Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Originally published in The Observer

Members of the Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s, and Holy Cross College community gathered in the Geddes Hall chapel on Monday for a prayer service in honor of recipients of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Hosted by members of the “Advocacy for the Common Good”—a one credit course that aims to inform students of advocacy tools and mechanisms—the prayer vigil featured two speakers, Juan Constantino, development director of program staffing at La Casa de Amistad, and Becky Ruvalcaba, assistant director of multicultural ministry in Campus Ministry. The course, offered by the Center for Social Concerns, is taught by Michael Hebbeler, the director for Discernment and Advocacy at the Center for Social Concerns, focuses on the building of a DREAM Act campaign as a focal point for the class to rally behind.

The timeline of the class’s advocacy strategy was altered with the announcement that the congressional vote was moved up from March 8 to Thursday.

Freshman Grace Stephenson, chair of the event team, said the class chose a prayer vigil as its platform of advocacy because it embodies the Catholic identity of the University.

“This is not a protest but a chance for the community to come together in solidarity for the 40 plus DACA students on the three campuses,” Stephenson said.

Jackie Navarro, a junior at Holy Cross College and member of the event planning team, said this issue is a big part of the campus identity.

“We can’t just be Catholic by name,” Navarro said.

Following an opening prayer, Ruvalcaba spoke on the definition of an eligible DACA candidate. She provided the government definition and then incorporated scripture.

“There’s a moral and spiritual commitment we all have a role to play,” she said. “Regulation and security are necessary, but Catholic social teaching dictates that all initiatives be oriented for the common good.”

Costantino followed with his own testimony as an recipient of DACA. He told stories of growing up in South Bend with the constant fear of deportation and the opportunities Holy Cross provided him with scholarships.

“Like many other DACA recipients, I’m the member of a mixed family with undocumented, DACA registered and citizen members.”

 The prayer service concluded with a prayer to St. Frances Cabrini, the patron saint of immigrants.

 Stephenson said one of the biggest obstacle with the nature of advocacy is increasing participation when not everyone has a personal stake in the issue.

Junior and member of the event team, Rathin Kacham, said he is a DACA recipient himself, having immigrated from India. He said he credits the support he’s received on campus with having encouraged him to become more public about his status as a DACA recipient.

“We all probably have friends who are on DACA and don’t want anyone to know,” Kacham said. “There’s a fear that comes with that status, but it also can be liberated.”

Thursday, February 1, 2018


Originally published in Notre Dame News

Established to register, educate and mobilize University of Notre Dame students ahead of pivotal elections, ND Votes has evolved to become a nonpartisan leader in politics, working to foster conscientious engagement in political and civic life on campus.

As evidence of that work, the student-led organization recently was recognized by TurboVote, an online service of Democracy Works that facilitates voter registration, requests for absentee ballots and voting reminders, for its engagement efforts over the past year.

According to the nonpartisan voter assistance group, ND Votes engaged more than 500 students with TurboVote during the 2017 calendar year, placing it within the top 10 among 104 college and university partners.

“TurboVote is only as effective as those committed to growing its audience: Those who believe in democratic participation and the power of one’s voice at the polls,” Democracy Works wrote in praise of ND Votes. “The University of Notre Dame’s voter engagement efforts in 2017 are an incredible reflection of these ideals.”

As a successor to Rock the Vote, the MTV-led voter registration, education and mobilization campaign, ND Votes has been active on campus since 2008, participating in that year’s presidential election as well as the midterm elections in 2010.

The group went dormant for a period but then reemerged in 2015.

Wanting to increase political engagement on campus, Sarah Tomas Morgan, then a freshman, helped resurrect the group with help from other students.

“The 2016 election was upcoming, but it wasn’t on a lot of people’s minds,” said Tomas Morgan, a liberal studies major and peace studies minor from South Bend. “So I was looking for people who wanted to engage in political conversation.”

She added, “I knew from growing up in South Bend that Notre Dame had had various programs like Rock the Vote and ND Votes in the past, and I wanted to make sure that something like that happened again.”

With support from the Center for Social Concerns, the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy and the constitutional studies minor, the newly reestablished organization—governed by a nonpartisan student task force—helped register, educate and mobilize hundreds of Notre Dame students ahead of the polarizing 2016 presidential election.

That was supposed to be it, but with an intense mixture of excitement and anxiety on campus after the election of Donald Trump, the group decided to continue in its mission as a permanent part of the political landscape on campus.

“ND Votes in the past had been focused on registration and education around elections,” Tomas Morgan said. “But what we found was that task force members and (students in general) were looking at ways to talk about the election. They wanted to know what had happened and what was going to happen as a consequence of the election. So we decided to continue holding bipartisan education events and voter registration.”

“There was such energy and engagement that, after the November election, the student task force didn’t want to let go of it,” said Rosie McDowell, who directs justice education at the Center for Social Concerns.

