Veronica Maska graduated in May with a major in Business Analytics and minors in Constitutional Studies and Philosophy. Through Constitutional Studies, Maska had the opportunity to pursue her academic interests and explore the intersection of business and political philosophy.
“I’ve been able to really dive into things like international law, Holy See diplomacy at the United Nations, and applying machine learning models to evaluate different policy programs to help women and children,” she said.
Maska planned to conduct research while studying abroad in Rome during her junior year, but when plans changed due to university COVID-19 protocols, she took advantage of her resources on campus, participating instead in a directed readings with CCCG faculty fellow Professor Daniel Philpott.
“I was able to study Holy See diplomacy at the international level–particularly at the United Nations–with a special focus on the history of bioethics issues and the human rights project, as well as how these topics intersect with Catholic thought,” she explained.
At a Tocqueville Fellows event, Maska learned of Helen Alvaré’s work with non-United Nations institutions on bioethics issues. She was later able to interview Alvaré, who is a leading scholar and law professor, and who has worked extensively with the Holy See. “During the directed reading, I got to talk to her about all her work, and I also got to interview some other really incredible professors and academics, as well as people who have been involved with policy diplomacy in the past,” Maska said.
In addition to exploring her interest in international diplomacy and bioethics, Maska was able to supplement her business major with constitutional studies classes. “There’s a philosophical grounding that Constitutional Studies puts on politics. As a student with a philosophy minor, Constitutional Studies has been a great way to further apply that to actual policy.”
During the summer before her senior year, Maska interned with a consulting firm in Washington DC, which allowed her to draw on all three of her academic fields: business, philosophy, and Constitutional Studies.
One project during the internship focused on the use of artificial intelligence to determine whether a person qualifies for government programs and social assistance. Maska said that she was able to engage with the ethical side of AI use through understanding not only the algorithm in use, but also the assumptions underlying the algorithm as they related to the applications of the government programs..
“There’s a lot of intersection to be explored between constitutional studies, machine learning, and other business analytics,” she said. In a machine learning class at Notre Dame, Maska was able to use artificial intelligence to evaluate the USDA’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infant, and Children. “We were able to bring in census economic data and then build machine learning models to see if we could predict the level of enrollment in these programs based on state levels of poverty and where they fit with qualifying for the programs,” she explained. She said that this type of machine learning can be applied to evaluate the effectiveness and fair implementation of government programs.
In addition to her Constitutional Studies minor, Maska was a Tocqueville Fellow for six semesters. “There are so many different activities and events that are a part of the program, but I really say that it’s become a community. These are people who I’ve known since freshman year through the program, and it’s a really great community for bouncing ideas around and for making friendships with people who see things differently than you,” she said.
Maska particularly enjoyed the colloquia hosted for Tocqueville Fellows. “I love the colloquia because I didn’t get many seminars in my classes in the business school. As someone who did a lot of seminars and great books discussions in high school, I knew they were something I wanted as a part of my education in college,” she said.
She fondly remembers her first colloquium, which was on immigration: “I met some good friends at that colloquium, and we go back to those discussions now and again because they were very, very good. There were lots of people disagreeing with each other in interesting ways, and we were all learning from each other.”
In the fall, Maska will begin a job in government consulting providing legal analytics for federal agencies.