News

Wednesday, June 3, 2020
March 12, 2020; National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama.         
Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame
 

The Center for Social Concerns remains committed to racial justice and exposing the white supremacy that prevents it. Reading the signs of the times, we realize there still exists a long way to go. Bishop Seitz of the Diocese of El Paso in his pastoral, “Night Will Be No More,” reminds us: "Challenging racism and white supremacy, whether in our hearts or in society, is a Christian imperative and the cost of not facing these issues head on, weighs much more heavily on those who live the reality of discrimination." In our ongoing commitment to listen, learn, grow, and act for racial justice, the center offers resources to walk with us on the journey. We invite you to join our work for racial justice through personal reflection, the center’s Act Justly seminar, advocacy, organizing, and education. You can find resources and links below.

Call it out! Reflections on Racial Justice

A call for student submissions

To create space for student processing and reflection on all that is happening in our world, students from the tri-campus community are invited to submit creative writing, poetry, visual art, and other forms of expression offering personal reflection and response to the issues of continued white supremacy and racial injustice during our present moment. The Center will feature selected works throughout the summer and fall semester. Please submit all writing or images to Melissa Marley Bonnichsen, Director of Leadership Formation, at mmarleyb@nd.edu.

Act Justly: Racial Justice in America

Fall 2020 Social Concerns Seminar

This Social Concerns Seminar will focus on the historic and current impact of racial injustice and will engage the wider campus community in an initiative related to racial justice today. In light of the US bishops' pastoral letter on racism, Open Wide Our Hearts, the Act Justly seminar will invite course participants to reflect deeply on the historical struggle for racial justice in the United States, and seek to enact a deeper personal and social justice.

Students will read deeply from writers across the span of American history, engage in community reflection and analysis, and develop an initiative which invites engagement from our Notre Dame community and beyond. Readings for the course will include a survey of major essayists and advocates for racial justice throughout the history of the United States. Examples include: Frederick Douglass, Ida B. Wells, James Baldwin, Angela Davis, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Ta-Nehisi Coates. Two sections will be offered. Additional information will be provided in June on the Act Justly webpage

Socially Responsible Investing (SRI) Campaign

A student-led campaign at Notre Dame

In 2019, Notre Dame students launched a campaign to end ND employees’ investments in private prisons through the University’s mandatory retirement plan. Publicly traded private prisons perpetuate mass incarceration, which is rooted in racism and disproportionately affects people of color. Racial justice demands an investment in human dignity and an end to profiting off our imprisoned sisters and brothers of color. To join students leading Notre Dame’s Socially Responsible Investing (ND SRI) campaign, please contact Elaine, Sophia and Maddie at ecarter3@nd.edu, shenn@nd.edu, and mwhitney@nd.edu.

Faith in Indiana Live Free Campaign

St. Joseph County Chapter

Faith in Indiana is a catalyst for marginalized people and people of faith to act collectively for racial and economic justice. In response to the death of George Floyd and many others who have lost their lives to police brutality, Faith in Indiana launched the Live Free Campaign which demands the reform of law enforcement. Join here to email Mayor Mueller and publicly announce your support of Live Free South Bend.

Live Free Reform Agenda
Adopt a strengthened police discipline matrix
Implement ongoing de-escalation and procedural justice training
Strengthen police use of force policy
Institute a 'Peacemaker Fellowship' Program
Respond to mental health crisis with treatment not incarceration

Remove unfair protections for officers in law enforcement contracts

We deserve a world where all lives are valued and our loved ones are safe. The only acceptable response is action. Contact Mayor Mueller today and support the Live Free Campaign here

Racial Justice Resources | ​Opportunities to Listen, Learn, and Reflect

Signs of the Times podcast episodes

Finding community in college can be difficult, but it can be especially difficult when you feel like you don't belong. Student Shelene Baiyee shares the struggles she faced her first few years at Notre Dame finding a sense of belonging, especially as a first generation American and the daughter of immigrant parents from St. Croix and Cameroon. Listen here

Jemar Tisby, Notre Dame alum and author of the book The Color of Compromise: The Truth About the American Church's Complicity in Racism, joins us on the podcast to discuss how the American church has helped create and maintain racist ideas and practices. In our conversation he details the difference between complicit Christianity and courageous Christianity and focuses on racism as systemic injustice. Listen here.

