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Center for Social Concerns


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Spring 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.

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 spring 2015

Beyond ND to South Bend 

In this new Social Concerns seminar students will go beyond Notre Dame to engage the local community of South Bend. Through conversations around the history of the community, the socio economic realities for our neighbors, the rich opportunities for engagement, advocacy, service, and entertainment to be found, and meeting the wonderful people who are truly the people living in our neighborhood, students will learn more about what lies behind the walls of Notre Dame and the opportunities that are present for service, understanding, community building, and fun times. Students will spend spring break in South Bend on immersion (off-campus of course) with the BND2SB seminar.


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

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 spring break in Welch, WV 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

This seminar centers around travel to a L’Arche community to share life with all who live there–some people with developmental disabilities and some without. Students draw from the philosophy of Jean Vanier, the works of theologian Henri Nouwen, various psychologists and thinkers on disability, as well as other spiritual writings to augment this participatory learning experience.



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 in partnership with the College of Science and the Center for Social Concerns, this seminar examines the ethical responsibilities within science funding allocations and the policy development and lobbying, government funding, and regulation of basic and translational. The course aims to explore how funds are distributed to scientists and the pathway between discovery at the lab bench and introduction of policy to the general public. Working with Notre Dame’s Federal Relations Team, students will travel to Washington, D.C. over Spring Break to meet with scientists, federal agencies, and policy makers. To prepare, students will engage in sessions featuring speakers with experience in research ethics and integrity, integration of Catholic Social Teaching and science, advocating for funding for science, and working at the intersections of government policy, basic science, physics and engineering technology, environmental science, and clinical research.


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

U.S. health care policy and reform has increasingly been at the center of public debate and discussion in recent years. Furthermore, the Catholic social tradition invites persons of good will to pursue a health care system that raises the dignity of each person. This seminar seeks to develop informed citizens, practitioners, and future professionals in health care related fields through a process of critical engagement and analysis of current and potential future policy. Students will travel to Washington, D.C., during Spring Break to spend time with policy makers, health care advocacy groups, medical professionals, and researchers. In preparation, students will look at the complexities of integrating economics, policy, and health-related outcomes into a system that works toward the common good and especially toward those in poverty.


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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