Alumni Spotlight: Peter Kelly

Posted on March 16, 2015 in Students by JACF

Peter Kelly WhiteHouse2All great things start at Nanovic!

Thus endeth an email recently received from former Nanovic grant recipient Peter Kelly (MA Peace Studies, ’14).

In the fall of 2013, we awarded Peter a Graduate Professional Development Grant to participate as the keynote speaker at the Curtin University’s Countering Violent Extremism Conference in Australia. In his address, Peter answered questions such as the following:

“Can European experiences of terrorism and its governments’ counter-terrorism strategies benefit global efforts to undermine terrorist attacks?”
“How can lessons learned in the aftermath of terror attacks such as the European contexts of Northern Ireland, London, Madrid, and Munich be applied worldwide?”
“How do global partnership approaches and dynamic collaboration from the international sphere feed back into and benefit the European Union’s counter-terrorism tactics?”

That’s pretty important stuff.

As it turns out, Peter Kelly has gone on to do more pretty important stuff, and he credits the Nanovic Institute with helping him succeed in his current endeavors. Here’s what he had to say in a recent email:

Peter Kelly WhiteHouse1 resizedGreetings from Washington!  As a former Nanovic grantee, I wanted to send a note from inside the White House, where I am attending a Summit as part of my peacemaking organisation’s work here, in the “post-ND life.”   

The reason I write is to record both my appreciation and the impact of the Nanovic grant, even way after graduation.  My ongoing success in my field was in part due to the generosity of the Institute’s funding and faith during my time at Notre Dame.  This enabled me to be a Keynote Speaker at several conferences, including as far away as Australia, and creating a path which has ultimately led to involvement with the White House conflict resolution initiatives. 

In this era of global security uncertainty, there is no greater need for research and collaboration to protect our world against the expanding threat of terrorism.

Due to Nanovic’s inspiration and initial facilitating of opportunity, I am due to be published in a peer-reviewed academic counter-terrorism journal, and have merited a place on a PhD course in Australia in the same field.  I’ve been appointed to the Board of the New York 9/11 Survivors Association NGO and most recently have been preparing for attendance at this week’s White House Summit.  

I’m here participating in the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism as part of the Accredited White House Press Pool (as per attached picture).  Sitting just feet away from President Obama, UN Secretary-Gen General Ban Ki Moon and a host of world leaders is quite exciting.  The challenging part is now underway – writing the analysis Op-Eds for Irish and Australian media (!).   

As a European, I came to Notre Dame facilitated by, and on behalf of victims of Irish terrorism from my war-zone homeland of Northern Ireland.  Scarred by the experience of the literal “bad Fighting Irish,” I was enriched by the academia of the “good Fighting Irish” to support peacemaking back in Notre Dame’s spiritual European home of Ireland.  My Nanovic grant also afforded the initial stages of fostering critical global security and research partnerships. 

I have reflected upon this here at the White House, and felt compelled to dispatch this note to you.  I continue to work to enable the Notre Dame advertised-on-campus creed to “Heal, Unify and Enlighten” to become tangible in the world.   

I wanted you to know that your generosity at the Nanovic Institute is already inspiring me to make meaningful contributions to this ambition, and will continue to do so.  Both at the White House and beyond.

As to that, Peter Kelly, the Nanovic Institute offers its profound prayers and well-wishes. Go forth and make the world a better, more peaceful place.

Student Spotlight: Benjamin Fouch

Posted on January 27, 2015 in Students by JACF
Fouch, Benjamin 13-14

Benjamin Fouch in Valencia, spring break 2014

The evidence is mounting: receiving a grant from the Nanovic Institute can lead to exciting opportunities! Benjamin Fouch (’17) is living proof. We awarded him an FYS Spring Break Travel and Research Grant in the spring of 2014 to conduct independent research on the Jardín del Túria in Valencia, Spain. The following summer, he was accepted into the Fulbright Summer Institute in Belfast, Ireland. Here is what he has to say about the connection between the two experiences:

Benjamin Fouch in Ireland, summer 2014

The Nanovic Institute’s Spring Break research grant was a catalyst that has enabled me to explore my interests in Europe to a greater extent than I would have ever anticipated. Thanks to the gracious funding from Nanovic, I was able to travel to Valencia, Spain to study unique solutions to urban development. The trip opened my eyes to the huge potential that the structuring of a community has on its development. Building off my work in Valencia, I applied to the Fulbright Summer Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland where I further studied the theme of urban space and its affect on community identity. This upcoming summer I will travel to Europe again for research. Without the Institute’s help, I would have never had the eye-opening experience in Valencia that enabled me to articulate my interests to the Fulbright Commission and pursue further study in the region. I cannot recommend them highly enough.

Congrats to Benjamin on all of his success! Where will your Nanovic grant take you?

