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Students to research abroad

Mel Flanagan | Tuesday, December 4, 2012

For some Notre Dame students, the holidays are a break from academics. But for others, the upcoming vacation affords a chance to expand upon their academic interests abroad.

Senior Kalyn Fetta will travel to Italy for one week over break to conduct research on poverty alleviation in the country.

“I’ll be interviewing different program directors of non-profits and NGOs in Italy, specifically religiously affiliated ones, and then I’ll actually be doing service and helping out with one of them,” she said.

Fetta, a poverty studies minor who studied abroad in Rome last fall, said her research focuses on comparing and contrasting the different ways the United States and Italy attempt to address poverty and related issues.

“I’ll look at the extent of services they provide, why they serve, why different members of the organization are there, their mission, their accomplishments and how they measure the effectiveness of the program,” she said.

Fetta will spend the majority of her time and efforts in Rome, where she has several contacts from her time abroad at John Cabot University.

She will mainly work with the Community of Sant’Egidio, an international Christian organization that serves the poor. Fetta said she met a program director of the group at Notre Dame a few weeks ago, and she will meet with him again while in Rome.

“They have daily prayer services in [Basilica di] Santa Maria in Trastevere so I will meet and experience the community there,” she said. “They also focus a lot on serving the elderly so I think I’ll be making some sort of house visit with them.”

She will also travel to Florence and Assisi to meet with additional organizations that assist the impoverished.

A few countries west of Fetta, senior Ellen Brandenberger will spend 10 days of break researching her senior thesis in England and Wales.

“I’m conducting a thesis for my history major on understandings of cultural nationalism in Wales during the Industrial Revolution,” Brandenberger said.

Like Fetta, Brandenberger said she developed the idea for her research when she studied abroad in London last spring.

“While I was there I did the parliamentary internship, and my boss really encouraged me to pursue research in Welsh History, with a special focus on the Industrial Revolution,” she said.

To finance her research, Brandenberger applied for funds via the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement website. She was approved and received a substantial grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies shortly thereafter.

“I submitted a research proposal – a detailed list of expected costs and a recommendation from my thesis advisor,” Brandenberger said. “I wouldn’t say it was a difficult process, but it did force me to clarify the objectives of my research and align these goals to my advisor’s understanding of my work.”

Brandenberger said the majority of the funds will subsidize her visits and access to the Parliamentary Archives and archives at the National Library of Wales, where she will use primary documents to support her thesis.

Fetta also received a grant from the Nanovic Institute to support her international research. She said once she started applying for approvals and grants, she found a full support network of individuals able to provide further assistance.

“Anyone I contacted would have three or four more contacts for me, even just other people around campus,” she said. “They were definitely very helpful.”