Archive for April, 2014

Student Spotlight: Peter Fink and Benjamin Fouch

Posted on April 28, 2014 in Students

Fink and Fouch 13-14This week’s Student Spotlight features a pair of researchers:  Peter Fink and Benjamin Fouch.  They both received the relatively new FYS Spring Break Travel and Research Grant.  Peter has declared a supplememtary major in Arts and Letters Pre-Health, and Ben has declared a major in Political Science.  The pair traveled to Valencia, Spain over spring break to conduct research on the Parque Natural del Rio Turia.  They both wrote about their experience:


Fink, Peter 13-14

Peter Fink

I am intrigued by many things, but above all, I am particularly invested in health and its relation to culture.  While I have undoubtedly learned much in my classes at school, traveling to a new continent and studying my interests in a new cultural context has provided me with an opportunity unlike any other that has taught me lessons I could never have learned in the classroom.  With growing populations and economic uncertainty, offering people convenient and healthy living solutions becomes increasingly challenging.  Growing up in northwest Indiana and attending the University of Notre Dame, I am well aware of the difficulties that people face when trying to stay physically active year-round while balancing their professional and family lives.  Many times, after the gym membership fees, gas money, and proper workout attire, exercising can seem like an ordeal that is less than worth it.

I believe, however, that making activity an integrated part of one’s lifestyle and culture is far more important than getting to the gym and running on a treadmill several days of the week.  For this reason, I was immediately fascinated when my friend, fellow Hesbourgh-Yusko scholar and research partner Ben Fouch told me about Valencia’s Parque Natural del Rio Turia.  Essentially, after a catastrophic flood in 1957 that killed over eighty people and injured hundreds more, the city of Valencia, Spain decided to completely drain and divert the Rio Turia from its original course that ran through the city and create a city park in the topographically rich river bed that lay behind.  Although at the time many disputed the decision, the park is now a key feature of the city, a source of cultural identity, and a location that provides residents with a convenient way to stay active.

One of the things that made my time in Valencia so illuminating was the comprehensiveness of the research Ben and I were able to do.  Working together and combining his business interests with my interests about culture and health, we were able to acquire a wealth of knowledge about the park and observe its impacts from multiple levels.  The first and perhaps most effective approach we took towards our research was to engage in dialogue with locals about the park.  After several days of traversing the ten-kilometer park that runs through the city interviewing locals, it became evident that public approval of the terra-formed park is virtually ubiquitous.  I was curious to find out if there would be a difference of opinion about the park amongst varying demographics, but my research showed me that people of every age, gender, socioeconomic status, and ethnicity use and enjoy the twentieth century topographic wonder.  Another aspect about the park that I discovered through dialogue with locals was the expanse of its impact.  Street vendors, elderly men taking their siesta, and businesspeople found on the other side of the city all expressed gratitude for the park and claimed they used it frequently.  Before long, I came to realize that the park was not only a convenient and trendy location for residents to exercise, but also an object that provided the city with identity and pride.  People think of the park as a feature of their city that sets it apart from other European metropolises and brings out Valencia’s heritage while also making it contemporarily relevant.

Another way we learned about our research subject was by visiting the museums and libraries in Valencia.  For example, by visiting the history museum, I learned details about how the city was actually founded as a Roman settlement on the Rio Turia, something that explains the residents’ pride in the park and its tradition.  After delving into the stacks in the library and finding books describing the park’s construction, I learned that park designers placed every tree and stone with absolute purpose and actually preserved historic elements of the river such as its bridges while adding new paths and services that made the park both utilitarian and artistic.  Ben and I also took a trip to the City of Arts and Sciences museum at the end of the park, a feature that gives the historic and cultural space a sense of intellectualism and progressiveness.  Taking advantage of the city’s many resources allowed us to more fully understand what a masterpiece of urban planning the Parque Natural del Rio Turia truly is. 

