The Department of History affirms the understanding that individuals possess innate dignity, an idea underscored by the Judeo-Christian belief that all persons are made in the image and likeness of God.  Informed by the University of Notre Dame's "Spirit of Inclusion" statement (1997), the Department of History welcomes "all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality" and works to sustain an inclusive environment.


Recent News

Historian Darren Dochuk exploring American oil and religion with support from NEH

March 02, 2017

Darren Dochuk, associate professor in Notre Dame’s Department of History, will spend a year exploring the connection between religion and the oil industry with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The NEH has offered Dochuk both a fellowship and a Public Scholar Award for the project, which will allow him to complete his book, Anointed With Oil: God and Black Gold in America’s Century.

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Arts and Letters students receive funding for internships around the world

February 10, 2017

Since it began in 2010, the Arts and Letters Summer Internship Program (ALSIP) has awarded over $600,000 in funding to more than 250 students who gain experience and explore career options in a real-world environment—anywhere from C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., to a product design firm in New York City, to a nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa.

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Video: Historian Patrick Griffin on imperial reform and revolution

February 10, 2017

Patrick Griffin is the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His research interests include colonial and revolutionary America, early modern Irish and British history, and Atlantic history. In this video, he discusses how his research integrates American history with British history and Irish history to examine trends and dynamics that connected the old world to the new world.

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In Memoriam: Luis Laita

Laita CroweLuis Laita (right) and Michael Crowe, together in Spain.

Distinguished mathematical logician Luis Laita, the first person to receive a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame with training in the history and philosophy of science, died on February 24 after a distinguished career teaching artificial intelligence in his native Spain.

As a Ph.D. student at Notre Dame, Laita studied for a period in the Department of Philosophy with prominent logician Boleslaw Sobocinski before transferring to the Department of History to focus on the history of mathematics. His 1976 dissertation, A Study of the Genesis of Boolean Logic, was directed by Michael Crowe, who is the the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor Emeritus of the Humanities in the Program of Liberal Studies and Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science.

Laita then returned to Spain, where he spent most of his career at the Universidad Politéchnica de Madrid. Laita published more than 100 papers, many of which were in English-language journals. In recognition of his scholarly achievements, the Spanish Royal Academy of Sciences electing him as an associate member in 1994.

Crowe, who kept in touch with Laita over the decades, says his former student had very fond memories of his time at Notre Dame. “He was especially grateful to the Department of History, which showed its breadth by accepting this man of many interests,” Crowe said.

Notre Dame was one of the first universities in the United States to offer a graduate degree in the joint field of history and philosophy of science, with an M.A. first offered in 1970 and a Ph.D. added in 1989. The Graduate Program in History and Philosophy of Science is now housed in the John J. Reilly Center for Science, Technology, and Values.

Arts and Letters students receive funding for internships around the world

Since it began in 2010, the Arts and Letters Summer Internship Program (ALSIP) has awarded over $600,000 in funding to more than 250 students interning across the country and around the world.

Students in Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters use internships to gain experience and explore career options in a real-world environment—anywhere from C-SPAN in Washington, D.C., to a product design firm in New York City, to a nonprofit organization in Cape Town, South Africa.

The grant program, administered by The Career Center, provides Arts and Letters students with funding to offset travel and cost-of-living expenses for paid and unpaid internships in any industry and geographic location.

“Employers today all but expect students to have engaged in some real-world opportunities like internships prior to hiring them for full-time employment,” said LoriAnn Edinborough, a career experiential program manager at The Career Center. “But the challenge for many students is that these internships are often unpaid—or are paid, but in an area with a high cost of living—forcing them to decide between the value of the experience and whether they can afford to participate.

“The Arts and Letters Summer Internship eases the financial burden of participating. Students know they have the funds to help pay for housing, food, and transportation to and from the internship.”

Developing new products

Lauterbach CopyRachel Lauterbach

Senior Rachel Lauterbach, an industrial design major and business economics minor, worked in New York City this summer at OXO, a housewares manufacturer.

