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Center for Social Concerns


2007-2008 Course Development Grant Recipients

The following are the 2007-2008 Course Development Grant recipients, with descriptions of their courses taken from their proposals.


"Literacy in the Classroom and in the World"

Katherine Zieman,

Assistant Professor, English

This course, a University Literature Seminar for first-year students, will address issues of reading and writing acquisition. Literary texts to be read will call attention to the social implications of literacy, some depicting it as a source of salvation such as The Life of Frederick Douglass, others voicing concern about the place of writing in our technological age, for example, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 401. In addition to reading, discussing, and writing about these texts, students will be involved in some form of literacy tutoring each week. Possible tutoring sites include the Read to a Child Program, the Literacy Council, or the Robinson Community Learning Center. 

According to Professor Zieman, the course will “allow students to…consider what larger social, political, and economic factors influence definitions and uses of literacy in any given culture as well as how institutions of education are charged with disseminating certain forms of knowledge within particular communities.” 

“It is my hope,” she writes, “that such experiences will lead [students] to a deeper understanding of the community in which they are living…and ultimately to a more profound appreciation of the complexity of education and literacy in America today.”


"Senior Research Seminar"

Stuart Greene

Associate Professor, English

Stuart Greene, Associate Professor of English and Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Letters, for the "Senior Research Seminar" for the Education, Schooling and Society minor students, funded through a Corporation for National and Community Service Grant

Professor Greene's course is "an introduction to conducting research in the area of literacy teaching and learning." He includes within his conception of literacy such wide-ranging concerns as motivation, nutrition, high-stakes testing, parent involvement, and culturally-relevant teaching.  Students will ground their questions in the issues facing students, teachers, parents, and administrators in the local school corporation.  As this is the kind of research that values all of the stakeholders who may be affected by the research and for whom the research may be relevant, students will have ample opportunity to meet and collaborate with local teachers, administrators, parents, and students in order to develop their research questions, methodology, and findings.

As students work on their research they will also read a number of studies that model this kind of research, enabling them to examine both the benefits and limitations of a wide range of research methods: discourse, analysis of classroom interactions, observation, case studies, focus groups, interviews, and the like.  Central to the analysis will be the ways language interacts with identity and power, that is,  how literacy is distributed, who gets to speak and who is silenced, in schooling and in culture.  Thus, such questions will be discussed as "Does the prevailing distribution of literacy conform to standards of social justice?" and "What policies might promote such standards?"

In the end, students will share their "findings" in an effort to inform different stakeholders' understanding of the conditions that have the potential to foster - or impede - literacy learning.

Graduate Students

"Energy Policy, the Environment and Social Change"

Alexandre Chapeaux

Doctoral Candidate, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering

Felipe Witchger

Undergraduate student, Class of 2008, Energy Studies and Economics Major

Their course, titled "Energy Policy, the Environment and Social Change," will examine the role of energy in society and the impact of current energy use on the environment. Students will review the benefits and problems--economic, geopolitical, and social--associated with America's current dependence on fossil fuels as well as the opportunities and challenges of transitioning to a more sustainable energy economy. Finally, students will examine the relationship between energy consumption and environmental ethics, especially as understood in Catholic social tradition.

This course will add to the list of one-credit seminars offered to Notre Dame students every year that take them to sites away from campus. In this case, students will participate in a week-long immersion in Washington, DC over fall break. During this week, students will be visiting industry lobbyists, policy makers and government officials, environmental organizations, and federal regulatory agencies in their quest to learn about the limitations of and rational for current energy policies and environmental regulation. 


2006-2007 Course Development Grant Recipients

The following are the 2006-2007 Course Development Grant recipients, with descriptions of their courses taken from their proposals.


"Theatre and Social Activism"

Wendy Arons

Assistant Professor, Film, Television, and Theatre

Wendy Arons, Assistant Professor in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre, will be developing a course titled "Theatre and Social Activism."  The course will involve investigation of techniques for creating activist, grassroots theatre, and creation of original theatre pieces addressing social concerns in the local community. The class will culminate in public performance of the students’ own “activist theatre.” A goal of the course, according to Arons, “is for each student to find ways of moving the audience to act and demand change.” 

"Researching Disease: Methods in Medical Anthropology"

Daniel Lende

Assistant Professor, Anthropology

Assistant Professor of Anthropology Daniel Lende’s new course,“ Researching Disease: Methods in Medical Anthropology,” will involve students in hands-on learning of research methods in anthropology, with a focus on HIV/AIDS, substance use and abuse, and breast cancer. According to Lende, “The main learning goal of the class is that students end with the confidence and capability to go out and do ethnographic research on social problems.”

"African Americans and U.S. Politics"

Alvin Tillery

Assistant Professor, Political Science

Assistant Professor of Political Science Alvin Tillery will use his course development grant to integrate community engagement into his course titled “African Americans and U.S. Politics.”  The course examines themes related to the socio-historical development of blackness as a sociopolitical identity in America.  One of the aims of the course is to challenge students to engage in critical self-reflection about their obligations to promote social justice. His students will present on issues of racism to students in local schools, and facilitate discussions during black history month.

Graduate Students

"Globalization, Coffee, and the Fair Trade Movement"

Robert Brenneman

Graduate student, Sociology

Robert Brenneman is a graduate student in sociology. His course, to be titled “Globalization, Coffee and the Fair Trade Movement,” will look at the impact of globalization on people at the global margins, especially in economically depressed Central America. Students will participate in an eight day cross cultural trip to Guatemala. A goal of the class is for students to elaborate a plan for promoting fairness and social justice in one particular area of economic exchange and take preliminary steps to implement it.  

"Identity, Social Ethics, and Psychology"

Tom Bushlack

Doctoral candidate, Theology

Victor Carmona

Graduate student, Theology

Mignon Montpetit

Doctoral candidate, Psychology

Tom Bushlack, a Ph.D. candidate in moral theology; Victor Carmona, a masters student in theological studies; and Mignon Montpetit, a doctoral candidate in developmental psychology, are developing “Identity, Social Ethics, and Psychology.” The course will explore how Catholic social teaching and psychological research might engage in a creative dialogue to foster appreciation of identify formation and the justice issues that impact human development. Throughout the semester, students will work with local organizations that focus on migration, aging, or race relations.

"Environmental Justice and Human Rights Seminar"

Richard Pierce

Chair, Africana Studies

Najarian Peters

Law Student, St. Charles, Louisiana

Najarian Peters, a third year law student from St. Charles, Louisiana, came to the Center after the hurricanes last fall, wanting to create an opportunity through which students could go to the affected area to learn and contribute. With the collaboration of Dr. Richard Pierce, chair of Africana Studies, Jari led developed and led a one-credit seminar on environmental justice and human rights, through which undergraduates went to New Orleans this past spring break. Jari will be returning to Louisiana and will be the contact person there for the seminar over the next two years.


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