History is a valuable tool that allows us to examine past examples of failures and successes in order to better our lives today.  Much can be learned from the success story that is the transformation of the unruly Rio Turia into the useful Parque Natural del Rio Turia.  Upon my return to South Bend, I will have a new perspective on health, culture, and urban planning.  With this new perception in mind, I want to examine my community to see how its hindrances and setbacks can be turned into positive features that improve the health of its residences and highlight its culture.  None of the knowledge, cultural literacy, or experience I gained while in Valencia, Spain could have been possible without the generosity of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies at Notre Dame, so I want to sincerely thank everyone at the wonderful institution.  Muchas gracias, and go Irish!  (Peter Fink)

Fouch, Benjamin 13-14

Benjamin Fouch

I had previous experience with the Jardín del Túria from my time studying abroad in Valencia with the IUHPFL. At the time I was fascinated by the park and the brief glimpses I saw of its history, but I lacked the time and resources to explore it further. The Nanovic Institute for European Studies’ recognition of the importance of the green, organic dimensions of urban planning and its successful execution in Europe made a return trip possible.

While in Valencia, I had a rare opportunity to leave textbooks behind and for the first time perform substantial research that incorporated more diverse sources. Through interviews with citizens who lived through the Inundación de 1957 and staff in one of the largest modern museums in Europe, I understood the impact of the river park in a new and intimate way. Looking at city’s data and statistics on revenue is useful, but the human consequences are as important if not more so in urban planning. The figures tell an important story, but the change in the citizens’ quality of living is the end goal of these projects. Despite taxes, an outspoken political culture, and a diverse population, the Valencian pride in the park was evident. There was an overwhelming positive perception of the park, demonstrating the Plan del Sur’s success. From on-the-ground interviews, I learned how the unique adaptation of the Río Túria’s riverbed into a park over the last half-century has shaped an entire city’s identity.

One element of international research that has been a great surprise has been the benefits of on-site archival research. Having grown up in a digital age, I expected that my initial research into the history of the park was relatively substantial. Upon arrival at the archives of the city, I found the books and pictures told an entirely different story than the one I had pieced together. A death toll as a statistic is one thing; a photo of a city swept away by floods is another. One image that will stick with me forever was a photo we found in a dusty old book at an old Valencian library. It depicted a man, sitting on a fallen column, watching as his home was washed into the Mediterranean. Such a powerful image revealed how such a massive, expensive undertaking could have been accomplished; the people had been deeply hurt.

One key finding from the research has been how the park’s design has impacted urban development. In many traditional parks, a square or rectangular layout it employed. This is by far the easiest strategy when accounting for classic street design. What is different about the Rio Turia is how it is organic. It bends and meanders through the city, covering a much wider area. This has led to less gentrification than with typical major parks; rather than become the haunt of the wealthy who could afford homes near the park, the Jardín del Túria is a place for all.

Political divides, potentially corrupt administrators, protests, royal intervention, and a final victory for the citizens of Valencia paint a picture of the Plan del Sur that is chaotic and instructive. The one hundred year vision of the plan, its meticulous execution, and the public presence in decision-making are some of the bright spots of the plan. My research in Valencia was incredibly rewarding because it allowed me to identify these great successes and reflect on how they can be applied more generally.

The Nanovic Institute’s First Year of Studies grant has reinforced my career aspirations. The Río Túria park illustrates the ideal philosophy and methodology for urban planning, and in my intended career in developing infrastructure in responsible ways. With careful planning, knowledge of a city’s needs and interests, an ear for input from interest groups, and responsible budgeting we can turn eyesores and economic liabilities into impressive revenue generating centers that dramatically improve the citizens’ quality of life.

Moving forward, during my undergraduate years I want to take what I have learned in Valencia and give back to the community. The “block” park structure adopted by the city has been shown to be impractical; if the city adopts the integrated approach of Valencia then they can create more green space that improves the property value of adjacent buildings. Upon graduation I will incorporate park development into broader human development strategies and urban planning that aims to reduce gentrification and unintentional property discrimination against first generation immigrants. Parks should not be a brief sanctuary for nature within an urban jungle, but instead a streamlined and sustainable companion to urban growth.

