Growing up in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Katherine Pardy wasn’t one of those young people whose college plans began and ended with the University of Notre Dame. She was, however, sure of her career plan: to follow in her parents’ footsteps and become a doctor.
Funny how life works sometimes.
Now a junior at, yes, Notre Dame, Pardy is majoring in neuroscience and behavior with minors in theology and poverty studies. Medical school and the health care profession remain a strong possibility, but she’s now considering another route due in part to a new internship through the University’s London Global Gateway in partnership with St Edmund’s College in the University of Cambridge.
“(My career goal) definitely was to become a doctor going into college,” she said. “But, honestly, I feel like every single time that I go to Cambridge, every day I spend in that city, I just learn more and realize how many thousands of paths there are. That has expanded my entire worldview. I’m in a spot now where I have no idea where I want to go. But I’m very excited to just take it a step at a time and see what opportunities are out there. (It’s) made me consider possibilities such as living abroad or doing a Ph.D.”
In the fall 2022 semester, Pardy was the first Notre Dame intern in the St Edmund’s Von Hügel Institute for Critical Catholic Inquiry (VHI), which since 1987 has engaged in interdisciplinary research inspired by Catholic thought and culture with a focus on contemporary realities.
Notre Dame and St Edmund’s signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in March 2022 to “develop collaborations and exchanges in fields of shared interest and expertise.” In addition to the internship in which Pardy participated, other activities will or already include visits and informal exchanges of faculty, scholars and administrators in areas such as education, research and outreach; postgraduate education and training; joint conferences, symposia or other meetings of mutual interest; and joint research programs.
Not long after the MOU was signed, Pardy learned she had been accepted into the London study abroad program for the 2022-23 academic year. She then attended a meeting in which Notre Dame International staff described the many internships available to students in London, though little was said about the new initiative with the VHI.
“They didn’t say anything in particular about it, not even that it was associated with Cambridge,” she recalled. “I investigated more and knew it was a research institute connected to St Edmund’s in Cambridge. I applied and interviewed and that was that. So, I was going into it a little bit blind.”
Pardy traveled on Mondays last fall via train the 60 miles from Notre Dame’s Conway Hall residential facility to Cambridge, where she worked a full day with VHI scholars.
“The work I do is all over the board and very unpredictable,” she said. “Sometimes I’ve helped with reviewing the journal they publish and other light editorial work. And then I’ve helped the team develop frameworks for some of the projects they’re now working on. It’s fascinating. Theological aspects, higher education, disability. There is just a range of topics they’re interested in and it’s very, very cool to see behind the scenes and how they tie back to their central mission.
“It’s really an honor to be involved in that.”
Pardy’s formal internship ended at the semester break, but she is continuing her work at the VHI as a volunteer this spring semester.
Vittorio Montemaggi is the director of the Von Hügel Institute and the principal liaison between it and the London gateway. He also helps oversee the gateway’s Kennedy Scholars Seminar, which supports senior thesis research projects from students in the London program.
Raised in Rome, Montemaggi holds bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in European literature and theology and religious studies from Robinson College in the University of Cambridge. He served on Notre Dame’s faculty from 2009 to 2017 in South Bend, teaching religion and literature in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures. In addition to his work with the VHI, Montemaggi is on the faculty of King’s College London, focusing on the relationship between religion and the arts.
Discussions between Notre Dame and the VHI began a half-dozen years ago, but ramped up over the past two years, leading to the MOU. Several early research collaborations already have been established related to Shakespeare and the common good, disability and knowledge, and artificial intelligence.
“Another initiative is on the undergraduate level and the internship (Pardy held),” Montemaggi said. “Katherine is involved in a number of aspects of our work … being a part of the team when we’re thinking about how to develop our research projects.”
He added: “Depending on the student’s interest, we can connect them with people at Cambridge who might have significant advice or connections.”
Pardy, for example, met last fall with Sofia Carozza, the 2019 Notre Dame valedictorian who is studying neuroscience on a Marshall Scholarship at Cambridge.
Montemaggi also combined his leadership of the VHI and the Kennedy Scholars. At the end of last semester, the Kennedy Scholars made final presentations at the institute with invited academics from the broader Cambridge community. It gave the Notre Dame students “the opportunity of receiving feedback while also stimulating opportunity for everyone,” Montemaggi said.
Josh Copeland, executive director of the London Global Gateway, manages the administration and operations of Notre Dame’s largest study abroad program and works alongside Rev. Jim Lies, C.S.C., the director for academic initiatives and partnerships. Together, they engage academic leaders to create new research opportunities. Copeland believes the new collaboration with the Von Hügel Institute has great potential.
“There’s a great synergy about what Notre Dame does in higher education and what St Edmund’s and the Von Hügel Institute do in the same space,” Copeland said. “It’s a shared mutual focus on higher education in both directions, with our unique Catholic perspectives. St Edmund’s is a different college. It’s a college within the greater Cambridge University, but it has a Catholic identity. Notre Dame is a preeminent Catholic university with a presence in the U.K. So, we share these interlocking puzzle pieces. We can build a partnership with all the riches of both universities’ respective scholarship and learning opportunities.”
He added: “It’s exciting for the St Edmund’s elements of Cambridge to partner with an American university like Notre Dame that shares a Catholic heritage and Catholic vision, and we are thrilled to work with one of the preeminent universities in the world, but in particular with a college that shares our vision of higher education. That’s probably going to be an overarching theme of this partnership: What is our role in Catholic education, higher education as a whole? And how could this partnership be a voice in the years to come?”