Archive for June, 2015

Student Spotlight: Sara Bramsen

Posted on June 30, 2015 in Students

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

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

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

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

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.