AMST Majors Summer 2015



Featured AMST Summer: Jenn Cha - Research Project on Spoken Word of the Africana Diaspora in America


“Roots and Routes: Identity and Home(land) in the African-American Diaspora”, or “Home” and the Summer of #BlackLivesMatter
This summer, I received the American Dream grant from ISLA to conduct a research project on spoken word of the Africana diaspora in America. While writing my research proposal,  I’d drawn up a theoretical framework around identity and home(land) in the African-American diaspora, bolstered by influential Africana writers and poets such as Chimamanda Adichie, Derek Walcott and Warsan Shire, who explored both the pain of unbelonging and the formation of a kind of Zion for Africana peoples. Inspired by the power and protest origins of spoken word poetry, I sought to experience firsthand how African-Americans in communities of color around the country expressed and defined themselves, in a society that continually wrests this agency from them.  At venues in New York City, Washington D.C., Baltimore, Chicago, New Orleans, and Oakland, I recorded and transcribed more than a hundred poems by both recognized and anonymous Africana spoken word artists. 
By its nature, spoken word poetry is an organic medium, sometimes improvised and infinitely adaptable, molding to the political climate of the time. And so as I embarked on my research journey, it became abundantly clear that Africana spoken word poetry in the summer of 2015 would center on the #BlackLivesMatter movement, in the midst of society’s awakening surrounding issues of police brutality and institutional racism in general. While the #BlackLivesMatter movement has gained traction this summer, it has also been met by tremendous backlash by those who seek to replace its name with #AllLivesMatter. Of course all lives matter. But to paraphrase a tweet by comedian Arthur Chu, "do you crash strangers' funerals shouting 'I too have felt loss'"? When police kill black people at egregiously disproportional rates and then often walk free without even a trial, our legal system and society as a whole sends the clear message that black lives do not matter as much as others' lives. As underground poet Toaster has voiced, linking institutional racism with mass incarceration: 
“Do not wear hoodies.
Do not wear black.
Orange is fine.
Suits are fine.
Orange suits are fine.”
What does #BlackLivesMatter have to do with “home”? Everything. What does it mean for America when 1 of 3 Black men in America will call prison “home” at some point in their lifetime? When home is a different place every week? When ancestry and history make home too many places to claim for one’s own? These questions and more began to haunt me as I continued to transcribe across the nation.
When discerning logistics of the project, I purposefully chose events and performances that represented a diverse set of voices and experiences, from the PEN World Voices Festival in NYC, to intimate jazz club venues in New Orleans, to the National Poetry Slam in Oakland. It was important for me to capture not only the stories of established poets, but also those of everyday people struggling to achieve the American Dream. If success after hard work is an American right, then our society is failing its Africana citizens. As an American Studies major, I am learning not only about America as it stands but also how to be a change agent in making the American Dream truly accessible to all American people. As famed cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead has voiced, “never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has."

Rose Urankar - Intern at U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Office of Hispanic Affairs, Washington D.C. 

“This summer, I worked at the US Conference of Catholic Bishops in the Office of Hispanic Affairs.  I was able to snag this internship thanks to the Cross-Cultural Leadership Program (CCLP), which is run by the Institute for Latino Studies and the Center for Social Concerns.  It's an internship program that sends students to cities with a strong Latino population--LA, Chicago, and DC.  I was definitely able to incorporate AMST into my experience!  I found myself drawing on things we'd discussed in all of the classes I took the semester before--Violence and Nonviolence in America, Religion and American Radicalism, and even Native American Studies.  The Latino population is so relevant to America's growth today, which I got to witness specifically in light of the Church and ministry.  What's more, I've been able to apply what I learned this summer to my AMST classes this semester!  Full circle!”

Tessa Bangs - Summer Service Learning Program, Administrative Assistant at the Mercy Center, South Bronx, New York City 
“This summer I did an SSLP in the South Bronx of New York City. At the Mercy Center, I did many administrative tasks--primarily in Spanish--working with the families of the neighborhood, who are generally very impoverished and are recent immigrants from a host of nations. For five weeks, I was also the head counselor for the kindergarteners through second graders of the youth program, during which I wrote and oversaw curriculum and took the children on field trips across the city - which, for most of them, was an entirely new experience. This relates to my work in American Studies not only through the work that the Mercy Center does--which is a lot of family development, social services and immigrant/educational policy, among other things--but also by allowing me to experience another side of the city that I grew up in the shadow of, and how various socioeconomic factors affect certain things - but also how a shared geography made much of that a null point. I also could examine, up-close and personal, the modern-day tale of an immigrant's American Dream, and examine that from a variety of viewpoints.” 

