Thursday, August 31, 2017

Originally published by National Catholic Reporter

Founding director of Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns remembered

Mary Monnat was planning to go to law school after her graduation from the University of Notre Dame in Indiana in 1980. But she was having second thoughts, so she turned to her teacher and mentor, Holy Cross Fr. Donald McNeill.

The priest helped Monnat decide to delay her admission to law school and instead spend a year with the Holy Cross Associates program, a year of service and living in community. While volunteering at an alcohol treatment center in Portland, Oregon, she acknowledged her own addiction and got into recovery — and discovered her vocation to work in alcohol and drug addiction.

"I credit him with, frankly, changing my life," said Monnat, now CEO of Lifeworks Northwest, a mental health and treatment center in Portland. "He had a way of having you take your faith and put it into action. That's who he was."

Monnat is one of thousands of students who have been inspired by McNeill and the Center for Social Concerns he co-founded 34 years ago. Those students, many of whom have gone on to full-time work in social justice or service like Monnat, have benefited countless other lives.

McNeill died Aug. 24 at the University of Notre Dame. He was 81.

"The extent of [McNeill's] ministry is pretty profound," said Margaret Pfeil, who, inspired by the priest, got involved in the Catholic Worker movement and now teaches theology at her alma mater.

"No one — other than [former Notre Dame president Fr. Theodore] Hesburgh — has had a bigger impact on the modern Notre Dame," said Melinda Henneberger, who graduated in 1980 and studied with McNeill.

"Social justice was Don's life's work," Henneberger said. "He really made that an important part of life at Notre Dame."

McNeill was the founding director of the Center for Social Concerns, which in 1983 combined the university's volunteer programs, headed by Holy Cross Sr. Judith Anne Beattie, and its experiential learning programs, headed by McNeill. Today, the center provides service opportunities around the world, as well as courses that take students into poor communities. Some estimates by the university say 80 percent of students do some sort of volunteer work.

The center's current acting director, Holy Cross Fr. Kevin Sandberg, says at least 12,000 students have been involved in the center over the years.

Sandberg recalls McNeill as a leader in bringing the message of Catholic action to the campus. McNeill stressed "that justice is constitutive of the Gospel," which challenged students who saw the church as focused only on charity or interior spirituality, said Sandberg, who graduated in 1988.

In co-founding the Center for Social Concerns (a deliberate move so its acronym would mirror the Holy Cross order's initials), McNeill wanted to create a culture of not only service, but justice, said Sandberg. "Our slogan now is 'Where understanding becomes responsibility,' which supports our vision to engage in social justice and advance the common good everywhere."

Although McNeill is remembered for co-founding the center, much of his influence was on individual students — especially women.

Pfeil hung out at the Center for Social Concerns, located in the former television station building near the library, and was involved with the Council for the International Lay Apostolate group.

She spent her summers working with the poor in Tijuana, Mexico, and after graduating in 1987, traveled to Chile through the Holy Cross Associates program, where she helped document the stories of those who had been detained and disappeared while the country was under military rule.

Those experiences prompted theological questions, so she pursued graduate studies, eventually back at Notre Dame, where she assisted McNeill with community-based courses. She co-authored, with McNeill, a book of reflections by people who had been shaped by their experiences at the center. Its title, Act Justly, Love Mercifully, and Walk Humbly with Your God, comes from one of McNeill's favorite scriptures in the Book of Micah.

Pfeil recalled McNeill's "profound spirit of gratitude" and his fondness for the people and cultures of Latin America. "He could really draw joy out of people," she said. "Don had a gift for identifying people's passions and forming people to live out those passions."

Henneberger learned from McNeill and Beattie that "God will want you to go to uncomfortable places." In one class, her project involved visiting people in a nursing home; she later did an "Urban Plunge" to Puerto Rico.

"I still draw on that class today. It was one of the best things I ever did," said Henneberger, an opinion writer for the Kansas City Star. (She has also written for NCR.) "It was all about accompanying people on their journey."

Sandberg said he learned how to do theological reflection while listening to McNeill's homilies as an undergraduate. "His was a 'theology of encounter' before Pope Francis popularized it," he said.

Others recalled his magnetic personality. "He really captivated people and won people over," remembers Joseph Mulligan, who graduated a year behind McNeill and later worked in the university's development office, where he encouraged alumni to support the center's programs.