I am incredibly grateful both to Notre Dame and the Nanovic Institute for the incredible opportunity. Exposure to foreign culture, urban planning, and administration has given me some practical experience to frame further inquiry into the field of urban planning and collective action. Their investment in students like myself demonstrates their commitment to our shared future, and I do not intend to let the investment go to waste.  (Benjamin Fouch)

Student Spotlight: Prinz Jeremy Llanes Dela Cruz

Posted on April 21, 2014 in Students

Dela Cruz, Prinz Jeremy Llanes 13-14Prinz Jeremy Llanes Dela Cruz is a Junior majoring in French and Francophone Studies.  The Nanovic Institute awarded Jeremy a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to conduct research on French Carmelite spirituality.  He traveled to France over fall break.  Jeremy recently wrote about his experience:

While apostolic religious orders visibly tend the vineyard of the People of God, contemplative branches of consecrated laity remain hidden, laboring for the Church through prayer and penance. The contemplative vocation is characterized by a passion for silence, a devotion of listening for the Lord in a world distracted by the clamor of commercialism and the racket of relativism. In the face of sin, the Carmelite kneels as a model of faith, hope, and love, keeping the tides of temptation at bay and animating the Body of Christ with a pious fervor of divine origin. The Order of Our Lady of Mount Carmel may be considered the most prominent expression of contemplative life, made famous by such holy figures as St. Simon Stock, St. Teresa of Avila, and St. Juan de la Cruz. Over fall break, I was able to enter more deeply into Carmelite spirituality, a discipline steeped with history and vigor, thanks to a Break Travel and Research grant awarded by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies. The primary objective of my project was to explore the lives and teachings of St. Thérése of Lisieux and Bl. Élisabeth de la Trinité, two women who have impacted the Church by their love for the Lord and material detachment. The Little Way of St. Thérése inspires many today to approach the Father with the innocence and trust of a child. Bl. Élisabeth invites others to recognize the Divine Indwelling of the Lord within themselves and to form their daily life around His presence. My ascent to Mount Carmel would take me to the spiritual heights of Lisieux and Dijon and would shed much light on the idea of anéantissement, a concept of the French School of Spirituality which asks the Christian to die to himself in order to rise with Christ.

The city of Le Mans would be my home base for the duration of the week. Its central location between Lisieux and Dijon was invaluable and the presence of the Maison Provinciale of the Congregation of Holy Cross’ Vicariate of France was also fortunate. I was able to stay with the Holy Cross priests and brothers who reside at the administrative house, joining them for meals and sharing in their liturgical life at Notre-Dame-de-Sainte-Croix parish. The following day, I interviewed Fr. Hervé-Marie Cotten, a priest of the Diocese of Le Mans and pastor of St-Aldric parish. Fr. Cotten is an expert on St. Thérése. In order to supplement the biographical information we covered during our discussion of the Little Way, I accompanied Fr. Cotton to Alençon, the hometown of St. Thérése and her family. The Little Flower’s parents, Louis and Zélie Martin, currently have a joint cause for canonization. The old Martin home has been converted into a museum and a shrine to propagate devotion to St. Thérése and her parents. After Alençon, we drove to nearby Lisieux to visit the Basilica of St-Thérése, an international place of pilgrimage for admirers of the Little Flower. I was able to venerate the relics of St. Thérése at the Carmel du Lisieux, where her body rests behind a grille. Having been invited by the Carmelite community of Bl. Élisabeth, I also spent a few days at the Carmel du Dijon in Flavignerot. My time inside Carmel was a period of personal reflection as well as research in the convent’s library of spiritual texts. In addition to experiencing the daily prayer life of the sisters, I interviewed Fr. Conrad de Meester, a Dutch Carmelite priest who is a scholar on Bl. Élisabeth, and Sr. Marie-Michelle de la Croix, O.C.D., a member of the Carmel du Dijon. Fr. de Meester clarified the idea of the Divine Indwelling, an understanding of the Lord’s vibrant presence in each soul, ennobling and transforming it into His sanctuary and one’s anticipated heaven. I was delighted to discover that Bl. Élisabeth may be canonized in the next couple of years and that according to Fr. de Meester, she has the academic legacy to be declared a Doctor of the Church. Ultimately, my experience in a Carmelite convent taught me more about the vitality of silence and the importance of praying from within, lessons I will bring into my own formation as a Holy Cross seminarian.

