Kroc Institute Undergraduates Win Awards


"The undergraduate program in peace studies combines rigorous studies in peace and conflict research with an engagement in peace practice," said Ernesto Verdeja, associate professor of political science and peace studies and director of undergraduate studies at the Kroc Institute. "Our students Rebecca Blais, Alexis Doyle, Teresa Kennedy, and Sarah Tomas Morgan, all recipients of prestigious awards this year, exemplify this dual commitment through their accomplishments in the classroom and in the world. We are delighted to celebrate their impressive achievements." 
Junior Rebecca Blais, a political science major and peace studies minor from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, has been named a 2017 Truman Scholar. Established in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman, her award includes $30,000 in graduate study funds, priority admission and supplemental financial aid at select institutions. 
Blais was recently elected student body president for the 2017–18 academic year after completing a term as vice president. She has also served as a member of the Election Committee for the Judicial Council and as director of internal affairs. Blais is a Dean’s Fellow in the College of Arts and Letters, a member of the Committee on Women Faculty and Students, and of the Committee for Sexual Assault Prevention. She was vice president of Be The Match On Campus, a nonprofit advocacy group for the national bone marrow donor registry, and she has led campus blood drives. 
Blais has traveled extensively, including accompanying a Notre Dame faculty delegation to Bangladesh this spring. Last summer, she participated in the Center for Social Concerns international summer service learning program in China, where she taught English and researched human rights. And in summer 2015, she conducted independent research in Sri Lanka on elephant conservation efforts. 
After graduation, Blais plans to attend law school and aspires to work as an attorney at the Department of Justice, focusing on issues related to women’s health care, education, and Title IX.
Senior Alexis Doyle, a biological sciences and peace studies supplementary major from Los Altos, CA, has been awarded The John W. Gardner Student Leadership Award. This is given by the Division of Student Affairs to a graduating senior who exemplifies the ideals of the University through outstanding community service beyond the University community. A resident assistant in Ryan Hall, Doyle is a Rhodes Scholar whose servant leadership has made an impact on both a local and global level. Identifying a need while volunteering at a clinic in Guatemala, she created a self-sustaining soap cooperative aimed at combating parasitic infections while creating economic opportunity for women in the area. For the past two years, she has volunteered in South Bend at the Sister Maura Brannick, C.S.C., Healthcare Clinic for the Uninsured.
Doyle is also the recipient of the 2017 Richard J. Wood Student Community Commitment Award by Indiana Campus Compact, a partnership of higher education institutions that advances the public purpose of colleges and universities. It is given annually to students who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to community engagement. 
Doyle will commence studies at Oxford University in October, after which she will attend the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Teresa Kennedy ‘16, an anthropology and peace studies major from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, has been named a 2017 Yenching Scholar. As a prestigious college within Peking University, the Yenching Academy is designed to equip outstanding graduates from all over the globe with a nuanced understanding of China and its role in the world. Yenching Scholars pursue an interdisciplinary English-language master’s program in China Studies. 
Kennedy, a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar and winner of the Yarrow Award in Peace Studies at Notre Dame, spent the past year teaching English as a second language. While at Notre Dame, she explored the relationship between culture and human rights through study and research in Latin America and Europe in instances ranging from indigenous rights to international migration. As a Yenching Scholar, she looks forward to learning Chinese and expanding on her undergraduate research by examining how a culture and human rights framework exists within China. 
Junior Sarah Tomas Morgan has been named a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact. Created to honor the leadership legacy of educator Frank Newman, The Newman Civic Fellowship recognizes students who engage in collaborative action to create long-term social change, address issues of inequality and political polarization, and demonstrate potential for effective long-term civic engagement. 
A Program of Liberal Studies major and Peace Studies minor from South Bend, Tomas Morgan has been deeply engaged in leadership on campus since her first year. Working with staff from the Center for Social Concerns, Tomas Morgan built a team to develop a non-partisan campus movement called NDVotes ‘16 to educate, register, and mobilize students in advance of the 2016 presidential election. Under her leadership, NDVotes ’16 registered nearly half of all Notre Dame undergraduates for TurboVote, an online voter resource tool while she also organized educational events for the 2016 elections. Tomas Morgan interned at the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in East Jerusalem and studied internationally at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Jordan and at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.
Contact: Ernesto Verdeja,