Nick Ottone, a senior at Notre Dame, has been involved in many center courses and programs during his four years all of which revolve around the study of race relations, incarceration, and the intersection of two. He shares how studying historical and current events led to feelings of anger and fueled his passion for working towards racial justice. and developing the Let's Talk About Race series. Listen here

This year the Center for Social Concerns explored the theme of racial justice through the Act Justly course, a Social Concerns Seminar that took place this past spring semester. The course is an examination of the American Civil Rights movement with an eye to our mutual responsibility to pursue racial justice today. It brought together students, faculty, and staff to reflect deeply on the historical struggle for racial justice in the United States, and to enact a deeper personal and social justice. Three students share their stories, reflections, and insights from the experience. Listen here

Catholic social teaching and related reflections

Mark Joseph Seitz, Bishop of El Paso​

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

Bryan N. Massingale

NETWORK

Racial justice reading list

The New York Times, Nikole Hannah-Jones, '98

Claudia Rankine

Jemar Tisby, '02

James Baldwin

Ibram X. Kendi

Bryan Stevenson

Robin D'Angelo

 

Friday, May 8, 2020

The Center for Social Concerns recently selected its 2020 spring semester Community Impact Grant recipients. Grants are awarded to faculty and students doing community-engaged work that advances human dignity, solidarity, and the common good, values central to Catholic social tradition. The grants were awarded based upon a proposal submission and selection process and are part of the center’s continuing effort to support collaboration between campus and community partners for social justice impact.

Libbie Frost, Joseph Miller, and Cristina Escajadillo, current Notre Dame undergraduate students, were awarded $250 for “The Eagle: Bus Mural,” a project intended to collaborate with the students at St. Adalbert School to paint a mural on the side of the St. Adalbert School bus. 

Maria V. Alexandrova, assistant professor of practice, Eck Institute for Global Health; Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, assistant professor of practice, Department of Biological Studies; Roya Ghiaseddin, professor of the practice, Applied Computational Mathematics & Statistics; and Sophia Pantano, Meagan Matuska, and Rebecca Hammond, current Notre Dame undergraduate students, were awarded $5,000 for “Improving Human Papillomavirus—Vaccination Rates and Related Health Outcomes in Saint Joseph County, Indiana utilizing Three Cs Model.”

Patrick Farran, associate director, Graduate Business Career Services was awarded $4,000 for “Heartful: Exploring the transformational impact of community storytelling through theatre” as a mechanism for enhancing prisoner reentry efforts, community integration, and changing the hearts and minds of others.

Ellen Kyes, director of Take Ten, Robinson Community Learning Center, Office of Public Affairs; and Jennifer E. Burke Lefever, program director, Psychology were awarded $2,000 for the “Evaluation of the Take Ten program: Classroom intervention v. Peacemaking Circles practice.”

Marya Lieberman, professor, Chemistry and Biochemistry was awarded $5,000 for “Lead-safe painting 2020” to educate, train, and implement lead-safe painting practices.

Neeta Verma, associate professor, Department of Art, Art History, & Design in collaboration with others in the South Bend community were awarded $5,000 for “UNITE: Mitigating Youth Violence And Strengthening Communities Together Through Art And Design.”

Community Impact Grant proposals are reviewed once in the fall and once in the spring. The fall 2020 application will open July 20, 2020. Applicants may request grants up to $15,000. For more information on grants, please visit the grants webpage.

