Monday, February 4, 2019

Connie Snyder Mick, director of academic affairs at the Center for Social Concerns and co-director of the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor co-housed in the College of Arts and Letters and the Center for Social Concerns, has been appointed editor-in-chief of Poverty and Public Policy (PPP), an academic journal focused on research related to poverty, welfare, and economic inequality worldwide.

Established in 2009 by the Policy Studies Organization, PPP publishes peer-reviewed empirical studies, peer-reviewed theoretical essays on approaches to poverty and social welfare, book reviews, data sets, edited blogs, and incipient data from scholars, aid workers, and other practitioners in less developed nations and nations that are just beginning to focus on these problems in a scientific way. PPP is available in 29,000 libraries worldwide.

“Connie’s scholarly focus on questions of writing and poverty makes her a great choice for the next editor-in-chief of Poverty and Public Policy,” said Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns. “And given the centrality of the option for the poor in Catholic social teaching, a journal focused on poverty research that leads to policy solutions is a perfect fit at the center and the University.”

In her role at the center, Snyder Mick teaches the capstone and an elective for Poverty Studies, and she works with faculty to design and implement academic community engagement in courses across the University. Every summer, she leads the Community Engagement Faculty Institute, a three-day immersion into the theory and practice of community-engaged research, teaching, and learning that leads to positive social impact.

“I am grateful to the journal for the confidence they have placed in me and hope to advance the important work of its founding editor, Max Skidmore,” said Snyder Mick. “Poverty and Public Policy will continue to provide a critical space for identifying obstacles and proposing solutions to address poverty worldwide.”

Snyder Mick’s research interests include assessment of community engagement to measure impact on student learning and community development, the function of community engagement and service-learning in socio-cultural acquisition among English language learners, the role of writing in social change, the rhetoric of poverty, and the pedagogies of community engagement. She is also a governing board member of the Shepherd Higher Education Consortium on Poverty , a collaboration among 26 colleges and universities that integrates classroom study of poverty with summer internships.

She has published Good Writing: An Argument Rhetoric, Oxford University Press (2018) and Poverty/Privilege: A Reader for Writers, Oxford University Press (2015) as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters in her research areas.

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


Monday, January 21, 2019

The Center for Social Concerns has just awarded six Community Impact Grants 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.

“The Center for Social Concerns has long supported community-engaged work through grants and consultation on community-engaged research and teaching, and our new Community Impact Grants program continues that tradition,” explains Connie Mick, director of academic affairs at the center and co-director of the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor. “These grants advance the center’s mission to enact the common good by applying academic knowledge to community challenges.”

Grants were awarded to faculty and students from six different departments in three colleges across the University. Viva Bartkus, associate professor of management in the Mendoza College of Business was awarded $7,400 to lead a cohort of MBA students in a Business on the Frontlines course designed to stimulate economic development in Santurce, Puerto Rico, a vibrant arts area on the island.

Jay Brockman, director of the Center for Civic Innovation in the College of Engineering was awarded a $500 grant to convene campus and community members to build a partnership for a Net-Zero Housing Initiative in the Southeast Neighborhood of South Bend. The group aims to test innovative solutions to housing that could be applicable across the region and beyond.  

Two grant awardees will address the question of education for underserved students in the South Bend Community School Corporation. Patrick Kirkland, a doctoral student in Psychology, and his advisor, Professor of Psychology and ACE Collegiate Chair Nicole M. McNeil, were awarded $5,667 for a project that will allow teachers at Jefferson Middle School to attend Number Talks Professional Development sessions. Number Talks is an innovative math education program that researchers will test to see if it advances the restorative justice goals of the school.

The second award for work on education went to Dr. Luca Grillo, associate professor of Classics, and Tadeusz Mazurek associate teaching professor of Classics. They were awarded $2,500 for a project in which Notre Dame undergraduates will teach Latin and English language skills to elementary students at Clay International Academy. Principal Angela Ruiz welcomed the proposal, which aligns well with the school’s new International Baccalaureate curriculum.

Emily Rupchock, director of Ready to Grow St. Joe and current Master of Nonprofit Administration student in the Mendoza College of Business, and Dr. Rachel Fulcher Dawson, associate director, research, communications, and policy at Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities were awarded $9,850 to conduct a comprehensive early childhood Community needs assessment for St. Joseph County, Indiana. Gathering current data will guide community health prevention and intervention efforts for the 30% of young children living in poverty in this county.

