Professor receives proclamation from South Bend

“With entrepreneurship, you’re teaching people to dream and how to pursue those dreams,” says Michael Morris, professor of entrepreneurship and social innovation at the Keough School of Global Affairs. 

Last week, South Bend Mayor James Mueller honored Morris’ groundbreaking efforts to eradicate poverty in South Bend with a proclamation recognizing the creation and success of the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program. The program, which Morris started in early 2020, seeks to reduce poverty in South Bend by providing one-on-one consulting, mentoring and training programs. These integrated programs aim to form and support small businesses and ventures, particularly for those facing economic or systemic disadvantages.

Morris designed the program after observing the city pour significant expenditures into poverty reduction each year. Despite these efforts, his research finds that the national poverty rate has remained largely unchanged for the past 60 years. Morris saw a specific need in South Bend to adjust the way we combat poverty. 

“In places like South Bend, if you look at the minority population, if you look at a disadvantaged population, the poverty rate is twice the national average,” Morris said.

The program aids over 70 entrepreneurs a year, and has expanded to over 26 cities and eight countries around the globe, including Ecuador, India and Uganda. However, Morris believes that without the program’s focus on addressing systemic issues by aiding individuals in South Bend first, global expansion of this program would not have been possible.

“The focus of our program is global. If we’re going to have an impact on other places, then we need to be doing something at home,” Morris said.

Morris entered the Notre Dame and South Bend communities as a professor of the practice in 2019 following his role as a professor of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Florida and the University of Cape Town. 

His focus on poverty reduction in particular draws from his experience of creating the first-ever academic department of entrepreneurship at Syracuse University and the first school of entrepreneurship at Oklahoma State. 

Morris’s transition to the South Bend community drove him to focus on the aspect of entrepreneurship he finds most meaningful — empowerment. 

“The opportunity to come to Notre Dame and focus not on entrepreneurship, and instead focus on poverty was very exciting,” Morris said. “Entrepreneurship is a vehicle to help the disadvantaged, whether those are Native Americans, women, inner-city folks or township residents in South Africa.”

Noting that the South Bend Entrepreneurship and Adversity Program “is a program that moves people out of poverty,” Morris hopes his work will not just provide financial growth, but also instill agency and self-confidence in the lives of the individuals he’s helping.

Reflecting upon one of the most memorable impacts he’s observed through the program, he said, “We had a woman on the program here who, a year earlier, spent a month living in a car with her daughter and has found her way and created a business.”

Morris said that current programs don’t do enough to meet the needs of people in poverty.

“There’s a lot of amazing people in our community and they’ve been ignored. Existing programs, even existing entrepreneurship programs are not tailored. And that’s the key. You have to meet the folks we’re serving where they are,” he said.

Morris’ formation of intentional connections with his students and the community at large are the inspiration for his work. 

“I mean, when you teach what I teach … entrepreneurship can change people’s lives, especially people who are disadvantaged. It doesn’t get any better than that,” Morris said.

Contact Kate Kirwan at


‘These are hardcore guys’: Town hall debates U.S.-China relations

As President Biden flew back to Washington D.C. from the G20 summit, where he met with Xi Jinping, members of the Notre Dame community stepped out of the snow into Jenkins-Nanovic Hall on Wednesday night for a conversation about U.S.-China relations.

Notre Dame was one of 80 locations to partake in the CHINA Town Hall, a project of the non-profit National Committee on U.S.-China Relations hosting local conversations across the country around the American approach to China, followed by a livestreamed address to all the gatherings delivered this year by Jon Hunstman, former U.S. ambassador to Singapore, China and Russia.

“The National Committee on U.S.-China Relations is an organization that for decades has been trying to promote understanding of China in the U.S.,” Michel Hockx, director of the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies, told The Observer.

Sponsored by the Liu Insitute, Notre Dame’s panel event featured Isheika Cleare, a Notre Dame political science doctoral candidate, Joshua Eisenman, a professor of politics in the Keough School and Tengfei Luo, a professor in the College of Engineering.

“The relationship between China and the U.S. is extremely worrying,” Hockx said. “One thing we can do at universities is to try and use our brains to come up with potential solutions and to be willing to have debates and dialogues.”

