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Center for Social Concerns


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Spring Semester Seminars

Social Concerns Seminars are one-credit experiential and service-learning opportunities built around national and international immersion experiences. Students examine social issues from multiple perspectives, read relevant texts, study the Catholic social tradition, and take an active role in building a learning community. Placements will 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.


New this year!

Social Concerns Seminar Leadership

New this year to the seminars program is an early recruitment for student leaders for 2014–2015 social concerns seminars. Seminar student leader positions include leading peers at Appalachia sites, Urban Plunge sites, and within smaller seminars (Energy Policy, Migrant Experience, Health Care etc.).


Social Concerns Seminar: Appalachia

The goal of the Appalachia Seminar is to introduce students to the culture and social issues of the Appalachia region through community-based learning. The course provides the opportunity for participation in the community and direct relationship with Appalachian people. Exploration begins in the orientation classes where students become acquainted with the history, culture, and challenges facing the region. During the week in Appalachia, students learn from individuals and community-based organizations (focusing on housing, education, health, and the environment). The follow-up classes facilitate analysis and synthesis of insights gained during their immersion.


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 spring 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: L'Arche Community

L'Arche communities were created by Jean Vanier (winner of the Notre Dame Award for international humanitarian service) to provide places where people with disabilities and people without disabilities can live and work together in the spirit of the beatitudes. There are over 110 communities in 30 countries. The mission of L'Arche is to create homes where the unique value of each individual is realized and celebrated. L'Arche began in 1964 in Trosly-Breuil, France when founder Jean Vanier invited three men with developmental disabilities to live with him. He named the home L'Arche in reference to Noah's Ark—to be a place of refuge and new beginnings. L'Arche USA is comprised of 13 communities and two projects throughout the United States. Please visit the websites of L'Arche USA.


Leadership Training for Social Concerns Seminars

This seminar will serve to prepare spring 2012 seminar leaders for immersion experiences over spring 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 a 2012 immersion seminar. Departmental approval required.


Social Concerns Seminar: Migrant Experiences

The goal of the Migrant Experiences Seminar is to introduce students to the cultural and social issues surrounding migrant farm labor through experiential learning. Such learning creates a strong foundation of knowledge through direct participation, allowing the development of relationships capable of revealing the diversity, culture, and life challenges of migrant farm workers. Exploration into the plight of migrant farm workers begins in the mandatory preparatory class sessions involving presentations, discussions, videos, and selected readings. The seminar centers on a week-long trip to Immokalee, Florida during the semester break.


Social Concerns Seminar:

Science Policy Ethics: Guiding Science through Regulation of Research and Funding

Offered jointly with the College of Science, this Social Concerns Seminar will examine ethical responsibilities within science funding allocations and the regulation of basic and translational research. In the framework of Catholic Social Teaching, students will explore science policy development, government funding for science, and the regulation of both basic science and translational research, including special concerns for neglected disease and global health research. The course aims to explore how and why the government invests in research, how those funds are distributed to scientists, and ultimately how new discoveries are translated to new technologies, ultimately for the good of the general public. Working with Notre Dame’s Federal Relations Team in Washington, D.C. over spring break, students will meet with scientists, multiple federal agencies, and policy makers. In preparation for meetings in Washington, 5 panel sessions will feature speakers with experience in research ethics and integrity, advocating for funding for science, distributing those funds, or working at the intersections of government policy, basic science, physics and engineering technology, environmental science, and clinical and translational research. This course poses a unique opportunity for students to network with various federal funding agencies and policy makers in Washington, D.C. Open to undergraduate and graduate students.


Social Concerns Seminar: U.S. Healthcare: Policy and Poverty Seminar

The healthcare discussion in the United States is at a significant point in its history. The exposure of the conversation and debate is at an all-time high. The rolling out of the Affordable Care Act has placed healthcare at the center of discussions related to human dignity, workers’ rights, economics, poverty, race, and more. While most have called for change, there are wide ranges of perspectives on what this reform can and should look like. Additionally, Catholic Social Tradition invites persons of good will to pursue a healthcare system that raises the dignity of each person and elevates the preferential option for the poor.


Social Concerns Seminar: Youth, Risk, and Resilience

The goal of the Youth, Risk, and Resilience Seminar is to educate participants on issues affecting low-income, urban youth living in at-risk environments in America. Topics will include violence, healthcare, education, welfare, homelessness, food insecurity and mental health, and means to promote resilience. Students will begin exploration during orientation sessions, which will examine the current state of youth living in at-risk environments, as well as available resources and developmental support, both public and private. Follow-up class meetings will complete the learning cycle.



The Center for Social Concerns also offers a seminar that does not include traveling over winter or spring break:


Social Concerns Seminar: Understanding Mental Illness

In the United States alone, over 25 million people are affected with mental illness. Countless family members, friends and mental health professionals struggle to understand and help those diagnosed with these confusing and often debilitating diseases. Unless we know someone or struggle with similar issues ourselves, the majority of the rest of us know virtually nothing about the confusing ‘world’ of mental illness. This seminar gives students the opportunity to learn about mental illness from the personal perspective of those most directly impacted by it; those living with it, family members, and health care providers. The goals of this seminar are to help students become more knowledgeable about these diseases and their early warning signs and to develop compassion for those who suffer from them.


Social Concerns Seminar: Take Ten 

Take Ten is a research-based violence prevention program and curriculum designed at the Robinson Community Learning Center. Volunteers work on a weekly basis with schoolchildren of all grades to teach them the skills needed to resolve conflict peacefully. Take Ten’s mission is to provide youth with positive alternatives to violence and build their capacity to make more informed choices when faced with conflict. Students participating in the Take Ten seminar will serve as Take Ten volunteers during the semester (February through April with training in January), being part of a team that works at a school in the area one time per week. Additionally, the readings and reflections will allow students to focus on understanding issues of youth and violence from various perspectives.


One Credit Community-Based Learning Courses

The following seminars do not include an immersion.

Advocacy for the Common Good

Advocacy for the Common Good is a one credit course that aims to develop a shared understanding of advocacy and the common good, cultivating basic skills to help strengthen students' respective advocacy planning and action in pursuit of social justice. This course will be co-facilitated by seasoned advocates and organizers from Catholic Relief Services. The day and a half workshop (in January) will introduce students to advocacy tools and skills, including mapping power, navigating the legislative process, mobilizing, developing effective messaging and influencing decision makers. Students will then have eight weeks to form into groups to research and implement advocacy campaigns on their respective issues of interest. Each group will be assigned a professional mentor to help facilitate this process. After these eight weeks, the entire class will reconvene on an afternoon in March to share their respective group's campaign, including methodology, objectives and results, as well as address challenges and celebrate successes.


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.


Poverty and Development in Chile

Available only to students studying abroad in Santiago, Chile

The Poverty and Development Seminar in Santiago, Chile, is a multi-disciplinary course combining experiential and service learning with social analysis, theological reflection and ethical viewpoints. The seminar 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.



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