Keough School celebrates Class of 2022

In a joy-filled recognition ceremony on May 14, Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs honored its graduating Class of 2022, which included thirty-six undergraduates, eighteen master of global affairs students, and five newly minted PhDs. In the Patricia George Decio Theatre at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Keough School faculty and staff gathered with the graduates’ family and friends, who traveled from all over the world to attend Notre Dame’s commencement weekend events.

Student speakers representing each of the Keough School’s three levels of study addressed the graduates: Nelisha Silva (undergraduate), Arthur Joseph Ssembajja (master of global affairs/master of business administration), and Steven Savides (PhD).

Silva, an English and global affairs major from Las Vegas, Nevada who also earned a concentration in civil and human rights, expressed her appreciation for the academic home she found in the Keough School.

nelisha silva speaking
Nelisha Silva, an English and global affairs major, addresses members of the Class of 2022 at the Keough School of Global Affairs May 14 recognition ceremony.

“I knew that no matter what I majored in, I wanted to be part of the Keough School in some way, shape, or form,” said Silva, who praised her first undergraduate course in the Keough School: Love and Romance in Modern Asia, taught by anthropologist Julia Kowalski. “That class opened my eyes to all the Keough School had to offer, and I’ve never looked back,” Silva said. After graduation, Silva will begin work for a US Senate campaign.

Arthur Joseph Ssembajja, a Catholic priest of the Diocese of Kasese, Uganda who earned a dual MGA/MBA degree, shared appreciation for the Keough School’s strong sense of community.

arthur ssembajja speaking to graduates
Arthur Ssembajja, a Catholic priest from Uganda who earned a dual MGA/MBA degree, addresses graduates of the Keough School.

“Today isn’t the last time you see or hear of us,” Ssembajja said. “We look forward to being in the same room at conferences and together in lobbies and corridors; developing, enacting and implementing policies together; conducting research and publishing together; being mentored by you and most importantly serving humanity together.”

Steven Savides, who earned a PhD in peace studies and theology from the Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, expressed gratitude for the school’s interdisciplinary academic environment.

steven savides

“Earning my PhD while being exposed to the disciplines of anthropology, history, political science, psychology, and sociology, as well as other disciplines across the university, has forged my thinking in ways I could never have imagined,” said Savides, a South Africa native who has joined the faculty of Principia College in St. Louis, Missouri. “This ability to ask sharper questions with interdisciplinarity in mind has had a profound impact on my research and teaching. As an assistant professor at a liberal arts college where I teach peace and conflict studies, ethics, and communication, not a day goes by that I do not actively draw on the knowledge and patterns of thinking I developed here.”

In a concluding charge to the graduates, Marilyn Keough Dean Scott Appleby commended the Class of 2022 not only for their academic accomplishments, but also for the resilience and compassion they demonstrated amid the global pandemic.

“You have deepened your global awareness and compassion by being attentive to the conditions daily in front of you,” Appleby said. “Indeed, whenever you have befriended and served one another in these common struggles, you have deepened your purchase on our common task—to pay close attention to people in need and to deliver what is required to serve them.”

scott appleby speaking at lectern

Appleby challenged the graduates to transform their knowledge and fortitude into a force for good beyond Notre Dame.

“I charge you with the improbable but not impossible task of transforming the plague years into a platform for action,” Appleby said. “These years have made us ever more sober-minded, realistic and detailed in our appraisal of the obstacles ahead. In order to succeed, your research, teaching, activism, advocacy and attentiveness in pursuit of justice must be accompanied by a sustaining faith in your ability to prevail.”

Congratulations to the Keough School Class of 2022!

stage view of recognition ceremony

Learn more about the school’s degree programs:

Undergraduate major in global affairs

Master of global affairs

PhD in peace studies


MGA alumnus thrives in role bridging Mennonite Central Committee and United Nations

Master of global affairs alumnus Derek Lee ’20 says the opportunity to work in the Mennonite Central Committee’s office at United Nations headquarters in New York has been an unexpected but rewarding experience. 

“I hadn’t been aware that they had an office here,” said Lee, who had previously worked with the Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in Nepal on rural food security programs. Lee was introduced to UN Office Director Chris Rice by Keough School Professor Emmanuel Katongole—a theologian and priest from Uganda—and Lee now serves as the MCC UN Office program and communications coordinator. Described by the MCC as “the voice at the United Nations for MCC and our global partners,” the office’s role is to inform MCC staff and partners of UN policies and programs that may affect them, while bringing expertise and experience of MCC partners and personnel to UN diplomats and employees who establish and carry out UN policies. 