Eisenman delivered remarks on why rapprochement — an establishment of cordial or harmonious relations — with China is unlikely in the current moment. Tracing a history of growing extremity in the top ranks of the Chinese Communist Party over the past decade as one of the obstacles to a positive relationship. He said that the U.S. would need to wait for leaders in China who might be more open to a relationship.

“Look at the leadership right now. These are hardcore guys, man… These are not people who want rapprochement for the United States,” Eisenman told the audience. “You have to have a tango partner, you got to have someone who wants to dance. And I just don’t see anybody in the Chinese leadership who can dance, because Xi Jinping is the chairman of all things.”

Cleare spoke to the effects of the U.S.-China rivalry on the region, a focus of her ongoing dissertation research.

“What about the other nations in Asia? It’s not all China and the U.S. There are other nations, I assure you,” she said. 

Cleare identified a push-and-pull between the need for security and economic development, and how the two superpowers impact those priorities. She said that American disengagement in Asia, particularly with regard to trade, has weakened our alliances.

“There’s worry about U.S. commitment. The United States tends to struggle with maintaining focus on Asia. Singapore’s former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew criticized American policymakers for treating international relations as though it was a movie, where they could press pause when they got distracted and then simply press play when they were ready to reengage,” she said.

Closing her remarks, she harkened back to Lee’s metaphor.

“So America needs to be able to show that it’s willing to fulfill its obligations and promises, that it’s able to do so, and that it intends to concentrate on Asia for the long haul, instead of coming back to press play, and hoping that the movie is just where they left it,” she said.

Luo spoke to American policies “made with the intent to enhance use the U.S.’s position to compete with China,” arguing that they did more damage than harm.

In particular, Luo made reference to the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which sought to target espionage, particularly in academic settings, and intellectual property theft. The project was ended earlier this year, but he argued that the attempted prosecution of Chinese scientists for collaborating with colleagues in China under the initiative was damaging to the United States by scaring Chinese-American scientists and scaring away potential talent that would seek to come to the U.S.

“You don’t start a fight by stabbing yourself in the hands, no matter how strong you are. I think the policy is changing, fortunately, but the damage is done,” he said.

Luo’s comments on the China Initiative sparked debate on the panel, and throughout the room. Eisenman shoehorned in a response while answering a separate question, citing a Chinese proverb which he translated as “one piece of s*** spoils the pot of porridge.”

“We should not pretend as if the China Initiative fell out of space, guys. A lot of sneaky nasty business was going on. A lot of stuff was walking out the door. And I’m sorry, but the way you presented is like classic selection bias. Because you forgot all the cases when people really were up to nasty business and you selected only the ones where they’re doing the good,” Eisenman said.

“I think it’s important to recognize that U.S. policy is not formulated based on the desire to destroy U.S.-China relations. It’s formulated because there’s a response to a certain behavior that may go too far or may do things that are wrong, but it doesn’t come in a vacuum,” he elaborated.

In a response to a separate audience question, Luo added his defense.

“I actually want to take this opportunity to respond,” he said.

Eisenman interjected to say, “Good, that’s how we debate.”

Luo disagreed, saying, “No, this was not a debate. You said that I selected cases if you look at the stats, all of the charges are not about the technology transfer. Okay, so the China initiative is supposed to catch Chinese spies … there’s strong empirical evidence that like the rate of bad cases being bought by the FBI is very high.”

The room also argued over the merit of internment camps in Xinjiang province, where the U.N. has accused the Chinese government of human rights abuses against more than a million Uyghur Muslims. The United States has declared the situation a genocide, as have a number of other countries. An audience member originally from the province stood to argue that prior to 2008, Uyghurs “actually lived pretty good,” and that the Chinese government was compelled to establish the camps over concerns of terrorism.

Eisenman said that China values its domestic priorities over its international ones, and because the camps in Xinjiang are a domestic issue, the government would not allow the international alarm to curb its actions.

“So it was a choice between the U.S.-China relationship, and China’s Xinjiang policy, it’s gonna be prioritized, and this is what we’ve seen,” he said.

Much of the room cleared out for the hour-long Hunstman address, streamed via a YouTube live video. In his talk, the former ambassador who has served in every administration from Reagan to Trump, addressed the current situation with China, identifying ways to move forward, and levels of collaboration that are possible while challenging China’s aggression.

