Mary Kate Cashman (Class of 2024)

Author: Lisa Gallagher

What led you to study at Notre Dame?

I knew I wanted to attend a university with a strong sense of community and the opportunity to live out the principles of social justice, both in and out of the classroom. Once I learned about Notre Dame and its incredible community that desires to be a “force for good” in the world, I saw that my own values aligned closely, and it felt like the perfect fit.

What led you to peace studies? How did you get connected with the Kroc Institute?

Peace studies classes provided me with an opportunity to integrate my passions for community-building, religious dialogue, and collective trauma healing in my coursework and ultimately my future career. I first discovered my passion for these areas while taking Professor Atalia Omer’s course on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After graduation, I am hoping to apply what I have learned at the Kroc Institute to work at an NGO and then pursue graduate studies in international policy or social work.

You have been active in a variety of opportunities available to peace studies students. Please share some of those experiences.

I went on the "Identity and Conflict at the Periphery of Europe" trip to Bosnia and Herzegovina with the Ansari Institute in summer 2022 and participated in the UNITAR "#SheLeads4Peace" conference in Switzerland the following summer. In both of these programs, I learned about root causes of violence, explored potential careers, and connected with my Kroc peers outside of the classroom.

I participated in a summer study abroad program with the Department of Political Science in Jerusalem in 2022 called “Identity and Conflict in the Middle East,” where I studied the Israel-Palestine conflict.I spent a semester in Santiago, Chile in spring 2023 at Notre Dame’s Santiago Global Center, where I worked with children at a local Catholic parish to plant a garden as part of its after-school programming. Both experiences expanded my worldview as they allowed me to live in communities different from my own. Additionally, the Spanish proficiency I acquired in Chile will be an important career asset, whether I work within the U.S. or abroad.

On campus, I am involved with Mercy Works and the Community Alliance for Serving Hispanics. Volunteering with these organizations has allowed me to integrate my passion for social justice into my everyday life.

What advice would you give an incoming freshman who is interested in studying peace?

Take advantage of all the opportunities that the Kroc Institute offers to get involved beyond the classroom, even if you don't think you're ready! In my first semester as a peace studies student, I received an email with the application for the student trip to Bosnia. At first, I didn't think I would apply since I was new to the study of peacebuilding and wasn’t familiar with Bosnia's history. However, I realized the program overlapped with my interests in ethno-religious peacebuilding and could be a good learning opportunity. I researched Bosnia's recent history, applied, and was ultimately accepted. This program continues to be one of the most impactful experiences I have had in my life thus far. I hope to return to Bosnia at some point after graduation to work with one of the many organizations I learned from while we were there.