For Lee, this new position has meant a shift away from frontline programming and into strategic evaluation of the UN office role for the well-regarded MCC, which has a presence in more than 50 countries and has pursued the cause of peace and human dignity for decades. But the MCC advocacy component is fairly new, Lee said, and it’s evolving alongside some 6,000 nongovernmental organizations operating within the UN ecosystem. This evolution has meant that thinking strategically, a skill Lee developed during his Keough School Integration Lab (i-Lab) experience, has been critical.

“As part of the i-Lab you learn design thinking and human-centered design,” Lee explained. Nearly all Keough School MGA students participate in the i-Lab Global Partner Experience. In Lee’s case, that experience included field work in Uganda and Bangladesh in large, post-conflict refugee settlement programs operated by Catholic Relief Services.  

“For us to have any legitimacy, we have to care for the whole person.” 

Lee’s academic background includes several disciplines, including his undergraduate studies in biology at Wheaton University.

“I wanted to be pre-med at the time,” he said. “I was driven by some of these global issues.” The quantitative skills he learned in biology served him well with MCC in Nepal, but his experiences also revealed that he was more interested in building relationships than being a physician. That self-awareness led him to seek a new career direction through the Master of Global Affairs (MGA) program.

“I remember looking at a lot of global affairs and international development programs, even some in the UK and Netherlands,” Lee said. Ultimately, Notre Dame’s other-centered emphasis on service and the Keough School’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, which administers the peace studies concentration within the MGA program, drew him to Notre Dame.

The diversity among the Keough School’s MGA students also was a key factor. Students and MGA alumni come from more than 50 countries including Taiwan, the home of his immigrant parents. As a student, Lee hosted a Lunar New Year party for his cohort and remembers folding dumplings with classmates from 15 different countries as they talked about the principles they had learned in class. He still relies on the influence of his MGA classmates as he connects MCC priorities to the UN mission.

A screen shot of meeting participants in a Zoom presentation by MGA alumnus Derek Lee.
A screen shot of a the November 2020 student seminar “Tackling the Global Inequality Pandemic” hosted by the Mennonite Central Committee’s UN Office. Coordinated by MGA alumnus Derek Lee ’20, program and communications coordinator for the UN office, the seminar included students, peace practitioners, an assistant secretary-general, and religious leaders.

“Oftentimes, I’m thinking, ‘What would my classmates think of the material I’m presenting?’” he said, adding that the people one studies with are just as important as the people one studies under. Lee values the relationships with former classmates and professors alike as he elevates the MCC position on issues including migration and climate change.

“Migration is one of those issues where you need a lot of countries to cooperate,” Lee said. MCC recently added a new standing committee to explore migration, and Lee and the UN advocacy office are part of that effort. The underlying value of peacemaking is a lodestar for establishing the MCC’s role in the UN system. 

That’s also true on climate, which Lee understands as a form of violence against people of the Global South. “It’s not just a policy thing or COP,” he said, referring to the annual Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. “How do we address these injustices?”

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by complex or controversial issues on which seemingly little progress is made, such as climate change or migration, but that’s where the foundational values of the Keough School and its emphasis on change through relationships are most important to his advocacy. 

Lee integrates the values underlying development with human dignity, common to both the MCC and Catholic social teaching, into his work and sums them up in a single sentence that guides him into the future: 

“For us to have any legitimacy, we have to care for the whole person.” 


Top photo: MGA alumnus Derek Lee ’20 (left) with his supervisor Chris Rice, director of the Mennonite Central Committee United Nations Office, in front of UN headquarters in New York.

Keough School welcomes third master of global affairs class

The Keough School of Global Affairs at the University of Notre Dame recently welcomed its third master of global affairs class. The 36 students come from 18 countries, representing diverse academic and professional backgrounds.

Students in the Class of 2021 come from Afghanistan, Argentina, Bangladesh, Belarus, Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Mexico, Mongolia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Russia, Uganda, and the United States. Their professional experiences include grassroots community leadership, research, education, health care, and policy.

Among the students are eight returned US Peace Corps volunteers and former members of the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, European Voluntary Service, and AmeriCorps. The class also includes community organizers, entrepreneurs, an attorney, an arms control researcher, a Catholic priest and a physician.

“We are thrilled to welcome our third class of master of global affairs students,” said Ted Beatty, associate dean for academic affairs. “This year’s class makes a wonderful addition to the Keough School community, bringing with them a unique array of voices, perspectives, and experiences. All have already shown an inspiring commitment to our school’s mission of integral human development.”

