Student Spotlight: Linlin Liu

Posted on May 22, 2015 in Students by JACF

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

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

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

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

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

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

Student Spotlight: Greg Young

Posted on May 21, 2015 in Students by JACF

Young, Greg 14-15How does conducting research with a Nanovic grant differ from other research experiences? According to Greg Young (’16), a Nanovic grant allows one to find things out for oneself, to experience new information and process new understanding on one’s own. As Greg states, this is invaluable. We recently gave Greg, a 4th-year architecture senior, a Senior Travel and Research Grant to conduct research in Siena. Read about the difference that conducting research on his own made to his intellectual and academic development!

A professor said to me recently “the best architects, when they move somewhere new, spend the vast majority of their leisure time learning about that place.” His point wasn’t just for continued education past graduation, when we have jobs, but to learn to know one’s own place, their home, through self-investigation. “There are a lot of firms” he said, “that were really good around New York when they were all in one car, going around the city. Now they’re in a bunch of cars, and they’ve lost something.” During our year in Rome, we were taught a lot by the architecture faculty: we had lectures daily, sometimes inside, more often out in the streets, looking at what we’d only seen through books the years before. We went on field trips: saw different regions, different cultures, etc. But really we were missing the aspect of personal investigation. Because of so many other requirements, people really couldn’t just go spend a day looking at the interior of the Pantheon, to see what was going on. There’s something completely irreplaceable about finding things out for yourself, through your own work that gives a personal connection to the object of study, a sense of place, belonging, and understanding.

Moving toward my fifth and final year (more quickly than I might like!), starting preliminary thesis, work, and preparing for a summer internship and eventually full employment, the need to connect to a place is becoming clearer. As architects we are obliged to create places and spaces that contribute to the surrounding environment, whether that be the rolling hillside of England, or the dense fabric of New York City, a place we live, or the place we’re working. Traveling around Italy with the School of Architecture prepared me for knowing that there are things, cultures, places, that I simply don’t understand. That there’s a richness in life, the surface of which I’ve only scratched. But, it didn’t prepare me to find out that abundance on my own.

Researching in Siena by myself allowed me to better know how to understand a place: without getting to know the people, the culture, the history, the food, the types of trees, and the color of the bricks native to the region, knowing about an important building is all but meaningless. I went to study transitional architecture, between the Gothic and the Renaissance, specifically as it manifested itself in Siena (as opposed to the more well-known Florence), and I did. But I wasn’t prepared for how incomplete my initial thoughts were. I thought I’d be able to really just focus on the buildings and the spaces, and think a little bit about the paintings, sculpture, etc. but as soon as I started reading the history and studying some of the other works, like Pisano’s pulpit in the cathedral, or the museum of the Hospital of Santa Maria della Scala, I knew there was no way I couldn’t spend as much time and energy on things other than architecture. Not because there isn’t enough about the buildings to spend months on, but because it’s such an incomplete picture.

To speak a little about what I found, my initial assumptions were in many ways spot on: the Sienese schools took a different, though in many ways no less important, road than their rivals. The Florentines concentrated on a sense of robustness, a heavy, powerful sense of presence. Perspective, proportions, and many other things were worked out chiefly by Florentines. But while the Sienese may have only dabbled in those things, they far surpassed their neighbors in elegant grace and fineness. The cloak of the Madonna in Duccio’s Maestà has a refinement of line and color that wouldn’t be seen until Leonardo and Botticelli, both Florentines who learned from the Sienese school. These things follow in the interior of the cathedral, one of my particular objects of study: the columns, capitals, statues of the Duomo have a somewhat ethereal quality that makes the cathedral of Florence feel clunky. Furthermore, the idea for a grand domed cathedral in Florence would never have occurred, if not for the influence of Siena and their neighbor Pisa. Happily, the Dome in Siena differs vastly from that of Brunelleschi, and lets us see the work of a sophisticated culture, not the work of a barbarous group, as Vasari might have us believe.

