Spotlight on 17-18 graduate students


Staysa Abigail 17 18 Grad Advanced Language Training Greece Web

Our director, William Collins Donahue, says that "One of the most gratifying things about teaching at Notre Dame is the opportunity to observe the intellectual and spiritual growth of our students." 

As a hallmark in the mission of both Notre Dame and the Nanovic Institute, we delight in watching students of all disciplines develop their skills, heighten their curiosities, and push their ambitions to realize their dreams. A mechanism that enables students at any stage of their academic careers to accomplish this is the comprehensive suite of grants and fellowships available through the generous benefactors of the Nanovic Institute. 

Since 2000-01, the Nanovic Institute has been supporting the development of Notre Dame graduate students through a range of grant programs, fellowships, and conferences. 

After their return, students submit reports and images from their Nanovic-funded experiences. Below are just some of the many stand-out stories found in our latest Student Testimonial booklet. 

Valle Tomas 17 18 Grad Germany2


Tomás Valle
PhD student in History
The R. Stephen and Ruth Barrett Family Endowment for the Nanovic Institute

What were Lutheran universities in the 16th and 17th centuries really like? How did professors teach, and how did their pedagogy and courses change as they came into contact with new sources and ideas? Historians have largely failed to ask these questions because of a persistent bias against these universities as rigid and repressive. However, I made a short summer visit to three archives, each containing the main holdings of major Lutheran universities like Wittenberg, Helmstedt, and Rostock. I worked through a large quantity of disputations — public academic exercises — and found a great variety of topics and a surprisingly diverse set of authors. Building on the foundation I’ve gained from this trip, I will work to write a dissertation that lays out this intellectual dynamism and call new attention to the role of Lutheran universities in the transformation of modern society. Thanks to the Institute, my dissertation and my future research are off to an excellent start.

“Tomás Valle spent several very fruitful weeks in the summer of 2018 conducting preliminary research for his dissertation. The trip was indispensable. As a result of his proactive work and the support of the Nanovic Institute, both his dissertation proposal and his dissertation itself will be stronger than they would have been otherwise.”

Brad Gregory
Professor and Dorothy G. Griffin Collegiate Chair in European History


Mccall Alexa Grad Ireland Summer Break Travel And Research Web

Alexa McCall
PhD student in History
The Dan and Cheryl Commers Endowment for the Nanovic Institute

My research in Dublin focused on the role of church lands in seventeenth-century Ireland. During this period, religious conflict and political upheaval led to the dispossession of communities across Ireland, as lands were confiscated and redistributed along religious lines. In my research, I intend to show how the lands and properties of the Church were an important but understudied arena in the struggle to reshape and reimagine Ireland in the seventeenth century. 

“I made progress towards my PhD by honing my research questions and skills in ways I could not have done here on campus, or even in the United States. I acquainted myself with the archival resources available for a scholar in Dublin, so that when I return to continue my PhD research, I will already know how to navigate these spaces.“

Jelena Jankovic Rankovic - H

Jelena Jankovic-Rankovic
PhD student in Anthropology
The Katie Murphy McMahon Endowment for Excellence in Russian and East-Central European Studies

Being a refugee is physically and psychologically stressful, but how do we measure their combination? With the Institute’s support, I conducted a pilot study consisting of ten in-depth interviews, 350 surveys, and 70 fingernail samples from refugees in Belgrade, Serbia in order to examine and understand the effects of displacement and migration on immune systems, hormonal balance, and health. 

I spent seven weeks with Bulgaria’s Commissariat for Refugees and Migration and was invited afterwards to present my work at the Conference of Europeanists at the Columbia University Council for European Studies. I have now enlarged this study and am on my way to producing a dissertation that combines biomarker collection and ethnography in a way that enriches our understanding of the trauma of being a refugee.

Read More

Staysa Abigail 17 18 Grad Advanced Language Training Greece Web

Abigail Staysa
PhD student in Political Science
The Snider Family Endowment for Excellence in European Studies

While in Greece, I attended the Paideia Institute’s “Living Greek in Greece” program, an unparalleled opportunity for improving my facility with the language. During the program, I undertook a complete study of the Euripidean tragedy Orestes and attended daily discussion seminars on the play conducted entirely in Attic Greek. Above all, this opportunity provided the language skill vital for my dissertation research.

