Public Intellectual Initiative

Each fall semester the Higgins Labor Program invites a select group of intellectually inquisitive undergraduates to participate in the Public Intellectual Initiative. The format is simple. In the spring semester, the participants gather three times over dinner to discuss a book, with the titles suggested and voted on by the group. The goals are straightforward:

  1. To encourage student participation in important public policy and cultural debates through engagement with timely texts.
  2. To enrich undergraduate intellectual culture by sponsoring reading, reflection, and dialogue beyond ​course​ work.
  3. To challenge the false binary separating college work from "real life."
  4. To promote Notre Dame's mission to foster among students "a sense of human solidarity and concern for the common good."
Drawing together a diverse group of students from a variety of majors and life experiences, the Public Intellectual Initiative fosters intellectual inquiry, community engagement, and an expansive appreciation for the multiplicity of perspectives necessary to generate thoughtful answers to pressing problems.

Launched in 2015–16, the Public Intellectual Initiative's second cohort (PII '17) is engaging the following books this spring:
 

Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness (2012)

Matthew Desmond, Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016)

J.D. Vance, Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016)

The Higgins Labor Program provides the books and covers the dinners, with additional, generous support from Notre Dame's College of Art & Letters (a Teaching Beyond the Classroom grant).