Simply put, my research allowed me a nuanced, personal understanding of a place, which is unique to me: nobody else has my understanding and feeling of Siena, and neither do I have theirs. The time I spent in there not only assisted me in formulating, developing, and working toward my thesis, on architectural composition and symbolic meaning, but has helped me truly understand my professor’s advice. Without the experience of independent research like this, I feel I’d be left with one eye closed. One would be opened, to the world of research already conducted, recorded in books and essays. Now I’ve begun to open the second eye, and I’ve already seen so much with it. I can’t wait for what I’ll see next.

Student Spotlight: Ben Denison

Posted on May 19, 2015 in Students by JACF

DenisonBen Denison is working towards a doctorate in Political Science with concentrations in international relations and comparative politics. The Nanovic Institute gave him a Graduate Professional Development Grant  to present his solo authored paper entitled “Bosnian Disconnect: EU Conditionality Policy and The Failure of Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina” at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association. While there, he acquired professional experience, made excellent contacts, and gained some interesting insights. He recently wrote to us about his experience.

Attending the 2015 Annual Meeting of the International Studies Association in New Orleans, LA was a fantastic experience that will greatly aid my current and future research projects, as well as aiding in my professional development for my future career.  I was extremely lucky that the Nanovic Graduate Professional Development grant allowed me to attend this conference and meet so many individuals that will help improve my career and research in the future.

On Wednesday, February 18th, I presented my paper “Bosnian Disconnect: EU Conditionality Policy and The Failure of Reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina” on a panel entitled The EU as a Foreign Policy Actor.  On the panel, I was joined by fellow scholars who focus on the European Union and its behavior in foreign territory.  This created a very interesting panel with a diverse range of viewpoints that gave the audience an interesting look at the decision making processes of the European Union and how their foreign policies can impact other states.  Additionally, we had great discussants on the panel, Diana Panke from the University of Freiburg and Tina Freyburg from the University of Warwick, who have published extensively on Europe.  Luckily, they used their expertise to give very insightful and helpful comments that will help reframe and push my paper to a more final state.  The most interesting part of their comments, however, was how she commented that she was not sure of some of the literature I was referencing that is canonical to certain US scholars.  This made me realize that there still needs to be greater bridges drawn between the scholarly communities in the US and in Europe. However, interacting and meeting the various scholars from Europe on my panel was a great first step in helping me to cross this divide.

Additionally, I attended many panels with very interesting papers being presented by scholars from across Europe. In particular, I attended a fascinating panel on ontological security, focusing mostly on Serbia.  After this panel I met with 2 scholars from Serbia and had a fruitful conversation about my research and my dissertation ideas.  Both provided very helpful comments on how to approach my research on the region, but perhaps even more helpfully, I was able to make new contacts for potential research in Belgrade and the region.  Having local contacts to draw upon when engaging in research abroad is a very useful tool to have, and I’m glad I was able to meet scholars who were willing to help me in this way.  Additionally, I met with many different scholars and students throughout the week, all of which were incredibly helpful and supportive with my research goals.  The connections will be invaluable to draw upon in the future but also were helpful in telling me that my current research is on the right track.

Overall, my time in New Orleans for the 2015 ISA Annual Meeting was extremely well spent presenting my work, meeting and networking with scholars and fellow students, and receiving great feedback on my research.  This was a fantastic opportunity and I am extremely glad I was able to attend the conference and engage with the community of scholars for a week.  Without the generous support of the Nanovic Institute, this opportunity would not have been possible.

Student Spotlight: Grace Linczer

Posted on May 18, 2015 in Students by JACF

Linczer, Grace 14-15 (2)Grace Linczer (’16), a double-major in Anthropology and Peace Studies, will be leaving for Europe soon to do service work in Rome, thanks to The Dan and Cheryl Commers Endowment for the Nanovic Institute. Before that, however, she received a Break Travel and Research Grant for Sophomores and Juniors to travel to Budapest to conduct research on the Dohany Street Synogogue. Her research was both academically and emotionally enriching. What follows is just a portion of her personal account of her travels!

