News

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, jshortal@nd.edu

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Professor Kasturi Haldar has received the 2017 Rodney F. Ganey, Ph.D., Community-Based Research Award for a project that has helped improve rare disease recognition and treatment in northern Indiana. The award is a $5,000 prize presented annually to a regular faculty member at the University of Notre Dame who has completed at least one research project that addresses a need within South Bend or the surrounding area. Haldar is a molecular cell biologist and the Rev. Julius Nieuwland Professor of Biological Sciences and Parsons-Quinn director of the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases at the University of Notre Dame.

There are currently about 7,000 recognized rare diseases in the United States, and most medical clinicians will encounter only a small fraction of them even after years of practice in the clinic. So what does a clinician do when a patient with a rare disease appears in her clinic? She might reach out to a rare disease specialist or genetic center for support if she has easy access to either of those. They could provide her with the clinical spectrum of related rare diseases to review and compare with her patient’s symptomatology. But clinicians have demanding schedules and often no ready access to this kind of external support.

In northern Indiana, clinicians have long had to seek support for rare disease identification and diagnosis from Riley Children’s Health or Indiana University Health in Indianapolis. Because those facilities are distant and often busy, accessing them can be time-consuming, and the key to treatment of any disease is accurate and timely diagnosis and management.

So in 2015, a team led by Dr. Kasturi Haldar, director of the Boler-Parseghian Center for Rare and Neglected Diseases (CRND) at the University of Notre Dame, applied for and received a Ganey Collaborative Community-Based Research Seed Grant for a project to improve rare disease management and treatment locally. The grant helped her and her team partner with advanced pre-med students, local pediatricians, and families of rare disease patients, as well the National Organization of Rare Diseases, the Michiana Health Information Network, and CRND to create a knowledge base and analytic framework for rare disease recognition right here in northern Indiana.

Using the combined resources of this partnership, Haldar and her team have developed a program that trains upper level pre-med students to evaluate rare disease patient medical records and help produce natural histories of disease. They then provide a local pediatric clinic with tools to strengthen the clinical context to manage and treat children with rare genetic disorders, empowering them with the most current data. This decreases the time to proper diagnostic understanding and the establishment of a clear course of treatment. The project also empowers patient families by providing clinicians with up to date information on centers of excellence and other resources that they share with patients. At the Annual Notre Dame Rare Disease Day Conference every February, students also partner with patients to present poster and community-based patient talks.

The project has clearly impacted pediatric health care for rare disease cases in northern Indiana, but its impact has also gone beyond the region. In 2015, Haldar’s team produced a case report of an unusual occurrence of neurofibromatosis (NF1), a rare genetic neurologic disorder. The report, “Aggressive Tibial Pseudarthrosis as Primary Symptom in Infant with Neurofibromatosis, which suggests need for modification of federal guidelines for NF1 diagnosis,” has now been published by Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s bioRxiv, where it will be available for review by the scientific community.

Contact: JP Shortall, jshortal@nd.edu

Friday, December 2, 2016

In statements, addresses, and homilies, Pope Francis often calls for a Church of the poor that takes seriously what the poor and vulnerable have to teach us and empties itself in order to be fully receptive to the grace of God. The vision developed in those calls is the focus of a new book by Clemens Sedmak, visiting professor of Catholic social tradition and community engagement at the Center for Social Concerns and the Keough School of Global Affairs.

A Church of the Poor: Pope Francis and the Transformation of Orthodoxy (Orbis Books, 2016) asks how a Church of the poor might change our ways of knowing, learning, and understanding, which in turn might affect how we understand orthodoxy. Sedmak argues that orthodoxy, understood as right relationship with God, is not possible without right relationship with the poor and the vulnerable—and that authentic love of God must spring from poverty and vulnerability. 