The Master of Global Affairs Class of 2021 receives generous fellowship support from several donor families, foundations, and the institutes and centers within the Keough School, including the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, and the McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business.

The two-year Master of Global Affairs program prepares professionals for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector. The Keough School of Global Affairs opened its doors in 2017 and graduated its first master’s class in the spring of 2019.

Read student bios

New online publication features student writing on global affairs

The Keough School of Global Affairs is launching a new online publication, Policy Pulse, to highlight the academic research and opinion writing of its current graduate students.

Policy Pulse features the work of students in their second year of the Keough School’s two-year Master of Global Affairs program. It will be published annually, with students invited to submit content during their final semester.

The inaugural publication includes seven editorials covering a broad range of global issues: the controversial use of glyphosate to halt cocaine production in Colombia; an argument for values-based immigration policy rather than policy based on enforcement; an exploration of the interplay and “trade-offs” among global sustainability goals for the upcoming United Nations High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development; and a proposal for curbing violence and promoting sustainable fisheries in the South China Sea.

The Master of Global Affairs, a two-year professional degree, prepares its graduates for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector. Students receive training in research-based policy to address challenges of the 21st century.

Read Policy Pulse

Master’s students and international organizations partner to engage with global communities

The Keough School of Global Affairs is dispatching its second cohort of master of global affairs students to 18 countries this summer to research solutions to some of the world’s greatest challenges.

Students will explore topics of global interest, including public health, education, displacement and migration, poverty studies, and peacebuilding, seeking inventive ways to break through barriers to human development.

MGA students pursuing concentrations in Sustainable Development and Global Affairs + Specialization will spend eight weeks in the field as part of the Keough School’s Integration Lab, while those concentrating in International Peace Studies will participate in six-month peacebuilding internships.

Each student will work with a partner organization actively involved in their area of study.

“The MGA program’s professional field experiences are designed to build cross-cultural competencies and foster global citizens while providing an opportunity for students to build professional skills through intimate collaboration with some of the world’s finest organizations,” said Ted Beatty, associate dean for academic affairs at the Keough School and professor of history. “These opportunities reflect the Keough School’s mission to advance human development worldwide.”

During this time, students will share stories and reflections via the Keough Insider blog.


i-Lab Global Partner Experience:

Twenty-one master’s students concentrating in Sustainable Development or Global Affairs + Specialization will travel to ten different countries to conduct research through the MGA program’s Integration Lab (i-Lab).

Students will work in teams alongside global partner organizations to advance efforts in gender equality, education infrastructure, disaster recovery, dignified housing, and business development.

Now in its sophomore year, the i-Lab was created to help students develop a robust toolbox for taking on global issues, combining interdisciplinary approaches and a collaborative learning environment with built-in opportunities for hands-on experience.

This year’s partner organizations are Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam, Community Empowerment Solutions, Habitat for Humanity International’s Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter, and Enseña Chile. Three organizations—Oxfam, the Terwilliger Center, and Enseña Chile—are returning partners.

The teams are high-quality, the faculty support is amazing—there’s really no downside to working with the Keough School on this project.

Sheldon Yoder, global manager with the Terwilliger Center, is working with a team of students to drive large-scale behavior change in the housing and construction markets in India and Mexico. Partnering with i-Lab for his second year in a row, the project will build on research conducted by the team he worked with last year in the Philippines.

“We had an incredibly articulate and talented team of students that worked with us,” said Yoder. “The teams are high-quality, the faculty support is amazing—there’s really no downside to working with the Keough School on this project.”


Emma Fawcett hosts a meeting with MGA students in the Keough School’s i-Lab. Fawcett is an evaluation, learning and effectiveness advisor at Oxfam America, a 2019 i-Lab global partner.
Emma Fawcett, second from left, hosts a meeting with MGA students in the Keough School’s i-Lab. Fawcett is an evaluation, learning and effectiveness advisor at Oxfam America, a 2019 i-Lab global partner.


2019 i-Lab locations, projects, and partner organizations:

Catholic Relief Services: Bangladesh and Uganda

Project: Expand effectiveness of humanitarian cash transfer programs following emergency situations in the context of Islamic non-interest banking

Oxfam: Cambodia and Timor-Leste

Project: Promote educational and financial inclusion of those held back by gender norms

Enseña Chile: Chile

Project: Improve school performance, build community, and promote innovation and learning through school leadership teams

Community Empowerment Solutions: Ecuador and Guatemala

Project: Foster innovation in local communities by supporting local organizations through knowledge-sharing and cross-border collaboration

Habitat for Humanity International, Terwilliger Center for Innovation in Shelter: India and Mexico

Project: Promote safe and dignified shelter by encouraging lasting behavior change in housing and construction labor markets

Catholic Relief Services: India and Nepal

Project: Extend the impact of disaster recovery programs by supporting self-recovery efforts to build more resilient communities


Four MGA students standing on the top of a mountain in Iten, Kenya
Students from the Master of Global Affairs Class of 2019 in Iten, Kenya.