Senior Neuroscience Behavior major, with minors in Theology and Poverty Studies, Delaney Weiland was awarded a grant to attend the Indiana Campus Compact 9th Annual Service Engagement and Awards Gala in Indianapolis. There she will be recognized as Notre Dame’s nominee for the Richard J. Wood Student Community Commitment Award.

Community Impact Grant proposals are reviewed once in the fall and once in the spring. The spring deadline is February 4, 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,

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The University of Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns will convene “Listening to the Earth: Thinking About Ecology in the Holy Land,” a conference at the Notre Dame Jerusalem Global Gateway, November 18–20. It will be the third gathering of the Applied Catholic Social Tradition Network, an international group of scholars focused on the application of Catholic social tradition (CST) to various social challenges around the world. The network first met at the Notre Dame Global Gateway in Rome in January 2017; its second meeting was at the Notre Dame Global Gateway in London in March 2018.

The idea for the network originated with Clemens Sedmak, professor of social ethics at the Keough School of Global Affairs and adviser in Catholic social tradition at the Center for Social Concerns, and Bill Purcell, senior associate director of Catholic social tradition at the Center for Social Concerns. As Sedmak said, “We want to ask what it means to translate the principles of CST into practices and judgments in real-world situations, and how realities on the ground challenge the fundamental principles of CST.”

The Jerusalem conference is being organized in association with the Jerusalem Global Gateway at Tantur and will take place there and at Bethlehem University. Participants will hear and share multiple local perspectives on environmental problems in the Holy Land while exploring approaches found in Catholic social tradition.

"With Laudato Si', Pope Francis called attention to the environment, which he described as a common good,” said Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns. “So the more we see the environment as a shared inheritance, the more we do justice to the pursuit of peace that stirs restlessly in the hearts of Muslims, Jews, and Christians.”

During the first day of the conference, Jewish and Christian leaders and thinkers will look at ecological issues from different perspectives and disciplinary backgrounds. The second day will take place at the University of Bethlehem and sites around Palestine, with a focus on the perspectives of Muslim leaders and scientists. On the final day of the conference, participants will return to Tantur and discuss pedagogical approaches to environmental issues in the Holy Land, with an emphasis on the pedagogical role of experience, story, and spirituality.

Before coming to Notre Dame, Sedmak was the FD Maurice Professor for Moral Theology and Social Theology at King’s College London. He has held multiple positions at the University of Salzburg, serving as director of the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research and chair for epistemology and philosophy of religion. Sedmak also was president of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Social Ethics in Salzburg. He has recently written A Church of the Poor: Pope Francis and the Transformation of Orthodoxy (Orbis Books, 2016) and The Capacity to be Displaced: Resilience, Mission, and Inner Strength (Brill, 2017).

Purcell oversees the integration of Catholic social thought into the center's courses and programming. He also co-directs the interdisciplinary Minor in Catholic Social Tradition for the University and acts as a liaison for the center with national Catholic institutions that focus on justice education.

Contact: JP Shortall, director of communications and advancement, (575) 631-3209,

Monday, October 8, 2018

Oxford University Press has just published a new book, Good Writing: An Argument Rhetoric, by Connie Snyder Mick, academic director of the Center for Social Concerns and co-director of the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor at the University of Notre Dame. The book is designed for first-year writing courses in colleges and universities, and emphasizes argument that persuades audiences to take informed action based upon facts, claims, evidence, and reasons.

Snyder Mick’s approach is distinguished by how it situates the familiar elements of a college or university-level writing course within a broader ethical context. As she explains in the preface to the book, “‘good writing’ is in fact writing for the common good, ethical writing that persuades others to think and act in ways that advance humanity.”

The book is divided into five parts and 28 chapters that guide writers through the elements of constructing a rhetorically strong and ethically sound argument. Each chapter contains resources that explore elements of the writing process to guide developing writers —readings, approaches to process, even anticipated questions for professors during office hours. The book is designed to work with traditional and community-engaged classrooms.

In her position as the academic director of the Center for Social Concerns and co-director of the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor, Professor Snyder Mick works with faculty to design and implement academic community engagement in courses across the University. She also created and leads the Community Engagement Faculty Institute, a three-day immersion into the theory and practice of community-engaged research, teaching, and learning. 

Snyder Mick’s previous publications include Poverty/Privilege: A Reader for Writers, Oxford University Press (2015). Her other recent work appears in the Michigan Journal of Community Service Learning; Pedagogy: Critical Approaches to Teaching Literature, Language, Composition, and Culture; Service-Learning: Enhancing Inclusive Education; TESOL Journal; and Foundational Practices in Online Writing Instruction.