Alumni Spotlight: Catherine Reidy

Posted on January 26, 2015 in Students by JACF
Reidy, Catherine 12-13 (3) resized

Catherine Reidy in Croatia in the spring of 2013.

Here at the Nanovic Institute, we award a lot of undergraduate grants, and we trust that our efforts bear fruit in the personal, academic, and professional lives of the students. It’s always nice, though, to receive the sort of confirmation that we received the other day from Catherine Reidy (’13, Major in Psychology). We awarded Reidy a Senior Travel and Research Grant for spring break 2013 to travel to Zugreb and Vukovar, Croatia to conduct research on her project entitled “Political Socialization and Reconciliation:  Croatia.” Thanks in part to our grant, Catherine has a first-author publication in the upcoming International Journal of Intercultural Relations!  Congratulations to Catherine!

Click here to read the full article, entitled “The political socialization of youth in a post-conflict community.”

Nanovic alumni, do you have a story to share? Email Jen Fulton, Student Coordinator at the Nanovic Institute, at


Student Spotlight: Peter Fink

Posted on January 23, 2015 in Students by JACF

Fink, Peter 14-15 (3)Peter Fink (’17) is an American Studies and Arts & Letters Pre-Health major who also happens to have Celiac Disease. Shortly after his diagnosis, Peter discovered that Ireland has one of the highest rates of Celiac Disease in the world, and that it is the current leader in tax relief programs available to those affected by the disease. Curious about the political, social, and economic factors in Ireland that impact its accomodation to Celiacs, he wrote a proposal for a research trip over winter break. The Nanovic Institute awarded him a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors, and away he went! He recently wrote to us about his experience.

My Nanovic Winter Break Grant in Ireland was an absolutely eye-opening experience in which I had the chance to study Celiac Disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine that affects me as well as thousands of others.  The disease is most common in Ireland and is thus dealt with differently than it is in the United States, and for this reason I spent a week in Ireland researching the medical, political, and social implications of the disease in Ireland.

One of the first things I did once in Dublin was meet with Professor Whelan from the University of Notre Dame Keough Naughton Institute.  Professor Whelan kindly acquainted me with the city and provided me with detailed information about where I could access the best resources for my research.  In addition, he was able to explain to me, as a resident of Dublin, how Celiac Disease is known along with Cystic Fibrosis as a “Celtic disease” among people in Ireland, as it affects people of Celtic ancestry more than any other background.  Throughout the week, I would come to see how this adoption and recognition of the disease as a component of the peoples’ heritage was largely responsible for a significant awareness of the disease in Irish society.

After visiting with Professor Whelan, I followed his advice and made my way to the National Library of Ireland (NLI), where, because of my grant from the Nanovic Institute and studentship at the University of Notre Dame, I was given a guest research pass that allowed me to access the library’s countless resources.  It was here that I was able to obtain valuable information and details about the nation’s health system and involvement in the European Union—two things that significantly impact policy regarding Celiac Disease. 

The next day, I met with Dr. Patrick O’Mahoney from the Food Safety Authority in Ireland (FSAI) to learn more about the process of food regulation that is so crucial to properly confronting Celiac Disease.  Dr. O’Mahoney was not only incredibly kind but also extremely informative; as Chief Specialist of Food Technology of the FSAI, he took the time to have a thorough discussion with me about Ireland’s allergy regulations, explaining that a new law passed only a month previous to my visit was responsible for the displaying of allergens on even non-packaged food.  From my experience in the country, this law seemed to single-handedly make the biggest positive difference for someone with Celiac Disease or any other nutritional illness, and demonstrated to me the power that a country’s legislation can have on its citizens’ health.

After having the opportunity to meet and consult a number of academic resources, I wanted to examine how Celiac Disease was dealt with and perceived in the context of “everyday” society.  To do this, I traveled to Killiney, a suburb of Dublin.  I made it my goal to engage in dialogue with locals, and as a result gained a new perspective of Celiac in Ireland: not only did everyone I talked with know about the Disease and what it entailed, but a number of individuals actually told me that they believed they had the disease themselves and were waiting to be screened.  This confirmed to me that Celiac Disease is very much in the current conscience of Ireland’s society. 

Fink, Peter 14-15 (2)Another aspect about Celiac Disease in its “epicenter” I wanted to learn about was its anthropological and biological history.  Given that it is a genetic disease, I believe understanding its scientific mechanisms as well as its evolutionary history is absolutely crucial to its effective treatment.  Thus, I visited Trinity College’s state-of-the-art Berkely Library, and once again, thanks to my funding from the Nanovic Institute at the University of Notre Dame, was granted access to their incredible network of books, articles, and scientific journals that are normally open exclusively to only students at the school.  Reading about the science behind Celiac Disease was an incredibly neat and gratifying way in which I was able to apply my pre-medical studies at the University of Notre Dame.  Only because of my biology, chemistry, and anthropology classes during my past academic semesters at Notre Dame was I able to read through and interpret the professional material I had been given access to in a comprehensive and well-informed manner.