“I wish to express my deep gratitude for the generous financial support to attend advanced language training in Greece this past summer."

O Halloran Nathan 12931490 Nanovic Grantgreshake

Rev. Nathan O’Halloran, S.J.
PhD student in Theology
The Sean Reilly Nanovic Endowment for Excellence

I first visited the eminent German theologian, Gisbert Greshake, in his small second floor apartment on Goethe Street in Freiburg, Germany, where we conversed at length about issues related to my topic of purgatory. I then attended a conference on atonement theology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, where I both gave a paper and heard personally from N.T. Wright, a leading English New Testament scholar, Pauline theologian, and retired Anglican bishop, about why eschatology matters so much to soteriology. 

My dissertation aims to develop the Catholic doctrine of purgatory as an experience of the healing of victims, especially victims of abuse. In my work as a priest and spiritual director, I have become more and more aware of the degrees to which past abuse makes it difficult for people to receive God’s love. 

“The trip was significant for helping me to craft and refine my thesis.” 

2018 Yir Kincaid Elisabeth 2 16 17 Grad Rome Web

Elisabeth Kincaid
PhD student in Theology
The Paul G. Tobin Fellowship for European Studies

Kincaid completed and defended her dissertation in Theology and accepted a position for the fall as Assistant Professor for Moral Theology at the Aquinas Institute of Theology in St. Louis. Her research focused on conceptions of legal equity in the writings of Francisco Suárez, SJ (d. 1617), an important writer in the philosophy of international law. During her fellowship year, she was also able to complete new projects and publications related to Suárez’s writings and to present her findings at the International Colloquium on Jesuit Studies in Seville, Spain.

“I am very excited about the future and am so thankful to have had the last year to finish my dissertation well and to set myself up for future academic success.” 

2018 Yir Manzi Lucia 17 18 Grad Italy Web

Lucia Manzi
PhD student in Political Science
The Frank and Dominica Annese Fellowship for European Studies

Manzi completed and defended her dissertation in Political Science and has accepted a position for the fall as Assistant Professor of Political Science at SUNY Plattsburgh. Her dissertation examined the conditions under which effective judicial prosecution of political corruption and organized crime can occur by focusing on Italian cases. Related research focused on the interaction between judicial politics and party politics in Italy. During this past year, she presented her work at the 25th International Conference of Europeanists in Chicago.

Read More

Sepulvado Brandon 15 16 Web

Brandon Sepulvado
PhD student in Sociology
The Frank and Dominica Annese Fellowship for European Studies

Sepulvado is helping to clarify the emergence of neurology as a discipline by describing the growth of its professional network in France. On the strength of previous research and language acquisition supported by the Institute, Sepulvado won a Fulbright Fellowship to spend 2016-17 collecting data about these networks in Paris. He also won a National Science Foundation grant to recruit students to assist him in computational methods and social network analysis as he writes his dissertation. 

“The work I have been able to undertake because of my dissertation fellowship has resulted in an offer for a post-doctoral position at the University of Manchester and multiple invitations to work or collaborate with colleagues in France.”

2018 Yir Petrova Ana 15 16 Web

Ana Petrova
PhD student in Political Science
The Frank and Dominica Annese Fellowship for European Studies

Petrova spent the year conducting 130 interviews in Spanish and Bulgarian and gathering statistical data on over 200 political parties in twenty countries in order to explain why new political parties in Eastern Europe and Latin America spend so much time constructing strong party organizations when state subsidies and inexpensive media weaken the incentives to do so. Petrova also wrote her dissertation’s introduction, finished nearly two case studies, and put herself in a position to complete a third this summer. She expects to defend her dissertation this coming fall.

“This fellowship has made a great impact on both my career at Notre Dame and on my future development as a scholar.”

Looking for more graduate student project ideas? Look at our collection of graduate student spotlights.