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Center for Social Concerns


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Fall Semester Seminars

Social Concerns Seminars are one-credit service learning and community based learning courses with experiential learning immersion components imbedded within the course. Most immersion components take place during fall, winter, and spring break and involve students traveling to a variety of locations to engage social concerns topics within their contexts. Students examine social issues from a variety of perspectives, engage in mutually beneficial relationships with the community, read relevant texts, study the role of catholic social tradition (CST), and take ownership in building active learning communities throughout their educational experience within the seminar. 

We hope you will join us this year for such a journey.

Placementswill be posted on the application webpage once confirmed. Accepted students will receive email notification when the site has been updated. Accepted St. Mary's College students need to register through the SMC/ND Co-Exchange Program.


Social Concerns Seminar Leadership

Social Concerns Seminars depend significantly upon our student leaders. We begin seeking leaders in the spring for the upcoming academic year. We offer well over 20 seminars a year and this requires over 90 leaders.  Seminar student leader positions include leading peers at Appalachia sites, Urban Plunge sites, and within smaller seminars (Energy, Climate, and Social Change; Migrant Experience, U.S. Health Care, Gospel of Life, etc.).


Social Concerns Seminar: Hands of St. André:

A Seminage to André House in Phoenix 

For the first time, the Center for Social Concerns has partnered with Campus Ministry to offer a ‘seminage’ (seminar-pilgrimage) to examine the life and spirit of St. André Bessette and the multiple ways in which humanity is impoverished (financial and spiritual). Students will have the opportunity to travel to André House in Phoenix, Arizona over fall break and bear witness to the Gospel and spirit of Saint André by serving the local community through the André hospitality houses, reflecting upon our own internal poverty through prayer and reflection, and engaging in a larger conversation around systemic poverty and the need for communal, internal, and societal healing.

Social Concerns Seminar: Appalachia

The Fall 2014 Appalachia Seminar is Joy and Hope: Here and in the Hollers

A service learning and community based learning course, this seminar involves experiential learning at a variety of different sites in the Appalachia region of the United States. Coupled with six class sessions providing preparation and follow up, students will spend their midterm break on a service-learning immersion with one of 16 community partners in Appalachia. While learning about the communities in this region and the challenges they face and hopes they possess, students may focus on themes such as sustainability, rural health care, housing, education, energy, or a combination thereof.

Social Concerns Seminar: Appalachia Advanced Topic –Rural Health Care

This seminar will allow students who have previously participated in the Appalachia Seminar to delve a bit deeper into the specific topic of rural health care. The preparation classes will focus on various health care related issues—from economics to access to preventative to palliative care. Partnering with The Community Crossing, Inc., students will spend fall break in Welch, W.Va. in McDowell County. This time will involve time spent in walk-in clinics, dentistry, hospital care, and other related aspects to rural health in order to gain a more holistic perspective of the challenges and opportunities people face in the region. Students will consider the broader rural health care landscape as a result. *Space is limited.

Social Concerns Seminar: Energy, Climate, and Social Change

This course will examine the complex narratives around the role of energy in society and its relation to the current climate discussion. Focusing on various policies and practices and how those shape our global energy context, students will consider hopeful solutions toward a more sustainable energy and climate model. Traveling to Washington, D.C., students will meet with wide spectrum of industry leaders, government officials, regulatory agencies, and environmental advocacy groups in their efforts to resolve contemporary energy and environmental issues.

Social Concerns Seminar: Gospel of Life

The goal of this seminar is to provide students with the opportunity to read and reflect on a variety of life issues through experiential learning. Exploration begins in the orientation classes where students will become familiar with various life issues through readings, lectures, and by meeting people who work on life-related issues. During the week in Washington, D.C., seminar participants will meet with various organizations (government offices, NGO’s, advocacy groups, and the USCCB).  Additionally, there will be an opportunity to serve the local community as you engage in honoring the life of those on the margins. The follow-up classes facilitate analysis and synthesis of insights gained during the week of experiential learning.

