How academic and international experiences helped a political science major find a passion for global food security

June 27, 2018Carrie Gates

Rachel Ganson Viewbook 1200Rachel Ganson ’17 traveled around the world conducting research and doing service work as an undergraduate.

Rachel Ganson’s path in the College of Arts and Letters led her to China, India, Iceland, Italy, and Spain.

And to exactly where she is meant to be.

“Visiting these places challenged me and helped me grow — intellectually, spiritually, emotionally,” she said. “When you experience different cultures and talk with people from different backgrounds, you start to figure out what you’re most passionate about and what you hold dear.”

For Ganson ’17, who majored in political science, that passion is global food security and sustainability.

Rachel Ganson Nets Of Dried Fish IcelandGanson with nets of dried fish in Iceland.

The summer after her first year, Ganson did service work in Beijing at a foster home for disabled children and a community outreach center. The next summer, she interned at a think tank in New Delhi focused on education policy and entrepreneurial activity — then flew directly from India to Reykjavik, Iceland, to explore an interest she developed in sustainable fishing practices for an independent research project.

Each of these experiences — funded by Notre Dame — helped her narrow her focus and find her niche.

“Throughout my undergraduate career, I was able to go slowly from a broad desire to explore other cultures, to an interest in international justice, to a passion for international food security,” she said. “And this specific niche just fits me so well. The support I received that allowed me to pursue it was just fantastic.”

Ganson, who minored in Italian and philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE), next set her sights on the Mediterranean — one of the most overfished areas in the world. She spent the spring semester of her junior year and the following summer studying in Rome and researching the issue in Notre Dame’s Rome International Scholars Program.

That work, along with further research in Spain during fall break her senior year, became the basis for her senior thesis on the environmental consequences of overfishing and the efficacy of international law and interstate cooperation.

Rachel Ganson Pilgrimmage To Assisi 2016Ganson and friends on a pilgrimage to Assisi, Italy, in 2016.

A Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Ganson also volunteered at the South Bend Center for the Homeless, played for a variety of interhall sports teams, acted in student productions on campus, and participated in Baraka Bouts, a women’s boxing club dedicated to raising money for Holy Cross Missions in East Africa.

She plans to attend law school and prepare for a career in international law.

“Having such diverse experiences and support along the way has really encouraged me to think about where I want to be — and given me the confidence to continue pursuing that after college,” she said. “And when I get to where I feel I can do the most good, I’m going to be the most effective leader I can be.”

A version of this story first appeared in the College of Arts and Letters viewbook.

“Visiting these places challenged me and helped me grow — intellectually, spiritually, emotionally. When you experience different cultures and talk with people from different backgrounds, you start to figure out what you’re most passionate about and what you hold dear.” 

— Rachel Ganson ’17, political science major

Originally published by Carrie Gates at al.nd.edu on June 27, 2018.