Class of 2023 Student Spotlight: Emma Barrett

Author: Center for Citizenship & Constitutional Government

Img 1775 Emma Barrett 2

Emma Barrett is a senior from South Bend, Indiana graduating with a degree in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) with minors in Constitutional Studies and Business Economics. 

When Barrett was deciding which college to attend, she was invited to a breakfast with the CCCG’s Tocqueville Fellows, which sealed the deal on her decision to attend Notre Dame. 

Barrett’s high school gave her the opportunity to study the great books, which ultimately made her decide to study PLS at Notre Dame. “I loved being able to read works of literature and of philosophy that have just really shaped western society and that permeate so much of our culture today. Being able to discuss them with peers and professors really interested me,” Barrett said. 

Barrett became a Tocqueville Fellow in her first semester at Notre Dame along with adding a Constitutional Studies minor. “I’ve always been interested in the law, and I was really interested in learning about how it’s changed over the centuries and getting a better understanding of certain aspects of government,” she said. 

Barrett took Constitutional Studies classes like Election 2020, Education Law and Policy, Introduction to American Studies, and a class on Greek government while she was studying abroad in Greece. Her favorite class, though, was the first class she took with Professor Muñoz: Constitutional Law and Politics.

“The class was structured in such an understandable and engaging way,” she said. “It was my first time really being pushed on matters of the law and being exposed to the kind of anchors in American history that I hadn’t really been as familiar with before.” 

During the summer between her freshman and sophomore year, Barrett interned at the Ethics and Public and Policy Center in their Catholic Feminism subdepartment. The next summer, she interned for Indiana’s Sen. Todd Young in Washington D.C. 

The highlight of Barrett’s time at Notre Dame was her junior year, when she was able to take a class with Justice Clarence Thomas. “It was really neat to be able to engage with a Supreme Court Justice in such a personal manner,” she said, recalling how he shared which cases he would have decided differently now than when they first came to him and spoke about details about his personal life outside of the court. 

“The center has introduced me to so many people—whether it’s archbishops or politicians, speakers or authors—from so many different perspectives. It has really expanded my horizon of different ideas. Being able to talk individually with all these people and ask them questions about all their work and engage in a personal manner has been so beneficial.” she says.

Barrett also participated in several student colloquia through the CCCG, including one on immigration during her freshman year, which she felt was particularly impactful. Colloquia like these, Barrett says, reveal the spirit of the Notre Dame students who are  willing to take their spare time to “talk about these really important and relevant issues and be able to engage with each other so respectfully and authentically – even with many different perspectives about topics that are controversial and not always easy to discuss.”

Barrett  is grateful for the community she has found within the CCCG and how it has shaped the way she approaches political conversations. “It has been very very striking that all these people, across the political spectrum, have been able to engage so respectfully with one another,” she said. “That’s something that is lacking in our wider culture … and being a part of a community so focused on that has been amazing.”