I also had the privilege to meet with Grainne Denning, the CEO of the Coeliac Society of Ireland, and just like the previous meetings on my trip, I was both warmly received and thoroughly educated.  Ms. Denning was able to explain to me in detail the political atmosphere and regard of Celiac Disease in Ireland, including the government’s tax relief program and the Coeliac Society’s renewed and increased efforts to provide education and easier screening resources to medical professionals.  She also illuminated areas in which improvement was needed, highlighting to me the fact that despite what I may read about online and perceive as a foreigner, there are major gaps between the planning and execution of regulations aiding those with Coeliac Disease.

Lastly, I traveled to Belfast, Northern Ireland to visit Mr. Derek Thompson and his wife Mrs. Tina Thompson, founders of Gluten Free Ireland, a website database that lists celiac-friendly restaurants and venders on the island by location and provides education and awareness about Celiac Disease to the public.  I learned how the Internet and social media can be powerful tools in treating a disease.  Also, in one day in this new location, it became immediately evident that disease and health are largely affected by culture—although just a short train ride away, this region had different regulations that changed the way Celiac Disease was confronted and treated.

Fink, Peter 14-15In providing me with the opportunity to travel to Ireland over winter break, the Nanovic Institute gave me the chance to study first-hand a disease that impacts not only my own life but also the lives of thousands of others.  I was able to meet with some of the top professors, doctors, and directors who deal with Celiac Disease in the region of the world where it is most prominent as well as access a vast amount of resources from renown institutions in order to begin to develop a comprehensive and intricate understanding of the disease.  Not only did I learn so much more than I ever could have from home or on the internet, but I have also returned with many new questions that I am excited about exploring in my studies at Notre Dame and beyond.  In addition, researching Celiac Disease through the Nanovic Institute’s winter break grant has inspired me to continue my career aspirations in medicine with a new energy and focus and a more informed and worldly viewpoint. All of the academic, cultural, or experiential knowledge I gained is thanks to the Nanovic Instute at the University of Notre Dame’s generosity, and for that I want to say go raibh maith agat, or many thanks, and Go Irish!  

Student Spotlight: Ryan Schools

Posted on January 20, 2015 in Uncategorized by JACF

Schools, Ryan 14-15 (3)What can an engineer learn by traveling to Europe? Ryan Schools (’17), a Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering major, thought that he had a lot to learn from Icelandic models of sustainability and renewable energy, and he was right! As humanity strives to untangle and address global environmental change, Ryan recognized that doing so requires experiencing and learning from other cultural and national models of sustainable practice and industry. We agreed, and gave him a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to travel to Reykjavik, Iceland. He recently wrote to us about his experience, and sent us some stunning photos!

It’s not often that one is faced with the opportunity to travel to the actual ends of the Earth in the name of research, adventure, and personal growth, but that’s exactly the kind of circumstance I was presented with over this past winter break. Thanks in part to the support of Notre Dame’s Nanovic Institute for European Studies, I was able to travel to remote Iceland for 8 days as a part of the “Global Renewable Energy Educational Network”, otherwise known as the GREEN Program. The GREEN Program is an award-winning, experiential education and professional development program that strives to provide student leaders from around the world with an immersive and comprehensive look at the cutting edge of global sustainable practice and industry—a goal which tends to necessitate travel to some of the most unique destinations in the world.

Schools, Ryan 14-15 (6)The GREEN Program in Iceland partners with the innovative Reykjavik University School of Energy as well as leading Icelandic energy companies to deliver world-class education on renewable energy, first-hand. Whether it’s taking classes taught by actual Reykjavik University professors, touring some of Iceland’s state-of-the-art hydro and geothermal power plants, or even chatting with one of the humble Icelandic farmers that are pushing the envelope on sustainable agricultural practice, the GREEN program truly offers something for everyone and provides a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience a way-of-life seemingly born of the future. The program also prides itself on a strong commitment to adventure, cultural immersion, and unconventional education, and thus includes opportunities to participate in a series of unforgettable and “uniquely Icelandic” activities ranging from glacier hiking to hot spring swimming.

I first became interested in the GREEN program because it represented a way to pursue my interests in the energy sector while also experiencing a part of the world that faces challenges very different from our own. As a chemical engineering major interested not only in the intersection of novel technologies with responsible and sustainable practice, but also in the idea of adventuring to the far corners of the world, GREEN was a perfect fit for me, and it lended itself wonderfully to the spirit of the Nanovic Institute’s break research and travel grants.