Former ambassador Jon Hunstman addressed the event in a livestreamed conversation. / Credit: Isa Sheikh | The Observer
Former ambassador Jon Hunstman addressed the event in a livestreamed conversation. / Credit: Isa Sheikh | The Observer

Hunstman also spoke to the connection and conflict between China and Russia, both countries he has served as an ambassador.

“Being large border states — Russia and China — they’re not natural friends and allies because border states typically are not. If you look at the late ‘60s, you know how close they came to nuclear war over border disputes. This is not a match made in heaven,” he said.

Hunstman added that he believes the relationship is superficial due to Putin wanting legitimacy in the eyes of Chinese.

“I’ve watched this relationship for a very long time. And I’m asked a lot about, well, ‘What about this relationship?’ And you know, ‘Is it really as deep as we’re led to believe?’ I don’t think it’s that deep,” he said. “I think it’s very superficial. I think that it’s very transactional. So what does Putin want? Putin wants to be seen in the presence of Chinese leadership. It brings in what he craves, which is legitimacy and credibility. I hate it every time I see it, because I don’t want Putin to get legitimacy and credibility.”

Hockx reflected on the evening’s town hall. He pointed out “the exchange of opinions, with our panelists coming at the question of U.S.-China relations from different angles, which is exactly we at the Liu Institute like to do.”

Contact Isa Sheikh at


Former Colombian president discusses climate, peace in Keough panel

Former Colombian president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Juan Manuel Santos headlined a panel on environmental protection and peacebuilding at the Keough School of Global Affairs’ Washington, D.C. office Tuesday. He and other panelists discussed the relationship between climate change and international conflict, advocating for action on environmental risks to foster peace in climate-vulnerable countries.

In September, Santos, a distinguished policy fellow with the Keough School, delivered the annual Hesburgh Lecture in Ethics and Public Policy, highlighting peacebuilding. He was joined in the panel, entitled “The Interconnectedness of Peace and Nature Conservation,” by Daniela Raik, executive vice president of field operations at the science and policy nonprofit Conservation International, and Michael Keating, executive director of the European Institute for Peace.

“The acute environmental crisis and the growing security and comfort threats we face are interconnected,” Santos said. “Every day of inaction on the environmental crisis intensifies tomorrow’s security risks.”

He offered two examples of how the climate crisis seeds political conflict. 

“Transboundary water disputes are among the biggest climate security risks,” Santos said. “Climate-induced displacement and migration exacerbates tensions and conflict if met with inflammatory politics, and we’re seeing this all around the world.”

He called on wealthy countries to invest in “environmental integrity” rather than war. 

“The USA spends over $100 billion per year on defense, but less than $6 billion dollars on international climate finance,” Santos said. “Governments must stop spending trillions of dollars per year that stoke insecurity and conflict.”

In 2016, Santos was the sole recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in shaping the Colombian Peace Accord, an agreement that ended the country’s 52-year armed conflict — the longest armed conflict in the Western Hemisphere. Santos said this experience, as well as Colombia’s Indigenous population, drove his interest in environmental issues. 

“‘Make peace with the FARC,’” Santos said Indigenous leaders told him, referring to the guerrilla army with whom the Colombian government entered the Peace Accord. “‘But also, make peace with nature.’”

Calls for environmental action in Colombia track with the country’s unique climate. According to the World Wildlife Fund, Colombia is the second-most biodiverse country in the world and the most biodiverse per square kilometer.

Daniela Raik also emphasized the critical role of Indigenous voices in bridging grassroot efforts to government policy. 

“There is a network of Indigenous organizations that is pan-Amazonian,” she said. “And they’re coming together and they’re working with Conservation International and others as a vehicle for really bridging that gap between local action and the policy sphere.” 

Michael Keating praised Colombia’s Peace Accord for its implementation and acknowledgment of climate change.

“Climate change is not typically thought of as a formal part of peace agreements,” he said. “I have to say Colombia is the standout example of a comprehensive peace agreement. It sets the bar both in terms of the detail of the peace agreement, but also the mechanism that has been put in place to hold parties to account and to ensure its implementation.”

That mechanism is the Peace Accords Matrix, an initiative by Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies that monitors and verifies the implementation of the 2016 Peace Accord. According to the University, this marks the first time a collegiate research center has played such a large role in implementing a peace agreement.