McNeill was born in a wealthy Chicago suburb. His father and namesake was a radio personality, whose "Breakfast Club" show was the longest-running program in network radio history.

As an undergraduate, McNeill played basketball for Notre Dame and was senior class president, graduating in 1958. He was ordained a Holy Cross priest in 1965, after studying theology at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome.

McNeill became friends with Fr. Henri Nouwen, who taught briefly at Notre Dame and encouraged McNeill to pursue doctoral studies at Princeton Theological Seminary.

When he returned to Notre Dame, McNeill met and worked with Chicago activists Peggy Roach and Msgr. Jack Egan, who served as assistant to Hesburgh and directed the university's Institute for Pastoral and Social Ministry. 

At his funeral Mass, held Aug. 30 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on Notre Dame's campus, homilist Holy Cross Fr. Claude Pomerleau said McNeill's reach went far beyond the campus. Among his contributions "was his focus on the need for the church and for our ministries to listen to those with little power and limited formal roles in the Catholic Church, especially women and young people," he said.

McNeill even argued for co-ed dorms at Notre Dame, to which Hesburgh responded, "Over my dead body," Pomerleau said.

At the beginning of this fall semester, Pfeil took her Notre Dame students to a local community garden, where they picked tomatoes and read Thomas Merton while reflecting on their work with the residents who benefit from the garden. She told the students about McNeill, whom they would never meet.

Later that day, she visited McNeill at Holy Cross House and told him about the students. Although he could not speak after suffering a stroke, he smiled when he heard about the class, Pfeil said.

"Nothing would make him happier than knowing that students are entering into relationships with people with whom they would otherwise have very little contact," she said, "and using all their gifts and talents to make the world a more just and loving place."

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Walking down California Avenue, past a patchwork of neat, brightly painted homes, neglected and abandoned houses, urban gardens and empty, overgrown lots, Patrick Paulsen, an intended economics and film, television and theatre major from Seattle, admitted to knowing little about South Bend before arriving at Notre Dame.

“I thought it was just cornfields out in Indiana,” said Paulsen. “So it’s nice to discover there’s more than that.”

Lined with old oaks and maples, California Avenue passes through the Near Northwest Neighborhood, which is among the oldest and most diverse in the city, populated by old Victorian mansions, sturdy “prairie boxes” and cozy bungalows, and home to a diverse mix of renters and homeowners, from aging widows on fixed incomes to low-wage factory workers, young professionals and tenured professors.

Led by Kathy Schuth, a 1999 Notre Dame graduate and executive director of the Near Northwest Neighborhood Inc., and Michael Hebbeler, NNN board president and director of discernment and advocacy for the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame, Paulsen and about two dozen other students toured the neighborhood Monday, Aug. 21, as part of Day of Community, a Welcome Weekend event aimed to exposing new and transfer students to the broader South Bend community.

Now in its second year, the event, led by the Division of Student Affairs in collaboration with the Center for Social Concerns and the Office of Public Affairs, introduces students to an assortment of businesses and nonprofits in the South Bend area, emphasizing service, education, arts and culture.

In doing so, it exposes them to life beyond campus and to opportunities for meaningful engagement with the community, from volunteer work to research and internships — both pre- and post-graduation.

The NNN’s mission involves improving access to affordable housing on the near northwest side through the rehabilitation of older homes, which it accomplishes in partnership with the city and federal government.

It’s also working with The Eck Institute for Global Health at Notre Dame, and a number of student volunteers, to quantify the lead problem in the neighborhood, where as many as 1 in 3 children have tested positive for lead at elevated levels in recent years because of contaminated paint and soil.

In addition to the Near Northwest Neighborhood itself, students toured the NNN’s offices on Portage Avenue, including The Local Cup, a volunteer-run coffee shop that operates on a “pay-it-forward” model that lets patrons decide how much to pay for things.

Speaking afterward, Hebbeler, who lives down the street from the NNN, invited the students to return to the neighborhood, about 15 minutes from campus by bike, for Arts Café, an annual open house in October, or Adopt-a-Block, an annual clean-up event in April — or just for coffee.

“We definitely want you to consider this as a place to dive back into South Bend in terms of your community life,” said Hebbeler, who moved to South Bend in 2008.

Julie Rosta, an intended biology major from Indianapolis, welcomed the opportunity to explore the South Bend community.

“I don’t know much about downtown South Bend,” said Rosta, “so I’m really excited that we got to come and look around.”

