Engagement in Higher Education

This area’s basic and applied research examines the dynamic processes that impact student development in moral and civic responsibility, leadership, ethics, and faith. Through multi-disciplinary approaches, we seek to understand what motivates community and social action; what sustains civic engagement over time; how community-based learning impacts students’ knowledge, attitudes, behavior, moral commitment, and sense of life purpose. We are committed to collaborative inquiry to improve opportunities for student engagement and development, and collaborate on a number of national studies in an effort to develop best practices in higher education.

Civic and Political Engagement at Notre Dame

Democratic Engagement at Notre Dame: Learning from the 2022 Post-Election Student Survey

Research Report 14 (January, 2022)

This report examines Notre Dame student engagement in the 2020 national election, including voting rate, salient issues, and understanding of campus civic culture. Trends from previous campus studies and national data provide context. See also this Notre Dame news release about the report.  

Campus Plan and Report: Voter Engagement and Civic Learning — 2020 

This document outlines initiatives and programming at the University of Notre Dame to encourage voter engagement and promote student civic and political learning. The report was shared with the ALL IN Campus Democracy Challenge and the DemocrACCy initiative of the Atlantic Coast Conference, and will be a tool for Notre Dame faculty, staff, students, and partners to assess and build promising practices. Contact Jay Brandenberger for more information.


ND Votes is a non-partisan student-led initiative supported by the Center; it provides civic and political learning opportunities each semester through a series of events, voter registration efforts, and more. In 2020 ND Votes developed this election guide for all fifty states. 

National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement Data

The University of Notre Dame participates in the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE). This study, facilitated through the Institute for Democracy in Higher Education at Tufts University, links data from over 1000 colleges and universities with public voting records. Results (anonymous) provide a picture of voting trends among Notre Dame undergraduate and graduate students. The University’s most recent report (comparing voting rates for the 2014 and 2018 mid-term elections) is available below. It augments data collected by the Center for Social Concerns (see Research Report 13). 

NSLVE 2020 Campus Voting Report for the University of Notre Dame

NSLVE 2014 and 2018 Campus Voting Report for the University of Notre Dame 

NSLVE 2012 and 2016 Campus Voting Report for the University of Notre Dame

See Notre Dame press release on 2018 voting report

Dr. Nancy Thomas Visit Notre Dame — November 5 —7, 2019

Notre Dame was pleased to welcome Dr. Nancy Thomas of Tufts University for a three-day visit to campus. Dr. Thomas is a national expert on the role of higher education in promoting civic and political learning, and the founder of the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement. We appreciate ongoing support from Dr. Thomas as we build means to further civic learning at Notre Dame.  

Misc Resources on Civic Engagement and Democratic Learning

Bergom, I. (2016). IDHE Report — Campus Stories: What are Higher Education Institutions doing to Increase Political Learning and Engagement? Link. 

Institute for Democracy and Higher Education. (2018). National Data Reports. 

Bornstein, D. (2018, July 4). Getting Student Power into the Voting Booth, in the New York Times. Link.

Gismondi, A.  (2017). Political Engagement Begins on Campus. Published by NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education. Link

Thomas, N., Brower, M., Casellas Connors, I., Gismondi, A., & Upchurch, K. (2019). Election Imperatives 2.0: Ten Recommendations to Increase College Student Voting and Improve Political Learning and Engagement in Democracy. Institute for Democracy and Higher Education, Tufts University. Link.

Thomas, N., & Bower, M. (2017). Politics 365: Fostering Campus Climates for Student Political Learning and Engagement, chapter in edited book: Teaching Civic Across the Disciplines (full book here).

Thomas, N. (2018). Educating for Democracy in Undemocratic Contexts: Avoiding the Zero-Sum Game of Campus Free Speech Versus Inclusion. In: eJournal of Public Affairs. Link.

Thomas, N. (2018).  Students at the Polls. Podcast.

US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship. Link.