 Aside from engaging students with TurboVote, ND Votes hosts “Pizza, Pop & Politics,” a popular series of faculty-led educational events that explore relevant political issues from multiple points of view.

Recent themes have included “Godless Politics: The Political Causes and Consequences of America’s Secular Turn” and “Truth, Trust and Trump: The President’s War on the Press.”

“We try to have a broad range of event topics because we find that different topics draw from different parts of the political spectrum,” Tomas Morgan said.

The tone is civil.

“Students have strong political opinions, but they don’t always feel safe or okay to talk about them in the residence halls,” McDowell said. “So what we try to do is create space for them to voice those opinions, at least for an hour and a half.”

The group also hosts an annual dorm competition on National Voter Registration Day, the fourth Tuesday of September, and engages with incoming freshman as well as transfer and graduate students as part of “Welcome Weekend” each fall.

Currently, the group is gearing up for consequential midterm elections this fall, with control of the U.S. House and Senate, as well as several statehouses and governorships, at stake—not to mention local boards, councils and mayorships.

“The midterm is a big deal, so the (Pizza, Pop & Politics) events will focus on (topics like) gerrymandering and voter suppression and the psychology of voting and political ads,” McDowell said, citing a few possible examples.

But as it matures, the group is considering a move beyond campus as well, Tomas Morgan said, into the community.

“I and a few other people on the task force hope to establish a community engagement sector of the task force to integrate ND Votes into the South Bend community as a way to be more sustainable as an organization but also more socially, politically and civically conscious,” she said.

Already, Tomas Morgan said, the group has started reaching out to potential partners, including the Northern Indiana Restorative Justice and Reentry Clinic, a nonprofit record expungement agency that counts Notre Dame as a partner, and local high schools.

“They’re looking at how they can provide voter registration assistance in the community,” McDowell said of the task force, “perhaps at the high school level or among the formerly incarcerated at the Second Chance Clinic,” another name for the reentry clinic.

Consistent with its nonpartisan approach to politics, the student task force is composed of members of various social and political groups on campus, including the Notre Dame College Republicans and Democrats.

Dylan Jaskowski, a junior accountancy and political science double major and president of the College Republicans, described the relationship as “beneficial in that it gives us an avenue to reach out for collaboration on events with other political clubs.”

Moreover, Jaskowski said, it contributes to a more informed and engaged student body.

“In the past, there has been a general apathy regarding politics on college campuses,” he said. “So by educating students about the political atmosphere on campus and in our country, there will hopefully be more students interested in politics, and this increased engagement should lead to more people contributing to civil discourse, which should create better policy.”

For McDowell, it all comes back to the students.

“To me, the real story is that this is a student-driven initiative,” she said. “These students really wanted to bring active political participation back to our campus.”

“The student leadership of ND Votes has been outstanding in helping us identify high-quality speakers who represent the full spectrum of political viewpoints, in organizing our “Pizza, Pop & Politics” events and in rallying their fellow students in their dorms and other campus organizations to register to vote and to become more engaged in community and national political issues,” said Geoffrey Layman, professor of political science and interim director of the Rooney Center.

An important part of that leadership, Tomas Morgan, now a senior, agreed, adding that she is “not in the least bit worried” about the future of the program—even as she prepares to graduate and move on to other challenges in May.

“We have an outstanding team of people from across the political spectrum who care deeply about political engagement on this campus,” she said, “and who know just as well as I do what students are looking for in terms of political education.”


Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Originally published by College of Arts and Letters

Notre Dame senior Sarah Tomas Morgan has always had an interest in global issues.

And the College of Arts and Letters has enabled her to explore that passion through her coursework and a variety of international and internship experiences. 

Coming into her first year, Tomas Morgan intended on majoring in political science. But after completing a University Seminar in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS), her plans changed.

“I just fell in love with the classics we were reading and the discussions we were having,” Tomas Morgan said. “So I decided to stick with the Program of Liberal Studies and continue it as my major throughout the four years.”

An interest in international politics led Tomas Morgan to add a minor in peace studies.

“I wanted that present-day applicability to the issues I was studying in PLS,” she said, “and I feel like peace studies has really enabled me to do that and has focused my questions around more modern problems of peace and conflict.”

These disciplines, along with courses in Arabic, have opened several doors for Tomas Morgan to deepen her learning and to gain valuable international experience in the Middle East and North Africa.

“My Notre Dame education has definitely fostered my

peace-building interest.”

Gaining firsthand knowledge

After her first year, with two Arabic classes under her belt, Tomas Morgan traveled to Amman, Jordan, for an immersive language-learning experience in the Summer Language Abroad program.