Peacebuilding Field Experiences:

Thirteen MGA students with concentrations in International Peace Studies will begin internships in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, or the United States in July.

The six-month experience will help students understand the role of peacebuilding and human development in communities dealing with issues of peace and conflict, human rights, and justice.

Students will spend four days each week working with a partner organization and one day each week conducting research on topics including conflict analysis, structural and cultural violence, forced migration, and trauma healing.

This year’s partner organizations are American Near East Refugee Aid, the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, Catholic Relief Services, the Chicago Torture Justice Center, Creative Associates International, Generations for Peace, the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, the Life and Peace Institute, Mercy Corps, the Peace Accords Matrix Barometer Initiative, and RAFT Myanmar. Catholic Relief Services and the Life and Peace Institute are returning partners.

Research findings will be used to develop students’ capstone projects, which will be presented next spring.


This year’s peacebuilding global partners include:

American Near East Refugee Aid (ANERA): Beirut, Lebanon

Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA): Manila, Philippines

Catholic Relief Services (CRS): Baltimore, Maryland

Chicago Torture Justice Center, Chicago, Illinois

Creative Associates International: San Salvador, El Salvador

Generations for Peace: Washington, DC

International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons: Geneva, Switzerland

The Life and Peace Institute (LPI): Nairobi, Kenya

Mercy Corps: Beirut, Lebanon

Peace Accords Matrix Barometer Initiative: Bogotá, Colombia

RAFT Myanmar: Yangon, Myanmar


To learn more about the MGA program, visit

Notre Dame’s new Keough School celebrates inaugural graduating class

The University of Notre Dame’s 2019 Commencement Weekend held special significance for the Keough School of Global Affairs. Nearly two years after opening its doors in 2017, Notre Dame’s first new school in nearly a century celebrated its first graduating class.

In a recognition ceremony on May 18, more than 200 family, friends, faculty, and students gathered in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Decio Theatre to honor the Master of Global Affairs Class of 2019. The class represents 22 different countries ranging from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

The Keough School also recognized the first graduate of its new undergraduate supplementary major in global affairs. Rose Pupel earned a major in economics and global affairs, studied abroad in Ireland, and earned a minor in Irish studies through the Keough School’s Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies.

In this next stage of your lives, we see ourselves as your friends, colleagues, and partners in this great, lifelong calling to repair the world and to protect the dignity of every person—this is the heart of our mission and vocation.

Scott Appleby, Marilyn Keough Dean of the Keough School, delivered the keynote address at the recognition service.

“On behalf of the faculty and staff of the Keough School, thank you for your patience, your creativity, your stubborn resistance to cynicism, your commitment to cultivating in yourselves the virtue of hope,” Appleby said. “In this next stage of your lives, we see ourselves as your friends, colleagues, and partners in this great, lifelong calling to repair the world and to protect the dignity of every person—this is the heart of our mission and vocation.”

The graduates also were welcomed as the first members of the Keough School’s alumni network by Michael Talbot, associate director of the Master of Global Affairs program.

“With your arrival, The University’s grand venture into the world of global affairs became real. You breathed life into the Keough School,” Talbot said. “Today we celebrate your success and look forward to your future accomplishments. Stay connected to Keough and send us promising young students who want to follow in your footsteps, so that our community continues to grow.”

The Master of Global Affairs, a two-year professional degree, prepares its graduates for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector.

The degree program integrates rigorous coursework, close engagement with policymakers, multi-disciplinary faculty and students from around the world, and extended fieldwork opportunities in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, and Washington, DC.

Congratulations to the Class of 2019!

A white stole with gold trim and the Keough School logo


Related links:

Class of 2019 student bios

Master of Global Affairs program

Spring honors for students include Fulbright award, Catholic Relief Services and Boren Fellowships

Photo: Master of global affairs students Jenna Ahn, Sonia Urquidi, and Jasmine Passa

Three of the Keough School’s master of global affairs students have received prestigious awards supporting their future research and professional development.

