenagers who were brought into Britain to escape the Nazi regime of Germany and Austria, but were then placed into internment camps on suspicion of being enemy aliens. The irony of child refugees being treated as potential threats to national security intrigued me, and my travels in London were ordered around finding more information on the causes and consequences of this paranoia. The London Metropolitan Archives and The National Archives at the Kew provided me with broad, policy-based information on this topic. It was in these archives that I received the opportunity to hold and read documents that were typed in the 1930’s. Needless to say, I was in history buff heaven. However, the bliss of flipping through minutes of board meetings and pages of periodicals was not the pinnacle of my research. The most absorbing source was the Refugee Voice Collection in the Wiener Library. This collection featured interviews from a wide breadth of World War II refugees in Britain, including some Kindertransport internees. It was in these videos that I learned the real triumphs and difficulties of being sent to a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture and language. It was incredibly humbling to hear about the ways they overcame adversity and language barriers to assimilate into British culture and remain optimistic despite their turbulent circumstances.

London Spring Break 2015 (1)In addition to growing in knowledge about these refugees, my time buried in books taught me the proper way to conduct archival research.  While I had done some preemptive investigation on the suggestions and requirements of the archives, actually working in them was a much more direct education.  I secured multiple History Cards to access original documents, and I learned how to effectively search archival databases for the most pertinent records.  I also familiarized myself with the process of retrieving documents, as well as the many rules of handling them. For example, I was genuinely surprised to be informed that the only writing utensils allowed in reading rooms were pencils without erasers, and now I know to bring a pack of these on future research trips.  These details, such as allowing nothing but your hands and utensils provided by the archives to touch the records, might seem like common sense to a veteran researcher, but they constantly surprised me. Similarly to my experiences learning the nuances of British culture, working in the archives transformed me into a more practiced and purposed researcher. I developed on-the-ground experience, and this will prove to be immensely helpful to my future academic and professional career.

In my time as an undergraduate student at Notre Dame, I plan to major in history, and the research skills I developed while in London will be crucial to my growth in this discipline. Also, the interviews I had access to in my time at the Wiener Library could potentially supplement my senior thesis. Familiarity with primary sources, such as the copies of camp newspapers written by internees I read in The National Archives at the Kew, will be invaluable to my anticipated career as a museum curator. Research is a key component to a successful career as a curator, and to be able to gain experience in the field as a freshman in college is an instrumental advantage granted to me though the generosity of the Nanovic Institute of European Studies.

I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity to travel to London to advance my knowledge in my field and develop skills that will be necessary for my career. This research experience gave me insight into effective methods of research, as well as instructing me in research etiquette. I was able to delve into the policies behind treatment of child refugees in World War II Britain, as well as the personal stories of those children themselves. Their tales reassured me that it is possible to adjust and thrive in a new place, no matter the hardship to be faced. If they could learn English and survive in internment camps alongside the Nazis they fled from, I could most certainly learn how to correctly pronounce “Gloucester” and try a dubious-looking steak and ale pie. It was an unforgettable week of eye-opening learning experiences, and when I first exited the taxi into the perma-cloud of Notre Dame, I found myself running into people because I was walking on the left side of the sidewalk.

Student Spotlight: Linlin Liu

Posted on May 22, 2015 in Students by JACF

Liu, Linlin 14-15 (3)Linlin Liu, a doctoral candidate in Economics, recently received one of the Nanovic Institute’s Dissertation Fellowships. But before that, she received two Graduate Professional Development Grants to present at conferences. One of those involved presenting her paper, “Life Cycle Portfolio Choice under Time Varying Equity Premium and Risky Labor Income” at the Eastern Economic Association’s 41st Annual Conference in New York. Yes, this is related to Europe; we promise! To find out how, and to learn more about her experience and the benefits she received, continue reading!

The Eastern Economic Association hosted its 41st Annual Conference in New York, on February 26 to March 1, 2015. With the Graduate Professional Development Grant awarded by Nanovic Institute for European Studies, I was able to attend the conference and present my paper, “Life Cycle Portfolio Choice under Time Varying Equity Premium and Risky Labor Income.”

In my paper, I examined individuals’ decisions to allocate labor income among risky assets (stocks) and safe assets (government bonds) over the life cycle, as well as the impact of their investments on the financial market as a whole. The theoretical model I developed in my paper suggests that changing trends in asset accumulation and portfolio choices of financial market participants over the life cycle lead to changing supply-demand dynamics for assets and affect asset prices. I documented data on asset demands in the European Union Countries and Emerging Market Economies and found that as individuals approach their retirement age, they shift investments from risky assets to safe assets. As the first generation of baby boomers enter retirement age, Europe and the rest of the world are facing a stunning demographic transformation to aging populations. By 2025, more than 20% of Europeans will be 65 or over. The dramatic aging issue will have a significant impact on the demand for safe assets and the stability of financial markets in the decades to come. While there is a common trend in population aging in Europe, the timing and stage of the demographic transitions differ among the European countries. The youngest countries in Europe are Ireland, Cyprus, Slovakia and Poland, and the countries which are facing severe issues of aging are Spain, Italy, Germany and Sweden. With the promotion of the Economic and Monetary Union (EMU), the European market, especially across the Euro-zone countries, is increasingly acting like one market. Investors can invest in bonds issued by the country in which they live as well as in bonds issued by other governments. If national economic policies encourage free mobility of capital, then the investors in the aging countries can freely invest in the bond market of the relatively young European countries. As a result, the demand and supply of safe assets will balance and the asset prices will remain stable. Therefore, based on my research results, economic policy making in EMU countries should act to support the single market in order to sustain financial stability.

The Eastern Economic Association Annual Conference provided me with a great opportunity to talk to economists about the issues of aging and asset demand. I presented my paper in the session of Risk and Anchoring Bias and Stock Returns. All the presenters in this session work on analyzing asset dynamics and are familiar with the literature. After the presentation, researchers from different regions of Europe and around the world formed a group discussion. I was able to establish professional relationships with other young scholars and senior researchers and received insightful feedback on my paper. For example, researchers from University of Helsinki work on analyzing the optimal portfolio allocation problems and its impact on the asset dynamics. Both of our work focus on how to allocate wealth among different risky assets and how the allocation drives the asset prices. We discussed and compared our models and established the possibility of future research collaboration.

The Eastern Economic Association Annual Conference also promoted my professional development. It provided me with a great platform to communicate with job market candidates from around world. Getting familiar with the topics that the job candidates are currently working on and the job market interview procedures are critically important for me to prepare myself for the job market next year. Moreover, attending other sessions in the conference was beneficial for my research. I went to the session on International Finance and Markets, and Patricia Peinado’s paper “On the Origin of European Imbalances in the Context of European Integration” provided me with great insight for my research on unification of Europe. Researchers from IZA, University of Grenada and Bar-Ilan University presented their paper “Micro- and Macro Determinants of Health: Older Immigrants in Europe.” Even though this paper is not directly related to my paper, knowing the economic research frontiers on European issues is beneficial for me to extend my research fields.

The Eastern Economic Association Annual Conference was essential to both my academic and professional development and I truly value the Graduate Professional Development Grant which enabled me to attend the conference and have this precious experience!