Sedmak holds the F.D. Maurice Chair in Moral and Social Theology at King's College London and is the F.M. Schmölz Visiting Professor for Social Ethics at the University of Salzburg. He has been Director of the Center for Ethics and Poverty Research at the University of Salzburg since 2005, and President of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Social Ethics in Salzburg since 2008. 

Sedmak’s teaching, lecturing, and research focus on Catholic social tradition, Catholic moral theology, and international development. He has published numerous books in German. In English, he has published Doing Local Theology: A Guide for Artisans of a New Humanity (Orbis Books, 2002). The Capacity to be Displaced: Resilience and Inner Strength will be published in 2017 as part of Brill’s World Christianity Series.

Contact: Clemens Sedmak, 574-631-0199, csedmak1@nd.edu

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

University of Notre Dame seniors Alexis Doyle and Christa Grace Watkins have been selected to the United States Rhodes Scholar Class of 2017. Doyle, of Lost Altos, California, is a biological sciences major with a minor in international peace studies. Watkins, who was also selected as a 2016 Truman Scholar, is a philosophy major with a minor in philosophy, politics, and economics. She is from Blacksburg, Virginia.

Both Doyle and Watkins have participated in numerous Center courses and programs throughout their four years at Notre Dame. Doyle, who is interested in health advocacy and will attend medical school following Oxford, took her first Social Concerns Seminar as a freshman. Then in her sophomore year she led a seminar focused on healthcare issues in the Appalachia region of West Virginia. That year she also took “Rethinking Crime and Justice,” the Center’s Inside-Out Prison Exchange course. Since her freshman year, Doyle has volunteered through the Center at the Sr. Maura Brannick Health Center.

“The Center for Social Concerns was one of the primary reasons that I chose to attend Notre Dame,” says Doyle. “The Center offered me the chance to pursue community-based learning courses, participate in service learning trips, and volunteer in local service to the South Bend community. From these experiences, I thought deeply about the nature of service, and had the chance to see firsthand the relationship between poverty and health outside of the classroom.”

Watkins has taken two Social Concerns Seminars during her time at Notre Dame: “Youth, Risk, and Resilience” and “Human Trafficking.” She explains that the second class gave her “an in-depth look at the complex legal grammar surrounding trafficking, the opportunity to explore how it is reported on, and how we might begin to prevent it. The class helped me form coherent views about how to respond to the media's emphasis on sex trafficking, and convinced me that public interest law is what I want to pursue.” After Oxford, Watkins hopes to enroll in a joint J.D./Ph.D. program and to specialize in public interest law. She also took a community-based learning course called “Poverty and Politics” that placed her at the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

“The Center for Social Concerns has been extremely helpful in my academic and personal development at Notre Dame,” says Watkins. “I believe that the Center performs one of the most important functions on campus: teaching students how Catholic Social Teaching functions in practice and how they might incorporate such teaching into their own lives.”

According to the Rhodes Trust, “Rhodes Scholars are chosen not only for their outstanding scholarly achievements, but for their character, commitment to others and to the common good, and for their potential for leadership in whatever domains their careers may lead.”

Contact: JP Shortall, Center for Social Concerns, 574-315-5808, jshortal@nd.edu

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Mary Beckman, Ph.D., Associate Director at the Center for Social Concerns and Director of Academic Community Engagement for the University of Notre Dame, has recently published Community-Based Research: Teaching for Community Impact with Stylus Publishing. Co-edited with Joyce F. Long, Research Analyst at Memorial Hospital-South Bend's Community Health Enhancement Department, the book demonstrates how community-based research can be integrated into academic coursework to effectively foster student learning while resulting in positive outcomes for local communities. It was written for faculty, graduate students, and other higher education constituents interested in engaged scholarship as well as for community organizations that desire to collaborate with academic researchers to reach their goals.   

Through the Center for Social Concerns, Beckman directs a program in community-based research that offers grants to teams of faculty, community partners, and students to conduct research on issues of local concern. An economist and faculty member, she co-developed the University’s Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor and has co-directed and taught in the program. In her role as Director of Academic Community Engagement for the University, she guides the work of Notre Dame’s Community Engagement Coordinating Council (CECC) which aims to deepen the culture of engagement between the University and the local community.