Through my time in France, I was able to study the relationship of the Little Way and the Divine Indwelling insofar as they are expressions of anéantissement. The Little Way calls for a death to pride while the Divine Indwelling encourages recognition of the Christian’s identity as a sanctuary for the Lord. I was recently accepted into the Honors program of the French and Francophone Studies major and hope to write a thesis regarding the role of anéantissement in the French School of Spirituality. I am grateful for the Nanovic Institute’s generous support of my studies and have benefited greatly from the opportunity to conduct research in Europe.

Student Spotlight: Manuela Fernández Pinto

Posted on April 14, 2014 in Students

Fernandez Pinto, Manuela 13-14Manuela Fernández Pinto is a doctoral candidate in the History and Philosophy of Science program.  The Nanovic Institute awarded Manuela a Graduate Professional Development Grant to present at a conference at the University of Copenhagen.  Manuela recently wrote about her experience:

Thanks to the Nanovic Institute’s Graduate Professional Development Grant, I had the opportunity to present the paper “The Special Role of Science in Policy Making: A Taxonomy of Problems and Prospects,” co-authored with my advisor Professor Janet Kourany, at the “International Conference for the Special Role of Science in Liberal Democracy,” which took place at the University of Copenhagen, November 21-22, 2013.

In the paper, we examined the case of breast cancer research, in particular with respect to policy debates regarding the effectiveness of mammography screening. Given that Scandinavian scientists have been central players in the development of breast cancer research we had a particularly well-informed audience to discuss our views. In fact, we had a lively debate after the presentation of the paper, which encouraged further discussions on the topic. A couple of participants were also interested in reading a longer version of the paper and in giving us future feedback.

In addition, the conference brought together an international group of highly qualified philosophers of science and political philosophers, whose expertise deals with the political dimensions of scientific knowledge. Since my main area of research is the social dimensions of scientific knowledge, this was a unique opportunity for me to meet and talk to international experts on my area. In particular, I took advantage of this opportunity to talk to Professor Martin Kusch from the University of Vienna, with whom I have discussed the possibility of doing a postdoctoral project. I sent him a draft of my project a week before the conference, and we had the opportunity to meet during lunch and dinner, and discuss the viability of the project and how to improve the draft. I was also able to learn more about the academic environment at the University of Vienna and the research opportunities that would be available for me in case I pursue this research. I found the overall experience very rewarding.

Finally, this conference gave me the opportunity to work closer with my dissertation advisor Professor Janet Kourany. This paper stems in part from my dissertation, but is also my first academic project beyond the dissertation research. Working on this paper with Prof. Kourany gave me a privileged experience of what academic collaboration will look like after completion of my Ph.D. The valuable feedback we received at the conference will certainly contribute to strengthening our main argument. We expect to keep working on this project towards article publication.

Even though this was a very short trip—my Schengen Visa only allowed me to stay four days in the European Union—I certainly appreciated the opportunity to participate in a conference that represents the type of politically and socially engaged philosophy of science that is being done in Europe today—a very different scene than in the US—and to share my points of view both with local and international experts. I am very grateful to the Nanovic Institute for European Studies for supporting me. Since I have already exhausted departmental funding for international travel, I could have not traveled to Copenhagen without the Nanovic’s financial support.

Student Spotlight: Molly Geraghty

Posted on April 7, 2014 in Students

Geraghty, Molly 13-14Molly Geraghty is a Junior majoring in Science Preprofessional Studies and French and Francophone Studies.  The Nanovic Institute awarded Molly a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to conduct research on the interactive nature of the Paris opera.  She traveled to Paris over fall break.  Molly recently wrote about her experience:

Perhaps I could have looked up some information on the Opéra Garnier from my dorm room, in the United States. I could have asked people their opinions of opera, or done some sociological research online on differences between French and American culture. However, I never could have experienced history firsthand like I was able to in Paris, and that powerful form of learning helped me to come to the conclusions I came to with my research.