Contact: JP Shortall, Center for Social Concerns, 574-631-3209,


Tuesday, September 7, 2021

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 it 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, especially hurricane Ida and the August 14 earthquake in Haiti. The University of Notre Dame is not formally endorsing any of the organizations listed.

Americares is a health-focused relief and development organization that responds to people affected by poverty or disaster with life-changing medicine, medical supplies and health programs. When people are in crisis, we make sure that health comes first.

American Red Cross Our purpose is to meet the immediate disaster-caused needs of individuals, families, and communities. Explore how we respond to disasters big and small, across the country.

Caritas responds practically to humanitarian crises such as natural disasters, conflict and the effects of climate change. We save lives, relieve suffering and help rebuild livelihoods and communities in the longer-term. This allows women and men in the poorest and most vulnerable communities to survive and recover from crises and to live in a safe and secure environment.

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 and around Louisiana.

Catholic Relief Services We work with organizations around the world to help poor and vulnerable people overcome emergencies, earn a living through agriculture and access affordable health care.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Jay Brandenberger, director of research and graduate student initiatives at the Center for Social Concerns, has been appointed to the additional role of director of academic community engagement at the University of Notre Dame for a two-year term. He succeeds Mary Beckman, who served as the second director from the fall of 2015 until the spring of 2018.

In his new role, Brandenberger will help facilitate and promote engagement between Notre Dame faculty and community partners involved in community, social, cultural, human and economic development. He was appointed by the Community Engagement Coordinating Council (CECC), a body established in 2011 to deepen the culture of engagement between Notre Dame and its many community partners. He has been a member of the CECC since it was established.

“After 27 years of community-based research and teaching at the Center for Social Concerns, Jay is well positioned to lead the University’s efforts to assess and enhance the degree to which community engagement at Notre Dame helps fulfill the University’s academic vision,” said Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns. “His concurrent leadership of Notre Dame’s effort to renew its Carnegie Community Engagement Classification provides a perfect platform toward this end.”

The CECC works with each College and School, the Center for Social Concerns, the Office of Public Affairs, and other University units to coordinate, support, and communicate community engagement efforts, including engaged scholarship, relevant economic development efforts, and outreach activities.

“I appreciate the opportunity to build on the good work of the CECC and many thoughtful colleagues,” said Brandenberger. “This year, we'll have the opportunity to enhance our work through comprehensive efforts to complete the University's application to the Carnegie Foundation for classification as a community engaged institution.”

In his current role at the center, Brandenberger directs research initiatives and graduate student programs while working with colleagues to examine the developmental outcomes and best practices associated with center courses and programs. He is the editor of the center's Research Report Series and facilitates ongoing longitudinal research focusing on the moral and ethical outcomes of community engagement. He is a concurrent associate professor in the Department of Psychology, a fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, and a past recipient of the Notre Dame Frank O'Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award.

Contact: JP Shortall, Center for Social Concerns, 574-631-3209,


Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Originally published in Inside Higher Ed

At religiously affiliated universities, professors tackle the issue of income inequality.

A recently released annual ranking of colleges and universities that produce the most billionaires was hardly surprising. The list included top American institutions with the most selective business schools; Ivy League institutions dominated.

The rankings have remained largely consistent over the years even as the income gap between the rich and poor has widened in the United States. Yet news stories about the institutions that churned out the future billionaires made no mention of this contradiction. The articles were largely laudatory of the financial success of graduates but provided no information about alumni leading socially conscious companies, or working in meaningful jobs where the gap between the highest and lowest paid employees was moderate.

While ranking the rich and famous is common practice in the movie and music industries and is considered innocuous, some scholars are dismayed that similar measurements of wealth have seeped into academe. They worry about the long-term effects the celebratory prism in which rankings of billionaire alumni are presented and sometimes viewed may have on higher ed—and on students.

“I feel a lot of discomfort with the unabashed celebration of schools bragging about the billionaires they produce,” said Daniel Graff, a labor historian and professor of practice at the University of Notre Dame and director of an interdisciplinary program at its Center for Social Concerns. “It seems to undermine what we’re trying to do in the classroom, which is helping our students form critical perspectives on power and wealth.”

The fixation on the wealth of graduates is occurring as income inequality in the United States “has been growing markedly by every major statistical measure for some 30 years,” according to, a project of the Institute for Policy Studies.

“We’re living in an era of perverse extremes between wealthy people and everyone else,” Graff said. “I guess it’s the new gilded age.”