Contact: JP Shortall, director of communications and advancement, (574) 631-3209, jshortal@nd.edu

 

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Around the country, essential workers are putting their health and well-being on the line for continuity of services. Many employees are finding, however, that employers fail to provide sufficient care and protection for them in the workplace, resulting in a series of walkouts over the past few weeks that span a number of different industries. AP News, in their article "Pandemic job actions offer hope for renewed labor movement", discusses how the COVID-19 crisis could spark a more rigorous labor movement, quoting Dan Graff, Ph.D., director of the Higgins Labor Program

"People’s fears of sickness and death are finally stronger than people’s fears of their employer. It might be a sort of cataclysmic opening."

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Earlier this spring, 46 students, faculty, and staff boarded a bus bound for the American South. Their purpose was to retrace the significant moments of the Civil Rights Movement with a specific eye toward applying that learning to the work of racial justice today. Act Justly: Racial Justice and the American Civil Rights Movement was a groundbreaking class—facilitated by the Seminars program here at the Center for Social Concerns—because of both its scope and origins.

Over a year ago, a small group of center staff began to imagine together how to apply our commitments—Catholic Social Tradition (CST) and pedagogy (authentic encounter and community engaged learning)—to the conversations arising from Walk the Walk week, the University sponsored week demonstrating the University’s dedication to working for racial justice. The Seminars program—with its combination of classroom and immersion coursework—seemed like a good fit for exploring another center expression of the campus conversation around race and justice. 

The center also has a long history of engaging the content and implications of Church teaching on issues of justice; and the publication of the USCCB’s letter regarding race, Open Wide Our Hearts, generated more momentum toward an official offering from the center on the issue of racial justice today. In fact, the 2020–2021 theme of the entire center was Act Justly, providing the inspiration for the seminar’s name. 

For this seminar to have the desired impact, some of the normal mode of operation for Seminars would need to be enhanced. Instead of the usual 12–15 participants for a seminar like this, Act Justly created space for nearly 50 participants and storytellers to journey together on a seven day immersion. Experiencing the week on a bus was appropriate since so much of the movement depended upon the transportation and social symbolism of buses. The Freedom Riders took bus trips through the south in 1961 to protest segregated bus terminals; many of the 200,000 people who attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom took buses to get there; and most famously, Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955. So being cramped in a bus seemed to be a way of joining in spirit with the many student activists who had championed racial justice during their college years at the expense of their physical safety.

Those participants were shepherded through the collective journey by eight student leaders; a team of incredible, high-capacity students who are each dedicated to embodying racial justice in their lives and communities. The Seminars staff worked with these leaders to develop vision and strategies for building a genuine community of people spanning many campus constituencies. This community would need to be able to wade into the deep and troubled waters of the story of racial injustice in the United States—not just our collective heritage of hate but its modern day expressions as well—all the while helping individuals reflect upon their experience and life stories in a constructive way. The participant stories coming out of this seminar, both classroom and immersion, are evidence that these leaders succeeded in the task set in front of them. 

The immersion took place March 7–13 and followed a rigorous itinerary through four states with scores of stops along the way. The heavy lifting of administration for this immersion was managed by Judy Benchaar, administrative assistant for both the Seminars and Higgins Labor Programs at the center. Preparation included organizing food, lodging, and site arrangements for 50 throughout the journey. Beginning in Memphis, TN the group began its learning at the Lorraine Motel—a flashpoint of history and controversy as the historic site of the assassination of Dr. King—and current home of the National Civil Rights Museum. This opening day left participants with a lot to ponder about both the historical events that took place there and the nature of these sites that have become places of both pilgrimage and tourism. 

One of the days of the immersion was coordinated by Jemar Tisby, a Notre Dame alumnus who moved to the Mississippi Delta after leaving Notre Dame and has stayed there ever since. This day left an indelible imprint on the Act Justly participants as it gave them the opportunity to get their shoes dirty, encountering the face of racial discrimination in Southern rural communities not typically visited by Civil Rights tours. It was here that participants were forced to confront the relative nature of our historical narratives and the way in which local communities are forced to deal with their legacy of violence long after the official historical record is written.