Sonia Urquidi, a member of the Keough School’s inaugural graduating class, has received a Fulbright Research Award to study school improvement in under-resourced schools in Santiago, Chile. Collaborating with education experts at La Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Urquidi will research how to foster school cultures that positively impact student learning. Urquidi also will collaborate with Enseña Chile, a network dedicated to improving school performance, building community, and promoting innovation and learning. As a student, Urquidi worked with Enseña Chile through the Keough School’s Integration Lab, visiting 16 schools and conducting dozens of interviews to gain culturally informed knowledge of classroom dynamics and teacher performance.

Jenna Ahn, also part of the first graduating class, has been awarded a Catholic Relief Services International Development Fellowship. This fellowship provides professional development opportunities for individuals pursuing a career in international relief and development work. Ahn was one of 20 individuals selected from among 1,400 applicants. She will work in Guatemala City, Guatemala, where she will support programs in food security, education, capacity-building, monitoring and evaluation, and emergency response. As a fellow, Ahn will receive professional training from Catholic Relief Services in program implementation, proposal development, operations, and partnership.

Jasmine Passa has been awarded a Boren Fellowship. An initiative of the National Security Education Program, the Boren Fellowship provides US graduate students the opportunity to study less commonly taught languages in world regions critical to US interests. Languages include those spoken in Africa, Asia, Central and Eastern Europe, Eurasia, Latin America, and the Middle East. Passa, who already speaks Serbian, plans to pursue additional language study in the Middle East.

The Keough School’s inaugural master of global affairs class graduated from Notre Dame on May 19, 2019. The Master of Global Affairs program is a two-year professional degree program that prepares students for skilled, effective leadership and careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector.

Master of Global Affairs students research complex immigration system across borders

In search of ways to better protect the rights of migrants and refugees, four Keough School master of global affairs students traveled to the US-Mexico border, Greece, Germany, and Switzerland last summer to observe immigration enforcement systems. Students partnered with the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services to plan and execute the project.

While in the field, the four students—Patrick Calderon, Kathleen Kollman, Shuyuan Shen, and Mehak Anjum Siddiquei—explored and documented best practices to respect the human rights of migrants as they navigate complex immigration enforcement systems.

Photo of the i-Lab Team USCCB team members


Their travels brought them to migrant shelters, detention centers, refugee camps, government offices, churches, universities, and more. Along the way, they heard from people navigating the different enforcement systems, including asylum-seekers, humanitarian workers, and government employees.



Following their observations in the field, the Keough School team met with policymakers and practitioners in Washington, DC, to convene a roundtable, “Humane Immigration Enforcement: A Way Forward.” Students summarized their research findings in a comparative context and discussed policy implications with roundtable participants. The event was held at the Keough School’s Washington Office.

The immigration research project was a part of classwork in the Master of Global Affairs’ Integration Lab (i-Lab), where graduate students work collaboratively to innovate and imagine interdisciplinary solutions to global challenges.

To read about the students’ journey, visit the Keough Insider blog.

Second master of global affairs class includes 34 students from 18 countries

The 34 students in the Keough School’s second master of global affairs class, now halfway through their first semester, come from 18 countries and bring diverse academic backgrounds and professional experiences with them to Notre Dame.

Members of the Class of 2020 hail from Argentina, the Democratic Republic of Congo, China, Costa Rica, Egypt, Honduras, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Turkey, Uganda, the United States, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam. They have earned degrees in academic disciplines ranging from economics to engineering to English literature, and their professional backgrounds include accountancy, interreligious dialogue, journalism, nuclear disarmament, grassroots peace and justice work, and social entrepreneurship.

The class also includes three returned U.S. Peace Corps volunteers, students who served with the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, World Teach, and the Maryknoll Teachers Program, and three Notre Dame graduates.

“We are tremendously excited to welcome another dynamic and diverse class of master of global affairs students,” said Ted Beatty, associate dean for academic affairs. “Our students come from around the world, bringing with them extensive professional experience, a thirst for learning, and a desire to contribute to the greater good.”

Fellowship support for the Master of Global Affairs Class of 2020 is provided by the family of Donald R. Keough, Paul and Regina Rogalski, and the Coca-Cola Foundation.

Institute support for student fellowships is provided by the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, and the McKenna Center for Human Development and Global Business.

The Master of Global Affairs is a two-year degree designed to prepare highly skilled, effective, and ethical professionals for careers in government, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, and the private sector. The Keough School of Global Affairs welcomed its inaugural master’s class in the fall of 2017.

Read student bios

Contact: Becca Méndez, associate director, Master of Global Affairs, 574-631-9073,