Schools, Ryan 14-15 (5)One of the major components of the GREEN Program is a “green” capstone project that sees participants form teams to develop an idea or model incorporating the lessons learned throughout the program into a final presentation given at Reykjavik University. Knowing from the beginning that the capstone project would make up the majority of the research and application-based thinking I would do during my time in Iceland, I thought a lot before the trip began about how I might be able to shape the project to address some of my most fundamental questions about sustainability. Beyond simple thoughts I had about how geothermal power plants work or how the Icelandic public feels about hydrogen cars, I was interested more than anything else in exploring the factors that contribute to making renewable technologies feasible and preferable over other types of conventional solutions. In effect, I wanted to take from Iceland a better knowledge of how its renewable success story might be extended to other sites around the world, and of how that story might need to be adjusted and even overturned to meet the unique constraints and issues of those locales.

Schools, Ryan 14-15 (7)Despite being somewhat limited by time and resources, each and every group on my GREEN program produced a capstone that targeted a meaningful and significant issue and proposed an innovative plan to move toward its solution. To use my own group’s capstone as an example, my groupmates and I chose to work with the relatively underappreciated problem surrounding lithium-ion battery recycling. Right now, there are approximately 2 billion lithium-ion batteries discarded every year by consumers of phones, computers, electric vehicles, and other devices around the world, and that number will only continue to grow in the coming years. Due to the expenses surrounding the delicate process of actually breaking down and recycling these batteries, it turns out there is virtually zero infrastructure currently available for their efficient and safe disposal, which leaves the vast majority of them to pile up in the hands of consumers, electronics retailers, and, regrettably, landfills.

In an attempt to remedy this problem or to at least control it before it grows to become an even more pressing environmental threat, our group produced a business model for a series of automated and versatile lithium-ion battery recycling centers that could feasibly overcome the current economic barriers to the U.S. market in the very near future. Bringing together knowledge on the finances and other nuances of renewable technologies, operations, and systems that we learned about through GREEN with my own, original intention to spread Icelandic-inspired sustainable solutions, the project was a huge success, and, to me, represented the culmination of what the GREEN program is all about: recognizing that the world really can be changed despite the status quo.

Schools, Ryan 14-15Overall, my experience in Iceland with GREEN was nothing short of unbelievable from start to finish. Not only was I given access to brilliant minds, world-class operations, and unforgettable excursions, but I was able to learn more about myself, my passions, and the world around me while working toward a very real piece of the renewable solution. Even beyond the academics of GREEN, the program truly encompassed so much more than words can describe. Participants in GREEN come from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and upbringings, but are intrinsically united by their curiosity and their care for our planet and society. As such, in only 8 short days, I was bestowed with 42 amazing new friends who compose a network reaching to the far corners of the world, and who all share in my hopes and passions for a greener tomorrow. All of these things—the memories, the experiences, the knowledge, the accomplishments, the friends, and more—I owe to the Nanovic Institute and to Notre Dame, and for that I’d like to say “þakka þér.”

Student Spotlight: Bry Martin

Posted on January 12, 2015 in Students by JACF

Martin, Bry 14-15Ever wonder what a bit of funding can do for a graduate student conducting research in Europe? Bry Martin, a doctoral candidate in the History department, knows exactly what it can do! Here he presents to us a tale of two research trips: one self-funded, and another funded by a Graduate Travel and Research Grant from the Nanovic Institute. The difference is striking!

I returned again to Dorset, and the manorial estate of the family I have spent the last year-and-a-half thinking and reading about, but this time as a fully funded researcher, thanks in large part to the Nanovic Institute.  The financial assistance makes all the difference. Let me describe why that is. The year before I had eked out a six-month research trip to the United Kingdom on my stipend and the sale of my Jeep Wrangler, a snarling chewer of Southern California asphalt reduced to a shivering, whining ice box by the cruel Northwest Indiana winters.  All that had funded, first of all, a few months of photographing manuscripts in archives in London. Researching in London, a city by, of and for archives, is like having history read to you by a court page while you recline on your ottoman with archivists waving palm fronds and dropping freshly-plucked grapes in your mouth. But the trip had also entailed three months in the country and the smaller cities of England, and things get a little more rugged for historians out there. Living for a month-and-a-half in Downton, Wiltshire (a charming village, but a sinkhole of disappointment for American costume drama fans who visit only to find there’s no Abbey there after all), I perched myself an even distance between four major archival deposits, and was just able to swing the public transportation on my meager resources. Accessing any of the archives meant five hours’ travel a day, by uncertain buses traveling congested two-lane roads, perceiving the actual land of England unfold out of dimly tinted windows on the same straight path. The job got done, but it was slow going, and the contribution to my historical knowledge of my time period almost wholly happened in the archives.