“I didn't really know what I was getting into, but I really enjoyed Arabic so I decided to pursue it further,” Tomas Morgan said. “I went to class for four hours a day in Jordan, then had time to explore the city to get more exposure to people speaking Arabic. Because of this background and the language skills I gained, I was able to apply to other opportunities in the region.”

Eager to return to the Middle East, Tomas Morgan secured an internship with the United Nations Relief and Works Agency in East Jerusalem the following summer, through the Center for Social Concerns’ International Summer Service Learning Program. UNRWA is an agency designed specifically to work with Palestinian refugees not covered by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Tomas Morgan’s experience in East Jerusalem helped her see the real-world implications of issues and problems she had been studying in the classroom, while also helping her hone practical skills. In addition to attending various UN events, Tomas Morgan edited documents that had been translated from Arabic to English and got to conduct interviews and reporting for feature stories on Palestinian refugees.

“I loved it there, because it not only related to my interest in peace studies and in the region, but it also used my reading and writing skills from my PLS classes,” Tomas Morgan said. 

Fostering a passion for peace-building

These experiences, combined with her courses in the College of Arts and Letters, prepared Tomas Morgan for her most recent internship experience with the Global Center on Cooperative Security in Washington, D.C., last summer. There, she worked as a research assistant for Brookings Institution senior fellow Eric Rosand on “The Prevention Project: Organizing Against Violent Extremism.”

The project emphasizes a whole-society approach to countering violent extremism, and Tomas Morgan worked specifically on engaging civil society actors in the project. The experience was her first encounter with a long-term research project, which she values as she develops her senior thesis on the philosophical grounding of human development projects.

“I felt well prepared in terms of the subjects I was researching,” Tomas Morgan said. “I had the basic knowledge of international relations and of countering violent extremism — which was the topic of my research over the summer — through projects I had done in my classes.”

Ultimately, Tomas Morgan’s time in D.C. helped shape her vision of her future.

“It made me realize that I really enjoy research, and I could see myself doing more of it in the future,” Tomas Morgan said. “I like the work of NGOs and the outside-of-government influence that we were able to have.

“But I also discovered that I would prefer to work in peace studies, rather than the field of countering violent extremism. I think my Notre Dame education has definitely fostered my peace-building interest.”

Looking ahead, Tomas Morgan hopes to continue her work on policy relating to refugees and immigrants from the Middle East and North Africa. Before applying for graduate school, she hopes to gain more experience in the field by applying to the Peace Corps or other domestic service programs, or by taking advantage of the connections she made in Washington.

“The Global Center and the Prevention Project have a very strong mission that I wholeheartedly agree with,” Tomas Morgan said. “It made a huge difference going to work every day and really believing in the work that I was doing and knowing that the people around me were truly passionate about it, too. This really showed me the different aspects that I would like to search for in a potential future career.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Five University of Notre Dame faculty members and 12 current students and recent graduates will participate in a Vatican conference titled “Perspectives for a world free from nuclear weapons and for integral disarmament,” which is convened by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development in Rome Nov. 10-11.

The gathering will be led by Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, and aims to affirm and develop the position of the Holy See on the grave threat of nuclear proliferation and the urgent need for disarmament.

Working to advance the mission of the Church in service of development, peace and disarmament, attendees will address such topics as the July 2017 United Nations treaty banning nuclear weapons, nuclear weapons and the environment and the role of Church and civil society in promoting disarmament. The speakers and panelists include Nobel Prize winners, senior diplomats and leaders from the United Nations and NATO, as well as academic experts and religious leaders.

“It is a privilege for Notre Dame to collaborate with the Holy See on this timely event and for so many of our faculty and students to be invited to participate,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame. “We urgently need interdisciplinary, intercultural and interfaith cooperation to address this grave threat to human life and dignity.”

Gerard Powers, director of Catholic peacebuilding studies in Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, will moderate a session that envisions a world free from nuclear weapons.

“This high-profile conference seeks to build on the disarmament momentum generated by the nuclear ban treaty and to counter moves in the opposite direction by nuclear powers,” said Powers. “It shows that the moral imperative of nuclear disarmament is at the center of the Church’s international agenda for peace.”  

Other Notre Dame faculty attending include David Cortright, director of policy studies for the Kroc Institute; Michael Desch, professor of political science and director of the Notre Dame International Security Center (NDISC); George A. Lopez, Hesburgh professor emeritus of peace studies; and Margaret Pfeil, a joint faculty member in the Department of Theology and the Center for Social Concerns.

The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development invited several entities to cooperate with it on this conference, including the University of Notre Dame Office of the President; the Kroc Institute, an integral part of the new Keough School of Global Affairs; and the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, whose secretariat is at the Kroc Institute.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Originally published by Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE)

While a former mechanical engineering student at Notre Dame, Jack Assaf considered summer internships at companies like Ford Motor Company and General Electric. Instead, Jack chose to teach math to students in Africa during the summer before his senior year.