As I stepped from the Keleti train station, I caught my first glimpse of the Hungarian capital of Budapest. A patchwork of vibrant buildings gives an immediate visual narrative of the city’s elaborate history. Striking facades, spires and domes around the city endure as evidence of the myriad of peoples and cultures that have shaped the city’s lengthy history. One edifice, in particular, stands out against the skyline to the east of the Danube – The Dohany Street Synagogue.  In 1859, this monument was erected in the part of the city called Pest, which was, at the time, a residential area for the Jewish community of Budapest. The largest synagogue in Europe, surpassed in size only by the Temple Emanu-El in New York. The Dohany Street Synagogue has witnessed decades of Hungarian history.  Perhaps the most formidable episode that the Synagogue withstood was the Nazi occupation of Budapest in 1944.

I had several goals in mind when I began my research within and around the Dohany Street Synagogue complex. Firstly, I sought to gain a more comprehensive view of the Jewish community in Budapest before the Nazi occupation. Next, I wanted to examine the actions taken by the Nazi’s in and around the Synagogue complex. By coming to understand how they transformed the Jewish quarter, I would be able to more fully grasp the corporeal and psychological traumas that the Jewish community suffered collectively.  Finally, I intended to delve into the steps taken since the Holocaust to restore the Synagogue and surrounding neighborhood. I was afforded the opportunity to meet with a resident historian of the National Jewish Museum with whom I discussed many of the aforementioned questions. He gave me a tour of the synagogue complex and the surrounding Jewish quarter, allowing me ample time to field my questions.  My research is based extensively on these meetings; additionally, however, I rely on records made available to me by the National Jewish Museum, as well as my own observations and documentation.

I would like to extend my sincerest thanks to the Nanovic Institute for their generous support of my work. Traveling to Budapest was a truly invaluable experience, one that will be fundamentally important for the remainder of my undergraduate career, and perhaps further into my graduate studies. The Nanovic Christmas Break Grant allowed me to broaden my personal and academic perspectives by studying the Holocaust from the point of view of the Jewish community. Despite having studied the Holocaust in-depth throughout my academic career, nothing could have prepared me for the emotional experience of standing in the space were such unthinkable horrors occurred only seven decades ago. Nevertheless, I was struck by the poignant resilience and hopeful vitality of the Jewish community of the Dohany Street Synagogue. I am truly grateful that I was able to witness their efforts at rebuilding and healing their community despite all odds.

Student Spotlight: Lauren LaMore

Posted on May 15, 2015 in Students by JACF

LaMore, Lauren 14-15Lauren LaMore is a Masters Candidate in the department of French and Francophone Studies. She received a Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant from the Nanovic Institute to conduct archival research in Paris. Not only was this her first research trip to Paris, but the work that she did contributes to the work of a group of scholars from a small network of universities in the US and France. Lauren recently wrote to us about her experience.

With the help of a Nanovic Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant, I was able to spend a week conducting research in Paris, France during this past winter break. While the research served as a culmination of a History and Philosophy of Science seminar I took this past fall, it was also a crucial stepping stone for the continuation of the projects we began in the class. Our goal last semester was to study and translate Madame Emilie Du Châtelet’s Institutions de Physique, a sort of philosophical review written for her son that was published in 1740. Despite evidence of the Institutions having some influence among Enlightenment thinkers and in the Académie, Du Châtelet never received the recognition as a philosopher or mathematician in her own right. On the contrary, she is generally only recognized as Voltaire’s lover, and she would only be a woman who studied philosophy, physics, and mathematics. Her work was rediscovered in the 1970s, and there is now a group of scholars and students here at the University of Notre Dame, Duke Univeristy, the University of Pennsylvania and with the Centre international d’étude du XVIIIe siècle in Paris who have decided to take on her various works in an effort to promote her as an innovative, intelligent and influential female historical figure.