And that’s the point, according to Paul Manrique, director of new student engagement in the Division of Student Affairs.

“The original purpose of Day of Community was to break down barriers between Notre Dame and the city of South Bend,” said Manrique.

“As the newest members to this community, first-year Notre Dame students now have the opportunity to immerse themselves in the city, learn about the wonderful things happening around town, and find out ways to stay connected during their years at the University,” he said. “Feedback from students has been outstanding, and our 25 community partners have loved this chance to engage with Notre Dame in a new way.” 

In addition to the Near Northwest Neighborhood, students visited Downtown South Bend Inc., the Center for the Homeless, the Food Bank of Northern Indiana, St. Vincent de Paul, La Casa de Amistad, the South Bend Cubs and the city’s Venues Parks & Arts department, among other community partners.

A total of 1,200 students participated in the event, which coincided with the solar eclipse.

Paulsen and others stopped to view the rare event near the end of their tour, gazing skyward as a temporary dusk settled on the city, setting crickets to chirping in the underbrush.

Earlier in the day, residents of Sorin and Knott halls toured the former Studebaker complex on the southern edge of downtown.

Working with the city and the state, Notre Dame graduate Kevin Smith, CEO of Global Access Point, is transforming the sprawling former auto assembly plant, the last remnant of the former Studebaker campus, into a mixed-use technology center.

Led by Notre Dame graduates Shane Fimbel, chief operating officer of Global Access Point, and Andrew Wiand, executive director of enFocus, students toured Building 113, one of three buildings that comprise the nearly 1 million-square-foot complex. They also visited with Alex Liggins, a 2014 Notre Dame graduate, and Alex Sejdinaj, co-founders of South Bend Code School.

A long two-story building, Building 113 remains under renovation but already houses four startups — all with ties to Notre Dame.

“What we would like to see in the next 10 years is this become the largest mixed-use technology center in the Midwest,” said Wiand, a 2012 graduate of Notre Dame’s ESTEEM entrepreneurship program.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg toured the complex during a recent visit to South Bend, Wiand noted, meeting with Smith and others. He also visited the Local Cup.

Alex Goskowicz, of San Diego, was impressed.

“My dad went (to Notre Dame) and told me about the Studebaker factory, and I assumed there wasn’t really anything going on here at all,” said Goskowicz, an intended mechanical engineering major. “So it was cool to find out there were some tech startups and someone trying to rebuild stuff.”

Sejdinaj, with South Bend Code School, invited the students to engage with the local tech community.

“Everyone here will go have coffee with you,” he said, describing the friendly atmosphere within the community. “Everyone here is willing to connect you with other people.”



Monday, August 28, 2017

Hurricane Harvey relief

Compiled August 28, 2017

Cardinal Daniel N. DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, has called for prayers and solidarity with those impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Cardinal DiNardo also called on all people of good will to closely monitor future calls for assistance for victims and survivors in the days ahead.

Cardinal DiNardo explained, “Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast in a catastrophic and devastating way this weekend, bringing with it severe flooding and high winds which have taken human life, caused countless injuries, and severely damaged homes and property throughout the region. The effects of this storm continue to put people in harm’s way, with horrific scenes playing out all around, such as those of people trapped on their rooftops as water continues to rise around them.”

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 Hurricane Harvey.

Catholic Charities:

Catholic Charities provides response coordination and short-term and long-term recovery services in collaboration with other area Disaster Relief agencies, and by working with the Mayor’s office on their disaster recovery plan. This means first meeting emergency needs such as shelter, food, and medication assistance for those who have lost everything.

Donate through Catholic Charities

Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops:

Through Catholic Charities and other ministries, dioceses throughout Texas are providing basic humanitarian and pastoral support to thousands of Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey.  

The Texas bishops are coordinating efforts with Catholic Charities USA and local civic authorities.

 Donate through the Texas Conference of Catholic Bishops

American Red Cross:

The American Red Cross is helping people affected by Hurricane Harvey in Texas and all across the Gulf coast.  Shelters are open, truck loads of supplies are being distributed and volunteers are in place to assist those impacted by the storm.

Donate through the American Red Cross

Salvation Army:

The Salvation Army in Texas is providing food and hydration to first responders and is preparing for massive feeding efforts for residents. In response to increased needs, The Salvation Army is activating emergency response teams across the country.

Donate through the Salvation Army

Monday, August 21, 2017

Rev. Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., has been appointed acting executive director of the University’s Center for Social Concerns for academic year 2017–18. Father Sandberg will serve in this role while Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns is on research leave.

