2013-14 Notebaert Fellows

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Samantha Anderson, Clinical Psychology
Undergraduate Institution:
University of Wisconsin-Madison (Psychology, 2013)

As an undergraduate at Wisconsin, Samantha’s classroom and research interest was depressive disorders in adolescents and adults. However, her passion for statistics led her to study quantitative methods at Notre Dame under the direction of Prof. Scott Maxwell. She is particularly interested in scientific replication and longitudinal data analysis.

Accepted into several graduate programs, Samantha chose Notre Dame both because of the generous Notebaert Fellowship and “the strength of the psychology program. The faculty are an extraordinary group of talented individuals from whom I felt I could truly learn.”

The University’s commitment to service and the sense of community were also important in Samantha’s decision to attend Notre Dame. As an undergraduate, she served as president of the psychology honor society, volunteered with hospitalized children, tutored, and worked in a variety of research labs. As a counterpoint to her academic work, Samantha competes and performs as a ballroom dancer.

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Margaret Blume,Theology
Undergraduate Institution:
Yale University (Humanities)
Graduate Degree:
University of Notre Dame, Master of Theological Studies (2013)

As a doctoral student in Theology, Margaret’s main research interests are Origen and Augustine, who stand at the beginning of the Christian theological tradition. Her secondary focus will be on medieval theologians such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Thomas Aquinas, who continue to anchor theology in Scriptural exegesis, and employ philosophy as a handmaiden of theology.

“I am also interested,” she explains, “in the role of theology in the Church and the university, as well as the relationship between faith and reason on the one hand, and Catholic education on the other—particularly as articulated by John Henry Newman.” Margaret believes that “the ancient traditions of the Church can speak anew in the present,” and hopes to teach theology one day. She has advanced language skills in Latin, Greek, and French.

Margaret chose Notre Dame “because the faculty, whom I knew from the master’s program, are exceptional in their intellectual ability, mentorship, and overall integrity and kindness.” As a doctoral student, she is studying under the direction of John Cavadini and Ann Astell.

At Yale, Margaret was active in the Catholic center and a founder of a group named Greatness, which, she explains, “provided a forum to explore the vision of human love that recognizes the unique dignity of each human person and the intrinsic connection between body and soul.” She also writes for the quarterly Christian review Fare Forward, a publication for young adults focused on cultural commentary.

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Erik Ellis, Medieval Studies
Undergraduate Institution:
Baylor University (University Scholar, 2006)
Graduate Institution:
Baylor University, M.A. in History, Guittard Fellow (2007)

Erik’s research interest is the process of Christianization—specifically, how the barbarian peoples on the fringes of the Roman world came to reinterpret their own new Christian tradition through a process of Latin translation. His broad interests and exceptional language skills (Latin, ancient Greek, Old English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish), made him a perfect candidate and fit for Notre Dame’s Medieval Studies program.

“My reasons for choosing Notre Dame,” Erik explains, “centered on the inter-disciplinary nature of the Medieval Institute.” I was also impressed by how welcoming the University community is of married students and children. With South Bend’s lower cost of living and the offer of the Notebaert Fellowship, my decision to attend Notre Dame was easily made.”

Erik taught high school courses in Latin, French, Greek, Logic, Philosophy, History, and Mythology in Oklahoma middle and high schools for five years preceding his matriculation at Notre Dame. He has made use of his Latin skills in a variety of unusual contexts: he served as a Latin instructor to deacons and deacon-candidates in the Diocese of Tulsa, sang in a Latin chant group in a parish, and taught “conversational Latin” to monks at an Oklahoma abbey.

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Christopher Haw, Peace Studies and Theology
Undergraduate Institution:
Eastern University, Philadelphia (Theology and Sociology, 2003)
Graduate Institution:
Villanova University, M.A., Theology and Religious Studies (Theology and Religious Studies, 2009)

As he enters Notre Dame’s Peace Studies and Theology program, Chris is already a practiced peacebuilder, having chosen to live in the last ten years in Camden, New Jersey, which has often ranked as the most violent city in the United States. Chris taught at a Camden school, rehabbed abandoned houses, regularly interacted with the homeless, and become involved in various grassroots anti-violence organizations—deliberately choosing a life with the poor and contemplation of the gospel.

Chris is also the author of two books that have received awards and wide circulation within Christian circles: Jesus for President and From Willow Creek to Sacred Heart. The theologian William Cavanaugh has called the latter “simply the best book I know of on being Catholic in America today.”

Chris came to Notre Dame to follow his conviction that “the Church is an essential player in social healing and building communities of redemption and nonviolence.” His research centers on the theological implications of the cultural anthropological work of Rene Girard and his critics. “I am particularly interested in Christian notions, symbols, and practices dealing with victimization and suffering, like the eucharistic host as ‘victim’ and its place in violent social history,” he explains.

