Center Standouts Named Rhodes Scholars

By: JP Shortall

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,

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