“I taught physics for eight weeks in a rural village in Ghana, and that was my sort of internship for teaching. It was my way of trying it out,” Jack says. “As a mechanical engineer, it’s a little weird to go teach. People often ask, ‘Why aren’t you in engineering? Why are you throwing it away?’”

Jack, who is now a member of ACE 24 in San Antonio, sees nothing wasted in his decision to join the ACE Teaching Fellows Program. In fact, he feels only exhilaration in the chance to convey his love of math to his new students in Texas. Having watched his own parents teach for 25 years, Jack firmly believes that everybody can be a “math person”—even students with learning disabilities, just like himself.

“I am excited to reach out to help students who may be struggling with learning disabilities, because it wasn’t until eighth grade that I learned that I had dyslexia,” Jack says. “You often get labeled as not a math person or not a reading person or not a school person, when in reality, you might just have some sort of learning difference.”

From his International Summer Service Learning Program in Ghana, Jack knows that cultivating this love for learning is no small task. He would beg students to finish their homework to no avail—until the students came up with a creative solution on their own.

“I would give homework to [the students] a week in advance,” Jack says. “The night before homework was due, [the students] decided the only way that they would get it done is if they came and sat on my porch and did it with me. That was a super awesome time because every Wednesday, after school, we would sit on the porch and we’d finish their homework together.”

“Jack firmly believes that everybody can be a “math person”

—even students with learning disabilities, just like himself.”

Not only did Jack enjoy forming relationships with the students, but he also reveled in the mental work of teaching.

Jack says, “When I was writing the final, I lost track of time because I was getting pretty excited about the problems, because I was involving the kids’ names in the problems and it was super fun… It was also a unique challenge because most physics problems have to do with things that didn't exist in their understanding, like two-story buildings or planes or cars.”

So, after Ghana, Jack knew he wanted to use his mechanical engineering degree to teach. And after looking at his options, he knew he wanted to teach with ACE.

Initially, Jack wanted to join ACE because it is an elite teacher preparation program, and he was intrigued by the idea of living in community. After spending some time with ACE this summer, his appreciation for the faith aspect of the program grew.

“I think the fact that faith drives all of [ACE] is what gives it that extra spunk and the extra pizazz that’s needed to be a great teacher,” Jack says. “You could do every bit of cold-calling and activating prior knowledge, and it would be fine, but as long as you are [teaching] for faith, it brings more gusto to it, which has been exciting to understand.”

Jack began his journey at Notre Dame as a mechanical engineering student, and his Domer story continues in San Antonio. There, in his new position as a high school math teacher, Jack can preach that his discipline is, in fact, “beautiful and fun.” Thanks to Jack Assaf, we may soon have a world brimming with “math people.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Each semester, global learning educators set out to change the way their students see the world.

“I tell my students, one of my goals is to disturb you for the rest of your life—in the best sense,” said Eric Wetzel, director of the Global Health Initiative at Wabash College.

Global service-learning experiences, whether they occur internationally or within local communities, can be transformative experiences that strengthen students’ global self-awareness, identity formation, and understanding of diverse cultures. These immersive experiences also strengthen an array of skills that are essential for any liberal education: civic knowledge, critical thinking, written and oral communication, teamwork, ethical reasoning and action, and intercultural competency.

Several resources from the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)—Models of Global Learning, a free online publication; “Global Learning: Beyond Study Abroad,” a webinar recording available for free for AAC&U members; and Global Engagement and Social Responsibility, an annual conference—provide additional insight into the benefits of global learning and how to integrate it throughout the curriculum and cocurriculum.

Despite the robust benefits that global service learning offers students, “we see there’s so many ways this work can go poorly,” said Eric Hartman, executive director of the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College. It’s important for educators overseeing global service learning “to be really aware of the moral hazards involved, particularly around clinical environments, health-related environments, or environments where there are vulnerable persons, including children.”

Three institutions—the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Indiana; Haverford College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana—have addressed these ethical challenges by developing long-term partnerships with community organizations locally and abroad, ensuring that students are still transformed by their experiences while serving real community needs.

University of Notre Dame Center for Social Concerns

For more than three decades, the Center for Social Concerns at the University of Notre Dame has operated locally, nationally, and internationally to expose students to pressing global issues. When finding opportunities for students, the center puts a high priority on developing long-term partnerships with community organizations.

“It’s about finding that perfect match of community need, student interests, and academic area expertise, experience, and skills,” said Rachel Tomas Morgan, associate director of the center. “The scope of students’ work could change each year based on the particular project needs or research needs of the organization.”

One of the center’s marquee programs is the International Summer Service-Learning Program (ISSLP), a year-long fellowship program consisting of two courses that bookend an 8­–10 week field immersion program in the summer. The ISSLP currently has a cohort of sixty-five students, but the center hopes to double that within five years.

