Africana Studies major Emmie Mediate named Rhodes Scholar

Author: Carrie Gates and Todd Boruff

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Emily Mediate

Emmie Mediate, a 2015 graduate of Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, has been selected to the American Rhodes Scholar Class of 2016.

A native of Colorado Springs, Colorado, Mediate was one of 32 Rhodes Scholars selected from a pool of 869 candidates who had been nominated by their colleges and universities. She is Notre Dame’s 17th Rhodes Scholar and the University’s second in two years.

“Notre Dame’s continued success with these prestigious fellowships speaks to the caliber of our academic program and our students,” said John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. “Emmie Mediate is the latest example of our young graduates being honored internationally for their commitment to improving the world through research and service.”

Mediate majored in Africana studies and Arts and Letters pre-health, with a minor in international development studies. During her time at Notre Dame, she spent three summers in Uganda researching global health issues.

“Emmie Mediate is an exemplar of scholarly engagement,” said Jeffrey Thibert, interim director and assistant director of national fellowships at the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement. “She pursued research, internships, leadership activities, and service that built on her coursework to demonstrate a sustained commitment toward improving the effectiveness of foreign aid efforts, especially in East Africa.

“With the Rhodes Scholarship, Emmie will join the ranks of an elite group of current and future leaders from around the world who have had the opportunity to use the exceptional resources available at the University of Oxford to fuel their efforts to ‘fight the world’s fight.’”

I couldn’t have done the same research at any other university. At Notre Dame, I not only had the funding to go abroad and undertake these opportunities, but also the faculty support and peer support to be able to complete these projects.” Emmie Mediate

emily_mediate_water Mediate carrying a watercan to a river during her first trip to Uganda.

A Concern for the Common Good

Mediate will commence her studies at the University of Oxford in October 2016, pursuing a master’s degree in evidence-based social intervention and policy evaluation.

“I’m incredibly humbled to receive this scholarship,” she said. “Having studied abroad in London and with an interest in how the U.S. and the U.K. can collaborate on the African continent, I’m really concerned with improving this relationship.”

Following her graduate studies, Mediate hopes to pursue a career as a foreign service officer with the U.S. State Department.

“The most important thing Notre Dame has instilled in me is a sense of concern for others,” she 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.”

The most important thing Notre Dame has instilled in me is a sense of concern for others … a sense that there is something bigger out there to fight for—and I want to be a part of that.” Emmie Mediate

Emily Mediate in Uganda Mediate (back center) and a group of children from a parish she stayed at in Uganda.

Results of Research

After interning as a junior desk officer at the U.S. State Department in summer 2015, Mediate began a yearlong International Development Fellowship through Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies. In that role, she is working with the Association of Volunteers in International Service in Kampala, the Ugandan capital, to evaluate a USAID-funded program that aims to improve the well-being of children in HIV-affected families.

“Now that I’m living in Uganda, I’m taking a lot of the lessons that I’ve learned from Notre Dame and putting them into action,” Mediate said. “I’m doing more quantitative, heavy research and, thanks to my classes and other experiences, I have an understanding of what research should look like. It’s definitely influenced and improved my performance in Uganda.”

Mediate developed an interest in global health early in her Notre Dame career. The summer after her first year, she received a grant from the Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program to travel to Uganda to research international aid. With funding from the Kellogg Institute, she returned the following summer to intern with the Palliative Care Association of Uganda, assessing health care facilities across the nation.

In the fall of her junior year, Mediate studied abroad in London, where she served as a policy and advocacy intern with Save the Children UK—a nongovernmental organization dedicated to improving children’s lives in more than 120 countries worldwide.

The news that Emmie has won a Rhodes Scholarship comes as no surprise, as a spirit of service and global citizenship fueled her studies and personal growth here at Notre Dame.” Terence McDonnell, assistant professor of sociology, senior thesis adviser

Emily Mediate in Uganda Mediate and a nurse she worked with during an internship at the Palliative Care Association of Uganda.

A Spirit of Service

In summer 2014, Mediate returned to Uganda to conduct research for her senior thesis. Through archival research and interviews with patients, doctors, and Ministry of Health officials, Mediate analyzed the funding environment around various interventions for HIV/AIDS in Uganda.

Her project, “Disabling Donor Demands: The Coercion of the International HIV/AIDS Agenda,” argued that international funding has constrained local efforts in sub-Saharan Africa.

“I don’t think I could have done the same research at any other university,” Mediate said. “At Notre Dame, I not only had the funding to go abroad and undertake these opportunities, but also the faculty support and peer support to be able to complete these projects.”

On campus, Mediate worked as a research assistant to Christian Smith, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology; Marya Lieberman, associate professor of chemistry and biochemistry; and Terence McDonnell, assistant professor of sociology. As a Kellogg International Scholar, she spent three years working closely with McDonnell to analyze international HIV/AIDS media campaigns.

She also co-directed the Dean’s Fellows in the College of Arts and Letters, designed and co-led a course titled U.S. Healthcare: Policy and Poverty through the Center for Social Concerns, and volunteered with Imani Unidad, a local AIDS ministry group.

“The news that Emmie has won a Rhodes Scholarship comes as no surprise,” McDonnell said, “as a spirit of service and global citizenship fueled her studies and personal growth here at Notre Dame. She was an exceptional student, with a commitment to service and independent research. I expect big things from Emmie, and I’m excited to see what she comes up with next.”

Mediate worked closely through the Rhodes Scholar process with Notre Dame’s Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, which assists students and alumni with fellowship applications. Individuals interested in applying for the Rhodes, Marshall, and other awards can visit cuse.nd.edu/fellowships.

Originally published by Carrie Gates and Todd Boruff at al.nd.edu on November 22, 2015.