Social Concerns Seminar: Latino Community Organizing Against Violence

This seminar will examine current efforts by activists and organizations working on violence prevention and intervention, with a specific focus on Chicago’s and South Bend’s Latino communities. Students in this seminar will gain a deeper understanding of community organizing and the consequences of youth exposure to and participation in violence. As an active participant, during a five-day immersion, students will explore the rich cultural heritage of Chicago and South Bend and interact with numerous groups engaged in responding to and reducing gang violence. Site visit discussions with local stakeholders will encourage reflection on the challenges and opportunities that youth face in the city.

Leadership Training in Social Concerns Seminar

This seminar will serve to prepare fall seminar leaders for immersion experiences over fall break. The seminar aims to improve overall leadership skills, facilitate communal learning across seminars, and uniformly prepare leaders for the specific aspects of Center seminars. The course will consist of approximately 4–6 classes around a particular leadership theme led by a variety of Center staff and faculty. The format for the class will be a 30-minute training session followed by small group discussion. The Experiential Learning Council sponsors the seminar and curriculum will be co-coordinated by student leaders. This seminar will culminate in leading an immersion seminar. Departmental approval required.

Social Concerns Seminar Directed Readings Options


Fall Semester Courses


Poverty and Development in Chile

The Poverty and Development Course in Santiago, Chile, is a multi-disciplinary course combining experiential and service learning with social analysis, theological reflection and ethical viewpoints. The course is taught by Professor Isabel Donoso at the Jesuit University Alberto Hurtado, which has many graduate and undergraduate academic resources in the social sciences, theology, and new forms of education.

Social Concerns Seminar: Discernment 

Available to seniors only; does not include an immersion

The Discernment Seminar provides senior-level undergraduate students an opportunity to reflect on their Notre Dame experience and consider postgraduate plans with one another through small-group discussion. Each session is structured to assist the students’ exploration and articulation of their respective vocations through a variety of means, including narrative theology, spiritual direction, literature, and the arts.

Social Concerns Seminar: Hyper-Incarceration  

Does not include an immersion

The aim of this course, offered alongside the Center for Social Concerns year-long series of events focusing on justice and education, is to help raise awareness of hyper-incarceration and of its effects. But awareness is not enough. It is important also to think critically about the practice of incarcerating massive numbers of black and brown people, and about the values and systems that practice reflects. In doing so, we will examine how we personally respond to injustice–both in our own choices as community members and in what we ask our institutions to do in our names. We will also ask whether and how silence allows a system to deny citizens their full range of civil rights, including a right to an education.


New this year!

Community-Based Research: Geotagging the Near Northwest Neighborhood

This introductory seminar will introduce students to Community-Based Research (CBR) as a model for the research process. CBR supports democratic processes by involving academic researchers and community partners in addressing community problems. It is, therefore, a collaborative research process oriented toward community improvement. Students will participate in shared learning about the CBR process through readings, discussions, and examples of applications with invited faculty, student, and community partners who are engaged in CBR. Students will have the opportunity to be involved in CBR with a local organization or group.


Rethinking Crime and Justice: Exploration from the Inside Out

(includes a weekly trip to a correctional facility)

This course brings Notre Dame students together with incarcerated students at Westville Correctional Facility to explore the causes and costs of crime, consider myths and realities related to punishment, and develop ideas for responding more effectively to crime in our communities. This course follows the Inside-Out model of prison exchange now well established across the United States ( Students must apply and be selected to enroll in the course.

New this year!

Leadership and Social Change

This course actively explores means to promote positive social change and the common good. How do leaders foster a sense of human potential, moral imagination, and common purpose? What new models of learning, organization, and collaboration may contribute to efforts to address social challenges such as income inequality, youth at risk, environmental change, and political/global divisions? What can we learn from Catholic social tradition and research on ethical development to work toward a just word? Such questions will form the basis of our dialogue and research together.


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