The center covers nearly all student costs for the summer field immersion experience, including airfare, housing, and a travel stipend.

“It was a priority for us that this program and all our programs at the Center for Social Concerns be accessible to all students and not be a burden to families who can’t afford it,” Tomas Morgan said.

The predeparture course is a survey course on global issues that helps students understand the root causes and multidimensionality of social issues, as well as strategies for development. The course trains students for their summer destination, including topics like intercultural competence; area studies about geography, populations, and cultures; and risk mitigation. The summer field experience is tied into the fall-semester course, which includes weekly readings, guided journaling, a final project, and a public presentation.

Students return from their international immersion experience “transformed on multiple levels,” Tomas Morgan said. She highlighted the experience of a student named Arwa, an aspiring artist who served in the Aida refugee camp near Jerusalem in the summer of 2017.

“She worked with students through art and performance, providing children in the Aida refugee camp outlets for creativity [and] imagination, and the space to hope when the environment around them is so easily dimmed by violence and conflict,” Tomas Morgan said.

In journals and reports, Arwa wrote about the stark contrast between her relatively privileged life, with a safe place to sleep and the opportunity to study at Notre Dame, and “the life of a Palestinian girl living in this overcrowded refugee camp, with limited access to water and a school that only goes up to the eighth grade,” Tomas Morgan said.

Tomas Morgan describes Arwa’s experience as a “heritage journey,” with the struggles of the Palestinian girl mirroring the plight of her own parents who immigrated under difficult conditions from the Middle East.

“Privilege, fortune, and fairness are common questions our students walk away with,” Tomas Morgan said.  “And they also realize that with such awareness comes a deep responsibility, and they question how they might live out this responsibility in the career choices and life choices that they make.”

The Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College

The Center for Peace and Global Citizenship at Haverford College is a campus-wide center that “supports peace, social justice, and global citizenship through research, education, and action,” said Eric Hartman, the center’s executive director.

In one of several introductory-level courses supported by the center, students research migrant rights and work with organizations in Philadelphia such as Friends of Farmworkers, which advocates for low-wage workers, or Puentes de Salud, a health advocacy organization. During winter break, students visit organizations in Mexico City or at the United States/Mexico border to learn about the ways in which civil society organizations and individuals strengthen global citizenship and support migrant rights.

These courses are one way the center prepares students for later opportunities to apply for eight- to ten-week summer internships that provide students with experience within their field of study while making real contributions to the goals of organizations working for social justice, peace-making, or human rights advocacy.

Haverford College Student Internships Include:

The center currently offers sixty funded internships per year, supporting nearly 20 percent of the campus population over a four-year period.

When it comes to choosing health-related internship programs in particular, Hartman stressed the importance of teaching students—who may be under pressure by the medical school application process to seek experiences they aren’t qualified for—“how to say no, and when to say no, across extremely complicated dynamics of power, privilege, and culture.”

Like Notre Dame’s ISSLP program, these summer experiences are bookended by preparatory programs in the spring and coursework in the fall. Since 2003, Haverford has required interns to take a fall reentry course where they convene with others who completed a similar internship in global health, domestic human rights, international human rights, education, linguistics, or environmental studies.

Based on the scholarship on experiential learning, reentry courses are “essential to support students’ capacities to continue to make sense of individual experience in the context of broader theoretical and empirical understanding,” Hartman said.

One of the most competitive internships is with Voice of Witness, a San Francisco–based organization that advocates for rights realization by collecting narratives of people who have been marginalized by rights abuses in books and other documents.

“Voice of Witness does a fantastic job of meeting our students where they are, recognizing the skills they bring,” Hartman said. “Students have a number of things to share in terms of their writing and editing capacities, and [Voice of Witness] also coaches them . . . to get a real professional contribution.”

One first-year student and one second-year student interned with Voice of Witness in the summer of 2017. While their work was supervised by senior editors, the students made significant contributions to the process of collecting and editing stories. In the reentry course after the internship, students gained a deeper understanding of oral history by discussing with other interns how approaches differ among various kinds of organizations.

Throughout the courses and internship, they “were deeply engaged in an extremely thoughtful NGO’s process around working with extraordinarily marginalized populations, collecting narratives ethically and responsibly, and employing those narratives in the service of activism around rights realization,” Hartman said.

To expand opportunities for students and get faculty more involved in service learning, the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship is supporting a Faculty Seminar on Engaged, Ethical Learning throughout the 2017–18 academic year. Through the seminar, faculty and representatives of community partner organizations share articles and “meet together at partner sites, where we consider the challenges and opportunities growing from engaged learning,” Hartman said. “For me, there’s something really important and powerful about a faculty seminar taking place in a community-based context because that’s really what we’re striving for with students.”