This year, with Nanovic’s research grant in hand, research sped up and branched outside of the walls of the archives when I left London. For one thing, I was no longer a researcher with a bus pass; I was a researcher with a zippy little Vauxhall, terrorizing the locals by going the wrong way on roundabouts. The five hour commute became an hour, and on weekends the compact car meant I could ride around the proximity of the Dorset estate of the family, dropping into the churches they had maintained, charting the landscape and distances between the parcels of land that came in and out of their possession over the centuries.  Driven on solely and exclusively by the thirst for knowledge, I frequented the local village pubs and teahouses. People opened up. An employee of a local museum confessed she had a picture of Robert E. Lee on her mantle, because she blamed the American Civil War for the depression in the cotton-hungry late nineteenth-century English textile industry. It helped me reconcile my own research subject’s sympathies with the South despite his abiding hatred of slavery. An elderly man sweeping the entrance of a church in a small village turned out to be a retired archeologist, familiar with my advisor’s work, and who brought me up to date on the land swaps and purchases in the area by the two great landed families residing there. I found out that the proprietor of a chicken farm where I was living was actually the tenant of a family of no small importance to my dissertation. I would have made none of these encounters if I had been, as I would have been, bottled up in five-hour commutes.

Even while staying in London, the Nanovic grant made the research trip better. Having realized that I had probably overbooked my time in London given how much I had already found in their archives the previous summer, I was able to use the Nanovic money for train rides to record offices in Kent, Hertfordshire, and West Sussex, counties close enough to London, but with inconvenient hours by bus. The Record Offices contain invaluable, and often less-used materials, and they often get neglected because they are out of the way. But what I found in them gave me a much better window into the lives of some of the less well-known members of the family I’m researching.In all, the Nanovic grant made the difference between a true research trip and a simple document retrieval expedition. I was free to think about and ask more questions about England, and to follow up on my curiosity in a way that I couldn’t have without the financial support with which the Nanovic Institute provided me. And as you might have gathered, there was a lot more fun mixed in with the business as well. I am grateful for the Nanovic Institute’s assistance. A better dissertation drawing from a greater depth of experience will follow because of it.

Student Spotlight: Lynne Bauman and Emma Fleming

Posted on December 15, 2014 in Students by JACF

The Nanovic Institute is committed to the Catholic mission of the University of Notre Dame. Thus, we were happy to provide grant funding for two students to travel to the House of Brigid in Wexford and Dublin to do discernment work. Lynne Bauman (’15) is double-majoring in Psychology and Arts & Letters Pre-Health. Emma Fleming (’16) is double-majoring in English and Spanish. Both of these young women are discerning a call to a year or two of post-graduation service, and are seriously considering House of Brigid as a possibility. A trip to visit, they thought, would significantly help their discernment process. Both of them sent us reports of their experience.

Bauman, Lynne 14-15

Lynne Bauman with the House of Brigid quilt hanging in the day chapel in the Church of the Annunciation in Wexford.

Lynne Bauman: Over fall break of this semester, I was fortunate enough to travel to visit the House of Brigid (Teach Bhríde in Irish), a small lay community that serves the Catholic Church in Ireland. As a senior who is planning on doing a year or two of postgraduate service, I wanted to visit this program and witness their work in an effort to discover whether this would be a place I could see myself living and working next year. My discernment process was greatly aided by the opportunity to experience a week with House of Brigid and share in their presence and community.

I arrived in Dublin on Saturday morning and took a bus to Wexford. Upon arrival, I was greeted by the House of Brigid members and visited the Clonard Church of the Annunciation, the parish they serve. That afternoon was the 40th anniversary of the parish, and I sang in the choir for mass! It was invaluable to experience such an important celebration and see the parish come together. I met and talked with many of the parishioners and fellow choir members. I saw how the community members are truly friends with so many of the people there, and I gathered a sense of the House of Brigid’s presence and significance to the parish.

I attended daily mass and had the opportunity to ask each community member about his or her discernment process and experience thus far. These conversations, even if only a few minutes long, helped me gain insight into why they applied for this program. They also encouraged me to search for what motivations and goals I had for my own year of service, even if I do not end up applying for House of Brigid. I also explored the town of Wexford, which has so many intricate little stores and shops, delicious restaurants, and stunning views of the coast. I think this was important to see, since I would not be working in the parish every hour of every day. Walking around the town helped me get a sense of the pace of life in Ireland and envision myself actually living here.

Tuesday night I left Wexford to visit the other, newly founded House of Brigid in Dublin, Ireland. Tuesday night, the community was in charge of a mass for the Notre Dame study abroad students at the O’Connell House, and I sang in the choir for that mass as well. It was, again, a wonderful chance to participate in the ministry and share in the everyday life of the community members. It was particularly interesting to compare the work of the Dublin House to the Wexford House. The Dublin program is more a Campus Ministry/peer ministry program for the study abroad students; however, they are also involved with Harold’s Cross Church and spend 2 or 3 days a week singing in the choirs and teaching faith formation classes in a school. Visiting the school was one of my favorite parts of the week! Meeting the Irish children and hearing their questions about mass got me very excited about the possibility of working here next year.

