There was something familiar about the murals and graffiti, says Sarah Bernt. “It just evokes something that I had seen before.” Stretched across the Peace Wall in Belfast, Northern Ireland, were messages of harmony and love. Bernt, who graduated from Northeastern in 2019 with a degree in political science, was on a political tour of Belfast during a day trip from Dublin when the similarities struck her.
The artwork on the wall in Belfast reminded Bernt of sentiments of peace that melded with statements of resistance scrawled across the remnants of the Berlin Wall she had observed on a trip to Germany, and on the Palestinian side of the still-standing barrier along the Green Line between Israel and Palestine. Intrigued, Bernt decided she would have to return to Belfast for more than a day to learn more—and to see if the walls there hold any lessons about building bridges. Next year, she’ll be doing just that.
Bernt has been selected by the US-Ireland Alliance for the prestigious and selective George J. Mitchell Scholarship, which sends budding American leaders to the island of Ireland for a year of study. Beginning in September 2022, Bernt will study conflict resolution and reconciliation at Trinity College Dublin’s Belfast campus.
“Sarah was one of the brightest students I’ve ever taught in my entire career,” says Costas Panagopoulos, chair of the political science department at Northeastern. “I always expected that she would go on to do great things, and this is really just the beginning of that trajectory.”