While I have been to Paris on several occasions, this was my first time going for research, and what an interesting week it was! Despite the jetlag, the cold winter weather, and of course the controversial Charlie Hebdo attacks that occurred in the middle of the week I was there, I was determined to get the manuscript of the Institutions de Physique in my hands and to start working with it. The manuscript is in the possession of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and is part of the Fonds Français collection. On the BNF website there is a black and white scan of the manuscript available to view in its entirety. However, there are many details relevant to the interpretation of the text, and therefore to its translation, that are not visible in the online version, which launched this research project and guided my work in Paris. Some of these details that are not visible unless handling the physical text include the different colors of ink and slightly different penmanships, indicating that she had a few copyists, some inks and even pencil markings too light to appear on the scan, unclear systems of pagination, pieces of paper adhered to the pages with wax to cover paragraphs that Du Châtelet decided to replace, and finally page types and measurements. Because our goal here at the University of Notre Dame is to publish an English translation of the manuscript, the project is much more than a question of language, but it is also a question of history and the genesis of the Institutions. There are details in the text revealing that Du Châtelet had been working on the text from at least 1738 until 1740, and in my week looking at the roughly 750 page manuscript, I was able to not only track all of these details that are not visible in the version online, and but also to photograph some of the particularly interesting or challenging pages that I may use for my personal research. That being said, while these details may seem small and of little consequence to a translation of the Institutions, they are immensely helpful and important in providing a timeframe for its composition, and in understanding how Du Châtelet’s ideas evolved and what she aimed to demonstrate to her readers.

Now, a few weeks after my return from Paris, the obvious question is “what’s next?” I found all of the information I needed, and because of the length of the manuscript, I now need to work with what I found to answer a few questions regarding the composition of the text. Looking further into the future a group of us have applied for a National Endowment for the Humanities “Scholarly Editions and Translations” grant, with the ultimate goal of taking the translation that we prepared this past semester and producing a full critical edition, based on research that we are doing individually, including my own. As a Masters Candidate in the French and Francophone Studies program, I hope to further my passion for the French language and also questions of translation in the professional world, and this project has been a great way for me to bridge my interests in French language, history, and translation. I am thrilled to be involved in a project that has a much wider goal than the single research seminar from fall semester, and that will only continue to grow as more is discovered about Madame Emilie Du Châtelet and her writings.


Student Spotlight: Ryan Schultheis

Posted on May 14, 2015 in Students by JACF

Schultheis, Ryan 14-15 (2)Ryan Schultheis (’15), a double-major in Political Science and International Economics, recently received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship in Mexico! Here at the Nanovic Institute, we like to think that we helped prepare him for the application process and for the experience. We gave Ryan a Senior Travel and Research Grant to travel to Madrid and Barcelona over spring break to conduct interviews for his senior thesis. The practice in application-writing, the international experience, and the intense exposure to Spanish that he received as a result of his Nanovic grant experience certainly had an impact on his Fulbright application. Here you can read all about his trip to Spain in his own words!

I am grateful for the Nanovic Institute’s Senior Travel and Research Grant to fund my intellectual and cultural adventure in Spain. Without the grant, I would not have had one of the most transformative experiences of my undergraduate career. From intellectual challenge (and confidence!) to cultural exchange, my journey through Spain served to reinforce the skills and mindset that I have come to develop during my time at Notre Dame. Indeed, my first journey to Europe was fruitful in many ways.

First, I completed necessary and challenging interviews for my senior thesis, a project which analyzes Spanish administrative reform as it impacts the adjudication of a recent surge in the number of immigrants seeking to naturalize in the country. I had never been so challenged to communicate complex thoughts and ideas in Spanish, an experience that has provided a renewed and important sense of confidence in my language skills. The individuals that I interviewed welcomed me to their country and culture, eager to learn and discuss my project.  I completed seven interviews in total – three in Madrid and four in Barcelona. Engaging both academics and attorneys, I explored the nuances of my topic in university offices, neighborhood legal clinics, and Spanish cafés.