Working as a product development intern in OXO’s food storage product division, Lauterbach did product testing, researched competitors, and analyzed customers’ product reviews. She even gave presentations of her own ideas for new products that would fit well with OXO’s brand.

The internship was a perfect fit, she said.

“It showed me all of the different things that go into getting a product on the shelf,” she said. “So many people—from project managers to engineers are involved in the design process. And they’re very intentional with every decision they make about a product. It was really cool to see how that works. As a designer, it makes you consider those aspects more.”

And while moving to New York City by herself was intimidating at first, Lauterbach said she’s incredibly glad she did it.

“I’d encourage everyone to take that risk,” she said. “This is exactly what I wanted to do, and to be able to do it—even though it wasn’t paid—was amazing.”

Working behind the scenes

This summer, senior Daniel DeToro worked behind the scenes as a television programming intern with C-SPAN in Washington, D.C.

history and economics major, he worked primarily on Q&A, an hour-long interview program with C‑SPAN founder Brian Lamb, and In Depth, a program featuring authors and their books.

DeToro watched and wrote reviews of new episodes so that the network could determine when and if to air them. He also conducted research on upcoming guests and found supplementary materials such as quotes, photos, and video clips to include in the programs.

“I got to do a lot of things, and it was great working with people who knew so much and who were so willing to answer my questions,” he said.

Working for C-SPAN would not have been possible without ALSIP funding, DeToro said. And while he doesn’t plan to pursue a career in the media industry, the experience was a valuable opportunity to see what the working world is like.

“Learning how to interact in a workplace is great experience,” he said. “Seeing those relationships and learning how to convey what you think is incredibly important.”

Exploring the world of nonprofits

SantellaMeghan Santella (right) with students she tutored in South Africa

Junior Meghan Santella interned with the South African Education and Environment Project, a nonprofit offering educational opportunities to neglected youth.

In Cape Town, she tutored 8th- and 9th-grade students in English and life skills, helped with fundraising, and helped write a manual on child protection to be distributed to local schools.

“The exciting realization I had with this internship is that I can truly end up anywhere in the world,” Santella said. “It allowed me to explore the nonprofit sector and learn about the behind-the-scenes work nonprofits do, as well as the hands-on community interaction that is so important.”

The experience also helped her develop an idea for a senior thesis project and define her future career path.

Santella, a sociology major with a minor in business economics, plans to apply for a teaching fellowship with the Alliance for Catholic Education and eventually attend law school.

“This summer taught me that I am passionate about working with and for people in disadvantaged communities in our own country and around the world,” she said. “I’m not exactly sure where my career will take me, but this internship opportunity definitely reassured me that I am on the right track.”

Originally published by Megan Valley at on December 22, 2016.

Video: Historian Patrick Griffin on imperial reform and revolution


“Collective memory is important for any society to have, and when we forget about the things that make us who we are, or we distort the things that make us who we are, we as a culture can often be in trouble.” 

— Patrick Griffin

Patrick Griffin is the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History at the University of Notre Dame. His research interests include colonial and revolutionary America, early modern Irish and British history, and Atlantic history. More information can be found at Patrick Griffin’s faculty page.

Video Transcript

I study early America from what I would call Atlantic perspectives. And so my work really integrates American history with British history and Irish history and how the various kinds of currents, trends, dynamics that defined that space and connected the old world to the new world allowed Americans, particularly in the 18th century, to redefine they were.

Originally when I was going to go to graduate school, I wanted to be a 19th-century American urban historian. And then a funny thing happens: I took a course on 18th-century America, and I immediately fell in love with it. What I saw was kind of a dynamic world that was really on the cusp of becoming something different, and that captured my imagination. It captured my attention and I’ve been brought back time and time again because i just find there’s so many more interesting things to explore in the 18th century. I’ll never get out of it.

Right now I’m working on a book, finishing a book, on the relationship between imperial reform and revolution. In the 1760s, various imperial officials from all different kinds of places wanted to reform their empires. What was the impulse behind that? This is something that the British, the French, the Spanish, the Portuguese were all dealing with in some kind of way. How did this attempt at reform lead people living in faraway places to kind of imagine new futures for themselves? And eventually this would lead to revolution.