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Nikolaus Kleber, Electrical Engineering
Undergraduate Institution:
The University of Notre Dame (Electrical Engineering, 2013)

In his graduate program in electrical engineering, Nikolaus’ specific research interest is communication systems, particularly the effects of high-level architectures and algorithms on optimum performance in the presence of other communication systems. “I am interested in developing algorithms and architectures that adaptively model and mitigate interference from external sources with an efficient use of energy and computation,” he says. Within Notre Dame’s Wireless Institute, Nikolaus works with Dr. J. Nicholas Laneman, from whom he took classes as an undergraduate.

“The most influential components in my decision to continue at Notre Dame,” Nikolaus says, “included the Catholic nature of the University, the generous financial package the Notebaert Fellowship provided, my rapport with the electrical engineering professors, and the renown of the University.”

Nikolaus served as a liturgical commissioner in Fisher Hall while an undergraduate. He was also a member of two engineering honor societies, a four-year member of the marching and varsity bands, and a three-year member of Notre Dame’s clarinet choir.

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Clair Mesick, Theology
Undergraduate Institution:
University of Chicago, BA (Honors) in Religious Studies (2009)
Graduate Institution:
University of Notre Dame, Masters of Theological Studies (2013)

Entering Theology’s doctoral program earning her master’s degree at Notre Dame, Clair intends to explore the intersections of scriptural interpretation, moral formation, and social history within early Christianity. A number of questions interest her: How did scripture and ritual shape the moral imagination and social identity of Christians in the first four centuries? Where did the authority to read, write, and perform scripture come from in antiquity, and how did early Christians access that authority? How did lay Christians understand their relationship to their sacred texts, given that literacy was often reserved for the elite? For these investigations, Clair plans to draw on the resources of faculty throughout the Theology Department, and to make use of her skills in a variety of ancient languages: Greek, Hebrew, Latin, and Coptic.

Clair was drawn to continue at Notre Dame because of the opportunities for vibrant interdisciplinary conversation as well as the generous mentoring of multiple faculty members during the time she earned her MTS. In her view, the University offers “one of the few programs that neither divorces historical inquiry from contemporary theological concerns nor separates it from public discourse about religion.”

While a master’s student, Clair served as a student representative to the Society of Biblical Literature. At Chicago, she edited a religious literary magazine and was an intern at the Center for Religious Architecture.

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Allison Reinsvold, Physics
Undergraduate Institution:
College of St. Benedict, St. Joseph, Minnesota (Physics major, German and Math minors, May 2013)

With Notre Dame’s graduate physics program, Allison studies high energy particle physics, although she has wide-ranging interests. As an undergraduate, she excelled in literature courses as well as those in physics and mathematics, and became fluent in German through study abroad. At the College of St. Benedict, Allison was a member of the first cohort of the Mathematics, Physics, and Computer Science Research Scholars (MapCores) program, an NSF-funded mentoring and research program for undergraduate women. She participated in the NASA Aeronautics Academy at NASA’s Ames Research Center, an intensive summer research program which culminated in a presentation of her research at NASA Headquarters in Washington, D. C.

“The wonderful people, both professors and graduate students, I met and the sense of community I felt when visiting the Notre Dame in March were the most influential factors in my decision to attend Notre Dame,” Allison explains. “I was also influenced by the Catholic identity of the University, because my Catholic faith has always been important in my life. I knew that at Notre Dame I would be free to express myself as both a physicist and a Catholic.”

While an undergraduate, Allison served as student lector and Eucharistic minister, and a catechist for elementary students. She also assisted with Mass for prison inmates.

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Nathanael Sumaktoyo, Political Science
Undergraduate Institution:
Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta (Computer Science and Statistics)
Graduate Institution:
Loyola University Chicago, Masters of Applied Social Psychology

Nathanael comes to Notre Dame’s graduate program in political science by way of Indonesia and Chicago. His undergraduate degree was in computer science and statistics, but, he says, “for reasons beyond my immediate grasp, religion and politics hold me spellbound.” Following his passion for exploring Indonesian democratization and Islamic revivalism, after graduation, Nathanael won a Fulbright to study social psychology at Loyola University Chicago. “I wanted to not only be an expert in political Islam,” he says, “but also in American politics—which is why I interned as an analyst at the Obama Campaign Headquarters.”
As a Notebaert Fellow in the Department of Political Science, Nathanael will work with Profs. David Campbell and Geoffrey Layman to study various aspects of religion and politics—including topics related to religious freedom, tolerance, and how religion influences individuals’ political values and behaviors.”

In making the choice for Notre Dame, Nathanael explains that the University’s “strength in religion and politics particularly drew me in. In addition, I was also attracted by the unique culture of the University as an academic institution that strives to combine faith and reason.”