For more information on the co-edited volume, Community-Based Research: Teaching for Community Impact, community-based research at the Center for Social Concerns, or the CECC, contact Mary Beckman at mbeckman@nd.edu.



 

Friday, November 11, 2016

The recent U.S. election leads us at the Center for Social Concerns to affirm our conviction that a just society must be founded upon the dignity of all people. 

Whatever our differences, we are all fully members of the human family and all have a right to participate fully in the economic, political, and cultural life of society. 

Conversely, it is wrong for a person or a group to have barriers to their full participation created or reinforced by structures, actions, or rhetoric that demean or undermine their dignity. In the words of the U.S. Catholic bishops, “The ultimate injustice is for a person or group to be treated actively or abandoned passively as if they were non-members of the human race. To treat people this way is effectively to say they simply do not count as human beings.”

We thus pledge to continue to work for justice for all and the common good as taught by the Catholic social tradition: through our educational programing, our public events, and the reinforcement of a campus environment where all are welcome, and where honest, civil conversation can safely proceed. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Originally published by The Observer

Notre Dame students elected Democratic nominees Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine in Tuesday’s mock presidential election sponsored by NDVotes. Of the 857 students who participated, 59.3 percent voted for the Democratic ticket, followed by 24.0 percent who chose Republican nominees Donald Trump and Mike Pence.

Sophomore Prathm Juneja, a member of NDVotes Task Force and Student Government director of national engagement and outreach, said the mock election was intended to increase interest before the real election Nov. 8.

“The real idea was how to spark conversations on campus right before the election so we can fix this millennial voter gap we have,” he said.

Beyond the two major party tickets, 7.7 percent of votes went to Libertarians Gary Johnson and William Weld, 1.0 percent went to Green Party ticket Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka, 5.6 percent selected “other” and 2.5 percent abstained.

Junior Sarah Tomas Morgan, co-chair of NDVotes, said the organization was “very pleased” with the turnout at voting polls at DeBartolo Hall, LaFortune Student Center, South Dining Hall and Geddes Hall.

“857 is about 10 percent of the student body, because we’re including graduate students too,” she said. “But 857 students making their way to four tables across campus in one day, for any poll, is quite a success.”

Voters were asked to answer post-poll questions, created and analyzed by Juneja, political science professor David Campbell and director of the Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy Christina Wolbrecht, regarding their gender, dorm, year and which issues most influenced their vote.

“It’s great that everyone gets to participate in national elections, but not everyone feels like their vote matters or can see the result of their vote,” Roge Karma, co-chair of ND Votes, said. “Here in the mock election, we get a breakdown of how Notre Dame votes. We don’t just vote for a presidential candidate, we also fill out an exit poll that talks about your dorm, gender, class year. And therefore you can look at the breakdown in trends.”

The gender breakdown for voters was close — 49.1 percent responded female and 47.0 percent responded male — though there was a large gap in who they voted for: 73.9 percent of females voted for Clinton, to 45.2 percent of males, while 31.3 percent of males voted for Trump, compared to 16.4 percent of females.

Females were also far more likely to choose a major party candidate — 90.3 percent of voters — compared to males at 76.4 percent.

“I’m not sure what to make of that yet,” Tomas Morgan said. “It’s open to a lot of interpretation, but there are more things I’d like to look into with that data.”

Chris Collins, The Observer

Students cast their ballots for presidential candidates in the mock election Tuesday afternoon outside DeBartolo Hall. NDVotes stationed three other polling booths across campus — in LaFortune Student Center, South Dining Hall and Geddes Hall — where students could vote electronically.

While voter turnout amongst undergraduate classes was fairly consistent, the percentage of students who voted for Clinton increased the longer they’d been in school.