Graff and other academics are increasingly debating how their institutions—especially business schools that produce future executives, entrepreneurs and innovators—should respond and what role they should play in addressing and redressing income equality.

“It seems distasteful to brag about billionaires in era when higher education is relying more and more on billionaires,” he said of the increased reliance on donations from rich philanthropists whose names are then emblazoned on campus buildings. “I’d be interested to see where Notre Dame fits on that list. I have to admit it would be nice if it didn’t appear on that list.”

Notre Dame did not appear in the list of top 10 so-called Billionaire Alma Maters, and neither did several other religiously affiliated universities with well-regarded business schools. But it did make the cut in the top 20 University Ultra High Net Worth Alumni Rankings of 2017. It was ranked 16.

According to the Wealth-X, a self-described “leading global wealth information and insight business” that does the annual rankings, Notre Dame has 277 “known” alumni with a combined wealth of $44 billion. Notre Dame's figure pales in comparison, however, to Harvard University, which was ranked first on the list and has 1,906 known alumni with a combined wealth of $811 billion.

Nonetheless, religiously affiliated business schools appear to be taking the lead in incorporating income inequality as an area of academic inquiry in curriculum and course offerings, seminars, conferences, and community outreach and engagement programs. Their efforts often align with religious social teachings about community service and learning.

Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business and the University’s Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership cosponsor an annual “Ethics Week” lecture series on themed topics every February. Income inequality will be the theme for 2019.

Bill Novelli with students“I think there is a great deal of attention being paid to social inequality at a great many universities,” said Bill Novelli, a professor in the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University. “We have these Jesuit values, and the principal value we have here is ‘men and women in service to others.’ If you’re going to have that as your leading value, it’s going to lead you to focus on social inequality.”

Selma Botman, provost of Yeshiva University, voiced similar sentiments about Yeshiva’s Sy Syms School of Business.

“We know that people in the business world are confronted with difficult situations all the time and that our graduates will face them, too,” she said. “If we teach them a high level of integrity and to conduct business using Jewish principles of justice, humanity, compassion, and service to others, then we’re giving our students the tools to be successful in the business world, in the community, and in their family life.”

Still, Graff, who was director of undergraduate studies at Notre Dame for 15 years, is concerned that the increased focus on wealth creation could lead students to view poverty as an unfortunate but acceptable aspect of society.

One of the projects he initiated at the Center for Social Concerns is the Just Wage Working Group, a collaboration of faculty, staff, and students to explore workplace issues such as the well-being of workers, discrimination, pay issues and human resource practices as a way of measuring and determining what is a “just wage.”

“My hope is by asking that question that people who are comfortable with their wages see themselves as connected to other people’s wages,” Graff said, adding that high-wage earners should understand the link between their wages and those of low-wage earners. “One of the key things we’re trying to confront is income inequality. Everyone should be invested in people making a living wage.”

Graff tries to incorporate these concepts in the labor courses he teaches.

“An important part of my job is to try to humanize the labor part, the human being who performs the labor,” he said.

The working group held a symposium in Washington in June to introduce and discuss the framework for measuring a just wage. It was attended by scholars and students from various colleges and fields, labor movement activists, worker advocacy groups, and lawmakers. The group hopes to develop an online tool next year that can be used by workers, employers and community members to show how just a wage is.

At Georgetown, Novelli teaches corporate social responsibility, an elective graduate course, and is one of four professors who co-teach Principled Leadership in Business and Society, a cross-disciplinary course required for all M.B.A. students. He also heads the business school’s Global Social Enterprise Initiative, which partners students with corporations, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and career professionals to find solutions to pressing social problems and bring measurable, large-scale and lasting change.

Novelli said 45 students currently participate in the program, which is a small portion of the 996 full-time and evening-class M.B.A. students who were enrolled last spring.

“A lot of students come here and want to go to Wall Street and work at Goldman Sachs and make money,” Novelli said. “It’s true of business students here and everywhere. But we want all the students to leave here with the understanding of the importance of more than one bottom line. We want them to understand that they have social and environmental responsibilities and that that’s compatible with the profit motive.

“It’s not a hard sell,” he said. “They understand it, they believe in it, and they’re game.”

At Yeshiva, these lessons are incorporated across academic disciplines and departments, not necessarily in specific courses focused on income inequality, Botman said.

“We’re not just a university with a business school,” she said. “We train teachers and social workers, psychologists, speech-language pathologists. Our students are bringing to their profession an integrity that emanates from Jewish values.”