“I’m grateful to Fr. Paul Kollman and the Office of the Provost for the confidence they have placed in me to shepherd the center this year. We’ve just completed a new strategic plan that will guide our year together and enable us to move toward our vision of being a living well of social justice whose source is Catholic social teaching,” said Father Sandberg.

Since joining the center in 2014, Father Sandberg has directed the Common Good Initiative, a Catholic social teaching immersion course for graduate students in Haiti, Cuba, Uganda, Jerusalem, or Detroit. Previously at the center he taught immersion seminars in Hispanic ministry and education. He regularly teaches a development of theology course for undergraduate students who have participated in service learning.

Father Kevin received his B.A. in economics and an M.Div. from the University of Notre Dame, an M.A. in theology from the Graduate Theological Union/Jesuit School of Theology, and his doctorate in religion and education from Fordham University. His research interests include theological reflection, pedagogies of compassion, and the neglect of listening and its restoration through religious education.

He is a Fellow of the Institute for Educational Initiatives, a board member of Ave Maria Press, and a board member of the Religious Education Association: an Association of Professors, Practitioners, and Researchers in Religious Education.

Prior to pastoral ministry as a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Father Kevin was a trust officer with the Northern Trust Bank and a financial economist with the U.S. Treasury Department. He was the founding director of Young Adult Community at St. Clement Church in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood.

Contact: JP Shortall,

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The 2017 Center for Social Concerns Community Engagement Faculty Institute (CEFI) was held June 13–15. Now in its sixth year, the Institute gathers community partners, faculty, and graduate students from the local area, around the country, and internationally to explore and deepen their knowledge of community-engaged teaching and research.

The Institute was first held in 2012 as a response to growing interest in community-engaged learning at the University. Each year it has brought roughly 30 participants together for three days of lectures and community partner site visits to address a central theme from various perspectives. This year’s theme was “Solidarity: Soul of Development,” which was also the focus of Center for Social Concerns programming.

Connie Mick is associate director of the Center for Social Concerns and directs the Institute, which she sees as a way to support the University’s mission. “The University's mission statement challenges faculty to help students ‘develop a disciplined sensibility to the poverty and injustice that burden the lives of so many,’ and the Community Engagement Faculty Institute is a direct response to that call,” she explains.

The three-day faculty institute is itself a model of community engagement. It features workshops by faculty and experts from local organizations along with field trips into the local community to talk with center partners who address a range of social concerns, such as poverty, health care, and education.

This year’s site visits included the DePaul Academy at the Juvenile Justice Center, the Center for the Homeless, the Near Northwest Neighborhood Association, El Campito Child Development Center, Goodwill Industries, LOGAN Industries, the Sister Maura Brannick, C.S.C., Medical Center, and the Civil Right Heritage Center. Youth actors from the Robinson Shakespeare Company at the Robinson Community Learning Center also performed for participants on campus, answering questions about how their ensemble approach strengthens their sense of belonging and solidarity. 

“The Faculty Institute provided a fabulous opportunity to network and connect with faculty, staff, community partners, and graduate students who are committed to community engagement,” says Audrey Falk, associate professor and director of the Master’s Program in Community Engagement at Merrimack College. Falk, a first-time participant in the institute, explained that CEFI “provided a welcoming and supportive environment which was ideal for relationship-building and sharing of resources.”

Erin Moira Lemrow is an academic advisor in the University’s College of First Year of Studies, concurrent teaching faculty member for the Institute for Latino Studies, and first time participant in the Institute. She was pleased to learn about how many connections Notre Dame has to the local community. “Universities have a responsibility to provide support to the communities in which they reside. As an integral component to this support, the University also needs to lead the charge in advocating for community uplift and student engagement in this initiative. One must be both a scholar of the mind and heart and I can think of no better way to embody these ideals than being part of community engagement at ND.”

In 2018, the Faculty Institute will consider the Center for Social Concerns annual theme, "The Challenge of Peace."  Faculty interested in considering how their teaching and research can help advocate for impact in local communities worldwide can contact Connie Mick

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Clemens Sedmak has been appointed director of Catholic Social Learning at the Center for Social Concerns. He also holds an appointment at Notre Dame's new Keough School for Global Affairs. Previously Sedmak was visiting professor of Catholic social tradition and community engagement at the Center for Social Concerns and the Keough School for Global Affairs.

