Community Engagement Faculty Institute explores childhood adversity and solidarity in South Bend

By: Katie McCauley

June 30, 2021

South Bend has a poverty rate of about 24% and a child poverty rate above 30%. Those high rates indicate a high level of stress for adults and children alike. This year’s Community Engagement Faculty Institute took place from June 2–4 and gathered more than 40 participants to consider how to understand and respond to adverse childhood experiences in solidarity with many local organizations that address unjust adverse community environments.

“We were so happy to gather faculty and community partners in person for the 2021 Community Engagement Faculty Institute (CEFI) after canceling due to the pandemic in 2020. This new crisis in public health has heightened the disparities in social and economic outcomes and we were eager to reconnect face-to-face to hear our partners express their concerns and share their successes,” said Connie Snyder Mick, Director of Academic Affairs and the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor at the Center for Social Concerns.

CEFI participants from diverse backgrounds explored what it means to work toward a trauma-informed approach to community engagement through readings, presentations, and site visits in the local community. Together they read The Deepest Well: Healing the Long Term Effects of Childhood Adversity by Dr. Nadine Burke Harris and engaged with Notre Dame Provost Marie Lynn Miranda's readings for the Moment to See, Courage to Act initiative. Community partners such as La Casa de Amistad and the Robinson Community Learning Center shared new initiatives and creative responses to the growing needs in the community, particularly those that affect children. 

“I am a relative newcomer to Notre Dame, and one of the things that really drew me to the University was its strong sense of mission,” said Carolina Avendano, Director of Research Operations for the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative at Notre Dame. “It was wonderful to be part of this year’s Community Engagement Faculty Institute and really see how our values can be put in practice as we focus on supporting the community we all share.”

With the Institute being an interdisciplinary and inclusive event, participants were encouraged to discern how they could use their expertise to work with community partners to create flourishing neighborhoods that nourish childhoods free from trauma. 

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


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