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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.



Click on the title of each seminar for more information.



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. Students will spend spring break in South Bend on immersion (off-campus of course) with the BND2SB seminar.


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.


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.


Social Concerns Seminar: Migrant Experiences

The goal of this seminar is to introduce students to the cultural and social issues surrounding migrant farm labor through experiential learning. 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.


Social Concerns Seminar: U.S. Health Care: Policy and Poverty

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.


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.


Application is now closed.

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: Incarceration 

This seminar gives students an overview of hyper-incarceration, including historical factors that have shaped this system and some of the cultural values and assumptions it reflects. The seminar considers incarceration through the lenses of Catholic Social Tradition and of restorative justice, and encourages students to think about their own responsibilities for this system that operates in our names.Class sessions highlight key issues related to hyper-incarceration and help students articulate values and questions through which to frame their immersion experiences. The immersion includes visits to Indiana prisons and detention facilities, as well as dialogue with people who are incarcerated, who are touched by incarceration, or who work in the field.


The following social concerns seminars do not include traveling over 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.


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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