The research I conducted in Wexford and Dublin was tremendously helpful to my discernment process. The opportunity to visit this service program, to participate in their ministry, and to talk with members has given me a much clearer understanding of what a year of service with the House of Brigid involves. I am most grateful for the concrete experiences that I now have to reflect upon as I explore my path for next year. 

Emma Fleming  in the O'Connell House Chapel in Dublin.

Emma Fleming in the O’Connell House Chapel in Dublin.

Emma Fleming: Through the Nanovic Institute, I was able to understand more fully the ministry of the House of Brigid in Wexford and Dublin, Ireland. Before the trip, I knew I was passionate about music ministry, yet I was hesitant to include it in my future. This week, made possible by the grant program, provided me with clarity and grace. The moment Lynne, a fellow grant recipient, and I left the bus in Wexford we received profound Irish hospitality. Everyone we met wanted to know how we were feeling and how he or she could make us feel at home. When we weren’t greeted with a hug, we received a cup of tea and wonderful conversation. The entire week was filled with this sense of community and love amidst lots of singing and organizing.

In Wexford, the main ministry was stationed at the Clonard Parish. I had seen so many pictures of the chapel and main altar that it seemed like a dream once I was there. God truly was present in my hours at Mass, singing in the choir, and at adoration. It was amazing to see how at home I could feel in such a new place thousands of miles away from the United States. During my days in Wexford, Lynne and I got to have meetings with different parishioners and church workers, sing in choirs directed by the members of the House of Brigid, meet the Papal Nuncio at a 40th Parish Anniversary Mass, and spend time with the community members.

For me, the most important part was the time with the community members. It was so interesting to hear what brought them to this program and the challenges and blessings they have encountered. It was helpful to also see the aspect of “living in community” in action—with all the positives and negatives that come along with that. It is an aspect that I did not believe would affect me as much as it did. The dynamic of both communities reflected the family God calls us to share. They love each other demanding them to challenge, care for, and respect one another and lead their lives as servants to each other and the parish. It was truly amazing to witness how well they have been received into their parishes, as well, as their gifts for music and fellowship have been honored so well.

In Dublin, I was so lucky to get time in the O’Connell House—shadowing the community members as they worked with Campus Ministry to provide spiritual guidance to abroad students and the ACE program, among other demands. As the first two members of the House of Brigid in Dublin, they both demonstrated an extremely powerful sense of motivation and persistence, tackling the unknown within the early stages of the program. As pioneers, they must remain patient, knowing that only time will create trusting, lasting relationships that lead to more leadership within parishes, schools, and the O’Connell House that they minister to. I learned a lot from the members in Dublin, as they embodied servant leadership.

When looking into the future, one year of service is relatively short. Therefore, it was extremely important to have this time to determine if I felt at home in the program. I am so happy to say that I definitely think it is a match and I cannot wait to apply next winter. I am extremely grateful to the Nanovic Institute for making it all possible. 

Student Spotlight: Molly Geraghty

Posted on December 9, 2014 in Students by JACF

Geraghty, Molly 14-15When planning a research trip, it is always best to plan carefully in order to assure that you can actually accomplish that which you set out to do. When we review student grant proposals, we look for well-planned and well-defined trips. But you know what Robert Burns had to say about plans: “The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men / Gang aft agley” (tranlated from Scots as “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry”). Undergraduate Molly Geraghty (’15) learned this well on her Nanovic-funded fall-break trip. Geraghty, a double-major in Science Pre-Professional Studies and French and Francophone Studies, arrived in Paris only to have her research plan derailed by an unexpected and unpublished construction project. She quickly adapted her plan, however, and spent her week in Paris doing excellent work! Read about her experience in her own words.

In writing my grant proposal for the Senior Fall Break Travel and Research Grant, I had prepared an agenda so I could get right to work on my first day in Paris. In doing so, I had looked up specific resources in the history library of Paris, the Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris (BHVP), where I planned on doing most of my research. However, Paris had different plans for my traveling companion and myself. Upon arriving at the BHVP, we found that it would be closed throughout the week for construction and repair, despite this notice not being listed on any websites relating to or linked with the BHVP, including those of the French government and the national library system. Instead of seeing this as a defeat, we chose to view it as an opportunity to explore other resources. I incorporated firsthand experiences, such as a tour of the Opéra Bastille and visiting the specialized library-museum of the national opera of France, the Bibliothèque-Musée de l’Opéra. As a result of this small roadblock, we were able to discover one of the most exciting truths about research: it is always changing, and researchers must constantly adapt to keep up with it as they find new resources and discover new ideas. The resources I found and used at the National Library of France, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF), led me down roads of discovery that I never would have come across if the BHVP hadn’t been closed. As an added bonus, I got to work inside the Opera Garnier itself, the illustrious edifice that served as a setting for the events in the Phantom of the Opera, the story that inspired my original research!

