Community-Engaged Learning and COVID-19

Community-Engaged Learning and COVID-19

Center for Social Concerns Position Statement for Fall 2020

Posted June 11, 2020. This statement might be updated as information and guidance evolves.

Pope Francis calls us to a “culture of encounter,” and human encounter is core to how the Center for Social Concerns lives out its mission to enact Catholic social teaching (CST) through community-engaged research, teaching, and learning. In this time of the COVID-19 global pandemic, the center is committed to the experience of human encounter while honoring the critical need for physical distance. We are following guidelines outlined by the Center for Disease Control, local officials, and the University of Notre Dame’s June 8, 2020 direction on limiting all travel, which states that the University “expects that students, faculty and staff will avoid personal travel away from campus, their homes, or the local area during the fall 2020 semester except under exceptional circumstances (e.g., sick family member).” We believe it is our social responsibility to mitigate the risk of spreading the COVID-19 virus by limiting student, faculty, and staff direct contact with community members in ways we can control. We want to help keep our communities healthy and strong by working with them remotely on academic community engagement, maintaining those relationships to address the needs of our most vulnerable neighbors, whom we know are disproportionately harmed by such crises. 

What we can do together is greater than what we can do alone. At the same time, following community input and University guidelines, restrictions imposed by safety concerns will significantly limit what the center can offer and support, especially with respect to on-site or direct engagement. Most significantly, through fall semester 2020, the center cannot encourage or fund coursework and research that involves community engagement requiring people to be on-site in the same physical location, nor can the center provide vehicles or other transportation for such engagement. The center will work actively to create alternatives to continue to address justice concerns and ethical learning during this period.

We look forward to the day when we can resume those powerful on-site encounters, and this fall we will reassess what is possible for spring 2021, but for now we are thinking creatively with our partners about how to respond to communities in crisis, and we have found that there is much we can do remotely. Many faculty had to convert their face-to-face community-engaged courses to remotely community-engaged courses on the fly in March 2020. We learned a great deal from that and from our colleagues who have long taught community-engaged courses either fully or partially online. It’s clear that many of our community partners have opportunities they would like to collaborate on remotely. It’s clear that there is a demand from faculty and students for this mode of learning. And it’s clear that we can do this well with proper guidance and support. We therefore offer our full support for remote academic community engagement, which we believe can adhere to the same ethical principles and practices we value in face-to-face community-engaged learning. 

The Center for Social Concerns supports the following core principles to guide academic community engagement in person or in remote work. We advise University faculty, staff, and students to:

  • Listen to communities and respect their articulation of needs and priorities. Acknowledge that organizations might not be able to accept assistance as offered.
  • Work with community partners to co-construct a clearly outlined collaboration that meets the needs of the community and the learning objectives of the academic endeavor.
  • Reflect often, in many ways, to see if those objectives are being met. Adjust as needed in communication with partners.
  • Share and celebrate what is created with partners in ways that advance their mission and purpose to serve the common good.

We have curated resources that outline effective practices for actively engaging communities to advance their critical work while keeping our physical distance to protect community members, students, faculty, and staff. Please refer to the following when developing an academic community-engaged opportunity at this time.


COVID-19 and the Engaged Campus (from Indiana Campus Compact)

“Community Engagement in Online Courses: Practical Advice During Uncertain Times” (IU South Bend Panel, May 20, 2020)


We encourage you to contact Dave Lassen, Ph.D. (, Community-Engaged Learning Program Director, at the Center for Social Concerns to discuss opportunities to move forward with remote academic community engagement.



View All Events

Upcoming Events

January 2022

Literally, Black@ND
Tuesday, January 18, 2022 - 7:00pm
Social Concerns Fair 2022
Thursday, January 20, 2022 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Virtual Postgraduate Service Fair
Tuesday, January 25, 2022 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Virtual Postgraduate Service Fair
Wednesday, January 26, 2022 - 5:00pm to 7:00pm
Labor Café First Friday
Friday, January 28, 2022 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm
Virtues and Vocations presents Mary Gentile: Giving Voice to Values
Monday, January 31, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm

February 2022

Application Close | SSLP 2022
Tuesday, February 1, 2022 - 12:00am to 11:45pm
Signs of the Times Brown Bag Lunch Series | Education
Friday, February 4, 2022 - 12:00pm to 1:00pm
Proposal Deadline | Community Impact Grants
Monday, February 14, 2022 - 4:30pm

March 2022

Catholic Social Tradition Minor Open House & Info Session
Wednesday, March 16, 2022 - 6:00pm to 7:00pm