For instance, Business as a Human Enterprise, a required course for all first-year honors undergrads in the business school and taught by a Harvard-trained Ph.D. who is also a rabbi, examines the varied roles of business in a democratic society, including corporate social responsibility and social entrepreneurship.

Other undergraduate courses include Social Inequality, Law and Society, and Intermediate Macroeconomics, which examines global inequality across countries. A Labor Economics course focuses on inequalities in human capital, education and wage determination. There’s even an epidemiology course that considers the role of income inequality in health care. The school of social work and the graduate school of psychology also embed discussions about income inequality in their courses, Botman said.

“We don’t believe this issue is an add-on,” she said. “This is core to religiously affiliated institutions, not just us.”

The challenge is engaging students in the search for solutions.

“There’s three ways to go about this,” Novelli said. “One way is to have specific courses, extracurricular activities, seminars and special events focused on income inequality. Another way is to have it as a subject spread throughout the academic program. The third way is to have a hybrid and do both, and that’s what’s happening here and I think more broadly at other universities as well.”

Novelli says poverty and income disparity are subjects that come up often on campus.

“I hear about it both from faculty and students. I think people are concerned about it,” he said. “In our day-to-day conversations, in preparing for classes, in selecting cases to study, we do talk about it.”

Matt WoodMatt Wood, a second-year M.B.A. student at Georgetown, concurred with that assessment.

“Just within the curriculum, the professors are often trying to bring up those issues” and encouraging students to be “thinking beyond net present value and profit and thinking about the social implications of business decision making,” he said.

Wood cited a finance class that is a core part of the M.B.A. curriculum as an example.

“When you think about finance, it’s not normal to think about how to use finance to close income inequality,

” he said. But professors use case studies to show how to do just that. For instance, one case study was about growing the income of rural coffee farmers in Africa by providing them access to markets.

“It’s a holistic approach,” Wood said.

That approach was what drew him to Georgetown. He previously worked for a company that did nonprofit and fund-raising strategy consulting for religious institutions and health-care organizations. He also did small business advising and entrepreneurship training as a Peace Corps volunteer in Nicaragua.

“One of the core things I was looking for was business-driven impact and people who are social minded,” he said. “Georgetown kind of checked every box.”

Key among those checked boxes was the campus chapter of Net Impact, a national nonprofit organization for students and professionals who want to use their business skills to support or work on social and environmental causes.

The chapter has a social impact internship fund to help support students working in unpaid “mission-driven” internships. It raised $35,000 to support 10 students this summer.

Charlice Hurst, an assistant professor of management at Notre Dame, said the demands of business school don’t always allow students to easily link their academic pursuits with their socially conscious aspirations.

“There are offsetting messages that kind of contradict the social consciousness message,” Hurst said, noting that business students are repeatedly taught that their primary focus should be on increasing the wealth of their shareholders.

“In finance class that beats out any conversation about income inequality,” she said.

Hurst, a professor in the business school’s Department of Management & Organization, teaches a graduate-level course on social innovation where students are taught how to positively influence society, whether they’re employed at large corporations, nonprofits or running their own businesses.

She said she incorporates the subject of income inequality in her courses “to try and get students to understand how it can affect the operations of their business.”

Fourteen students took the class last semester, a number of them law students.

“It’s hard to even get them to take the class,” she said, noting that those who did take the class loved it. “They have to build up their schedules with classes that make them more employable.”

Hurst said course-load demands sends the message that the university “is not interested in creating social enterprise,” and instead signals “Go get rich so you can then help society.”

“It’s just sad to see super-talented students who are really excited about doing positive things in the world saying, ‘I can’t do anything until I get rich,’” she said.

Balancing the desire to make money with the desire to do good is a conflict many students experience.

“I have students coming to me all the time to talk about this,” Novelli said. “They say, ‘I have student debt. I want to pay it off and I want to make a good living. But I also want to stay engaged. I don’t want to lose this sense of purpose and social responsibility.’”

Hurst said these competing interests are the reasons that most business school students don’t leave college with the idea of tackling income inequality foremost on their minds.

“I think most of them come away with a kind of conventional thinking about business [being] in service of creating more wealth for shareholders,” she said, and that “social responsibility can enhance the bottom line, not because income inequality in and of itself is not moral but because it hurts the bottom line.”

Graff, the Notre Dame professor, said there’s a lot of potential for religiously affiliated colleges and universities to change and broaden students’ thinking and turn them into leaders in the public discourse about income inequality.