I found many stories in the library about people like myself who were faced with difficult circumstances and, in enduring their conditions, demonstrated the resiliency of the human spirit. Both the opera performers and the audience members had to adapt in order to endure the riotous and revolutionary atmosphere of the French Revolution. The research I did in Paris over fall break 2014 was a continuation of the trail of discoveries I began a year earlier during fall break of 2013, through another Travel and Research grant from the Nanovic Institute. Previously, I had studied two specific incidences of audience interaction at the Opera: the modern film adaptation of the fictional story of the Phantom of the Opera and the failed premiere of Richard Wagner’s opera Tannhaeuser at the National Opera of Paris in 1861. I had learned during my last visit to the Paris libraries that these incidences of audience interaction at the Paris Opera were not accidental coincidences but rather two instances of a greater historical trend. It seemed that the opera was used as a stage by far more than just the performers. This time around, I thought it would be interesting to expand my search and explore this tradition of audience interaction during revolutionary times, when the atmosphere of rebellion and independence would only support and encourage uprisings at the opera.

As it turned out, history can be just as entertaining as fiction. In one book at the BnF, I happened upon the record of an opera performance where the audience became so raucous that the opera house brought down the curtains to protect the performers and allow the excitement to fizzle out. Not content with being silenced, the members of the audience who were seated in the parterre area leapt onto the stage and proceeded to cut down the curtain with knives, swords and whatever other sharp objects they could get their hands on. Another source recounted the many times the opera was interrupted so that the performers could lead the opera house in rounds of revolutionary songs and speeches, at the request of certain enthusiastic and insistent to the point of threatening members of the audience. Another time, a few members of the Jacobin party almost succeeded in killing an actress after she openly displayed her loyalty to the Queen during a performance. These stories made the violent and drastic actions of the phantom in the Phantom of the Opera, my original inspiration for research, very reasonable and unsurprising! The BnF was a great place to work—the charged silence seemed to be filled with the thoughts, ideas and discoveries of those working there. However, the silent atmosphere proved to be challenging to maintain at times, as I suppressed giggles about some of the ridiculous antics and incredible occurrences that had taken place at the Paris Opera house!

My time in Paris showed me the dynamic nature of research, and the new discoveries that can come from adapting to a change in a plans or a difficult situation. I learned more about the topic of audience interaction, which I am currently developing into a thesis with the help of my research mentor, Professor Julia Douthwaite, and found some interesting stories that served as both support for my thesis and entertainment to help the long hours spent at the library pass by quickly. People have a remarkable ability to adapt in order to survive tough circumstances, and my time in Paris over fall break exploring the active role of the audience in the Paris Opera through times of struggle and oppression allowed me to both learn about that and experience it firsthand!

Student Spotlight: Shanna Corner

Posted on December 8, 2014 in Students by JACF

Corner, Shanna 14-15Here at the Nanovic Institute, we receive a lot of grant applications from graduate students studying English, literature, history, and philosophy. But sociology? Not so much. Thus, we’re thrilled to spotlight Shanna Corner, a PhD candidate in sociology. Shanna received a Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant to travel to one of the United Nations’ Convention on the Elimination of Descirimination Against Women committee’s tri-annual sessions. The work that she’s done on human rights is truly impressive. She recently sent us an account of her experience in Switzerland.

The Graduate Break Research and Travel Grant that I received this semester from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies facilitated my travel to Geneva, Switzerland. While there, I spent two weeks attending the public meetings of the most recent session of a UN human rights treaty body that I have been studying for the last several years as a graduate student. Learning more about the nature of these meetings and observing the reporting that was taking place enabled me to develop an expanded understanding of the dynamics involved in these types of sessions and the role that they play, which I could not have gained without actually being at these events themselves.

After spending so much time analyzing materials related to this area and contemplating theorization about the human rights system and the construction and promotion of particular human rights norms, it was extremely gratifying to be able to actually see the nature of these meetings in person. Having the ability to attend multiple days of meetings, during which the delegations of several different countries presented their country reports, also allowed me to gain more knowledge of similarities and differences across these states. Given the variation in the characteristics of these countries, I was able to deepen my knowledge of the European countries involved in this session and how they were similar and different from both each other and the wider range of countries that were involved in reporting.

I am working to become a scholar who studies the human rights system, so having the opportunity to actually go to the location where these events that I am studying are taking place and gain this kind of firsthand knowledge was a vital educational experience for me. This strengthened and expanded knowledge will allow me to produce stronger analysis and arguments in the future, and will also help to increase my credibility as a person working in this subject area. 

