The College of the Holy Cross’ Center for Interdisciplinary and Special Studies has selected Travis LaCouter ’13, a political science and Catholic studies major from Concord, N.H., as the 2012 Maurizio Vannicelli Washington Semester Away program award recipient. LaCouter will present a talk titled “Inside the Mind of ‘The Most Important Man In Washington:’ Anthony Kennedy on Religion” on Thursday, Nov. 1 at 4 p.m. in Rehm Library.
During his time in the nation’s capital, LaCouter interned with the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation. There, he worked with an attorney on issues of civil justice and election law. As an employee at a major think-tank that considers important public policy issues, LaCouter helped to facilitate significant legal research and opinion, co-publishing several articles in several national news sources.
“I really appreciated the chance to work on issues that were timely and important,” LaCouter says. Reflecting on his experience in Washington D.C. and his receipt of the Vannicelli Prize, he says, “Winning the prize was a huge honor. It was definitely humbling to be chosen.”
In his talk, LaCouter will explore the religious liberty jurisprudence of Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, and he will discuss the implications of Kennedy’s rulings on cases involving religion such as prayer in schools and public nativity displays. “We often talk about the separation of church and state,” says LaCouter, “but of course the bifurcation is not as clean or stark as we often think it to be.”
On campus, LaCouter is the chair of the Political Science Student Advisory Committee, serves as both a senior interviewer and student representative on the Curriculum Committee, and edits The Fenwick Review, the College’s “independent journal of opinion.” He is currently conducting a thesis on issues similar to the ones he studied in D.C., and he appreciates the help of his advisor, Matthew Dinan, the Jack-Millar Veritas postdoctoral teaching fellow at the College, as well as Rev. William E. Reiser, S.J., professor of religion and his reader for the D.C. thesis.
The Vannicelli Prize is awarded each semester in honor of the late Holy Cross political science professor and Washington Semester director, Maurizio Vannicelli, for best research paper produced in the Washington Semester Away program. The recipient of the prize is awarded the opportunity to give a public lecture at the College on his or her thesis. In addition, the recipient receives a bound copy of the thesis and is presented the book award during commencement exercises.