Of course, we live in another age of revolution right now, and in the Middle East and other parts of the world, we’re seeing the fruits of imperial reform in different kinds of ways and how that’s borne out in ways that people could not have predicted earlier on. Collective memory is important for any society to have, and it’s when we forget about the things that make us who we are, or we distort the things that make us who we are, we as a culture can often be in trouble.

I think being at Notre Dame has had a tremendous effect on the way that I think about my work. It’s really been, I think, the community of scholars here that’s really influenced and informed me, not only made of good people but really made of first-rate scholars, and I would say also first-rate teachers. Working with them has been something that has really shaped my approach, probably in subtle ways but ultimately profound ways as well.

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on January 23, 2017.

Video: History major interns at U.S. Embassy in Rome

“An internship abroad is a great starting point for a career abroad,” said Margaret Swinehart, a senior history major in the College of Arts and Letters.

Swinehart spent the summer of 2016 interning at the United States Embassy in Rome, Italy. She worked in the non-immigrant visa unit of the consular section, collecting documents and helping applicants prepare for their interviews.

Swinehart learned about the internship through the Notre Dame Career and Internship Fair hosted by the Career Center. There, she talked with a representative from the U.S. State Department, who was invited to recruit students at the fair by Notre Dame International

“The internship started as just something I was intrigued about,” said Swinehart, who is minoring in constitutional studies and Italian studies. “It has shown me that I would like to pursue a career in government.”

Swinehart had participated in Notre Dame’s spring study abroad program in Rome, and decided that she wanted to stay longer to better experience living abroad.

“I’ve gained a complete new perspective on the city from working here on a daily basis and I would encourage anyone to do it,” she said. “It really has been a great opportunity.”

Originally published by Todd Boruff at on February 06, 2017.

Department of History adds scholars of American and French history to faculty

Notre Dame’s Department of History adds three new faculty members this fall, strengthening its scholarship in 19th century American history, 20th century American history, and 18th and 19th century French history.

Katie Jarvis and Emily Remus join the department as assistant professors, while James “Jake” Lundberg will be director of undergraduate studies.

“We are thrilled with and excited by each of these hires,” said Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History and chair of the department. “All are superb teachers and dedicated scholars, and each brings something different to a department that is among the best in the United States.”

Katie Jarvis

Katie Jarvis Katie Jarvis

Jarvis, who joins Notre Dame from Baylor University, focuses her research on France in the 18th and 19th centuries, particularly politics and gender.

Her current book project, Politics in the Marketplace: Work, Gender, and Citizenship in Revolutionary France, focuses on the “Dames des Halles,” or market women, who helped usher in a new work-based concept of citizenship in their country.

“I’m really fascinated by dynamic moments when people re-envision the world in really dramatic ways,” Jarvis said. 

Jarvis is especially intrigued by movements, such as the French Revolution, that were started by everyday citizens. She studies the events that led to those historical occurrences and their aftermath.

“Her work on France and gender at the time of the Revolution adds great strength to a department already strong in European and Atlantic history,” Griffin said.

Jarvis, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, will teach courses on French and European history, spanning from the 16th century through the 20th century.

Emily Remus

Emily Remus 600 Emily Remus

Remus, who received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, recently completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She researches the intersecting histories of gender, capitalism, and city life in the U.S. at the turn of the 20th century.

“Emily is on the cutting-edge of 20th-century American history, and her work dovetails with that of a number of scholars in the department who focus on capitalism,” Griffin said.

Her forthcoming book, Consumers’ Metropolis: How Monied Women Purchased Pleasure and Power in the New Downtown (Harvard University Press), examines how women factored into commercial public life in the early 1900s.

At the time, hotels, restaurants, and a plethora of stores began cropping up, but tensions emerged surrounding how to include women in these spaces. It was a turning point for the way women were seen in public, she said.

“We can’t imagine opposition to women shopping in our day and age,” Remus said. "Historical research is very personal for me, in the sense that history really got me to think about the world in different ways.”

