The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) was established at Notre Dame in 1983. The center is one of the proud heirs of the commitment and contribution to social service and social justice by Notre Dame students, faculty, staff, alumni and alumnae, since the founding of the University by the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1842.
In the late 1970s, with students as a catalyst, guided by the vision of the center’s founding director Rev. Don McNeill, C.S.C., Notre Dame leadership took steps to merge many initiatives and activities into one center that would be housed in its own building on campus. The Center for Social Concerns inherited a strong tradition of service and learning from the Notre Dame Office of Volunteer Services (a unit of the Office of Student Activities from 1972–1983) and the Center for Experiential Learning (a part of the Institute for Pastoral and Social Ministry from 1977–1983). The center opened its doors in the former WNDU building on campus, just north and west of the library, in January 1983 under the leadership of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., then president of the University.
Fr. McNeill served as Executive Director until 2002 when Rev. Bill Lies, C.S.C. became the Center’s second leader. During Fr. Bill’s tenure from 2002 until 2012, the center experienced impressive growth in programs and resources available to engage students in the local, national, and international communities. Part of that growth included moving into the Center’s new offices in Geddes Hall, which it shares with the Institute for Church Life. This move acknowledged the importance of the center’s mission within the general mission of the University.
The third executive director, Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., assumed leadership of the center in July 2012. The center continued to flourish under his direction, making great strides in community-based research and learning and in a renewed emphasis on Catholic social tradition in programs and courses. Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C, became the center’s fourth executive director in July, 2018, after serving as the director of the Common Good Initiative since 2014.
An increasing number of students participate in the variety of center programs each year. This growth in student participation and service involvement in programs sponsored or co-sponsored through the center is significant, and is enriched by the educational outcomes of agencies, their clients and the students. The faculty have increased their contributions to the educational and reflective components at the core of the center’s courses and programs. Work with many partners of the center also enhances the faith-based learning of all who serve, and helps lay a strong foundation for future service and action.
The center’s mission and goals continue to be supported and encouraged by the administrative guidance of Notre Dame president, Rev. John Jenkins, C.S.C., and by the provost, John McGreevy, Ph.D. The center remains an active partner on campus with the McGrath Institute for Church Life and shares in its mission and outreach to the larger Church in the United States.