Megan Schilling - Intern at WorldTeach, South Africa


“I was funded by the Kellogg Institute for International Studies to intern with WorldTeach in South Africa. I developed and ran a three-week winter holiday program for 7th graders in a small black township called Masiphumelele. I was then a teacher's assistant in a fifth grade classroom in a colored township called Ocean View. The internship primarily connected with my ESS minor and my future in teaching. That being said, my AMST courses helped me critically examine and comparatively analyze South Africa and the United States. The AMST course "The Promise and Unintended Consequence of Brown v. Board of Education" was particularly influential because it looked at the state of our education system and race relations 60 years after the landmark case. Meanwhile, in South Africa, I observed the education system and race relations 20 years after apartheid.”

Owen Smith - Intern at Notre Dame Study Abroad Office, Dublin, Ireland 


“I interned at N.D.'s study abroad office in Dublin. I planned and ran many of the events and programs that the Keough-Naughton Centre hosts there. Irish people have a lot to say about the U.S. The relationship between the two countries is incredibly strong. My internship allowed me to see what a little part of America- the University of Notre Dame- is doing in Ireland. N.D. is in some ways a bridge between Ireland and the U.S., and it was fascinating to see that idea play out in my daily work in cultural programs.” 



Renee Griffin - Intern at The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois 

“This summer I interned with the Daily Herald as a sports writer covering pro soccer, baseball and other sports. It connects to American Studies because there is obviously a major link between sports and American culture. Media and journalism also plays a huge role in our society.”

Peter Fink - Intern at Musocal Immunology and Biology Research Center of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts


“This summer, I interned in the laboratory of Dr. Christina Faherty at the Mucosal Immunology and Biology Research Center of Massachusetts General Hospital. I researched the pathogenic bacteria S. flexneri, which Dr. Faherty is currently studying with the goal of vaccine development. After being diagnosed with Celiac Disease and getting Salmonella and a tape worm in Peru last year, I wanted to learn more about gastrointestinal health, and this summer gave me just that opportunity. When I wasn't in the lab, I probably walked the Freedom Trail in Boston at least every other weekend because I am such a history geek, and was fascinated about both how much has changed and how much has actually remained the same in Boston since the founding fathers declared independence. Seeing and experiencing historic places in the city highlighted to me the importance of historical memory; I noticed that each monument and plaque was clearly designed with a specific intention. Boston is where our nation arguably started, but also now home to some of the most ground-breaking scientific research, and I remain in awe at how a small colony could be transformed into a modern, global city with both a rich heritage and a bright future.”

Lesley Stevenson - Intern at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, New York, New York


“I couldn’t believe I had the chance to intern at The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon until well into my time at 30 Rock. Walking into the building past tourists and taking the elevator up to the 6th floor, sometimes with people like Lester Holt or Jimmy himself, made the experience incredibly surreal. Each day, I helped out with daily tasks inside and outside the studio as well as on sets, and I had a chance to learn all about the facets of NBCUniversal that put the company at the forefront of the entertainment industry. American Studies shaped my experience this summer by constantly providing a backdrop to the work we did on the show. Having the exposure to cultural and media studies as well as gender studies and critical race theory prompted me to examine what kind of material we were using and what kind of stereotypes or comedy we relied on. As an intern, I had no oversight over the actual content that aired, but it was helpful to watch and learn as I begin to pursue a career in the entertainment industry.”


Sean Tenaglia - Activity Counselor at Camp Sweeney, Gainesville, Texas  


“I worked as an activity counselor at Camp Sweeney in Gainesville, TX. The camp serves children with Type 1 Diabetes, between the ages of 5 and 18. I feel that my American Studies education has really helped me to recognize and appreciate the different experiences and values of various groups of people. Thus, it was very easy for me to relate to, and form powerful relationships with, these amazing kids who have had to overcome so many obstacles in their daily lives.”


Caitlin Hodges - SLA Grant Recipient for Irish Language, Carrace, Ireland 


“This summer I received an SLA grant to study Irish language in Carraroe, Ireland. I often looked at my experiences there through an American Studies lens. The program was designed for non-Irish nationals, so many of my classmates were American (and often of Irish descent). It was interesting to see why these American students would study a minority language spoken by so few people - even in Ireland, where the language originated - and observe how Irish people responded to Americans who came to learn their language. American Studies has taught me to ask questions about identity, culture, and sense of place; any experiences I have while abroad will be shaped by my ability to critically engage with these questions.” 