"The Center for Social Concerns seeks to explore and advance Catholic social tradition (CST) in all its work—from student programs in community-based and service-learning to its research efforts,” said Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns.

“Professor Sedmak's expansive intellectual reach and deep familiarity with CST will allow us to inculcate it more fully in our educational efforts and to advance CST itself—a dynamic set of teachings and insights—through multi-disciplinary research that serves the common good."

Originally from Austria, Sedmak studied at the University of Innsbruck, the ETH Zurich, at Maryknoll (New York), and the University of Linz. He holds doctoral degrees in philosophy, theology, and social theory. After completing doctoral study, Sedmak spent two years in Chicago as a research fellow and became the Chair for Epistemology and Philosophy of Religion at the University of Salzburg in 2001. He held that position until 2005 when he went to King's College London as FD Maurice Professor for Moral Theology and Social Theology.

Since 2005 Sedmak has also been Director of the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research at the University of Salzburg and has served as President of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Social Ethics in Salzburg since 2008. He has been visiting professor at the Jomo Kenyatta University in Nairobi, at the Ateneo de Manila University in the Philippines, at the University of Jena in Germany, the Vienna Business University, and at the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City.

Sedmak’s teaching, lecturing, and research focus on Catholic social tradition, Catholic moral theology, and international development. He has published numerous books in German and English. His recent English publications include A Church of the Poor: Pope Francis and the Transformation of Orthodoxy and The Capacity to be Displaced: Resilience and Inner Strength. 

Since his arrival at the University of Notre Dame, Sedmak has co-facilitated “Enacting Catholic Social Tradition: Making a Difference on the Ground,” a conference at the Notre Dame Global Gateway in Rome. He has also been a recipient of the 2017 Global Gateway Faculty Research Award.

Contact: JP Shortall,

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Notre Dame Research and Notre Dame International have provided four research groups with grants from the Global Gateway Faculty Research Awards (GGFRA) program for 2017. The GGFRA program was developed to highlight the potential of the University of Notre Dame’s Global Gateways for the advancement of research and scholarship at the University.

In describing the awards, Hildegund Müller, Associate Vice President for Research and Associate Professor of Classics, said, “The Global Gateways are situated in places that are rich with historical tradition and original sources, as well as international centers of research and innovation. They offer unique opportunities for Notre Dame researchers to enrich their scholarship and extend their collaborative networks. By offering the GGFRA program, our goal is to encourage faculty to think creatively about the Global Gateways and their potential for research and scholarship. I am excited about our awardees’ projects and look forward to witnessing their progress.”

The 2017 GGFRA recipients include:

Celia E. Deane-Drummond, director of the Center for Theology, Science, and Human Flourishing and professor of theology at the University of Notre Dame, and Oliver Davies, professor of religion and theology at King’s College London, for their project at the London Global Gateway, entitled “Love in Religion: Science, Philosophy, and Human Flourishing.”

Robert Dowd, C.S.C., associate professor of political science and director of the Ford Program in Human Development and Solidarity at Notre Dame’s Kellogg Institute for International Studies; Giuseppe Folloni, professor applied economics at the University of Trento; Daniel Groody, C.S.C., associate professor of theology at Notre Dame; Clemens Sedmak, visiting professor of Catholic social tradition at Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns; Ilaria Schnyder von Wartensee, research assistant professor at the Kellogg Institute for International Studies’ Ford Program in Human Development and Solidarity at Notre Dame, and Giorgio Vittadini, professor of statistics at the University of Milano Bicocca, for their project at the Rome Global Gateway called “Religion and Responses to Refugees and Migrants in Europe: The Catholic Church in Comparative Perspective.” 

Vanesa Miseres, assistant professor of Latin American literature at the University of Notre Dame, for her project at the London Global Gateway “Gender Battles: Latin American Women Writing on War.” She will also utilize the Latin American archives located at the British Library.

Nicholas Teh, assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame; Eleanor Knox, lecturer in philosophy at King’s College London; and Bryan Roberts, associate professor of philosophy, logic, and scientific method at the London School of Economics and Political Science, for their project at the London Global Gateway titled “New Directions in Space, Time, and Matter: A Research Initiative by the University of Notre Dame-University of London Philosophy of Science Consortium.”