In Madrid, my first interview took place at the Fundación Ortega y Gasset, a complicated metro ride for a new, yet aspiring madrileño. As with most of my interviews, I entered intimidated, yet left with a profound sense of confidence in my understanding of a complicated and under-theorized policy change. While the interviews were structured in design, I was required to listen and critically respond (in Spanish!) to unanticipated areas of insight. Listening to recordings of the interviews in my hostel, I was able to improve my questioning with each consecutive interview. Nearly all of the individuals that I spoke with have sent follow-up e-mails, eager to provide additional reading materials, references, and support should I wish to publish my completed work. The interviews were both productive and entertaining. In Barcelona, Gemma Pinyol, an academic and former director of the Gabinete de la Secretaría de Estado de Inmigración y Emigración not only offered unique insight into the Ministry of Justice’s motivation for proposing unprecedented fees in the naturalization process, but also bought my café con leche, determined to ‘break the stereotype that Catalonians are stingy’. Following my interview with Imma Matta from Cáritas – Diocese of Barcelona, we spoke about her career and my interest in immigration law. Indeed, I could not be more grateful for the intellectual generosity and kindness of my interviewees.            

While not performing research, I utilized my free time to explore the cultural richness of Madrid and Barcelona. While visiting the Museo del Prado and Reina Sofia in Madrid, I made immediate (and unexpected!) connections to works that I have analyzed and pondered in Spanish literature courses at Notre Dame: Las Meninas by Velázquez to Guernica by Picasso. During an open evening in Madrid, I attended an ópera at the Teatro Real, immersed in the beautiful exposition of Gabriel Garcia Lorca’s El Público. In Barcelona, I visited Gaudí’s Basílica de la Sagrada Familia, stunned by both the beauty and peace that surrounded me. I left Spain eager to return and explore the country even more, and I will. This summer I will spend 5 weeks walking and writing on the Camino de Santiago, beginning in southern France and arriving in Santiago de Compostela (500 kilometers!).

Thank you, Nanovic Institute, for helping me to achieve my intellectual goals while opening my eyes to a people and culture that I will continue to engage following graduation!

Student Spotlight: Abigail Bartels

Posted on May 11, 2015 in Students by JACF

Bartels, Abigail 14-15Where will your Nanovic grant take you? It took Abigail Bartels (’16), who is working on majors in Political Science and Theology and minors in Gender Studies and European Studies, to Denmark to research Danish politics and Catholicism. It didn’t stop there, however. It also took her to Eastern Washington University, where she presented at the National Conference on Undergraduate Research. It also took her to a presentation at the Undergraduate Scholars Conference, organized by Notre Dame’s Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement and the College of Science. Congratulations to Abigail for all that she has accomplished! Here she recounts her research experience for us.

Thanks to the grant from the Nanovic Institute, I was able to execute my project design for my paper entitled “Danish and Catholic: An overview of politics and Catholicism in the world’s least religious country.” I am writing this paper as my project for the Center for the Study of Religion and Society Undergraduate Fellowship program.

My interest in this project stems from the complexity of the relationship between church and state. Denmark, commonly referred to by sociologists as the least religious country on earth, operates a state church roughly following the theology of Martin Luther. Danish citizens are born as tax-paying members of this church and though most become atheists, many remain members of the church for the entirety of their lives. Catholic Danes have held the right to religious freedom in Denmark for less than two hundred years and represent a small minority of Danish citizens. One factor that has kept the Catholic Church alive over the years is immigration. Given the highly anti-immigrant culture in Denmark, the impact of immigration has further ostracized Catholics from Danish society. In recent years, this separation has grouped Catholics with Jews and Muslims as victims of discrimination in European societies such as Denmark. This separation based on religious identity can be identified as a precursor to many societal problems, from discrimination to genocide.

In order to fully comprehend the history of Danish-Catholic relations and to identify how far the discrimination has gone today, I conducted seven interviews throughout the winter months with Danish political leaders and Danish Catholics, asking them about their professional or day to day experience with the relationship between the Danish state and the Catholic Church.

I had expected to find that Catholic political efforts are few and ineffective while daily discrimination against Catholics is prevalent and growing worse.

Joint funding from the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and the Nanovic Institute allowed me to spend nine days in Denmark, conducting seven interviews total. I was able to speak to a priest, two nuns, three lay people, and a politician. This trip provided me many valuable experiences, but four in particular stand out in my memory.

