NDISC Alumna Spotlight: Maura Brennan ‘23

Author: Notre Dame International Security Center

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In this spotlight, we sit down with a Certificate Fellow who recently earned the title alumna. Maura Brennan, a member of the Notre Dame Class of 2023, is originally from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Notre Dame had been a destination for her since childhood, and she feels that she was destined to be a Fighting Irish. “I’m honestly still convinced my parents gave me such an obnoxiously Irish name to further the obsession,” she jokes. We were excited to sit down with Maura to talk about her experiences at NDISC and what plans she has now that she’s graduated from the program!


Why did you attend Notre Dame?

Notre Dame had been my dream school for as long as I could remember. After taking two summer classes in high school, I really was able to realize what a Notre Dame education meant; for all you learn to be given for the sake of giving it directly back in service to others.

“Cultivating the mind not at the expense of the heart” was given weight in these classes, and I was blessed enough to be able to receive four years of the irreplaceable education and life that is the University of Notre Dame.


Why did you decide to study international relations?

I was taught growing up that I was to choose whatever career path I wanted for myself, as long as it was towards the end of a life in service of others. Many of my family members have dedicated themselves to lives of public service, whether it be towards justice or the safety and security of our nation. My first courses at Notre Dame made clear that this field was a tangible way to promote security and human dignity both in my own country and worldwide.


How did you discover NDISC?

NDISC was one of the original draws for me towards the political science major itself at Notre Dame. I applied and was lucky enough to be accepted during my sophomore year. The combination of studying why and how we seek security in the context of the political science major with its tangible application in the center through lectures, trips, and career experiences made both beyond appealing for me.


Which class resonated with you most?

My favorite class in the program was Professor Desch and physics professor Daniel Bardayan’s co-taught “Science and Strategy of Nuclear War” course. To have a combination of the political, historical, and religious analyses of nuclear war with an actual scientific understanding was an irreplaceable opportunity. The class was indicative of NDISC; the program seeks to ensure that the study and creation of policy is complemented by a direct experience with the topic. Civil-military relations, a first-hand understanding of conflict and weapons, and direct work in the field are all hallmarks of an NDISC education.

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Maura and her classmate Nick following their Certificate Graduation Ceremony

What is your favorite NDISC memory?

The NDISC formals. It was such a gift to sit down with peers and professors and share fun, purposeful conversations. I never left one without reflecting on how wonderful it is that NDISC creates both an academic and professional community for people passionate about the same kind of service and work. The formals are indicative of the friendships that form in the fellowship and the kind of caliber of individual the program attracts—it’s humbling to be with such passionate, intelligent, and incredibly fun people!


Now that you’ve graduated, what’s next?

I’m moving to Washington, D.C. and will be working in national security for the federal government. I’m hoping to return to graduate school within the next few years for security studies, and then continue to work in this field as well as the international religious freedom space. Notre Dame allowed me to discover the intersection of human dignity and national security, so I’m looking forward to a lifetime of serving at this crossroads.


What would you tell someone who is considering NDISC, but isn't sure it's the right fit?

If you want to serve your country or community and create a more safe, secure, and peaceful world, NDISC is right for you. We have students and alumni across a variety of disciplines working towards these ends, which makes for not only a community of consistent learning but a community of internal encouragement to dive deeper into the expanding field of national security.