During Notre Dame’s eighth annual Walk the Walk Week in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Graduate Student Life, in collaboration with the Graduate School, hosted a series of lightning talks featuring nine graduate students — across six different disciplines — whose research centers around topics related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. The lightning talks were hosted at the Graduate School’s home of Bond Hall and highlighted the groundbreaking research of ND graduate students that is — whether directly or indirectly — advancing the goals and dreams set forth by Dr. King.
The nine students presented prepared 3-5 minute talks on their current research, with topics ranging from domestic issues to international, religious to political, and from theoretical to practical. This gave the audience of over 40 students, faculty, and staff the opportunity to see how far the issues of justice, diversity, equity, and inclusion span across our world and lives.
As just one example of the global reach, theologian and second year Ph.D. student Emmanual Ojeifo told the story of Imam Abubakar Adullahi, a Muslim leader, who risked his own life to save 262 Christians from being slaughtered in Nigeria’s Nghar village. Ojeifo related the Imam’s story to his own journey, describing their meeting as a “ray of hope in the possibility of peace, reconciliation, and fraternal coexistence.”
The event perfectly encapsulated the Graduate School’s motto: Your Research Matters, You Matter. Noemi Fernandez Labarga, a second year Ph.D. student from the English Department, expressed this well: “It was amazing to hear the important research taking place on our campus and its many disciplines…I hope to be able to join again in some capacity next year!”
Furthermore, the experience encouraged one presenter, Geneva Hutchinson from Art, Art History, and Design, to adapt her presentation for the annual 3MT competition taking place at the end of February and early March.
Following the presentation, all in attendance were invited to stay for a small reception where audience members were able to speak with and ask questions of the evening’s presenters. The room was abuzz with sounds of conversation and connection. As a sign of gratitude for their time and participation, the speakers were presented with a book — Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir (2020) — by one of the Walk the Walk keynote speakers, Natasha Tretheway.
Graduate Student Life and the Graduate School were pleased with the success of this event and to be able to give graduate students the opportunity to showcase and share their important research with friends and colleagues. Special thanks were given by the event organizers to Dr. Mary Ann McDowell, associate dean for professional development in the Graduate School, who emceed the event. The hope is for this event to become a mainstay of Walk the Walk Week and a way for Notre Dame to continue to highlight the tremendous work being done by the University’s graduate students as a “force for good.”
Following are the abstracts of the event’s presentations:
- Emmanuel Ojeifo, 2nd Year Theology: At the heart of this story is a ray of hope in the possibility of peace and reconciliation symbolized by Imam Abubakar Abdullahi, a Muslim leader, who risked his own life to save 262 Christians from being slaughtered on June 23, 2018.
- Carli Steelman, 7th Year Sociology & Peace Studies: Using an original dataset of over 2,500 monuments to the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Carli analyzes how spatial dynamics of violence, territorial control, concentration of co-ethnics, and municipal party control impact the spatial distribution of memorialization.
- Zay Dale, 3rd Year English: Zay’s work studies this dichotomy between violence and aesthetic animation in twentieth century black texts, suggesting that the aesthetics of twentieth century black literature violently resists aesthetic norms and create a new black aesthetic that is attuned to a literary black consciousness.
- Sofia Duenas, 2nd Year Sociology: Schools are often purported as the key to a more equitable society. Sofia’s research broadly examines the extent to which education policies promote or hinder this.
- Noemi Fernandez Labarga, 2nd Year English: Noemi’s research focuses on the ways in which racial discourse and American literature mutually inform each other, specifically the way that race inflects language and cultural production.
- Isabel Güiza-Gómez, 4th Year Political Science & Peace Studies: Isabel’s dissertation project intends to shed light on disempowered groups’ attempts at addressing socioeconomic inequalities and political inclusion in highly unequal and violent societies.
- Taylor Hartson, 2nd Year Sociology: Their project explores the unique experiences and practices of queer sustainable agriculture with the aims of bringing particular attention to queer growers in the Midwest.
- Geneva Hutchinson, 3rd Year Art, Art History, & Design: Geneva’s thesis, titled “RESTORE/RECLAIM” navigates the complexities of being raised within “purity culture,” healing from sexual trauma, and responding to spiritual and physical abuse within the church.
- Ornella Joseph, 4th Year Chemistry: The ND Lead Innovations Team developed a Lead Screening Kit (LSK) for residents to have the soil, paint, and dust in their homes screened for lead hazards.