The competition for the GGFRA program is announced during the spring, with deadlines typically falling in March. For more information, including how to apply for next year’s competition, please visit

For more information about additional faculty research funding from Notre Dame Research, please visit and from Notre Dame International, please visit

The University of Notre Dame is a private research and teaching university inspired by its Catholic mission. Located in South Bend, Indiana, its researchers are advancing human understanding through research, scholarship, education, and creative endeavor in order to be a repository for knowledge and a powerful means for doing good in the world. For more information, please see or @UNDResearch.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

University of Notre Dame junior Rebecca Blais, a political science major from New Smyrna Beach, Florida, has been named a 2017 Truman Scholar.

Blais is one of just 62 college juniors to be selected for the prestigious scholarship this year, from a pool of 768 candidates nominated by 315 colleges and universities nationwide. The winners were chosen based on their leadership potential, intellectual ability and commitment to public service.

Established in 1975 as a living memorial to President Harry S. Truman, the award includes $30,000 in graduate study funds, priority admission and supplemental financial aid at select institutions, as well as leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and internship opportunities within the federal government.

“I am incredibly honored to receive this scholarship,” Blais said. “The thought of working with the support of the Truman Foundation in a career of public service is both encouraging and exciting. I am sincerely looking forward to having the chance to get to know such inspired, passionate people who are dedicated to helping others.”

Seven students in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters have been named Truman Scholars since 2010, including two winners in 2016 — Arabic and peace studies major Caleb “C.J.” Pine and philosophy major Christa Grace Watkins. Other previous winners include Alex Coccia, class of 2014, an Africana studies and peace studies major; Elizabeth Davis, class of ’12, a Program of Liberal Studies major; Puja Parikh, class of ’11, a political science and psychology major; and Elizabeth (Simpson) Hlabse, class of ’11, a theology and peace studies major. Watkins and Coccia have also gone on to win Rhodes Scholarships.

“Notre Dame’s continuing success with the Truman Scholarship is a result of our consistently outstanding applicant pool of juniors who are not waiting until after graduation to begin their work as change agents,” said Jeffrey Thibert, associate director of the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE). “Becca exemplifies this. She has already left a lasting mark on the University, and the financial support and mentoring offered through the Truman Scholarship will help her expand her capability for impact to the national or even international stage.”

Blais, who has a minor in peace studies, is deeply involved in student government, working to build a stronger relationship with the administration and to enact many policy changes related to diversity, inclusion, and Title IX.

She was recently elected student body president for the 2017–18 academic year, after completing a term as vice president this year. She has also served as a member of the Election Committee for the Judicial Council and as director of internal affairs.

Blais has traveled extensively as an undergraduate, accompanying a Notre Dame faculty delegation to Bangladesh this spring to visit a new partner university in Dhaka.

Last summer, she participated in the Center for Social Concerns’ international summer service learning program in China, where she taught English and researched human rights. And in summer 2015, with funding from CUSE, she conducted independent research in Sri Lanka on elephant conservation efforts.

She has also participated in an immersion course in Ireland, led a student group to West Virginia to build homes with Habitat for Humanity, and backpacked in India and Ireland.

On campus, Blais is a Dean’s Fellow in the College of Arts and Letters, a member of the Committee on Women Faculty and Students and the Committee for Sexual Assault Prevention, and a tour guide for the Office of Admissions.

She has volunteered at a local homeless shelter, worked as a notetaker for disabled students, led campus blood drives, and served as vice president of Be The Match On Campus — a nonprofit advocacy group for the national bone marrow donor registry.

“Becca is committed to integral human development broadly and has been an active leader on campus for initiatives and activities commensurate with those ideals,” said Sara Sievers, associate dean for policy and practice in the Keough School of Global Affairs. “These activities all combine to paint a portrait of a student with natural leadership instincts which are channeled to public service and the social good, in ways large and small.”

After graduation, Blais plans to attend law school and hopes to someday work as an attorney at the Department of Justice, focusing on issues related to women’s health care, education and Title IX.

“My liberal arts education at Notre Dame has challenged me to look beyond the immediate and think critically about the community around me — whether that is my community on campus, at home, or elsewhere in the world,” Blais said. “Through Arts and Letters, I have learned effective strategies to be an active change agent and to think outside of the traditional. These lessons guide me as I begin this new experience.”

Throughout the Truman Scholar application and selection process, Blais worked closely with Notre Dame’s Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, which assists undergraduate students and alumni with national fellowship applications. Individuals interested in applying for the Truman, Rhodes, Marshall, and other awards can visit the CUSE website.