Hannah Ashley - The American Dream Summer Grant Recipient, Summer Research Project: Art Galleries, Museums and National Park Visitor Centers. Yellowstone-Teton National Park & Jackson Hole, Wyoming  


“I spent my summer researching in Art Galleries, Museums and National Park Visitor Centers in the Yellowstone -Teton National Park Area as well as Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I examined how animals are displayed artistically in the various exhibits and gift shops. This information helped me think about why American wildlife is such a strong National symbol, as well as how current animal iconography in the National Park area supports this. Part of my funding came from the UROP American Dreams summer grant. All of this information I learned over the summer I plan to use in my senior thesis.”

Evelyn Trejo - Intern at U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.  

“This summer I was interning with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and their anti-trafficking program in DC. I had the opportunity to help out with their outreach efforts to minority community most at risk of becoming victims as well as hear some victims' testimonies. In American Studies we have engaged with the role immigration has played in shaping America and during my internship I got face to face with some of the dangers of trying to immigrate.”

Joe Tenaglia - ND Vision Program Mentor, Notre Dame, IN


“Over the summer I worked with the ND Vision program here on campus, helping to run weeklong faith conferences for high school students from all across the country. It was a great opportunity and one of the best experiences of my life! In terms of how it connects with American Studies, I would say that throughout the summer I was opened up to a lot of different perspectives from people from across the country who were all at different points in their own journeys of faith. This to me tied in with how we in AMST analyze texts from a wide variety of sources and have to change the way we read them based on what the text itself is. In the same way I had to adjust how I acted as a mentor-in-faith from participant to participant.”

Katie Laskey - ND Vision Mentor, Notre Dame, IN 


“This summer I was a small group mentor for Notre Dame Vision, a weeklong summer conference for Catholic high school students. I led four different small groups of high schoolers in discussions on faith and their lives. My job connected to American Studies in many ways. Learning about their faith often challenged the preconceived notions that the students had about being a Catholic teenager in America. The high school students, and anyone who follows a certain faith tradition, has to reconcile their beliefs and values with the culture they live in.”



Allison Griffith - Notre Dame Summer Study Abroad Participant, London, England 


“This summer I participated in Notre Dame's 6 week London Study Abroad program and earned 6 credits. While I was there, I was able to travel to Amsterdam, Dublin, Scotland, and Paris! I spent a week at home, then worked in Bloomington, Indiana where I did a 5 week internship with DistinXion, a Christian, non-profit company run by ND basketball alum Luke Zeller that puts on basketball camps all over Indiana. The company strives to promote good character in young kids using the sport of basketball. While traveling in Europe, it was interesting to consider how the definition of "Americanness" is articulated by foreigners and also to compare/contrast England's political, historical, and social aspects to our own. In southern Indiana, the basketball heart of our country, I saw how the sport today and making it to the NBA has become a modern take on the "American Dream." Nearly every kid age 5-18 wants to become the next LeBron James...and their parents will spend whatever money they can to make that come true.”






Elizabeth Kowalik - Intern at IMGE, Washington, D.C. 


“This past summer I interned in the Washington, DC area at a digital media consulting firm called IMGE. While there, I helped with a variety of tasks including compiling social media analytic reports and building websites for their corporate clients. My American Studies background came in handy when it came to conducting research and synthesizing information. On a number of occasions I had to create content for clients whose work I was unfamiliar with, but I felt confident in my ability to process the information and carry out my responsibilities because of my background at Notre Dame. As an American Studies major, it was also really fun just to be in DC and explore the city. I got to attend a number of interesting events with the other interns. Here is a picture of us at an event at Google where we met with Rep. Elise Stefanik.”




Anna Busse - Retirement Solutions Intern for Transamerica Corporation, San Francisco, CA


“This summer, I worked as an intern for Transamerica Corporation in the Retirement Solutions department. The brand is headquartered in San Francisco at the Transamerica Tower (see photo of my sister and I visiting before we started at the company), but their logistical headquarters is in my hometown, Cedar Rapids, Iowa. During my internship, I completed daily tasks relating to the upkeep of retirement plans and was given projects as they came that included preparing for an internal audit and assisting with the interview and hiring process for two new employees. I usually spent about half the day shadowing my manager - attending meetings, preparing for presentations, and the like. My favorite part of the internship was the networking program the company has set up for interns. Throughout the course of the summer, I was able to meet with six or seven upper-level Transamerica executives, including the lead attorney in their Labor and Employment division, the head of Digital Communications, and the director of Latin American business. It was an educational experience to say the least, and I would highly recommend the company to anyone looking for an internship that provides a very broad overview of what it's like to work in a large corporate environment.”