Storytelling was a hallmark of the experience, as participants sat with real life ‘foot soldiers’ of the Civil Rights Movement in Jackson, MS and Selma, AL and wrestled with their stories and reminders to them that the work of civil rights and justice continues today. In Jackson, participants heard from someone who integrated the local school. Their story demonstrated a deep resilience in the face of hatred and violence. In Selma, the group listened to the story of a front line marcher and learned some of the history of the Catholic presence during the push for voting rights. These exemplars of justice left their mark on students, faculty, and staff alike.  

The journey began to wrap up by spending a full day in Montgomery, AL, the destination of the Voting Rights March and the birthplace of the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), a non-profit legal organization dedicated to exposing how the ugly history of racial violence in America continues to adapt and corrupt our capacity for justice in the United States. EJI was a fitting experience for a seminar immersion designed to bridge our history with present realities. 

While the return to campus and planned learning and action was interrupted by COVID-19, student participants continue to process their learning and are actively applying that work to modern racial injustices, like the private prison industrial complex and the manifestations of racialized aggression on campus experienced by many students of color. 

The Center for Social Concerns and the Seminars program see this as just a start. The work of racial justice—not to mention the work of racial justice education—continues. The Seminars team is working to expand the scope of existing Seminars, notably Realities of Race, to engage other concrete inequities in society. Additionally, plans are in the works to offer a staff and faculty version of this immersion with a particular eye to advocating for racial justice within the campus community and culture. The center is deeply grateful to the other campus partners who collaborated with us to make the Act Justly Seminar a reality: the Department of American Studies, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism, Notre Dame Human Resources—Office of Diversity and Inclusion, Jordan Family Foundation, and the Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights.

 

Monday, March 16, 2020

Dan Graff, Ph.D., director of the Higgins Labor Program, was recently quoted by local South Bend news affiliate, WNDU, in their feature "Coronavirus and workers' rights: Sick leave, job protection?" While many employees do not think about sick leave until it is needed, for Graff, who convened the Just Wage Initiative, sick leave and job protection are only two of the many things that create a more just workplace. 

"Most Americans who work for someone else don't know what their protections are, and for the most part, they're not used to having to worry about that because they're at a job. They feel like things are going well. It's only when something bad happens, an emergency crisis happens, where then things get kind of scary."

Friday, March 13, 2020

Margie Pfeil, Ph.D., faculty joint appointment in theology and the Center for Social Concerns, was recently featured in the National Catholic Reporter in connection to the Catholic Worker house in South Bend and Dorothy Day. The article, "Catholic Worker confronts a new era: As TV documentary spotlights Dorothy Day's legacy, today's Catholic Worker houses face new challenges", discusses how the Catholic Worker movement has evolved over the past 90 years. Pfeil specifically addresses the Catholic Worker in South Bend as a place of connection between many in the community who would not otherwise encounter each other. 

"She [Pfeil] sees Day's vision of 'Christian anarchy' — lots of little communities feeling called within their particular local contexts — as operating at a very specific scale as not to 'lose the possibility of that kind of relationality.'"

 

Monday, February 24, 2020

On Sunday, February 23, the University of Notre Dame revoked the Notre Dame Award that was conferred upon Jean Vanier in 1994 after the L'Arche organization he established found credible allegations that Vanier sexually exploited six women. The Center for Social Concerns supports that decision.

The center has long partnered with L’Arche communities to celebrate the giftedness of all people and to learn from one another through relationships based on mutuality and respect. The transgressions of the L’Arche communities founder, while grave, do not impeach the good work that continues in more than 140 L’Arche communities around the world, and the Center for Social Concerns will continue to work with those communities. We pray in solidarity with them, and especially with the women Vanier exploited.