James “Jake” Lundberg

James Lundberg 600 James Lundberg

Lundberg, who most recently was the Uihlein Assistant Professor of American History at Lake Forest College, studies the cultural and intellectual history of the United States in the 19th century.

“Jake joins an already strong cohort of Americanists, and now gives us an expert on the Civil War,” Griffin said. “He will also lead our undergraduate students as we look to improve on what already is one of the university’s flagship programs.”

He’s currently writing a book about Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, a prominent publication at the time. He plans to use Greeley’s life and experience as a way to examine newspapers and nationalism in the Civil War era.

Lundberg, who received his Ph.D. from Yale University, will teach 19th century American history.

“I look forward to working closely with our talented students and our excellent faculty to build on an already excellent undergraduate program,” he said. “We hope our students will see that the skills and knowledge they build in our discipline will prepare them for any career.”

Originally published by Tom Lange at on September 28, 2016.

Six history graduate students win Fulbright Awards in record-breaking year

From investigating the lives of medieval Islamic scholars to studying 15th-century manuscripts from the confessors of Burgundy, history graduate students at Notre Dame are traveling the world to conduct original research.

Six Ph.D. students in the Department of History have been awarded 2016-17 research grants from the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program.

Elizabeth Baker, Andrea Castonguay, Raymond “JR” Drause, Garrett Fontenot, Danae Jacobson, and Sean Sapp are among a total of 30 Notre Dame students to receive Fulbright awards this year—breaking the previous University-wide Fulbright record of 17, set last year.

“We are thrilled with the great accomplishments of our graduate students,” said Patrick Griffin, the Madden-Hennebry Professor of History and chair of the department. “It speaks volumes to the quality of our graduate program, the commitment of our faculty to graduate education, and the talent and ambition of our students.”

Elizabeth Baker

Elizabeth Baker Elizabeth Baker

Baker received a Fulbright-Nehru Award to travel to India, where she will be working in archives in New Delhi and Chennai and taking classes in Hindi.

Her dissertation on British imperial and gender history is all about representation, she said.

“At its heart, my work asks who speaks for India and for Indian women,” Baker said. “While it is encouraging to see how identity politics have begun to give a voice to the disenfranchised and oppressed that did not exist in the heyday of the British Empire, we still have a long way to go.”

Baker has also conducted research in Britain, with funding from Notre Dame’s Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts and Nanovic Institute for European Studies.

“My project has one foot in Britain and one in India, and without the support of those institutions, I would not have been able to complete research that was essential for both my Fulbright grant proposal and my dissertation.”

Andrea Castonguay

Andrea Castonguay Andrea Castonguay

Castonguay will be spending a year in Morocco to improve her Arabic, deepen her knowledge of Islamic law and its development, and research the medieval Islamic scholars who lived in North Africa and Spain during the Almoravid dynasty.

Medieval Muslim scholars recorded their lives in biographical collections to preserve knowledge of their legal decisions, their teachers and students, their relationships with political leaders, and their travels.

“By mining these works, I plan to build a database that maps the movement of these scholars to compare their travels to what we know about the spread of Islam in North Africa at the time,” she said.

American scholars have long overlooked the history of North Africa and the expansion of Islam, Castonguay said, and missed opportunities to connect with other scholars in the region.

“The fact that the Fulbright Commission recognized the profound need for increased communication between American and North African scholars—and the need for a deeper understanding of the region’s history—is a very good sign for us as a whole,” she said.

Raymond “JR” Drause

Raymond Raymond “JR” Drause

For his dissertation, Drause will travel to Russia, researching Siberian development in the 19th century. Like the other Fulbright scholars, he said the Notre Dame community has been instrumental to his success.

“It is always gratifying and uplifting when someone believes in your work,” said Drause, whose research has also been supported by the Nanovic Institute. “And I want to thank my advisers and colleagues who have provided feedback and encouragement over the years.”

Drause believes the Graduate School’s Office of Grants and Fellowships, and its former director Michael Westrate, deserve immense credit for the University’s success with the Fulbright Program.

