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Center for Social Concerns


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Fall Semester Seminars

Social Concerns Seminars are one-credit service learning and community-based learning courses with experiential-learning immersion components imbedded within the course. Most immersion components take place during fall, winter, and spring break and involve students traveling to a variety of locations to engage social concerns topics within their contexts. Students examine social issues from a variety of perspectives, engage in mutually beneficial relationships with the community, read relevant texts, study the role of catholic social tradition (CST), and take ownership in building active learning communities throughout their educational experience within the seminar. We hope you will join us this year for such a journey.


Wed. |  Aug. 26  | 4:30-5 PM
Information Session
Geddes Hall, McNeill Library


All students will receive email notification seven to ten days after the application deadline to confirm their placement status. Accepted St. Mary's College students need to register through the SMC/ND Co-Exchange Program.



Social Concerns Seminar Leadership

Social Concerns Seminars depend significantly upon our student leaders. We begin seeking leaders in the spring for the upcoming academic year. We offer well over 20 seminars a year and this requires over 60 leaders. Seminar student leader positions include leading peers at Appalachia sites, Urban Plunge sites, and within smaller seminars (Energy, Climate, and Social Change; Migrant Experience, U.S. Health Care, Gospel of Life, etc.).

Social Concerns Seminar: Appalachia

A service learning and community based learning course, this seminar involves experiential learning at a variety of different sites in the Appalachia region of the United States. Coupled with six class sessions providing preparation and follow up, students will spend their midterm break on immersion with one of about 18 community partners in Appalachia. While learning about the communities in this region and the challenges they face and hopes they possess, students may focus on themes such as sustainability, rural health care, housing, education, energy, food justice, or a combination thereof.

Social Concerns Seminar: Border Issues—México-U.S. Border Immersion (3-credit course)

This seminar will expose students to diverse perspectives about México-U.S. border and immigration issues. During the winter break students will travel to the Southern Arizona borderlands and will attend legal proceedings focused on immigration, participate in humanitarian service efforts for migrants, hear religious leaders discuss their current and past border ministry work, and travel through the desert and ports of entry assuming that security is not an issue.

Social Concerns Seminar: Energy, Climate, and Social Change

This course will examine the complex narratives around the role of energy in society and its relation to the current climate discussion. Focusing on various policies and practices and how those shape our global energy context, students will consider hopeful solutions toward a more sustainable energy and climate model. Traveling to Washington, D.C., students will meet with wide spectrum of industry leaders, government officials, regulatory agencies, and environmental advocacy groups in their efforts to resolve contemporary energy and environmental issues.

Social Concerns Seminar: Gospel of Life

The goal of the Gospel of Life Seminar is to provide students with the opportunity to read and reflect on a consistent ethic of life through experiential learning. Exploration begins in the orientation classes where students will become familiar with various life issues (end of life issues, poverty, bio-ethics, creation care, death penalty, a full concept of being pro-life, etc) through readings, lectures, and by meeting people who work on life-related issues across the spectrum. This year the seminar will be traveling to Portland Oregon to meet with various organizations, NPO’s, advocacy groups, and local communities serving and dialoguing around the topic of life.

Social Concerns Seminar: Hands of St. André: A Seminage to André House in Phoenix 

The Center for Social Concerns has partnered with Campus Ministry to offer a ‘seminage’ (seminar-pilgrimage) to examine the life and spirit of St. André Bessette and the multiple ways in which humanity is impoverished (financial and spiritual). Students will have the opportunity to travel to André House in Phoenix, Arizona over fall break and bear witness to the Gospel and spirit of Saint André by serving the local community through the André hospitality houses, reflecting upon our own internal poverty through prayer and reflection, and engaging in a larger conversation around systemic poverty and the need for communal, internal, and societal healing.

Social Concerns Seminar: Human Trafficking: Causes, Responses, and Current Debates

The seminar will explore a number of overarching themes necessary to understand the complex dimensions of human trafficking, both in the United States and around the world. By the end of the course, students should expect to have a foundational understanding of human trafficking and modern-day slavery, especially related to: various typologies of slave-like exploitation today, along with forces that promote them; legal frameworks, policy initiatives and civil society responses to fight modern slavery; and current debates over effective strategies to combat human trafficking and support survivors.

Social Concerns Seminar: Incarceration

Over the past 30 years, incarceration in the U.S. increased by more than 800%. That explosive growth rate is now slowing, but we still imprison more people, per capita, than any other country in the world. And we imprison disproportionate numbers of African-American and Latino people, causing serious harm to their families and communities. This seminar gives students an overview of hyper-incarceration, including historical factors that have shaped this system and some of the cultural values and assumptions it reflects. Students are encouraged to think about their own place in relation to hyper-incarceration, and about their responsibilities for the system that operates in their names.

Leadership Training in Social Concerns Seminar

This seminar will serve to prepare seminar leaders for immersion experiences over fall break. The seminar aims to improve overall leadership skills, facilitate communal learning across seminars, and uniformly prepare leaders for the specific aspects of Center seminars. The course will consist of approximately 5–6 classes around a particular leadership themes led by Center staff and faculty. This seminar will culminate in leading a fall immersion or leading at an Appalachia site. Departmental approval required.

Social Concerns Seminar Directed Readings Options


Fall Semester Courses


Poverty and Development in Chile

The Poverty and Development Course in Santiago, Chile, is a multi-disciplinary course combining experiential and service learning with social analysis, theological reflection and ethical viewpoints. The course is taught by Professor Isabel Donoso at the Jesuit University Alberto Hurtado, which has many graduate and undergraduate academic resources in the social sciences, theology, and new forms of education.

Social Concerns Seminar: Discernment 

Available to seniors only; does not include an immersion

The Discernment Seminar provides senior-level undergraduate students an opportunity to reflect on their Notre Dame experience and consider postgraduate plans with one another through small-group discussion. Each session is structured to assist the students’ exploration and articulation of their respective vocations through a variety of means, including narrative theology, spiritual direction, literature, and the arts.


Community-Based Research: Geotagging the Near Northwest Neighborhood

This introductory seminar will introduce students to Community-Based Research (CBR) as a model for the research process. CBR supports democratic processes by involving academic researchers and community partners in addressing community problems. It is, therefore, a collaborative research process oriented toward community improvement. Students will participate in shared learning about the CBR process through readings, discussions, and examples of applications with invited faculty, student, and community partners who are engaged in CBR. Students will have the opportunity to be involved in CBR with a local organization or group.


Rethinking Crime and Justice: Exploration from the Inside Out

(includes a weekly trip to a correctional facility)

This course brings Notre Dame students together with incarcerated students at Westville Correctional Facility to explore the causes and costs of crime, consider myths and realities related to punishment, and develop ideas for responding more effectively to crime in our communities. This course follows the Inside-Out model of prison exchange now well established across the United States ( Students must apply and be selected to enroll in the course.


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