 

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

University of Notre Dame senior Prathm Juneja has been named to the United States Rhodes Scholar Class of 2020. Juneja, of Edison, New Jersey is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars selected from a pool of 963 candidates. He is Notre Dame’s 20th Rhodes Scholar and will commence his studies in Oxford in October.

“Notre Dame could not be prouder of Prathm Juneja because he was selected not for his scholarly achievement alone, but — in the words of the Rhodes Trust — ‘for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead,’” said Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “Congratulations to Prathm and to the Notre Dame faculty and staff of the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement who helped him to reach this point in his academic journey.”

Jeffrey Thibert, the Paul and Maureen Stefanick Director of the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), said, “We are so happy to congratulate Prathm Juneja on his selection as a 2020 Rhodes Scholar. Since 2016, only six U.S. institutions have produced more Rhodes Scholars than Notre Dame. This is a testament to the excellence of the undergraduate educational experience at Notre Dame and the fundamental alignment of the University’s mission with the Rhodes ideal of ‘standing up for the world.’”

Thibert continued, “Prathm is truly an exceptional individual who has fully seized the opportunities that Notre Dame has provided. It has been gratifying to work with such an authentically good person, and it is heartening to see him be recognized with such a prestigious opportunity to improve this world.”

CUSE, which promotes the intellectual development of Notre Dame undergraduates through scholarly engagement, research, creative endeavors and the pursuit of fellowships, assisted Juneja and Notre Dame’s other Rhodes finalists — seniors Matthew Schoenbauer and Nicholas Ottone — with the application process for the Rhodes Scholarship.

“I am privileged to have been selected for the Rhodes Scholarship, and I hope to use my education at Oxford for service towards a more equitable society.” - Prathm Juneja

Juneja is a political science and computer science major in the Reilly Five-Year Dual Degree Program in Arts and Letters/Engineering. He is a Newman Civic Fellow, a College of Arts and Letters Dean’s Fellow, a Hipp-Beeler Scholar and a Glynn Family Honors student.

On campus, he is involved with NDVotes and the Building Bridges Mentoring Program. He is a former chief of staff and director of national engagement and outreach for Notre Dame Student Government.

Off campus, he is an innovation associate with Pete Buttigieg for America, and he is active in the St. Joseph County Democratic Party.

He previously served as a researcher and software developer in the South Bend Mayor’s Office, where he developed an autonomous 311 chatbot to help answer questions about city government, and as a civic technology fellow with MicrosoftNY, a civic organization dedicated to improving lives in New York via civic design, technology and data.

His senior thesis examines the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program and its effect on voter turnout.

With a background in civic technology, he plans to pursue a master of science in social data science and a master of public policy at Oxford. 

From there, he hopes to work on innovation and technology in government, where he can tackle the most important cybersecurity, privacy and implementation issues of our time.

“I am so grateful for the support of Dr. Jeff Thibert, Elise Rudt and everyone at CUSE who guided me throughout this entire process with kindness and support,” Juneja said. “I’d also like to thank my recommendation letter writers, Professor Bradley Malkovsky, Professor Shreya Kumar, Professor David Campbell, Professor Paul OcobockBrian Coughlin, Rosie McDowell, Santi Garces and Mayor Pete Buttigieg. Without their support over these past four years, I know I would not have this opportunity.” 

He added, “I am privileged to have been selected for the Rhodes Scholarship, and I hope to use my education at Oxford for service towards a more equitable society.”

Kumar, assistant teaching professor of computer science and engineering at Notre Dame, said, “I have worked with many students who build impressive solutions to common problems, but I have hardly met anyone more dedicated than Prathm to fairness, accessibility and transparency in democracy. He will do great things for this world.”

