International Sociology Research Helps Shape Alumni Futures

Author: Arts and Letters

For Emmie Mediate ’15 and Katie Brennan ’15, their undergraduate research in sociology allowed them to delve into issues they are passionate about—and played an integral role in shaping their futures.


Mediate, who was named a 2016 Rhodes Scholar, majored in Africana studies and Arts and Letters pre-health, with a minor in international development studies. On campus, she worked as a research assistant to Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology,  and Terence McDonnell, assistant professor of sociology.

She spent three summers in Uganda researching global health issues. On her first trip there, she examined the motivations of aid workers who go abroad, a project inspired by her work with Smith on the science of generosity. As a Kellogg International Scholar, Mediate also spent three years working closely with McDonnell to analyze international HIV/AIDS media campaigns.

“The most important thing Notre Dame has instilled in me is a sense of concern for others,” Mediate said. “A lot of the passion I have for the work I do in Uganda and for my future goals comes from a desire to be in solidarity with others, a concern for the common good, and just a sense that there is something bigger out there to fight for—and I want to be a part of that.”

Mediate is now in Uganda on a yearlong International Development Fellowship through the Kellogg Institute. She will begin her studies at the University of Oxford in October, pursuing a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.


Brennan, a sociology major with minors in Irish studies and Irish language and literature, conducted research in Northern Ireland to learn how the sectarian environment and history of violence affect young people’s lives in Belfast today.

A Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Brennan interviewed young people, both Catholic and Protestant, from underprivileged neighborhoods in Belfast to better understand their views on community, antisocial behavior, and the future.

“Through my research I have become even more passionate about the situation in Northern Ireland and how young people can create a more peaceful and cooperative environment in the hostile land,” she said. “I hope giving the young people an opportunity to share their story and talk about things that are often taboo to bring up was helpful for them, as I found the experience to be incredibly beneficial.”

Brennan is now enrolled in a master’s program in conflict transformation and social justice at Queen’s University Belfast. In November 2015, she was featured in Notre Dame’s award-winning “What Would You Fight For?” series, which originally aired on NBC during a home football game.