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CSC seminars offer opportunities to engage in various communities

| Thursday, August 26, 2021

The Center for Social Concerns (CSC) — which organizes Notre Dame’s community-engaged courses, domestic and international summer service learning programs (SSLPs and ISSLPs) and social concerns courses — hosted a series of information sessions on their one-credit social concerns seminars on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. An outdoor welcome back event which featured ample free snacks, informational recourses and an ice cream truck kicked off the Monday session.

“Seminars are one-credit courses with an immersion component,” explained Greg White, who has worked in a business and logistics role at the CSC for seven years, on Monday. “Almost all of [the immersions] are during fall break, and one caveat this year is that we’ve arranged for travel to be back by Friday so that everyone can go to the USC game.”

Claire Reid | The Observer
Students attend one of the information sessions held by the Center for Social Concerns outside the library Monday.

The Center will also offer three locally-based seminars without an immersion component. Students in the “Organizing, Power and Hope,” “Labor in South Bend and “Art of Neighboring seminars will instead engage in the South Bend community throughout the semester.

“If you have a conflict over break, that could be a choice for you if you’re interested in taking a seminar,” White said.

Popular seminars include “Energy, Climate and Social Change and “U.S. Healthcare: Poverty and Policy,” which feature an immersion component in Washington D.C. Additionally, White said the Appalachia seminar is the most hands-on and service-heavy seminar as well as the largest, with 200 students split into 15 groups serving at various sites across the rural United States.

“Of the many things that I have learned during my seminar experiences, I have discovered that engaging in ways that may initially feel uncomfortable or foreign often yield the most fruitful experiences,” said junior Aidan Creeron, who participated in the Appalachia seminar in spring 2020.

Creeron, who has participated in two additional seminars during his time at Notre Dame, will again take part in the Appalachia seminar this fall, this time as a student leader.

“Each of these [seminar] teams is led by a pair of undergrad leaders,” White said. “A lot of colleges will have staff members travel with groups like these, but part of our mission is leadership development. Team leaders [are] working now with the instructors, looking at applications and helping us build teams.”

Fall semester seminars will begin meeting weekly in mid-September following the August 25 application deadline.

“Seminar classes are pass/fail which takes away some of the pressure of making every assignment perfect,” said Alyssa Sutanto, a junior neuroscience student who participated in the “Act Justly: Racial Justice in America seminar in 2020 and led the “Realities of Race: Mass Incarceration” seminar last spring.

Any work assigned is usually to give you a good framework to work with during class, so it definitely benefits your learning experience without adding too much of a load,” Sutanto explained. “There are also usually a lot of group projects, which adds a layer of collaboration that I appreciate.”

Sutanto added that she encourages everyone to take part in a seminar and be open to the different experiences, perspectives, ideas and conversations that participation brings. 

“It’s a great place to figure out the next step you should take to help the causes you are passionate about,” she said. “Seminars help put you in an action-oriented mindset and stray away from performative solidarity. It makes you reconsider what you are actually doing versus what you should be doing. It’s not always easy to confront your own actions or inaction, but seminars are a great way to take the first step.”

Last spring, Nathaniel Burke, a junior environmental engineering student, had the opportunity to present ideas on how Notre Dame could better incorporate sustainable practices and approach complex, interdisciplinary environmental issues as a student in the Engaged CST leadership seminar on sustainability. He echoed Sutanto’s sentiment about the value of the seminars. 

“I would one hundred percent recommend students apply for a seminar they are interested in,” he said. “The Center for Social Concerns is a hub for thoughtful, passionate people who want to be a force for good in the world, and seminars are an excellent way to get involved and grapple with important issues.”

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