I am very grateful to the Nanovic Institute for providing me with funding that has allowed me to attend this session. Without this funding it would have been very difficult for me to make this trip. Given the time-sensitive nature of my work toward my dissertation completion and my need to gain access to events like this session at the United Nations as they happen, it is incredibly helpful to have access to such generous funding. The need to learn more about the characteristics of European countries in their approaches to specific human rights, as well as how they influence, overlap with, and are impacted by larger global cultural norms related to this area, is vital. I am deeply grateful to the Nanovic Institute for providing me with the chance to actually play a role in conducting on-the-ground research that opens up knowledge about these issues. The research that I was able to conduct during this trip has helped me to hone my project design. In addition, it will play a critical role in contextualizing and grounding the remainder of my work in completing my dissertation.

Student Spotlight: Brenna Gautam

Posted on December 5, 2014 in Students by JACF

Gautam, Brenna 14-15How many students can say that they traveled to Serbia over their break? Brenna Gautam can! Brenna is a Senior majoring in History and Peace Studies. We awarded her a Senior Travel and Research Grant to conduct independent research on the Belgrade student protest of 1968. Here is what she has to say about her experience.

I left for Belgrade, Serbia in mid-October with very specific research questions in mind; as a first-semester senior, I was steeped in the initial stages of writing a History thesis on questions of identity and the concept of protest in the former Yugoslavia. I suppose that I also left with a specific set of expected answers in mind; I have researched in the Balkans before, and thought I had an understanding of how deeply ingrained ethnic identities in that region are. I had scheduled museum visits, had set up interviews with historians and curators, and felt completely prepared in facing the week of thesis research that the Nanovic Institute had generously funded. 

Yet for all these preconceived hypotheses and preparatory actions, the results of my research in Belgrade still surprised me.  

My research brought me first to the Museum of Yugoslav History, where I learned from both the documents exhibited and from the documents that weren’t exhibited. From the documents on display, I gleaned an understanding of Tito’s relationship to Yugoslav youth during the year 1968. I was able to view and analyze photographs of Tito surrounding himself with youth worker action members in the 1960s, display cases of the batons passed during Tito’s 1968 annual Youth Relay, and transcripts of speeches that Tito had delivered to the youth on his birthday. Interviews with a curator and with a museum staff person, however, introduced me to concepts that weren’t reflected in the exhibits: the lessons of missing history.

“Yugo-nostalgia” was a term often used in these interviews to describe the way the museum was organized around the memory of Tito. According to the interviewees, many Serbians are Yugo-nostalgic: they view the period of Tito as one of economic prosperity, relative ethnic peace, and good international standing. When I asked how the student protest of 1968 fit into this narrative, the answers were blunt: they don’t. And that is why, in the entire exhibit featuring youth and Tito, the youth protest against Tito is entirely left out. For more information on the protest, I was directed to the Belgrade City Museum and the University of Belgrade Library.

At the Belgrade City Museum, I found an entirely different set of a documents telling an entirely different narrative. Images from the marches and demonstrations, signs carried by picketers, and examples of street theater tactics employed by the youth were proudly displayed here. If the Museum of Yugoslav History was “Yugo-nostalgic,” then the interviews at the Belgrade City Museum were “Youth-nostalgic.” Historians here spoke lovingly of the students of 1968, of their passion and bravery, of their radical nature and progressive ideals. Many called 1968 a “romantic” year, acknowledging that a sense of global spirit connected and energized the youth in Belgrade. Here, I was able to learn more about the protest itself and was able to draw conclusions about the way in which the protest was situated within the broader context of 1968. Furthermore, I found an unexpected observation in my research: a contrast between the way 1968 protestors are remembered in Serbia today. On one hand, they are viewed as subversives to the ideal figure of Tito, and are cast aside from history (as in the Museum of Yugoslav History). On the other, they are viewed as modern, romantic, and innocent youth and are placed within the history of 1968.

While on my research trip, I also had the opportunity to visit the University of Belgrade Library, where librarians assisted me in locating documents on the 1968 student protest. These memoirs, which have since been translated into English by Milos Damjanovic, have given me a fuller understanding of the events of June 1968 as they were realized from a participant. Mr. Damjanovic, who works at the Institute for Social Sciences in Belgrade, also gave me insight into why the youth of 1968 were the first to participate in globalized protest: he pointed to television and radio as the answer. This was the first generation in the Balkans that had grown up with television and radio, and were thus connected to the world around them.

Overall, I left Belgrade with a host of primary source material (photographs from museum exhibits, personal interview transcripts, and almost half a notebook filled with observations from my museum and library visit). But while these tangible resources will allow me to construct the bulk of my historical thesis, the intangible gains from this trip will color it in personal ways: being able to actually stand in the Studenski Trg square, the square where protestors gathered and were subsequently fired upon by police in 1968, is one example of the experiences that will allow me to write on the 1968 protest with sincerity.