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

Contact: Erin Blasko, assistant director of media relations, 574-631-4127,


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,

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.

Monday, September 9, 2019

In dynamic emergency situations, often the best way to offer assistance is by making financial donations to organizations with skilled teams in the location. NGOs and charities near an emergency location can direct the funding via their local teams with the best knowledge and skills to provide relief where it is most needed and will have the most impact.

The following is a partial listing of the many organizations accepting contributions for relief and assistance relative to recent natural disasters, particularly Hurricane Dorian that devastated the Bahamas and impacted other areas of the Atlantic coastline. The University of Notre Dame is not formally endorsing any of the organizations listed.

Americares saves lives and improves health for people affected by poverty or disaster so they can reach their full potential. Americares teams are working with government authorities in the Bahamas to evaluate the extent of destruction, and provide healthcare assessments, emergency medical supplies and mental health services. 

American Red Cross has committed to providing a safe haven in Florida for those evacuating the Bahamas in response to Hurricane Dorian, including shelter, food, medical supplies and assessment, and emotional support. Red Cross responders are also supporting relief to impacted communities throughout the southeast United States. 

Catholic Charities USA supports disaster response and recovery efforts including direct assistance, home repair, home rebuilding, health care services and other programs. Catholic Charities uses case management that enables long-term disaster recovery and directs all funds raised to CCUSA agencies which serve affected agencies in North Carolina and the southeast coast of the United States.

Catholic Relief Services is working in the Bahamas to provide emergency shelter, water, food, and hygiene supplies to affected residents. They continue to assess where resources are needed most in the aftermath of Hurricane Dorian in collaboration with local authorities.

Mercy Corps is distributing solar lanterns to the heavily impacted islands of Abacos and Grand Bahama, and will continue to assess damage and provide emergency kits in the coming weeks. 

Save the Children distributes aid to affected families in the Bahamas and North Carolina, with a particular emphasis on children, by providing immediate relief and supporting the return of local agencies that serve children. 

UNICEF delivered its first shipment of emergency aid days after Hurricane Dorian struck the Bahamas, and will continue to provide access to sanitary water and other supplies in the coming weeks. 

World Central Kitchen, founded by chef José Andrés, is providing thousands of fresh meals daily to those affected by Hurricane Dorian in Abacos, Grand Bahama, and Nassau. 

World Vision provides emergency services to Americans impacted by Hurricane Dorian in North Carolina and along the southeast coastline including water, temporary shelter, hygiene kits, diapers, and flood muck-out kits. 


Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Tomorrow, Thursday, July 18 is a Catholic Day of Action for Immigrant and Refugee Children. The Basilica bells will toll at 10 a.m. for fifteen minutes followed by a rosary at the Grotto. More information can be found on the Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns website.

"A change of attitude towards migrants and refugees is needed on the part of everyone, moving away from attitudes of defensiveness and fear, indifference and marginalization–all typical of a throwaway culture–towards attitudes based on a culture of encounter, the only culture capable of building a better, more just and fraternal world."

-Pope Francis in his message for the 2014 World Day of Migrants and Refugees 

More recently, Pope Francis has returned to the theme of encounter. In his homily of February 15, 2019, he noted that "the Lord speaks to us today and asks us to allow him to free us of our fear." Fear, he said, is the origin of slavery, referring to the experience of the ancient Israelites. He continued: "And it is also the origin of every dictatorship because through the fear of a people the violence of the dictator grows." But, the pope continued, Christians "are called to overcome fear and open ourselves to encounter. And to do so, rational justifications and statistical calculations are not enough." Instead, we are to see the encounter with the other as encounter with Christ also. “He himself told us this. It is he who knocks on our door hungry, thirsty, a stranger, naked, sick, and imprisoned, asking to be met and assisted" (see Matthew 25).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Center for Social Concerns recently selected its 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.

Heidi Beidinger-Burnett, assistant professional specialist with the Eck Institute for Global Health, and Matthew Sisk, GIS librarian specializing in anthropology and archaeology based in the Navari Family Center for Digital Scholarship, were selected for research seeking to understand environmental lead distribution in urban and rural St. Joseph and Elkhart Counties. They are part of the Notre Dame Lead Innovation Team, a collaboration among several Notre Dame faculty members working to expand the Lead Sample Collection Kit project to rural areas of St. Joseph County and both rural and urban environments in Elkhart County. They were awarded $10,000.

Pam Butler, associate director of the Gender Studies Program was awarded $2,800 for professional development to attend a seven-day instructor training institute with the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program. Inside-Out is an educational program that brings together campus-based college students with incarcerated students for a semester-long course held in a prison or jail.

Ann-Marie Conrado, assistant professor with the Department of Art, Art History and Design, and Ron Metoyer, associate professor and assistant dean in the College of Engineering were awarded $5,000 for their work with CARE network. The network is addressing the problem of outdated social services directories by working on a dynamic open-source social service network and referral engine built on social determinants to more effectively connect individuals to the web of available resources.

