Peace studies senior Elsa Barron awarded 2021 Yarrow Award

Author: Hannah Heinzekehr

University of Notre Dame senior Elsa Barron has been named the recipient of the Kroc Institute’s 2021 Yarrow Award in Peace Studies. The award is given annually to an undergraduate student or students who demonstrate academic excellence and commitment to service in peace and justice. 

Barron, a biology major with a supplementary major in peace studies and a minor in sustainability, was informed of her selection on April 20, and will share remarks during a virtual celebration of the undergraduate peace studies Class of 2021.

“Elsa’s deep engagement in multiple dimensions of peace studies and her commitment to peacebuilding made her the clear choice for this award,” said Laura Miller-Graff, director of undergraduate studies and associate professor of psychology and peace studies. “Her passion for environmental peacebuilding is an inspiration, and we at the Kroc Institute know that she will continue to be a positive force for change in our world.”

Barron says she felt surprised and honored when she learned that she had been named this year’s Yarrow Award recipient. 

“I was so honored and kind of surprised knowing all my peers in peace studies and knowing how much inspiration I’ve gotten from each of them and seen how much work they are putting into their own initiatives on campus,” said Barron. “I’m incredibly grateful to be selected and to know that ultimately our education is a group effort and represents more than any one individual can accomplish alone.”

During her time on campus, Barron has been an active proponent of environmental peacebuilding, a theory that emphasizes the importance of addressing environmental justice issues in order to build more peaceful societies. In February 2021, Barron planned and hosted a series of three Kroc Institute virtual events focused on faith communities and their role in environmental peacebuilding. Topics discussed during the events included decolonizing the land, interfaith approaches to creation care, and creating spaces for dialogue. 

“The webinar series combined all of these different elements I was passionate about and had branched into during my time in peace studies,” said Barron. “To bring together insights from many of my classes was just such a great thing to have as a part of my last semester.”

Another peace studies highlight for Barron was traveling to Uganda in March 2020 to visit the Bethany Land Institute, a farm in Bombo that conducts educational programs focused on spirituality and sustainable practices for land care and food production. The trip was part of the class “Peace, Ecology, and Integral Human Development” taught by Emmanuel Katongole, professor of theology and peace studies and one of the founders of Bethany Land Institute. 

“Fr. Katongole really kicked off my passion for environmental peacebuilding,” said Barron. “The hope and resilience at Bethany Land Institute and being able to experience it on the ground was definitely a highlight.”

During her time at Notre Dame, Barron, originally from Wheaton, Illinois, participated in several study abroad experiences, studying in Jerusalem during the summer and fall of 2019. She also received a research grant from the Nanovic Institute for European Studies to research religion and migration in Athens. 

Through the Peace Studies and Madrasa Discourses programs, Barron also participated in two intensives, one in person in Nepal during her freshman year and one virtual during her senior year. The intensives bring together students and faculty from Notre Dame and madrasa (Islamic seminary) graduates from India and Pakistan for a week of intensive teaching, dialogue, and exploration about religion, society, and epistemology (the study of knowledge or ways of knowing).

Barron was also involved with the Center for Social Concerns and, through the CSC, engaged with the DePaul Academy in South Bend. She was a member of the Notre Dame orchestra for four years, playing the oboe, and served as co-president during the 2021-22 academic year. She is an International Scholar at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies and also conducted research on developing a yeast biosensor for substandard antimalarial drugs as part of Professor Holly Goodson’s biochemistry lab.

Barron is the recipient of a Fulbright grant and plans to travel to India in Fall 2021 to study environmental peacebuilding. After graduation and before her departure, she will put her training to work at Hoosier Interfaith Power and Light, an interfaith environmental organization based in Indiana.

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. To learn more about the Undergraduate Program in Peace Studies, visit