“In general, I think a lot of our results correlate with a lot of national trends,” Tomas Morgan said. “In general, the votes for Hillary Clinton going up with class goes along with the trend for people to vote more liberal with increased education. … Because that is a trend that is picked up in other national reports, I think it’s a really interesting piece of data to look at.”

That tendency to lean more towards the Democratic Party as education level increases has been a trend for Notre Dame students for several years, Juneja said.

“We got a chance to look at the 2008 and 2012 elections that Scholastic had, and they had the same trend,” he said. “That’s a trend that we should talk about — that as you go through Notre Dame, you’re more likely to vote Democrat.”

In the post-poll questions, immigration was voted the most important influence on voting decisions, with 21.6 percent, followed by party affiliation with 17.1 percent and abortion with 10.2 percent.

Of the voters who selected immigration as their most important issues, 80 percent voted for Clinton.

“We only asked a question about immigration, but that could be someone who’s pro-immigration or someone who’s anti-immigration,” Juneja said. “It seems as though people are more passionate about being pro-immigration than people are passionate about being anti-immigration.”

Juneja said it “wasn’t surprising” that abortion was ranked so high amongst important issues at the University, but Tomas Morgan said she was interested in how voters responded to that priority.

“I’d like to look at the expanded answers a little more to see what would have caused people to choose [abortion] as the one that most influenced their vote,” she said. “It’s a huge issue for a lot of people and for a lot of people voting for all candidates. Not all people who listed abortion as their highest priority fell into voting for one candidate.”

Prior to the mock election, NDVotes assisted students in registering to vote, completing absentee ballots and voter education. Karma, Tomas Morgan and Juneja all said they hoped that participation continues in civic engagement after the election Tuesday.

“I think we can continue to achieve more active participation,” Juneja said. “That’s what Notre Dame’s all about: We were created on the idea that we can create change in this country and one way to create change is to vote. If we’re not fulfilling that civic duty, how can we accomplish anything great?”

Notre Dame students cast ballots in mock election

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Originally published by College of Arts and Letters

​Marisel Moreno, an associate professor in Notre Dame’s Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, has been selected to receive the 2016 Sheedy Excellence in Teaching Award.

The highest teaching honor in the College of Arts and Letters, the Sheedy Award was created in 1970 to honor Rev. Charles E. Sheedy, C.S.C., who served as dean of Arts and Letters from 1951 to 1969. A reception honoring her will be held at 3:30 p.m. Dec. 6 in the McKenna Hall Auditorium at the Notre Dame Conference Center.

Moreno, whose research and teaching focus on Latino literature and culture, helped launch a community-based learning program in her department in 2010. Students in her classes enhance traditional literature study by volunteering at La Casa de Amistad, a local Latino community organization.

“Professor Moreno does not approach teaching as an activity that stops at the classroom door,” said Ben Heller, an associate professor of Spanish. “Her teaching is innovative, bridging academia and community, making learning real through engagement with the local Latino environment.

“The experience for her students—and the local community—is transformative.”

Breaking down walls

Teaching her first community-based learning course was such a positive experience that Moreno now ensures that at least one of her courses each semester includes work at La Casa.

“I love teaching literature because it opens up other worlds and allows us to connect with each other. And the kinds of encounters students have through community-based learning make the literature far more powerful,” she said. “Because of these personal experiences, they appreciate the literature more, and because they have a background in literature and history, they can better relate to the community.

“When you connect human to human—forgetting all the labels—these are the moments when the walls are broken down.”

Over the past six years, the community-based learning Spanish program, supported by the Center for Social Concerns and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures, has expanded to include numerous faculty members in the department and courses at several levels of language learning.

Much of that success is due to Moreno’s tireless efforts each semester to build on previous accomplishments and address challenges, said Rachel Rivers Parroquín, director of the program.

“Marisel Moreno is an exemplar who innovates, continually improves, and genuinely impacts students in profound ways,” Parroquín said. “The lessons her students learn are both fully situated within the disciplinary context of Latino/a literature and deeply grounded in life and the community.”