Still, Keating was skeptical of current conflict prevention and resolution.

“It isn’t happening. It simply isn’t happening enough,” he said. “It’s as if the rhetoric is increasing, but the reality is not really changing that much.”

Santos related these political conflicts to environmental issues in simple terms. 

“I think we need to approach the problem of the environment as we approach the problem of human rights,” he said. “Nature, also, has rights.”

You can contact Aidan O’Malley at


Tri-campus Thursday: South Asia Group brings interdisciplinary scholars together

Students and faculty members gathered over samosas and steaming cups of chai in 2148 Jenkins and Nanovic Halls on Wednesday for the South Asia Group’s first event this semester. The South Asia Group is an interdisciplinary group of faculty, scholars and students at Notre Dame whose work relates to the region that includes Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 

At the event, professors and students engaged in free-flowing conversations ranging from nationalistic propaganda in India to handicraft artisans in Nepal. 

Susan Ostermann, assistant professor of global affairs and political science for the Keough School of Global Affairs, founded the South Asia Group in 2017 with professors Nikhil Menon, Lakshmi Iyer and Amitava Dutt. Menon and Iyer were new to the University at the time, while Dutt has been at Notre Dame since 1988.

“There were enough of us working on South Asia but in different fields, and almost all of us had been accustomed to being at universities that had a larger community within our fields. I was hired to teach South Asian politics because nobody was doing it, so I was not expecting a community here, but in the spirit of the Keough School … we thought interdisciplinary work had a real place,” Ostermann said.  

The group’s events are funded by the Liu Institute for Asia and Asian Studies.

“Even though the Institute was envisioned as a place that focuses on East Asia, Michel Hockx who runs it is very inclusive,” Ostermann said.

The South Asia Group typically meets four times a semester.

“After the pandemic, it was a little bit challenging to get people to remember we existed, and so we started doing the chai and samosa events to draw people in. It was so enjoyable that we continued doing it just because it brings everybody together,” Ostermann said.

According to the Liu Institute’s website, the group will be hosting two guest speakers this semester, including Yaqoob Bangash, a Notre Dame alumnus and Fulbright fellow at the Mittal Institute at Harvard University. Bangash will speak about the emergence of Pakistan as a postcolonial state. The group also plans to have an event later this semester for students to present their work related to South Asia.

Students can also get involved through taking courses and research assistance through channels like the Kellogg International Scholars Program or independently, Ostermann said.

“We have a lot of relatively young faculty [working on South Asia] so all of us have a very active research agenda … just email us,” she said. 

Ostermann and Iyer are also organizing a conference related to issues of democracy rights and development in May 2023.

“In 2019 we held a conference at the Keough School’s [Washington] D.C. office that put Notre Dame academics in dialogue with policymakers and academics from elsewhere. The topic was religion, development and South Asia at the time,” Ostermann said.

The upcoming conference will be held in Washington D.C. again, but will be livestreamed so it is accessible to the broader campus community.

Mahan Mirza, executive director of the Ansari Institute for Global Engagement with Religion, participated in the 2019 conference.

“At that point I was working on advancing scientific and theological literacy among madrasa graduates in India and Pakistan with Ebrahim Moosa, and the conference was fantastic,” Mirza said. 

As an Islamic studies scholar, Mirza and members of the Ansari Institute often do projects in collaboration with the South Asia Group through the Liu Institute. Mirza is glad the group is increasing awareness about the region.

“Whenever the chai and samosa events get announced, you’ve even got people coming from the architecture school and Mendoza and it’s generated really interesting conversations,” Mirza said.

Prithvi Iyer, a member of the class of 2023 Master of Global Affairs (MGA) cohort who attended the event, got involved with the South Asia Group in March.

“Last semester the hijab row in India was pretty strong … given the amount of talk at Notre Dame about laïcité secularism and the burqa ban in France … not much was being done in the South Asian context,” Prithvi said.

Prithvi organized a panel about India’s hijab row featuring Nabeela Jamil, an attorney practicing in the Supreme Court of India, Notre Dame professor Julia Kowalski and journalist Fatima Khan to discuss the issue and its parallels with religious freedom in the West. 

Prithvi also attended the group’s chai and samosa gatherings last semester, where he was able to meet other graduate students and faculty members with similar research interests. 

Prithvi hopes the South Asia Group will make the University a place where community members critically engage with discourse about South Asia.