The Global Health Initiative at Wabash College

As the director of the Global Health Initiative at Wabash College, Eric Wetzel works to “build strong sustainable relationships with communities, internationally and locally, and then plug students into those ongoing relationships.”

As part of the initiative, Wetzel teaches a global health course that has a two-week summer immersion experience in Peru bookended by coursework on campus. By design, the course is open to students from any discipline.

“Global health is this crazy, multidisciplinary collection of problems,” Wetzel said. “The goal is not to turn all students into biology majors; it’s to engage students from multiple disciplines to focus on these problems.”

In his course, Wetzel pushes students to engage with Wabash’s mission “to think critically, to act responsibly, to lead effectively, and to live humanely.”

Wetzel has been working in Peru for several years, allowing him to establish “a wide and in-depth network of collaborators and partners,” including institutions, physicians, researchers, clinics, and nongovernmental organizations. Students spend time in three cities—Lima, near the coast; Huánuco in the Andes mountain range; and Tingo Maria in the rainforest.

One of the primary goals of the immersion experience is to “to disabuse the students of the idea that they’re going to go down and mop this place up and ‘solve’ the problem,” Wetzel said. “You can watch them stand on the edge of a slum community with very low-income conditions as far as they can see, and the mundane chatter just dies out as the enormity and complexity of the problems sink in.”

One of the issues that students learned about in Peru related to mental health and post-traumatic stress. Students spoke with residents of Lima who had originally fled from the mountainous regions to escape violence caused by the Shining Path terrorist organization. Back in class after the trip, students discussed this experience in the context of on-campus challenges and were involved in starting an ongoing mental health concerns committee on campus that includes the college counseling office, the dean of students, a student-led public health club, and the leaders of various student organizations.

Students also have global service-learning opportunities in the local community through internships and federal work-study opportunities with local organizations, including the Montgomery County Health Department, the Youth Services Bureau, and Half Way Home, a residential program for women battling substance abuse.

“Not only are the students getting benefits out of [these internships], but Wabash’s programs are acting as an amplifier for the work that these agencies are doing,” Wetzel said. “We’ve been told time and time again by the director of our county health department that there are projects that they’re doing that would not be possible without our students.”

In courses, rather than assigning traditional five-page papers on a narrow topic, Wetzel pushes students to work in groups to get experience collaborating and honing their written and oral communication skills on projects that directly contribute to the community. Students might work together to write articles or editorials for the local newspaper, deliver poster presentations at a county health fair, film social media videos to be posted online, or create bilingual brochures that are disseminated by the health department.

One of the biggest benefits students get from working with these community partners locally and abroad is that they learn to “consider carefully who has the information,” Wetzel said. While colleges and universities train students to believe that professors have all the information, “that’s just not true. The experts are people who work in NGOs, people who work in county public health offices, and . . . people who live in communities. They’re the experts, they live it every day.”

The Importance of a Community of Practice

Tomas Morgan, Hartman, and Wetzel all agree that strong, long-term relationships with community partners are vital to the success of global service-learning programs and the students they serve. However, partnerships between institutions are also important to break down siloes and grapple with difficult theoretical and pedagogical questions.

“Global health and international development are arguably some of the most complex and transdisciplinary cross-cultural fields in the world,” Hartman said. “It is of course going to be challenging to engage thoughtfully in them, particularly in a way that is inclusive of external community members and student learning. So how does one do that well? And where is the knowledge base for it?”

After surveying the landscape of research, Hartman realized that much of the scholarship on ethical global engagement is compartmentalized in fields like international education, social work, medical professions, service learning, civic engagement, public health, and global development.

“It became clear that many of these fields weren’t talking to one another,” Hartman said.

Using the internet to engage colleagues across institutions and disciplines, Hartman teamed up with Richard Kiely, senior fellow with Engaged Cornell at Cornell University, to create Global SL, a network of hundreds of educators and a variety of institutions across the country and around the world.

Following early start-up support from several initiatives dedicated to ethical global learning at Duke UniversityCornell UniversityNorthwestern University, and Washington University in St. Louis, Global SL is now housed within Haverford College and sustained by a growing network of partners. Hartman serves on the steering committees for the network’s online resources hub—which includes peer-reviewed research and resources submitted by institutions—and the annual Global Service Learning Summit. The next summit, which is co-sponsored by AAC&U, will be hosted by the University of Notre Dame from April 15 to 17, 2018.
In addition to breaking down silos and bringing practitioners together, participants at the summit engage in a “quite critical conversation, but it’s a criticality that is tied to the hope that serious criticism can support moving forward for consequential action,” Hartman said. “There’s a moral imperative that institutions have to better understand how to mobilize their resources, scholars, and students in service of public purposes.”
Tomas Morgan, who also sits on the steering committee for the Global Service Learning Summit, said that “good practice and the ethics of global service learning” are major priorities in the Global SL network. “These are complicated and wicked problems, so questions of ethics and getting this work right are very important.”