First and foremost, I found answers to the question I was seeking to answer through my paper. From just these seven interviews, it appears that being a Catholic in Denmark is viewed as an embarrassing fact about oneself that one does not bring up in discussion. Discrimination takes the form of societal pity for those unfortunate enough to be Catholic, but as of yet this has not progressed to violence. Also, political efforts by Catholics are in fact very few and very ineffective. I did learn about the main Christian political group, the Christian Democrats, which currently represents the only religious-based major party in Denmark. Fascinatingly, this group, though founded by a Catholic, emphasizes simply Christian values and does not even ask its members whether they are Christian or not. Some Catholics abstain from politics all together; some participate in the Christian Democrats; some find other parties that uphold Catholic social and economic teaching. I was fortunate enough to be able to interview Catholics in each of these three groups.

Second, I was able to practice my interviewing skills, which will be increasingly helpful as I continue to immerse myself in the field of research. These are skills that I plan to use throughout the rest of my undergraduate education, during graduate school, and as an academic someday.

Third, my Danish improved greatly over the trip. Though the interviews were conducted in English, I maneuvered around the country using Danish. The work I had put in since my last trip to Denmark has paid off, and I am capable of understanding most of what I hear. However, over the course of the trip, I was able to start forming sentences on my own as well. I was very grateful for the opportunity to immerse myself for a week and a half in a language that has no official representation at Notre Dame.

Fourth, I learned about Danish politics, Catholicism, and culture through observation. Even outside the interviews, I discovered interesting phenomena occurring. For example, many individuals of Asian descent attended Danish mass with me, but would chat in other languages after the service was over. This confirmed the studies I had read discussing the importance of the immigrant and recently naturalized population to the survival of Catholicism in Denmark.  Experiences like these can occur only when one is physically present in the culture, which the Nanovic grant allowed me to be.

I plan to finish my paper over the next three months. My abstract for it has been accepted to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which takes places in April. I hope that this paper will give insight into how religion functions in a so-called godless society – how the religion impacts the society and vice versa. I hope most of all that it will give us a more comprehensive and inclusive idea of the ways religious discrimination manifests itself in today’s world.

Once again, I am very grateful for all the Nanovic has done to help me with this project. Thank you very much for your help and for your financial support.

Student Spotlight: Connor Moran

Posted on May 7, 2015 in Students by JACF

Moran, Connor 14-15 (2)Here at the Nanovic Institute, we tend to think of our student grant programs as the means through which we enrich the academic and professional lives of students. While they certainly do that, we increasingly have been hearing from students who genuinely want to enrich the lives of others. This is certainly the case of Connor Moran (’15), a student in the School of Architecture. He received a Senior Travel and Research Grant to travel to Paris over winter break. The grant and his trip definitely aided in his development as an architect. But more impressively, Connor now more fully sees the connections between architecture and culture, between his work and the social implications of urban planning. Read about it in his own words!

The topic of high-rise development within the city limits of Paris is a highly controversial issue that highlights a difference in priority between the government and citizens of the city. While it is common knowledge that there is a lack of affordable housing in Paris, the politicians are lobbying for more ‘modern’ office space that will draw headquarters of international businesses back to the city. The goal of these authorities is to transform Paris from what it is and has been for centuries into a modern hub of commerce much like New York City or London. The primary issue with these projects is that they are ignoring the city’s need for housing and adding office space to the millions of square feet of unoccupied office space that already exists. 

My experience in the city confirmed that while not all Parisians are against the towers, theyare against their proposed functions. The society that has asked me to create an architectural counterproposal to one of these projects, S.O.S. Paris, supplied me with data from surveys they have taken regarding this topic and that back up this statement. Their goal is more to maintain the traditional character of Paris and fight high-rise development on the basis of preservation. This evidence helps to formulate a case against the government and ‘starchitects’ who are lobbying for the creation of the towers. S.O.S. Paris has been very successful in combating cases regarding the modernization of Paris and has been able to halt projects such as SANAA’s new Samaritaine department store in the 1st arrondissement of the city in court. 

