Becoming a Force for Good Share

Author: Lindahl Wiegand

Becoming a Force for Good

Erin Thomassen, ND ’17  |  Nanovic Institute Grant Recipient (PICTURED LEFT)

“I’ve learned the joy of research in my first semester at Notre Dame. I’ve been encouraged to explore my interests and start following my passions. It’s a new level of excitement that I didn’t know existed with research—it’s like uncovering a mystery.”

Professor Julia Douthwaite  |  Sheedy Award Winner ’13, Romance Languages and Literatures (PICTURED RIGHT)

“Notre Dame is different. Some of our best professors and scholars are teaching undergraduate classes. Any time a student comes to me and needs something, I try to say yes. I lead by example, and hope the younger people will join.”


It’s not surprising that witty and satirical Observer writer Erin Thomassen uses a metaphor to describe her Notre Dame experience thus far. The first-year student explains that she felt as if she was running up the Hesburgh Library stairs collecting more books to read than she could carry, before Professor Julia Douthwaite stepped in to help her focus.

The Riley Scholar is the recipient of both a Notre Dame Scott Scholarship and a Nanovic Institute Grant, and spent her 2014 spring break in France researching the public opinion of the Catholic Church at the Bibliothèque historique de la ville de Paris.

As a mentor, Professor Douthwaite was able to nurture Erin’s innate interests in the French Revolution and French literary figures, and is providing her with guidance and resources that will result in new research. A trained ballerina and theatre enthusiast, Erin is also an active member of the Folk Choir and Dance Company. 

Erin believes the study of arts and letters is critical to becoming a force for good—in fact, she says it best in her own words: “When I read novels, poems, or plays written a thousand years ago, I realize how little humans have changed. If we recognize how similar we are to people in the past, we will be able to learn from their mistakes. The humanities challenge our ethics and behavior. They make us think about the implications of what we do. The humanities humanize us, and as humans, that’s pretty important.”

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