“I’ve come to believe over the last 15 years that religious institutions like these are the perfect places to reflect on such issues,” he said. “I’ve increasingly come to see how Catholic social teaching can help fuse spiritual and social questions, especially at Notre Dame, where there have been less problems with budget cuts, et cetera. I feel fortunate to be at a place where the investigation of serious issues can be informed by morality as well as disciplinary perspectives.”

Graff, who has a joint faculty appointment in Notre Dame’s history department and the social research center, directs the Higgins Labor Program, a unit of the Center for Social Concerns focused on teaching, research and community outreach related to work and social justice issues.

“There’s a lot of activism around this issue, but it has been a real challenge to channel that into national momentum that is sustainable,” he said.

Hurst has taught at Notre Dame for the past four years and was part of the Just Wage Working Group. She believes the stated concern about income equality at Notre Dame and elsewhere is often “more style than substance” and is being driven by public relations concerns “because it sounds good and makes the university more marketable and able to differentiate itself in the marketplace to some extent.”

She said courses focused on income inequality have tended to concentrate on poverty in developing countries, even though the university has “pockets of poverty right next door and is a feeder for low-wage jobs.” She cited as an example Business on the Front Lines, a course in the M.B.A. program that examines the impact of business in postconflict societies.

“For some reason we don’t see the poverty right around us,” she said. "Poverty in developing countries is seen as less threatening. Maybe if you’re a major employer paying poverty wages, you don’t want to look at it.”

Hurst said she has not sensed widespread focus on the subject in the business school or across the University.

“I’m sure there are people who think that way, but I have not heard anyone say that on a broad level,” she said. What’s more, “Professors in business schools tend to be more conservative than other departments,” and income inequality “doesn’t seem to be the thing that they want to take up.”

And those who do “understand and care about income inequality on a personal level still may not see it as relevant to their work,” she said.

Hurst also says there’s not enough collaboration among departments on this issue.

“They’re not connected to other disciplines that produce research on income inequality; our research tends to focus inward and not outward at what society is doing, and it’s not looking at the interface between business and society. We’re really not trained to do that.”

She finds the lack of collaboration frustrating.

“I wish there wasn’t so much division or walls between disciplines,” she said. “I’m frustrated that we give such a narrow perspective on business. I think especially at a Catholic institution that stresses morals, students want to be moral but they’re being told no, that’s not what you do in business.”

“The dominant ideology is that we live in a meritocracy, so if you’re poor you must be doing something wrong,” she said. “To Notre Dame’s credit, they have tried to really work on that through its Center for Social Concerns, which even offers faculty training on how to do community engagement,” she said. “But for some reason, it hasn’t penetrated to the business school.”

In the field of management, “there has been more openness to work on class and inequality,” she said. “It’s sort of nascent but we’re starting to see more research on class, but we’re way behind other disciplines.”

At the University of Pennsylvania, which is ranked third on the list of top 10 institutions with billionaire alumni, some 60 students at the Wharton business school took a management course focused on poverty and related social problems last semester.

According to the course syllabus, MGMT 241: Knowledge for Social Impact -- Analyzing Current Issues and Approaches “is designed to provide the information, strategies, examples, and analytical mindset to make students more rigorous, insightful, and effective in analyzing social ills and designing potential solutions.”

The course is taught by Katherine Klein, a professor of management and vice dean of the Wharton Social Impact Initiative, a program that “advances the science and practice of social impact” through research, training and outreach. The course is an undergraduate elective, but many M.B.A. students also enroll in it, she said.

Klein said income equality is the subject of academic inquiry much more than it was 10 years ago. “But do I think there’s enough attention being paid to it? No.”

“A huge amount of what we do is advocate for more attention to these issues,” she said.

Every semester the course focuses on two social problems related to poverty -- it was food insecurity and recidivism last semester -- and examine for-profit and nonprofit strategies to resolve them.

“I think for virtually all of them it’s their first introduction to a rigorous academic look at poverty and mass incarceration,” Klein said. “I would venture to say that a huge percentage of educated adults have no idea what the poverty line is or what it means, so the same thing applies to my students.”

Although Ivy League institutions such as Penn are often considered bastions of rich and privileged young people, Klein said the students in her course are from “quite varied economic backgrounds.”

She describes the class as a deep dive into “the extent of poverty, the experience of poverty.”

“For many students it’s quite eye-opening, and for others it’s closer to how they grew up,” she said.

Klein wants her student to leave her class with more awareness about the complexities of poverty and income inequality.

“I really want them to understand the value and power of research on these issues,” she said. “As much as I love the boldness of business school students and their ambitions, I worry about the arrogance, the thinking that, ‘Oh, I can solve this problem. If only we had good business information about problem X, I can solve it.’ A number of them will go on to work on these kinds of topics, so I want them to have some framework about what works and what doesn’t.”