I spent most of my time sketching, photographing, and studying traditional Parisian streets and mixed-use buildings. These studies will ultimately guide my hand in creating a new urban proposal on the site of one of the high-rise projects that has yet to be started. The orthographic drawings and renderings I create will reflect what I learned from analyzing existing and exemplary conditions within the city and will respect the pre-existing fabric of the site I have chosen. I am planning to address the need for affordable housing and integrating it with friendly and lively commercial streetscapes. This will ultimately result in a block that has appropriate urban scale and emanates the character of Paris’s most iconic neighborhoods. 

The outcome of my study is ultimately to be determined by how the Parisian public receive my thesis project. I will be following in the footsteps of traditional architects such as Quinlan Terry in London and Leon Krier in Luxembourg who have successfully crafted arguments against the modernization of such iconic traditional European cities. S.O.S. Paris hopes to use my project as a visual tool that will inspire more to argue against the corruption of traditional Paris and ultimately aid in the creation of preservation laws that prevent future disregard for the city’s historical and artistic development. The project will represent my personal beliefs on the topic of architecture and urban development and the culmination of my experience gained studying here and abroad through Notre Dame.

Student Spotlight: Kathrin Kranz

Posted on May 5, 2015 in Students by JACF

Kranz, Kathrin 14-15Kathrin Kranz, a doctoral candidate in the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, recently received one of the Nanovic Institute’s Dissertation Fellowships. But before that, she received a Graduate Break Travel and Research Grant for winter break travel to Germany. There she conducted interviews as a part of her dissertation field research, and her funding made all the difference. Read about her experience in her own words!

I arrived in Germany at the height of the holiday season, a wonderland of Christmas sights and sounds. It was, in short, a beautiful time of year to begin my dissertation field research, nine days of which were generously funded by the Nanovic Institute. The main purpose of my trip was to interview experts and policymakers on the topic of arms embargoes and changing European arms export norms. While I had already collected archival data as well as government documents and media publications, I needed to conduct interviews to understand the informal dynamics of policymaking that are often difficult to deduce from written sources.

Having set up some interviews before getting to Germany, I started my journey in Bonn. During the course of my first meetings, it soon became clear that in order to meet and speak with insiders, I needed to be flexible. Because the holidays had just ended, many of the people I planned to interview were in different locations than they usually are, or were busy catching up with their work. And so, I spent a good deal of time on trains, traveling all over Germany to meet with experts, government consultants, civil servants, and members of Parliament (luckily Germans trains are comfortable and punctual, and have quiet wagons that are great working environments!). For this, the generous funding from the Nanovic Institute proved invaluable: it allowed me to be flexible, to change my travel schedule—often at the last minute—and to make my way to several locations without having to worry about whether or not I could afford the next train journey.

As a result, I met many of the experts and policymakers who are central to my dissertation research. I interviewed eight insiders during the nine days that the Nanovic Institute funded. It was a pleasure to find how welcoming people were, and how eager they were to help, despite their busy schedules. On more than one occasion an interview that was scheduled to last one hour turned into a conversation and a lunch, filled with anecdotes of work and of navigating the highly complex subject of the arms trade. The insiders’ accounts of German arms embargo politics and changing European arms export norms not only revealed some of the informal dynamics I was hoping to discover, they also changed some of the assumptions I had made.

For example, one account of a European working group meeting described how civil servants from European Union member states come together to talk about each other’s approaches to determine the legality of potential arms transfers. This sharing of information, said the insider, influences how she views decisions, and has contributed in subtle ways to rethinking some of the ways these are made. This was just one account of how European cooperation has begun to affect member states’ arms export policies.

The Nanovic’s Christmas travel and research grant not only allowed me to travel to Germany to conduct dissertation research, it also made it possible for me to make last-minute adjustments to my travel plans, which I would not have been able to afford otherwise. I was able to conduct eight interviews for my dissertation, which have enriched my thinking and findings. In addition, I was able to make valuable contacts for future research.

I am very grateful for the support the Nanovic Institute has given me. It was a wonderful experience to meet some of the people who contributed to some of the decisions I have been studying from a distance.

