Melinda Davis, Notre Dame Senior, Secures Post-Grad Fellowship with Holy See Mission to the UN

Author: Hannah Heinzekehr

When she represented the Holy See’s perspective during a mock United Nations Security Council exercise in class, University of Notre Dame senior Melinda Davis couldn’t have imagined that just one-and-a-half years later she would have the opportunity to travel to New York for an internship at the Vatican’s official Mission to the U.N.


Davis, a psychology and peace studies major from New Orleans, has secured a competitive postgraduate placement with the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the U.N. She is one of four 2019 summer interns selected through a highly competitive global search process.


From June through August, Davis will attend a wide variety of events and general assemblies that mission staff are invited to in New York, including U.N. meetings, conferences and debates. She will also have the opportunity to file reports to be sent to the Holy See’s central offices in the Vatican and to assist in running the mission’s events and conferences.


Davis credits her time at Notre Dame with equipping her with tools to better understand both external and internal conflict at interpersonal, local, regional and international levels.


“Through the study of both psychology and peace studies, I’ve learned that conflict is normal and there are good, healthy ways to approach it,” Davis said. “Conflict is not just related to far-away and seemingly intractable situations that may never be resolved, but you can be a peacebuilder in your day-to-day life. At the Holy See Mission, I’m excited to learn from all of the attachés and ambassadors what it’s like to publicly live out your faith and build peace in the workplace.”


This opportunity builds on Davis’ longtime interest in the Catholic Church and its global influence. 


“My faith is very important to me. My father is a theology professor who got his master’s and Ph.D. degrees at Notre Dame, and his love of the church and ND planted the seed for my love of both,” said Davis. “Something that Notre Dame has really fostered in me is the awareness that the Church has an important and effective role to play in global affairs, and it has a lot of power and potential on the international stage to build peace in the world.”


Davis cites experiences in classes taught by Gerard F. Powers, director of Catholic Peacebuilding Studies, that equipped her for the competitive application process with the mission. Assignments in a class with Powers range from writing policy memos to participating in practice interviews and engaging in a mock Security Council role-play, often in ways that allow students to integrate their faith-informed perspectives into their work.


“Melinda is an excellent student who is committed to doing high-quality intellectual work in the service of her faith,” said Powers. “This prestigious fellowship will enable her to apply Catholic social teaching at the highest levels of Church engagement with international policy.”


Davis is excited for the opportunity to experience firsthand top-tier international relations systems that she studied throughout her time at Notre Dame, and hopes this experience will dovetail with her ongoing research interests on the role of civil society organizations in relationship to migration and refugees in Europe.


During her peace studies senior seminar in fall 2018, Davis worked with Asher Kaufman, professor of history and peace studies and John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, to design a capstone research project. This initiative took her to London, where she interviewed migrants and refugees about the impact of the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote on their lives and livelihoods. Davis also received help in designing the research project from Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee, the Ford Family Research Assistant Professor at Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and funding from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture.


While at Notre Dame, Davis has served as a Sorin Fellow at the de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, vice president of the Campus Fellowship of the Holy Spirit and a member of the Notre Dame Right to Life Club. She also has served as a research assistant in the Family Studies Lab run by E. Mark Cummings, William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families Professor of Psychology, and served on the academic committee for the 2019 Notre Dame Student Peace Conference. In 2018, she studied abroad in Rabat, Morocco, with the Migration and Transnational Identity program of the School for International Training.


Contact: Hannah Heinzekehr, Kroc Institute Communications Program Director,, 574-631-1808


About the Kroc Institute

Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute, part of the Keough School of Global Affairs, is one of the world’s principal centers for the study of the causes of violent conflict and strategies for sustainable peace.