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

SOUTH BEND — Boots will soon be on the ground to combat a problem with lead-poisoned kids on the city’s near northwest side, thanks to a $30,000 federal grant awarded to a local neighborhood group.

Two part-time community outreach workers will soon be hired by the Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc. for a yearlong project as a result of the grant, which was awarded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Environmental Justice Small Grant Program.

The group also received a $16,500 grant earlier this year from the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County for the outreach project, which will start in January.

Outreach workers will get the word out about the risks in old homes of lead, a toxic metal that can permanently damage the brains of young children. Efforts will be focused on helping families with children in a neighborhood with a history of lead problems. It is known as U.S. Census Tract 6.

Local health officials began focusing on the area’s problem after the state released testing data in late 2016 that showed an unusually high percentage of young children had elevated blood levels from 2005 through 2015 in Tract 6, along with other neighborhoods. Tract 6 stood out because it had the greatest percentage of kids with elevated levels in the state.

The new employees, who will be trained to become certified community health workers, will go door-knocking in Tract 6 to encourage families to get children tested and keep their homes lead-safe, said Kathy Schuth, executive director of the neighborhood group.

“We’ve found that families aren’t taking action unless they’re told about it by someone they trust,” she said, adding that workers will also organize community meetings and provide information to local schools and churches.

Grant money will also be used to hold a handful of free lead screenings to increase testing. State data show that from 2005 through 2010, less than 10 percent of children under age 7 were tested for lead in St. Joseph County.

“A huge win would be to increase the number of kids tested in Census Tract 6,” Schuth said.

Funding, meanwhile, has been committed from other sources to combat the area’s lead problem.

Earlier this year, the University of Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns awarded a $7,000 grant toward an effort by faculty and students to test South Bend homes for lead. A portion of that grant allowed free blood lead testing to be done by the county’s Women, Infants and Children program.

The city of South Bend, meanwhile, has set aside money in its 2018 budget to tackle the problem.

To fund a variety of lead-related efforts, the city will redirect $100,000 it pledged for a failed grant application to launch a $100,000 “flexible fund.” And it will use another $100,000, from federal Community Block Grant money, to launch a fund managed by the Department of Community Investment.

Among other things, the Lead Exposure Affinity Group — composed of health officials, community advocates and university faculty members — has recommended that the $200,000 in new funding go toward the purchase of point-of-care analyzers to help the area’s busiest clinics test more kids for lead; the purchase of lead cleaning kits for families; and the launch of a mini-grant program to help families make lead-related repairs of up to $1,000.

The city’s Home Improvement Program, federally funded at $200,000, will help address lead issues in homes. Although the program isn’t entirely dedicated to lead-related repairs, it prioritizes them.

The city is also funding a $180,000 pilot program that will allow Department of Code Enforcement inspectors to assess rental units for lead and other problems.

Heidi Bedinger-Burnett, a faculty member at Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health and member of the St. Joseph County Board of Health, has been encouraged by efforts to combat the area’s problem. But she said the county health department needs more money to provide services for lead-poisoned kids.

“The county is the one holding the purse strings,” she said, “and officials have to get intimately involved.”



Monday, October 30, 2017

Originally published by Departmant of Romance Languages and Literatures

University of Notre Dame students Mary Kathryn Eilert, Andrew Stephen Grose,* and Lucy Xian Jones will receive state recognition. They have been selected as one of the recipients of the 2017 Indiana Outstanding College Student of Spanish/Portuguese Award by the Indiana Chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese (AATSP). They really deserve this recognition. Their outstanding academic record, exceptional interest for the Iberoamerican/Brazilian culture, exemplary community service, remarkable overseas experience and astonishing passion for Spanish and Portuguese were evident in the nominations presented by professors Rachel Parroquin, Marisel Moreno, Tatiana Botero, Marcio Bahia, Sandra M Texeira, Maria Rosa Olivera-Williams, and Jimena Holguin.

The committee was so impressed that seven professors were involved in all the nomination process what shows the great appreciation you all have for these students.

The Award Ceremony will take place on Saturday, November 4th at 10:00 a.m. at the Sheraton Hotel Indianapolis (Keystone Crossing, Suite 16, Second Floor) during the AATSP Business Meeting that is part of the Indiana Foreign Language Teachers Association Conference ( 

Felicitaciones de nuevo! It is an honor for AATSP Indiana to have such brilliant students from University of Notre Dame in our ceremony where we recognize the best students and best Spanish/Portuguese teachers in the State of Indiana.