Student Spotlight: Lauren Seubert

Posted on May 4, 2015 in Students by JACF

Seubert, Lauren 14-15Sometimes we simply cannot see the flaw in our research design. It happens to the best of us. Lauren Seubert (’15),  who is majoring in Economics and Applied & Computational Mathematics & Statistics, learned that the hard way. The real trick is to be able to identify the flaw, learn about it, and then adjust accordingly. Lauren did exactly that, thereby turning what could have been a failed trip to Norway on a Senior Travel and Research Grant into a successful one. Read all about it in her own words!

My experience in Norway not only bridged the gap between my analytically focused coursework and my desire to exercise my skill set in a field work environment, but it also led to personal development by forcing me to adapt to unforeseen obstacles and constantly update my project’s hypotheses.

Prior to traveling to Norway, I spent many hours creating and refining a survey designed to measure various aspects of social capital; I then planned to use this survey as my data gathering instrument. Unfortunately, this method did not work well in Oslo, Norway. I believe the bad stretch of weather during my stay contributed to people’s respectful but negative disposition toward taking my 5-10 minute survey on the spot using my iPad. I was discouraged, but after discussing this outcome with my Norwegian contacts I learned why: Norway is generally an introverted society. Many Norwegians are trusting and communally centered, as supported by my survey responses, but they often times feel uncomfortable when approached by a stranger.

 A member of the university’s student union thought that this complex cultural norm might be an outcome of the transition that resulted largely from the economic success Norway achieved after discovering oil. In his opinion, this event not only marked the transformation of their economy from secluded and simple to one of novel global importance, but also affected society on a cultural level. Prior to the oil discovery, Norway’s history was tranquil and the Norwegian people were happy being left to their own devices. After the discovery, the Norwegian people felt a bit taken aback with the attention their country started to receive. While Norwegians may be extremely social and friendly amongst other Norwegians, they are still adapting to foreigners’ interest in their society. This discussion was extremely useful to my study in helping me improve and enhance my assumptions. Nevertheless, I was forced to adapt my study’s design going forward.

I resolved to create a link to my survey that could be emailed and only taken once so that people didn’t have to take the survey on the spot. Additionally, I transformed my instrument into an interview transcript to be used with various contacts. These contacts included: members of the student union and other student organizations at the University of Oslo, social researcher Signe Bock Segaard from the Institute for Social Research in Oslo, and Dr. Ole Gunnar Austvik, a professor of energy economics and management at the BI Norwegian Business School. Although this was not my original design and the randomization factor of my data was compromised, I gained the benefit of engaging more deeply in conversation through this interview environment.

For example, Dr. Austvik greatly augmented the explanatory case of strong institutions, a case made in many of the research papers I read, as an important factor in Norway’s success. He explained that this case was rooted in the rise of the hydroelectric sector in Norway, which occurred long before oil was discovered. It was during this time that Norway successfully and effectively built institutional consensus concerning their energy policy. Unlike the United States, energy policy was not a polarizing political question; rather, it was an objectively strategic one. Furthermore, Dr. Austvik extended this model to help me understand how this type of thinking has permeated Norway’s entire political sphere from international affairs to discussing the privatization of infrastructure companies. Norwegian society fosters an open forum of discussion thus allowing for the country to be flexible and adaptable while still proudly standing firm in their core democratically socialist ideology.

I was fortunate enough that my Norwegian contacts further supported me in seeking out other resources and contacts during my week in Oslo. I now plan to continue to use these materials and expansive network of contacts to further expand my study. I will also conduct data analysis on the data I gathered. Under the recommendation from Dr. David Campbell, I purposely constructed my survey instrument using verbatim questions from two well-known social capital questionnaires that are used widely to do comparison studies across many countries. This plan gives me the opportunity to still parse valid data, albeit not taken by me personally.

Overall, my experience was overwhelmingly positive. Not only did my project develop in ways I never thought imaginable before departing for Norway, but I was also blessed with the opportunity to immerse myself in an extraordinarily unique culture and meet wonderful people while doing so.

Thank you to the Nanovic Institute for helping provide me with this amazing experience I will never forget!