Margaret Hagan (AB 03) was 1 of 40 students to recently win the British Marshall Scholarship, providing her with full tuition and a living stipend at any British university for two years.
Hagan, the University's 17th Marshall scholar, graduated Phi Beta Kappa this past June with a B.A. degree in Comparative Literature. Although her plans have not been finalized, Hagan will most likely use her scholarship to obtain a Master of Philosophy degree in politics at Queen's University, Belfast.
Currently at the Central European Union in Budapest, Hungary, Hagan is completing a one-year master's program in nationalism studies with a special focus on human rights groups working in Serbia.
"I'm trying to determine how foreign groups can best assist in dealing with war crimes and building democracy in Serbia," Hagan told the Maroon. "Within this huge topic, I'm researching how we conceive of victims and perpetrators when we compose histories of atrocity and human rights abuse. I hope to do similar research in Northern Ireland over the next two years."
In addition to her desire to further her research in human rights, Hagan also has personal reasons for choosing to study in Belfast. She said Northern Ireland has always been a part of her life as her family is originally from County Tyrone, which is now a part of Northern Ireland, and was dispossessed by British settlers a few hundred years ago.
Hagan admits that, until a few years ago, she had always viewed Northern Ireland "through the eyes of a Catholic Republican," but that she is now ready to "study the conflict with less passion and bitterness."
"The generosity of the British government in funding my Marshall scholarship will certainly help to balance out the Irish partisan bias I've inherited," she said.
While Hagan said she was involved in human rights groups in her Pittsburgh high school, she credited the Human Rights Program at the University for cultivating her passion, stating that it was a "fantastic catalyst and resource."
Hagan demonstrated her intense interest in human rights during her years at the College. She was president of the University's chapter of Amnesty International and received the Ignacio Martin Barro award in 2003 for writing the best undergraduate essay related to human rights.
Hagan's supervisor, Victor Friedman, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in Slavic Languages and Literature, said that while she was always an excellent student it was her work on her thesis that impressed him the most.
Hagan's thesis focused on how human rights activist groups, like Amnesty International, use melodramatic accounts to convince people to become activists, and thereby inadvertently sabotage their political purpose.
Friedman, who recommended Hagan to the Marshall committee, said that her critical and competent approach to her thesis's complex subject proved that she has "both the dedication to improve human rights and the clear-headed thinking required of a good analyst."
Hagan's interests also extend beyond human rights. While at the University, she contributed to the Chicago Maroon and served as the managing editor of a Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian literary journal called Lepitr Masna.
She also directed a traditional Korean drumming group, Loose Roots. Naomi Rowe, a fourth-year in the College who lived in Coulter house in Burton-Judson with Hagan, said "Margaret was always very, very nice" and that she enjoyed going on house trips, socializing in the dining hall, and watching television with her friends.
Hagan said she looks forward to pursuing her research at Belfast and acknowledged the University's role in helping her reach her goals. "I feel so privileged and would like to thank everyone at Chicago for preparing me so thoroughly for the competition and for life in general," she said.