University of Notre Dame Rhodes Scholars

Robert Shea ’23
James Greene ’48
Herman H. Hamilton ’50
Dennis Moran ’53
Donald C. Sniegowski ’56
Dennis Shaul ’60
Robert McNeill ’63
John Gearen ’65
John P. Santos ’79
Robert Vonderheide ’85
Teresa Doering-Lewis ’86
Gregory Abowd ’86
Eva Rzepniewski ’97
Eugenio Fernandez ’97
Andrew Serazin ’03
Alex Coccia ’14
Emily Mediate ’15
Grace Watkins ’17
Alexis Doyle ’17
Prathm Juneja '20​

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Named for English businessman and politician Cecil Rhodes, the Rhodes Scholarships are the oldest international fellowships in the world, recognizing American students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories for their scholarly achievements, character, commitment to others and to the common good and potential for leadership.

For more information on this and other fellowship opportunities, visit cuse.nd.edu.

Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127, eblasko@nd.edu

 

Monday, November 25, 2019

The Center for Social Concerns recently selected Community Impact Grant recipients for the fall semester 2019. Grants are awarded to faculty and students doing community-engaged work that advances human dignity, solidarity, and the common good, values central to Catholic social tradition. The grants were awarded based upon a proposal submission and selection process and are part of the center’s continuing effort to support collaboration between campus and community partners for social justice impact.

Karen Graubart, associate professor, history and gender studies was awarded $500 for the Tressie McMillan Cottom lecture at the Gender Studies Undergraduate Research Conference in March, 2020. 

Romelia Solano, Ph.D. student and graduate fellow, political science and latino studies was awarded $2,856 for “Detention, Due Process, and Democracy,” a professional development grant to support community impact research in collaboration with the National Immigrant Justice Center (NIJC) in Chicago and Goshen, Indiana. 

Todd Walatka, associate teaching professor, theology was awarded $1,000 for “Oscar Romero and Catholic Social Teaching” and to sponsor the Pelton Awards during the 35th annual Romero Days conference, March 2020. 

Jen Burke Lefever, managing director, Shaw Center for Children and Families; Julie Braungart-Rieker, professor, psychology; and Todd Zeltwanger, director of fund development, Cultivate Culinary were awarded $2,500 for “Food for Families: The Impact Of A Backpack Program On Lessening Child Hunger, Improving School Attendance, Behavior And Academic Outcome.” 

Mahan Mirza, executive director, Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, professor of the practice, Contending Modernities, Keough School of Global Affairs was awarded $500 for “A Bridge Of Faith On A River Of Science: Notre Dame And Local Faith Communities,” a meeting of 20 faith leaders from diverse traditions from South Bend and its environs on campus three times per year for three years. 

Eva Dziadula, associate professor of the practice, economics was awarded $2,500 for “Economics of Immigration: Spring visit to Puebla, Mexico and Mexico City,” an on-campus economics of immigration course that will examine theoretical models of migration from the individual’s perspective, as well as the impacts on both the destination and sending countries. 

Emmanuel Katongole, professor, theology and peace studies and Clemens Sedmak, professor, Keough School of Global Affairs; concurrent professor, Center for Social Concerns and theology were awarded $6,000 for “Peace, Ecology and Integral Human Development” a new three-credit immersion course that will be offered in the Spring of 2020.

Elizabeth Forbis Mazurek, associate professor, classics; Luca Grillo, associate professor, classics; and Tadeusz Mazurek, associate teaching professor, classics were awarded $2,000 for “Aequora Program in Latin Language Teaching,” a partnership between the department of classics, Clay International Academy, and Saint Joseph Elementary School to enrich secondary school programs with Latin language instruction. 

Paul Anh McEldowney, Ph.D. Candidate, philosophy was awarded $957 for “The MCI Podcast Workshop at Westville Correctional Facility,” a workshop on the fundamentals of podcast composition and production. 

Community Impact Grant proposals are reviewed once in the fall and once in the spring. The spring application will open December 16, 2019 with a deadline of February 10, 2020. Applicants may request grants up to $15,000. For more information on grants, please visit the grants webpage.

