An interest in global health led sophomore Jake Harris to a supplementary major in global affairs at Notre Dame. The major, existing with the Keough School of Global Affairs, offers students the opportunity to develop a global perspective, build cultural competency, and understand and think critically about some of the world's most complex issues.
Keough offers both a major and a supplementary major in global affairs. A supplementary major is pursued in addition to a primary major at Notre Dame. Harris' primary major is anthropology.
Below, Harris talks about his majors, favorite class, and the opportunities he's had to globalize his education through the Keough School.
Why did you choose to major in global affairs at Notre Dame?
As with many students, I started my first year at Notre Dame intending to pursue a career in medicine, but quickly realized I was much more passionate about the broader policy-based work that is a cornerstone of the Keough School of Global Affairs. I’ve become really interested in global health and all the different policy and developmental projects that stem from the field, so from there it was a pretty natural process to switch to a global affairs major.
Were you always interested in topics related to this major?
Not exactly. I came to Notre Dame with an interest in public health, mostly within an American context. Obviously, there are a ton of pressing issues in the U.S. related to healthcare, from the opioid crisis to COVID-19, but over the course of my first year, I heard the term “global health” more and more, and realized how important it is to view public health on a global scale. My classwork and research experience has also made clear the potential and need for effective policy at global levels.
What has been your favorite class in the program and why?
So far, I’ve only taken one class, Introduction to Global Affairs and Integral Human Development, but it’s been a great way to learn about a variety of pressing international issues, from peace-building to refugees and migration to global health. I’m also excited to take Intro. to Global Politics and Policy next semester.
What is your primary major and how do you feel the global affairs major integrates with that?
My primary major is anthropology, and I can’t really think of a better second major than global affairs. The global affairs major provides a great way to learn about the dynamic political, social, and economic policy mechanisms that govern our world—anthropology foregrounds all of that policy-based work with a really unique critical perspective that centers the human experience.
So I get the best of both worlds: learning how to develop effective policy-based programs from a global perspective, as well as how to implement them in cooperative and culturally-sensitive ways.
Do you have any other involvement with the Keough School of Global Affairs?
I recently received funding from Kellogg through their International Scholars Program to attend the American Anthropology Association’s annual meeting, which was in Seattle this year. The conference was a really cool opportunity to meet with people at the top of their field and learn about the newest advancements and findings of the discipline.
I’ve also had the opportunity to work with the Eck Institute to found a Global Health Club, and we’ve been doing a lot to build interest in global health among the undergraduate community. The Eck also hosts an annual global health case competition and is launching a global health minor, both of which are really great opportunities to get involved!
Have you conducted any related research or independent study?
Yes, also through the Kellogg Institute’s International Scholars Program. Through the program, I was paired with a faculty mentor and have been working on a research project with her. We’re looking at humanitarian responses amidst complex or violent emergencies and how those responses can be improved.
The research is at the intersection of health and violence in a way that is both really interesting and important, and the ideas and skills I’ve learned so far I hope to continue in my own work in the future.
What makes the global affairs program at Notre Dame stand out among programs like it at other schools?
I think a lot of times at global levels, people are often treated as just numbers or data points, but the Keough School does a great job at respecting people as they are.
The mission of the Keough School is driven by the idea of “integral human development,” which values the inherent dignity and wellbeing of all people. I think the global affairs program does a great job of viewing people as more than just numbers or data points as well as equipping students to be effective policymakers.
The faculty and institutional support is also fantastic and are great resources to supplement learning in the classroom.
Do you have any advice for prospective students who are considering a major in global affairs?
There are so many different areas of focus within the Keough School, so be intentional about your plans! There are so many different institutes and faculty that you have access to, and plenty of funding opportunities to go abroad or do research! Take advantage of all the resources and opportunities the major provides.
What are your career plans/post-graduation plans?
I plan on pursuing a graduate degree in global public health, hoping to incorporate ethnographic or anthropological methodologies in my work. I’m interested in doing research or policy work on addressing systemic health inequalities, addressing determinants of health and global health through a decolonial perspective.