Novelli said it’s imperative that students understand the socioeconomic and political implications of not addressing income inequality, which he considers “detrimental to a democracy.”

“This is a serious national concern, and I don’t think it’s going to heal itself,” he said. “We have to close that gap, and our students, tomorrow’s leaders, have to focus on it. That’s what I stress in my work.”


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The University of Notre Dame College of Engineering has created a new Center for Civic Innovation in partnership with Notre Dame Research, Center for Social Concerns, and IDEA Center—part of an effort to find innovative solutions to pressing civic issues and improve quality of life and place in St. Joseph and Elkhart counties.

Consistent with the University’s longstanding commitment to the community, the center will facilitate partnerships between Notre Dame and local stakeholders, including schools, businesses, nonprofits and local governments, to innovate solutions around issues ranging from safe and affordable housing to lighting and stormwater management.

The University already partners with South Bend around the MetroLab Network, a consortium of 35 city-university partnerships focused on bringing data, analytics and innovation to city government as part of the White House’s Smart Cities Initiative.

The new center will build upon that relationship in three key ways, according to Jay Brockman, associate dean of community engagement and experiential learning in the College of Engineering and director of the new center.

  • It will broaden the relationship to include Elkhart, an industrial and creative hub and home to the booming recreational vehicle industry, in addition to other parts of St. Joseph and Elkhart counties.
  • It will work with other campus and research centers to establish connections and open new initiatives focused on the local community.
  • It will expand upon the model of an “educational ecosystem” piloted by the Notre Dame-backed Bowman Creek Educational Ecosystem (BCe2).

A collaborative network of schools, local governments and community organizations, BCe2 pilots inclusive, sustainable projects to address real-world challenges in South Bend’s Southeast Neighborhood, a working-class neighborhood that was home to many former Studebaker Corp. employees.

Since 2015, the coalition, which started as an effort to revitalize Bowman Creek, a polluted tributary of the St. Joseph River, has worked to address a range of issues, from storm- and wastewater management and the reuse of vacant lots to safe and affordable housing.

“The University wanted to create a focal place where research and innovation that is beneficial to St. Joseph and Elkhart counties can come together,” Brockman said of the idea behind the center, explaining that there is “a push in engineering to translate research and innovation into practical application.”

Importantly, Brockman said, the center will work closely with local stakeholders, from educators and business and community leaders to public officials and everyday residents, to identify and address issues of specific importance to the community in a way that is inclusive and respects the experience and shared wisdom of the community.

“We’ll work with people in the city, neighborhood associations, community development corporations and schools, among other groups, to determine a priority list that matches what’s needed with what the students and faculty can do,” Brockman said. “Our goal is to work with the community to find resolutions to important issues, not to do things for or to the community.”

In addition to innovating solutions around civic issues, the center will introduce young people in the community to in-demand careers in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) through its work with local primary and secondary schools, Brockman said.

“The Center for Civic Innovation will help unlock the city as a launch pad for learning and research that goes beyond service projects,” said Santiago Garces, chief innovation officer for the city of South Bend. “The center will work closely with the city’s Division of Civic Innovation, founded this year, as an engine to promote novel solutions to city problems. South Bend and Notre Dame are already models for city-university partnerships as founding members of the MetroLab Network, and we look forward to expanding our partnership.”

Elkhart Mayor Tim Neese said, “Elkhart is a collaborative community. All obstacles we have encountered have been overcome through collaboration and innovation. I am encouraged that the University of Notre Dame is expanding their community relationship to include the city of Elkhart and look forward to partnering with them to find creative solutions to challenges facing our city, ultimately making Elkhart an even better place to live, make and play.”

For more information, visit

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


Friday, July 13, 2018

Wages are currently measured by two standards in the United States. A minimum wage is the lowest wage employers are legally allowed to pay employees, while a living wage is usually defined as one that is sufficient to maintain a basic standard of living for the earner.

At a symposium in Washington, D.C., on June 12, 2018, the Just Wage Working Group of the Higgins Labor Program at the Center for Social Concerns presented a framework and tool designed to help determine if a wage meets a third, more robust standard: a just wage. Rooted in the Catholic social tradition (CST), a just wage concerns not only minimums but also maximums, adding consideration not only of an employer’s ability to pay but also whether some wages (like executive pay) are too excessive.