Contact: JP Shortall, director of communications and advancement, (574) 631-3209, jshortal@nd.edu

Monday, November 4, 2019

The numbers of student voters at the University of Notre Dame rose nearly 20 percentage points in last year’s midterm elections, according to the new 2014 and 2018 Campus Report from the National Study of Learning, Voting, and Engagement (NSLVE).

At Notre Dame, 37.1 percent of students voted in the 2018 midterms, compared to 17.3 percent in the 2014 elections, following a national trend. Undergraduate and graduate students voted at nearly equal rates in 2014, at 15.2 percent and 16.3 percent respectively, and both jumped significantly in 2018 to 32.9 percent and 33.1 percent respectively.

The Campus Report is the only national study of college-student voting and is based on the voting records of more than 10 million students at more than 1,000 colleges and universities in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The percentage of Notre Dame students who voted in 2018 (37.1 percent) was slightly lower than the national average (39.1 percent) and average for comparable private, research-focused universities (41.2 percent). Students studying law and in majors associated with the College of Arts and Letters showed the highest levels of voting. The majority of Notre Dame students voted absentee or via early voting, reflecting the broad geographic diversity within the student population. The full campus report can be viewed here.

The report is part of NSLVE, conducted by the Institute for Democracy and Higher Education at Tufts University’s Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life and led by director Nancy Thomas. Thomas will visit Notre Dame Nov. 5-7 to participate in various events with students, faculty and staff with the aim of further enhancing civic learning at Notre Dame, which will host the first presidential debate in 2020.

The study suggests a strong increase in student political interest since the midterm election of 2014. Nationwide, the voting rates at participating college campuses doubled on average compared to the previous 2014 midterm. Turnout increases were widespread, with virtually all campuses seeing an increase over 2014.

“How a university educates students of all persuasions to be thoughtful citizens and informed voters is an important element of higher education,” said Jay Brandenberger, director of research and graduate student initiatives at the Center for Social Concerns.

In recent years, there has been a concerted effort on Notre Dame’s campus to increase students’ political engagement and to encourage college-age voters of all political persuasions to vote. Brandenberger notes that two initiatives in particular — ND Votes and BridgeND — have been especially active on campus.

Leading up to the 2018 midterm election, with the funds from an Indiana Campus Compact grant, ND Votes – a student-led coalition – worked to localize political learning through community engagement with the goal of bridging the gap between political concepts learned in class and local civic efforts. Students also collaborated with the League of Women Voters and Civic Duty South Bend to engage local residents in voter registration efforts, offer voter education, foster dialogue in public settings and promote voter turnout. On campus, the group promoted civic engagement with a competition to see which dorm could get the most residents registered, many “Pizza, Pop and Politics” nights to promote voter education and an election night watch party.

“Our objective has always been the promotion of civic engagement through voter registration, education and mobilization,” said Sheila Gregory, co-chair of ND Votes. “What we see in the Campus Report is both an embodiment of this mission through higher numbers of registration and mobilization, as well as a challenge for future elections to attain a voting rate that exceeds national averages.”

BridgeND, established in 2014, is a multi-partisan political club committed to bridging the partisan divide through respectful and productive discourse. The founders of Bridge ND worked to expand the club on a national level at 16 campuses as Bridge USA. The organization just launched Bridge Europe at four universities in England, The Netherlands and Germany. Last spring, Bridge ND co-sponsored a forum with former Secretaries of State John Kerry and Condoleezza Rice in conversation about “America’s Role in the World.

“We believe in the power of conversation to build empathy, and inspiring students to listen first to understand, not to respond. Our work will be increasingly crucial as what’s sure to be a particularly polarizing election will culminate on our campus with a presidential debate,” said Kevin Gallagher, BridgeND president. “We’re eager to continue to create venues for Notre Dame to be a national model for respectful political engagement in a time when it’s all too easy to disengage and demonize the ‘other side.’’’

This article was originally published in Notre Dame News.

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