The Nanovic Institute for European Studies is pleased to announce that the 2020 J. Robert Wegs Prize for Best Minor in European Studies Capstone Essay has been awarded to Mary Kate Kriscovich ’20 for “Social Enterprise Institutions in France.”
A 15 to 20-page scholarly research paper, the capstone essay is the final requirement of the Minor in European Studies and is written by students over the course of a semester on a European topic with the guidance of Notre Dame faculty advisors.
“The Wegs Prize serves to honor and remember the founding director of the Institute, Professor Wegs, who was committed to enriching undergraduate education and to excellence in scholarship,” says Clemens Sedmak, interim director of the Nanovic Institute. “Mary Kate Kriscovich's essay particularly deserves this year's Wegs Prize because her work demonstrated sustained research, included travel to Europe to deepen her questions and understanding, and presented her conclusions in admirable prose. It is a pleasure to award her this prize on behalf of the Nanovic Institute.”
In her prize-winning essay, Kriscovich explores how social enterprises—businesses whose primary concern is to serve the public good—are understood in France and how they add value to society. She also demonstrates that individuals strongly motivated by a sense of altruism or a desire to positively influence society are increasingly likely to choose to work in the social enterprise industry.
“My analysis takes an in-depth look at social enterprise institutions and considers what are some personal motivations among persons who go into this field,” says Kriscovich. “I wanted to find out why the government structure in France was more favorable to social businesses, as well as to understand the motivations of their owners. As I am very interested in going into social business, it was useful for me to have many perspectives.”
On her research trip to France last spring, Kriscovich met several social business owners. She was struck by how each entrepreneur spoke about their own motivations for engaging in this type of work—even if it meant less financial and professional security. With guidance from Sonja Stojanovic, assistant professor of French and Nanovic faculty fellow, Kriscovich shaped those conversations from her first trip into a narrow research topic—one from which she could link to concepts from her coursework at Notre Dame and position her to ask more targeted, specific questions when she would return to France later that year.
“Mary's capstone is the result of an ambitious and innovative project evolving from research on the ground,” says Stojanovic. “Mary is an exemplary and diligent student, and it was a rewarding experience for me to work with her on this project.”
In addition to working in Chicago post-graduation for West Monroe Partners, a management and technology consulting firm, Kriscovich hopes to learn more about social enterprises in France in order to conduct further in-depth analysis and a comparison between the social entrepreneurial cultures of France and America.
“As a finance and French major, the Nanovic Institute has afforded me incredibly useful interdisciplinary experiences that have allowed me to combine my interests and gather information for my future studies and research,” says Kriscovich.
The Wegs Prize was established in 2012 to honor J. Robert Wegs, founding director of the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and professor emeritus of history at the University of Notre Dame. The development of the Minor in European Studies is but one of Professor Wegs’s many contributions to the Nanovic Institute.