The symposium opened with an afternoon session where 30 labor organizers, advocates, and practitioners provided feedback on the proposed framework and tool. Later that same evening, more than 100 people attended the public unveiling of the just wage framework and tool, as well as heard remarks by the following distinguished speakers: Congressman Brendan Boyle (ND ‘99) from Pennsylvania’s 13th district; Sr. Quincy Howard, O.P. from the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice; Ms. Maria Elena Durazo, Vice President of UNITE HERE; and Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director, Center for Social Concerns, University of Notre Dame. Each speaker addressed the question of wage justice from their particular perspective.

The just wage framework includes seven criteria with multiple indicators for each to determine whether the criteria are fulfilled or not. Criteria include whether or not a wage allows for asset-building, offers basic social security for the worker and her family or household, and is part of a non-discriminatory wage structure. The group is also developing an online tool that will allow users to determine whether or not a given wage scenario is just.

The Just Wage Working Group was formed in the fall of 2016 by two faculty members with joint appointments at the Center for Social Concerns. Dan Graff, who directs the Center’s Higgins Labor Program, is a professor of the practice in the department of history, where he specializes in U.S. labor; Clemens Sedmak, is professor of social ethics in the Keough School of Global Affairs and advisor in Catholic social tradition at the Center for Social Concerns. It includes faculty from multiple departments across the University, including law, sociology, and management.

As Graff explains it, “the Just Wage Working Group first came together to talk about a foundational question of CST: on what grounds can any wage be called just or unjust? By looking at the just wage question through the lens of CST—along with historical, sociological, legal, economic, and other normative approaches—the group offers a unique opportunity to foster dialogue not only between academic disciplines but also among professors, policymakers, and practitioners alike.”

Moving forward, the group hopes to have the online Just Wage Tool operational by the end of the coming academic year. As Graff notes of the recent symposium, “We accomplished our goal of getting constructive feedback from experts based in our nation's capital, and we returned to campus energized to continue the effort."
The Higgins Labor Program (HLP) is an interdisciplinary unit of the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) sponsoring research, education, and community engagement on issues involving work, labor organization, and social justice.

Contact: Dan Graff, Higgins Labor Program Director, (574) 631-5845,


Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Animated by the center’s yearlong focus of  “Living the Challenge of Peace,” the 2018 Center for Social Concerns Community Engagement Faculty Institute (CEFI) was held June 5–7. The institute also expanded upon the Office of the Provost's "Inclusive Excellence Conference: Becoming Beloved Community," held in May which explored research showing how diversity must be connected to community engagement work as the two efforts are mutually reinforcing. CEFI offered engagement with diverse community partners, social concerns, and ways of researching and teaching for the common good.

The faculty institute, now in its seventh year, brought together its largest cohort of 40 participants from Notre Dame as well as throughout the region and other states and countries.  

The three-day institute further explored topics related to diversity and community engagement through a keynote panel, workshops by faculty and experts from local organizations along with  site visits in the local community. Workshops focused on incarceration and justice, immigration and rights, and work and dignity.

The keynote panel was a discussion with Rev. Edward "Monk" Malloy, C.S.C., president emeritus, University of Notre Dame, Pete Buttigieg, mayor of South Bend, Ind., and Steve Camilleri, executive director, Center for the Homeless, moderated by award-winning community-engaged scholar  Marisel Moreno Anderson, associate professor of Latino/a Literature. The panelists discussed enduring challenges the city of South Bend faces, particularly the issue of homelessness, and how University partnerships have worked to help solve these complex social problems.

“The panel was an academic discussion that represented practice and included voices from the University, the city, and the nonprofit sector in South Bend, so in many ways it represented the different kind of stakeholders that are present in community-based learning and research,” said Connie Snyder Mick, associate director of the Center for Social Concerns and director of the institute. “It looked at how partnerships start between the University and the community and how you find that shared sense of what makes up a beloved community.”

A new session hosted by the Near Northwest Neighborhood, Inc., paired community and faculty experts speaking on a range of public health issues, including mental health, lead poisoning, opioid addiction, and food access.

Participants found that integrating classroom teaching with lived experience creates a more impactful learning experience for their students. “The Community Engagement Faculty Institute exceeded my expectations,” commented Pamela Nolan Young, J.D., M.Ed., director for Academic Diversity and Inclusion at Notre Dame. “While I enjoyed the site visits and found the presentations informative, the big takeaway for me was the reciprocal relationship of our faculty and students and the South Bend Community.”

Faculty interested in considering how their teaching and research can help advocate for impact in local communities worldwide can contact Connie Mick.


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