The result is a powerful new perspective that students carry with them, well beyond their time at Notre Dame.

“No professor has had such an impact on my education and discernment,” a senior Spanish and pre-health major wrote in recommending Moreno for the Sheedy Award. “She inspired me to go outside my comfort zone, volunteering at La Casa and abroad, to serve and learn from a community that speaks a different language, and she has empowered me to strive for equality, knowledge, and positive social change in my career.”

[Marisel Moreno outside LaCasa] Moreno outside La Casa de Amistad, where students volunteer as part of her community-based learning courses.

Exploring new perspectives

Engaging with families at La Casa—which offers tutoring for children, parenting classes, English language classes, a citizenship program, and more—also brings current issues to life for Moreno’s students.

“When these families opened up about their struggles with immigration, it transformed distant statistics into personal issues affecting people who had graciously welcomed me into their homes for a weekend,” wrote another student who took Moreno’s Migrant Voices course.

“Unlike classroom learning, which has its own merits, learning from the community in which I serve has created a powerful imprint that will be impossible to negate in my future decisions.”

Moreno, who recently joined La Casa’s board, emphasizes that she and her students work in partnership with the organization.

“At the beginning of each semester, we talk with La Casa about what their needs are, what issues they’re dealing with at the time,” she said. “It’s not about what my students can get out of it or what La Casa can get out of it, but it’s what we both need. We both win in the end.”

The program has not only impacted her students and the community—it has affected Moreno personally as well.

“I feel that it has made me more compassionate toward my students, because I see them struggle and I see their growth. I have gotten to know my students much better than I would in a regular literature class,” she said. “And I’m more in tune, more connected, more passionate about issues that have to do with social justice in our town and our country.”

 

“As an academic, I know it’s very easy to separate yourself, living in the four  

walls of your office and the four walls of your classroom and just focusing on

your research. But as a society, we’ve gotten to the point where we cannot

afford to do that. We have a responsibility to see how our work can have

a more direct impact in our communities.” 

                                                                                        — Marisel Moreno

Building bridges

Moreno is currently working on her second book project, focused on Caribbean borderlands and representations of undocumented migration in literature and art. She is examining U.S. Latino perspectives and Puerto Rican, Cuban, and Dominican depictions of the same phenomenon.

She brings that research into her classroom this fall in a new undergraduate course, Borders and Bridges.

The course, which explores issues related to the U.S.-Mexico border and movements of people within the Hispanic Caribbean, also draws on her recent visit to the border through an immersion experience offered by the Center for Social Concerns.

“I wanted to integrate some of that experience into the classroom,” Moreno said. “I thought designing a course that focuses on the idea of borderlands and connecting people across borders was a good platform for it. I learned so much there and I wanted to be able to bring some of that to my students.

“There is really no better time in history to be talking about borders and bridges.”

Making an impact

In 2011, Moreno received the Governor’s Award for Service-Learning—Indiana’s most prestigious honor for engaged academic work. She has also won the 2015 Exceptional Teaching Impact and Motivation Student Voice Award for Outstanding Spanish Teacher from the Indiana chapter of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese.

Moreno said she is deeply honored to have won the Sheedy Award, and she sees the recognition as an opportunity to shed light on the importance of integrating community engagement into education.

“As an academic, I know it’s very easy to separate yourself, living in the four walls of your office and the four walls of your classroom and just focusing on your research. But as a society, we’ve gotten to the point where we cannot afford to do that,” she said.

“We have a responsibility to see how our work can have a more direct impact in our communities.”'

Romance languages and literatures associate professor to receive Sheedy Award

 

Friday, October 28, 2016

When Pope Francis visited Cuba in September, 2015, he described the island as “a key between north and south, east and west,” explaining that its “natural vocation is to be a point of encounter for all peoples to join in friendship.” During the recent fall break, Notre Dame students and scholars proved the validity of the Pope’s metaphor by gathering for a conference and course in Cuba’s capital city, Havana.