Richard G. Jones, Annenberg Director, and Victoria St. Martin, visiting  journalist, of  the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy were awarded $5,000 for a course called “Covering America | Puerto Rico: Journalistic Storytelling with Compassion, Empathy and Professionalism.” The course involves a six-day reporting trip during spring break to Puerto Rico and is designed to combine digital technology with foundational reporting skills to cover complex stories for national audiences with a sense of both professionalism and empathy.

Grant Mudge, Ryan Producing Artistic Director for Shakespeare at Notre Dame was awarded $500 for “Shakespeare in Fremont Park,” a seven-week program focused on the city of South Bend’s west side neighborhoods. In collaboration with the Fremont Youth Foundation, Shakespeare in Fremont park invites young people to work directly with adults to create, rehearse, and perform a theatre production inspired by Shakespeare.

John Odhiambo Onyango, associate professor of architecture was awarded $3,000 for his work with the South Bend Sustainable Housing Lab (SBSHL). SBSHL is an interdisciplinary course within an emerging larger initiative serves as a vehicle for study, analysis, and community partnership and contribution for students from majors in the School of Architecture, College of Engineering, the newly formed Real Estate Institute, and the College of Arts and Letters.

Community Impact Grant proposals are reviewed once in the fall and once in the spring. The fall application deadline is September, 2019. 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,

Monday, March 18, 2019

The University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns will hold its biennial Catholic social tradition conference on March 21–23 at McKenna Hall. This year’s conference, “Option for the Poor: Engaging the Social Tradition,” will bring together 68 international scholars and practitioners of Catholic social tradition to examine various social challenges related to poverty.

The option for the poor and vulnerable has long been central to Catholic social tradition, holding that societies ought to be measured by the standard of how their most vulnerable members are faring and that all members of society have a special obligation to the poor and vulnerable.

“Fr. Ted Hesburgh wrote in 1979 that ‘we teach human dignity best by serving it where it is most likely to be disregarded, in the poor and abandoned,’” said Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Director of the Center for Social Concerns. “The Center’s pedagogy depends on that kind of insight, and this year’s conference promises to extend and develop it in new and fruitful directions.”

Past Catholic social tradition conferences have focused on important writings within the documentary tradition: Populorum Progressio in 2017, Gaudium et Spes in 2015, Pacem in Terris in 2013, and Rerum Novarum in 2011. By focusing on the option for the poor, this year’s conference will explore a principle central to many of the major writings in the documentary tradition as well as the Gospel.

“This series of biennial conferences first began in 2011 as a way to assemble scholars and practitioners who wanted to address social issues through the social teachings of the Church,” said Bill Purcell, senior associate director of Catholic social tradition and practice at the Center for Social Concerns and conference organizer. “The first one drew 30 presenters and 125 participants; this year we have 68 presenters and more than 350 participants.”

The conference will feature keynote addresses by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, S.D.B, Archdiocese of Sangon, Myanmar; Rev. Gustavo Gutiérrez, O.P., John Cardinal O’Hara Professor of Theology emeritus, University of Notre Dame; Lisa Sowle Cahill, Ph.D., J. Donald Monan Professor of Theology, Boston College; Charles Clarke, Ph.D., professor of economics, St. John’s University; and Daniel Graff, Ph.D., director of the Higgins Labor Program of the Center for Social Concerns, and professor of the practice, Department of History, University of Notre Dame.

The conference is cosponsored by the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion; Catholic Social Tradition Minor; Center for the Study of Religion and Society; Center for Theology, Science and Human Flourishing; Cushwa Center for American Catholicism; Department of Theology; Higgins Labor Program; Institute for Latino Studies; Keough School of Global Affairs; Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights; Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies; Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor; The Law School's Program on Church, State, & Society; Center for Spirituality at Saint Mary’s College; Catholic Charities USA; Catholic Mobilizing Network; National Center for the Laity.

Contact: JP Shortall, director of communications and advancement, (574) 631-3209,

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Upcoming Events

May 2022

Graduate Summer Institute for Engaged Research and Teaching
Tuesday, May 31, 2022 - 12:00am to Thursday, June 2, 2022 - 11:45pm

June 2022

The patient revolution: Seeking careful and kind healthcare
Friday, June 3, 2022 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm
Information Session | RISE: Hometown
Thursday, June 9, 2022 - 7:00pm
Preferred Application Deadline | Graduate Fellowship
Wednesday, June 15, 2022 - 12:00am to 11:45pm
Information Session | RISE: South Bend
Thursday, June 16, 2022 - 7:00pm

September 2022

Pathways Out of Poverty: Venture Creation and Contemporary Europe
Wednesday, September 7, 2022 - 11:00am to 1:00pm