*Andrew Grose participated in the Center for Social Concerns' International Summer Service Learning Program. He spent an eight-week immersion in El Salvador working in a nutrition program called Libras de Amor with FUSAL (La Fundación salvadoreña para la salud y el desarollo humano). As part of the Libras de Amor team, Andrew was responsible for measuring children’s height and weight to track their monthly progress, conducting mental stimulation exercises with mothers and children, testing for anemia, and providing nutrition consultations for mothers whose children are at risk.

Andrew and his site partner were based in Arambala, Morazán Department, which was one of the regions in El Salvador most affected by the civil war. While working in Morazán, he became interested in mental health issues, in particular the relationship between war and mental health in a country like El Salvador where it has not been prioritized by the governments. Andrew started researching and writing a project proposal for Fulbright to come back to the country next year and carry a much deeper research on this topic.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Compiled September 28, 2017

In these days following multiple natural disasters, Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, offered the following statement calling for solidarity and prayer.

"Just as we begin to assess the material and emotional damage of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, the devastation of yet another storm, Hurricane Maria, has struck the U.S. Virgin Islands and Dominica, and has battered Puerto Rico with catastrophic effects unprecedented in the island's modern history. I exhort the faithful to solidarity in this time of great need for our brothers and sisters in harm's way—many of whom have been hit repeatedly by the successive hurricanes."

"Casting aside any temptation to despair, and full of hope in the loving Providence of God, we pray that our Father may receive unto his loving presence those who have lost their lives, may he comfort the grieving, and may he fortify the courage and resilience of those whose lives have been uprooted by these disasters. May he extend the might of his right hand and bid the sea be 'quiet' and 'still' (Mark 4:39)."

In dynamic emergency situations often the best way to offer assistance is by making financial donations to organizations with skilled teams in the location. 

The University of Notre Dame is not formally endorsing any of these organizations listed. You are free to donate to any charity you choose. This listing is a partial listing of the many organizations accepting contributions to relief and assistance with regards to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Catholic Charities USA is the official domestic relief agency of the U.S. Catholic Church. Catholic Charities 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.

The American Red Cross relief effort stretches across multiple states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Florida, Red Cross workers are providing food, shelter, relief supplies, health services and emotional support in the hardest hit areas. Getting relief materials to the islands is difficult, but the Red Cross is working with federal, corporate and community partners to get supplies to the region by both sea and air.

Americares, has emergency teams in locations affected by hurricane Maria and Harvey they work with local authorities to stock emergency shelters with medical equipment and supplies.

Save the Children is currently on the ground in Puerto Rico responding to the needs of children. Save the Children works closely with other nonprofit and federal agencies, and local partners to assess the specific needs of children and families amid reports of massive damage.

The Salvation Army has a long-term presence on both Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, which meant it was able to respond quickly once the hurricanes had passed, meeting essential needs and offering support. With a permanent footprint in the affected communities, The Salvation Army's Disaster Services will continue to provide assistance throughout the urgent response and into the future, as the battered territories rebuild.

World Vision is responding by equipping local partners in Puerto Rico to distribute emergency supplies and is responding to the needs in the Dominican Republic where thousands of people have been displaced from their homes due to flooding from Maria. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

United Steelworkers (USW) International Vice President Fred Redmond will present this year’s McBride Lecture, “Today’s Struggle for Racial and Economic Justice,” at the University of Notre Dame on Sept. 21 (Thursday) at 6 p.m. The lecture will be held in the Eck Visitors Center Auditorium and is free and open to the public; a reception will immediately follow.

Redmond is co-chair of the AFL-CIO’s Labor Commission on Racial and Economic Justice, which was created in 2015 to “facilitate a broad conversation with local labor leaders around racial and economic disparities and institutional biases and identifies ways to become more inclusive as the new entrants to the labor force diversify.” His lecture will address that committee’s conclusions, just published as the Racial and Economic Justice Report.

A leader in the wide labor movement, Redmond holds leadership positions in the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, the AFL-CIO Executive Council and Working America, and he is chairman of the board of directors of the A. Philip Randolph Institute.
“While Americans have made strides in the past few decades at reducing racial discrimination in the labor market, workers of color continue to earn less than their white counterparts, and a majority toil in low-paying jobs with limited opportunities,” commented history professor Dan Graff, director of the Higgins Labor Program at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns. “We look forward to hearing what Mr. Redmond, an experienced labor leader with long experience fighting for workplace inclusion, will say on the intertwined subjects of economic justice and racial equality, as well as the role unions might play here.”

The McBride Lecture was established in 1977 by the United Steelworkers (USW) “to better understand the principles of unionism and our economy.” It honors the USW’s fourth international president, Lloyd McBride, who served from 1977 to 1983.

The lecture is cosponsored by the USW and the Higgins Labor Program at the Center for Social Concerns. Mr. Redmond will be available for media interviews during his visit to Notre Dame.

Originally published by Katie McCauley at on September 15, 2017.



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