The conference, “The Search for God in America: The Journeys of Pope Francis to the Americas in 2015,” was hosted by the University’s Institute for Latino Studies and examined the significance of Pope Francis’ visits to the Americas. The course, “Between God and the Party,” was taught by Rev. Robert Pelton, C.S.C. and Peter Casarella, associate professor of theology and director of the Latin American Church Concerns Project. It gave students the opportunity to talk with Cuban youth and learn about US-Cuban relationships and the global expanse of the Catholic Church.

The course was supported by a course development grant from the University’s Center for Social Concerns, which funds courses designed by faculty and graduate students to incorporate social concerns by using the pedagogy of community-based learning.

The international engagement area of the Center for Social Concerns supported Professors Pelton and Casarella by designing and arranging the community-based learning components of the course during the week in Havana.

For more on course development grants, please contact Connie Snyder Mick at cmick@nd.edu. For more on international area initiatives, please contact Rachel Tomas Morgan at rtomasmo@nd.edu.

Seminar students spend fall break in Appalachia

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Originally published in The Observer

Over fall break, 245 Notre Dame students traveled to the Appalachia region of the United States as a part of the Appalachia Fall Seminar through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC). These students participated in service immersions across 19 different locations in Kentucky, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia, Greg White, the lead coordinator for CSC seminars, said in an email.

Tina Bryson, manager of public relations for the Christian Appalachian Project (CAP), said students are vital to meeting the high demand for housing projects in Appalachia.

“We have a backlog of about 500 substandard housing projects that need to be accomplished, and we just can’t do that without volunteers, without students,” she said. “We could never do that with just staffing alone.”

Bryson said Notre Dame has a long history of helping out in Appalachia, particularly with CAP, which hosted two groups of Notre Dame students last week.

“CAP has been around for a while,” Bryson said. “This is our 51st year. I believe Notre Dame students have been coming for about 40 years.”

Bryson said one goal of the program was to eliminate the stereotype that those in need are lazy and rely solely on others for help.

“Each family that CAP serves is part of that building process, whether they help in the building of the house, or they prepare food for the crew,” she said. “They are part of helping themselves. I think the goal is to show poverty, but also to show that these are just real people at the end of the day, to break down any stereotypes and barriers. Any of us could be in that situation where we need some help.”

Ryan Hergenrother, a sophomore who did his immersion in War, West Virginia with Big Creek People in Action, Inc., said students had to research their region before the group departed in order to fully prepare themselves for the trip.

“We did different readings and watched documentaries on the politics of the region, focusing on the changing demographics over time and the importance of coal there,” he said. “These factors affect their society and have shaped where they are right now.”

Hergenrother said this research allowed his group to keep in mind the region’s larger issues while working on their service project.

“During the day it was all about home repair, so we did sealing, siding and painting,” he said. “At night, we did reflections, saying our highs and lows of the day, what we thought about the different problems in the region and how solutions could be thought of.”

Sophomore Brittany Margritz — who went to Bethlehem Farms in Talcott, West Virginia for her immersion — said she did everything from farm chores to home repair. One of the highlights of the trip was her group, even though she didn’t know any of the members prior to the seminar, she said.

“It was just a reminder that a lot of the best things in life are about community and the people you’re with,” she said.

Margritz said this feeling of community was bolstered by the lack of access to any kind of modern technology or social media.

“One of the best parts of it was that we couldn’t use our phones, so everybody was just with each other, and there were no screens,” she said. “It was like the outside world didn’t exist.”

Hergenrother said his biggest takeaway from the experience was the impact of even the smallest efforts to help.

“Even if you can’t make the biggest or most widespread difference, your drops in a bucket could still add up,” he said. “Just because you can’t change everything doesn’t mean you can’t change some little things.”

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