The title of my project was “The Paris Opéra: An Interactive Experience,” a play on words, because it involved both the topic I was studying and the way I planned to do my research. I would not only conduct research in the beautiful Bibliothèque Historique de la Ville de Paris, reading primary sources dating back to the 19th century, finding notes from the authors themselves and old leaflets advertising publishing companies, but also in the home of my topic, the opera house of 19th century Paris: the Opéra Garnier. Although the case I planned to study, the failure of the opera Tannhaeuser at the Paris Opéra house in 1861 actually occurred in a different building, the Salle Le Peletier, the Opéra Garnier was what truly represented the ideas of Parisian society on the Opéra in the 19th century.

I spent my first day in the library, poring over the thin pages of primary sources in the studious silence of the reading room, constantly reminded by the chipping, painted, exposed wooden beams of the history contained there, in the books and in the building itself. The next day, I made my trip to the Opéra Garnier. I had booked a tour with an English-speaking tour guide so that I would be able to both understand everything said and clearly ask questions. I happened to have the perfect tour guide, Caroline, an art history student who had worked in museums both in France and in the United States. Her background had helped her form a unique perspective on the way that these two countries viewed and interacted with art.

I was able to talk to Caroline after the tour and ask her a couple questions about my topic of research: audience interaction in the history of the Paris Opéra. I already knew of two cases: one being the failure of Tannhaeuser at the Salle Le Peletier, the incident on which I was conducting literary analysis at the library, and the representation of the Phantom of the Opera in fiction, starting in the 19th century. I wondered if she would know of any other incidences like these, where people interrupted or interacted with the opera, and she certainly did. She told me there was once a man who played a radio through an entire opera. The radio was playing the opera that was being performed, but the timing was off by just a little. The audience became so enraged that they yelled and booed at this man. Apparently, the man had orchestrated the whole thing after learning the ways of the opera, perhaps as a large-scale social experiment. Another example had just occurred very recently, with an opera that had begun at the Opéra-Bastille only two weeks before my arrival in Paris. The opera was Aida, which is usually set in Egypt. However, the Paris production had changed things around, setting it instead in Italy, and in a very controversial historical period. This change had caused an uproar, with people booing and hissing to show their discontent and their disagreement with the setting! The idea of such a riotous display of dissatisfaction was something entirely new to me.

An idea that was not as new to me was the purpose behind the building of the Opéra Garnier. I had spent the summer in Paris through the study abroad program at Notre Dame, and one of our classes was a course on the architecture and art history of Paris. Through this course, I had learned that the Opéra Garnier was commissioned by Napoleon III and created by Charles Garnier to be a place where the people of France could come for a spectacle. However, that spectacle was not created by the performers in the opera, but by the upper class people of society themselves, who came to the Opera house. Everyone in Paris knew this, including Charles Garnier himself, and so he carefully instructed his masterpiece to put on display the people of Paris.

It was a place of grand public exhibition, filled with beauty and power, where people came to see and to be seen. It was a way for Parisians to climb the social ladder as they ascended the beautiful marble staircase that Garnier had so exquisitely shaped. People did not come to the Opéra Garnier to see an opera; they came to see the show happening outside of the theatre. The Opéra Garnier was built with those people in mind, and with the Paris Opéra as the official reason to create a newer, grander social arena where the real action, the real spectacle, could take place. Why, then, would the people of Paris lower themselves below the level of the performers or the director of the Opéra? The Opéra was there for them, and they knew it. This unspoken fact gave the audience the power at the Opéra: the power to interact, to voice their opinion, to shout their dismay. This, the Opéra house itself, was the missing piece to my puzzle.

Finally, I realized I had come full circle. The inspiration for my research project had been the unusual actions of the Phantom of the Opera, but now the story all made sense. What better place was there than this, an opera house built as a place for people to create a spectacle, for the Phantom to, himself, become a spectacle? The Phantom was just another Parisian among the many who had attempted to gain the fearful respect of his companions by making a grand performance at the Paris Opéra, a place that provides an interactive experience for everyone.