Friday, February 10, 2017

John Huber, a University of Notre Dame senior majoring in applied and computational mathematics and statistics, has been awarded a Gates Cambridge Scholarship to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Cambridge.

Huber is one of only 36 students in the U.S. to be selected for the scholarship, which drew approximately 800 applicants.

This prestigious postgraduate scholarship program, which fully funds postgraduate study and research in any subject at the University of Cambridge, was established through a $210 million donation to the University of Cambridge from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000; this remains the largest single donation to a U.K. university. In addition to outstanding academic achievement, the Gates Cambridge Scholarship places emphasis on social leadership in its selection process, as the mission of the program is to create a global network of future leaders committed to improving the lives of others.

Huber, a native of Gainesville, Florida, will pursue the M.Phil. degree in veterinary science in Cambridge’s Department of Veterinary Medicine. During his undergraduate studies, he developed a strong passion for infectious disease research, which he considers the intersection of his interests in global health, mathematics and social justice. To date, his research has focused on constructing mathematical models for the transmission of mosquito-borne pathogens, principally malaria and dengue. He has conducted his research under the guidance of Alex Perkins, Notre Dame’s Eck Family Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences and member of the Eck Institute for Global Health, and Erin Mordecai, an assistant professor of biology at Stanford University. His most recent research project, which was published in Malaria Journal, focused on quantifying serial and generation intervals, important epidemiological metrics, for Plasmodium falciparum malaria.

At Cambridge, he will broaden his research interests by applying mathematical and statistical methods to capture heterogeneity in bacterial division rates. This project will expand our understanding of how antimicrobial resistance arises from slow-replicating bacteria in vivo.

“At a time when drug resistance is rapidly outpacing the discovery of new antibiotics, I am excited to have the opportunity to contribute to the body of research on such a time-sensitive matter,” Huber said. “I feel honored to join the Gates Cambridge community and look forward to an enriching year at Cambridge in the Department of Veterinary Medicine.”

Huber was a participant in a competitive National Science Foundation Research Experience for Undergraduates (NSF-REU) at Stanford University and received a James F. Andrews Scholarship, which is awarded to select students who participate in a Center for Social Concerns Summer Service Learning Program. His Andrews scholarship funded his participation in the InnerRoads Wilderness Therapy Program in Missoula, Montana, which offers affordable wilderness therapy to underserved Montanan youth. He served as a clinical volunteer at South Bend’s Sister Maura Brannick Health Center and as a volunteer with Diabéticos Saludables in South Bend.

Huber intends to complete an M.D.-Ph.D. program and pursue a career in academic medicine.

“I am interested in serving as a clinician and conducting epidemiological research in the field of infectious diseases, where I would make clinically relevant contributions in the interest of global health,” he said. “Further, I aim to teach at the graduate or postgraduate level to educate the next generation of physician-scientists.”

Huber worked closely throughout the application process with Notre Dame’s Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), which assists undergraduate students and alumni with fellowships applications. Current Notre Dame undergraduates and recent alumni who are interested in applying for national scholarships and fellowships can contact the center at

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Rev. Paul Kollman, C.S.C., Leo and Arlene Hawk Executive Director of the Center for Social Concerns, was elected to the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees during the Board’s spring meeting May 4 and 5. He also received the University’s 2017 Rev. William A. Toohey, C.S.C. Award for Preaching this spring.

The Rev. William A. Toohey, C.S.C., Awards (for preaching and for social justice) were established to honor the memory of a Holy Cross priest who served as director of Campus Ministry. The Toohey Award for Preaching is given to a Holy Cross priest who has made significant contributions to the University of Notre Dame in many different ways and in particular as a homilist.

Father Kollman is an associate professor of theology and has served as executive director of the Center for Social Concerns at Notre Dame since 2012. A Holy Cross priest, he earned his doctoral degree in the history of religions from the University of Chicago, and a bachelor’s degree in theology and history and a master of divinity degree from Notre Dame. His scholarship focuses on African Christianity, mission history and world Christianity, and he has taught in Uganda and Kenya, and carried out research in Tanzania, Nigeria and South Africa. He is a fellow of the Kellogg, the Kroc, and Nanovic Institutes at Notre Dame and currently is president of the International Association of Mission Studies and the American Society of Missiology.

Contact: JP Shortall,

View All Events

Upcoming Events

May 2022

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

June 2022

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

September 2022

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