“[Indian Prime Minister] Narendra Modi’s rise in the context of rising autocracies in the world is a very important case study, not because he’s Indian, or because I’m Indian … but because 1.3 billion people somehow gave the largest political mandate … as a product of democracy, to a leader like him,” Prithvi said. “These are important questions that shouldn’t be thought of purely geographically as being a South Asian problem. These are questions that have enormous significance, like the way we think about the West.”

Contact Angela Mathew at


Klau Center granted institute status

The Klau Center for Civil and Human Rights has been elevated to an institute following a large donation from Rick and Molly Klau, according to a University press release Wednesday. The Klau Institute falls within the Keough School of Global Affairs and offers a curriculum in which students explore critical issues through the lens of Catholic social tradition, according to its website.

As a result of its elevation to the institute level, the institute will increase its capacity to educate students and assume “greater responsibility for national and international engagement,” according to the release.

The release emphasized that the center’s recent initiatives, such as the Building an Anti-Racist Vocabulary lecture series, will be supplemented and supported by the new donations.

Scott Appleby, the Marilyn Keough dean of the Keough School, expressed his gratitude to the Klaus for their gift.

“Protecting, advancing and enforcing human rights and civil rights are central to the pursuit of justice for all people, to Catholic social teaching and to the mission of Notre Dame,” Appleby said in the release. “The Klau Institute for Civil and Human Rights, which will educate countless generations of Notre Dame students and help train civil rights and human rights lawyers and advocates, is a gift to the University and to the world.”

The Klau family endowed the institute in 2018 with a $10 million gift. Former University President Fr. Theodore Hesburgh founded the institute in 1973 with the mission of advancing the “God-given dignity of all human persons,” according to the website.


Former Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos delivers annual Hesburgh Lecture

Juan Manuel Santos, the former president of Colombia and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, delivered the annual Hesburgh Lecture in Ethics and Public Policy on Tuesday evening, discussing unconventional methods of peacebuilding in the world today. Santos is a distinguished policy fellow with the Keough School of Global Affairs, where he is co-teaching a master level course.

Santos was the sole recipient of the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize for his key participation in ending the oldest ongoing armed conflict of the Western Hemisphere with the Colombian Peace Agreement on November 24, 2016. He has additionally received the Lamp of Peace from the Sacred Convent of Assisi in Italy and the Tipperary International Peace Award in Ireland for his work in promoting harmony in his country and region.

“Building peace is much harder than making war,” Santos proclaimed in his acceptance speech in Oslo, only a few weeks after signing the agreement. “It takes a great deal of patience, the stamina to suffer multiple setbacks along the way and the readiness to settle in for the long haul.”

In his lecture, Santos spoke on the importance of changing his methods and opinions to bring forth a more peaceful world. He reflected on the evolution of his stances on the war on drugs and the environment: from violence and indifference into peace building and advocacy. 

“You will always find unexpected obstacles and you must be willing to change your course,” Santos remarked. “Change your views without sacrificing your values or your principles.”

He also emphasized that this is no easy feat. Santos commented that every peacemaker is called a traitor when push comes to shove. The peacemaker loses political capital and must nevertheless keep on going, for the peacemaker’s role is not one of conflict but one of persuasion, he said.

 “Instead of giving orders, you have to persuade. You have to convince the people who have suffered to forgive the perpetrators and that is much more difficult,” he told the audience.

Regardless of the issue at hand, he insisted that every problem has a reachable solution.

“But don’t get discouraged. History has taught us again and again that even in the midst of darkness […], there is always a light,” he said. “A light that allows us to see a better future.”

Santos closed the 29th Annual Hesburgh Lecture with a challenge for every Notre Dame student while reinforcing the idea that anyone can make the impossible possible.

“I challenge you to lead with hope, not fear; to build bridges instead of walls; to foster solidarity and respect for diversity,” Santos said.

He followed by insisting to always place humanity first, not one’s country, religion or race. He encouraged leading with empathy, seeking opportunities in every difficulty and embracing change. Above all, he told students and future leaders to be optimistic in a world flooded with pessimism.

“If you lead with a positive mind and with the truth, you will make the world a better place,” Santos said. “And let it be said about you that one life has breathed easier because you have lived.”

Contact Carlos Basurto at