As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, I studied Sociology with a concentration in Peace Studies and minors in Irish Studies and Irish Language & Literature. I have always been keenly interested in studying and understanding conflict and learning how to move societies forward following years of violence. For me, Northern Ireland was my key case study and this interest only grew as most of my studies—including my time at University College Dublin—and summer experiences connected to this conflict. I spent my Hesburgh-Yusko Global Inquiry summer working on a project through Notre Dame’s Psychology Department and Queen’s University Belfast’s School of Law where I traveled to Belfast to interview youth about their communities, the past, and their hopes for the future of Northern Ireland. It was through this research that I wrote my thesis and am currently writing an article. I spent my Professional Venture summer splitting my time between Dublin and Belfast. In Dublin I worked on the Keough-Naughton Institute’s BBC/PBS documentary on the 1916 Easter Rising and in Belfast I served as a student teacher on a high school peace studies course. This past summer I worked as a full teacher on the same peace studies program and plan on continuing to teach in that position in the future.
Having found a second home in Belfast, in part due to the opportunities provided to me through The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program and Notre Dame, this fall I will be attending Queen’s University Belfast to earn an M.A. in Conflict Transformation and Social Justice. In this year-long program, I will approach issues related to conflict, conflict resolution, and human rights through many different fields, including sociology, psychology, law, and political science. I found this program during my HYSP research summer in 2013 when I was privileged to attend the opening of the Institute for the Study of Conflict Transformation and Social Justice while in Belfast. This chance occurrence, as well as my past HYSP and other undergraduate experiences, led me directly to this program.
Through the support of Notre Dame and The Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, I have been able to explore my passions and study this particular place in the world in great depth, which has led me to my graduate studies in Northern Ireland. During my time as a Master’s student, I will explore even more deeply topics that I have begun to understand quite well through my HYSP summers. Although I am no longer a Notre Dame student, I continue to feel the support and encouragement from Notre Dame professors and, particularly, the Hesburgh-Yusko community!
Kathleen Brennan received an invitation from the Irish government to attend the Ireland 2016 Diaspora Gala in Dublin on March 16. She will join Professor Briona Nic Dhiarmada and other Notre Dame representatives as well as Irish President Higgins, dignitaries, Liam Neeson and many more at a red carpet event where the film version of 1916 The Irish Rebellion will premier.