“The office provides workshops, lunch-and-learn events, and countless draft reviews,” he said. “They offer support at every step of the application process.”

Garrett Fontenot

Garrett Fontenot Garrett Fontenot

Fontenot’s dissertation explores the political culture of the French Empire in the second half of the 18th century, particularly in France’s former colonies. As a Fulbright scholar, he will be based in Montreal, but will travel throughout Quebec and Ontario to access manuscripts and primary sources.

“Winning a Fulbright represents one of the most humbling and proudest moments of my career,” he said, “especially since I have the honor to receive it alongside so many others in my graduate cohort.”

Fontenot said his mentors at Notre Dame encouraged him to pursue his academic interests in American history beyond the borders of the United States.

“The faculty in the Department of History have inspired me to not shy away from challenges and to pursue bold and innovative ideas when I had them—which led me to take an interest in Canada and, ultimately, apply for the Fulbright.

“I am excited to represent both the United States and Notre Dame in my year in Montreal.”

Danae Jacobson

Danae Jacobson Danae Jacobson

Jacobson is also headed to Canada, to conduct archival research in Ottawa, Ontario, and Montreal, Quebec. She is focusing her dissertation on the intersection of environmental and religious history in North America.

In particular, Jacobson studies communities of religious women who lived and worked on the frontier in North America in order to better understand spiritual landscapes and 19th-century westward expansion.

“On campus, I work with strong scholars in both religious and environmental history,” she said. “This combination is hard to find at a university and tremendously helpful in my research.”

To help prepare her application, Jacobson participated in a multi-week summer workshop offered through the Office of Grants and Fellowships, which provided constant support throughout the process.

“I would not have won—or even applied—without their encouragement,” she said.

Sean Sapp

Sean Sapp Sean Sapp

Sapp will travel to Belgium to do archival research on the confessors of late medieval Burgundy, using manuscripts from the 15th century. He aims to understand why and how confessors made choices between their religious and secular responsibilities.

Spending nine months in the country as a Fulbright scholar will be invaluable, he said.

“It takes time to get familiar with each archive and each manuscript,” Sapp said. “The time I’ll be able to spend there allows for careful and reflective research that will make my project stronger.”

Sapp credits the University’s Summer Language Abroad program with helping him become a more competitive Fulbright candidate (Castonguay and Fontenot also were SLA grant recipients). He received a grant from the Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures to spend summer 2015 in Belgium studying Dutch—the primary language of most scholars in late medieval Burgundy.

“While I was there I made key connections to scholars at the university where I’ll now be researching,” he said. “And I believe my willingness to learn Dutch clearly marked me as someone deserving of the grant.”

Originally published by Carrie Gates at on September 21, 2016.

Notre Dame, Holy Cross lead transformational liberal arts education program at Indiana prison

Kris remembers the moment that everything changed.

It came as he was reading The Goldfinch, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Donna Tartt. It was the moment he discovered the true power of literature. The way it could move him, shape him, change him. The way it could ignite a spark and make him want to read more, think more, learn more.

“I thought, ‘Wow, these are just somebody’s words, but they can produce such strong feelings, emotions,’” he said. “I was fascinated by that — that language can have this effect on a person. That’s when I really wanted to start delving into it.”

That moment came as Kris was an inmate at the Westville Correctional Facility.

Mike remembers the moment that everything changed for him, too.

It came as he was reading a collection of essential American documents and reflecting on the concept of freedom. It was the moment he realized that, though he was incarcerated, his mind had been freed of the problems that led him there. And they wouldn’t be problems in his future.

“These courses helped me escape,” he said. “These help you to not be depressed. They show you there’s more to life, that this isn’t going to be forever. It gives you a way to build yourself up, to have a sense of hope.”

That moment came as Mike was an inmate taking classes taught by University of Notre Dame and Holy Cross College faculty.

Kris and Mike are two of the 37 students currently enrolled in the Westville Education Initiative (WEI), a program that allows select inmates to pursue Holy Cross associate and bachelor’s degrees in liberal studies that will accelerate their eventual re-entry into society.

Driven by a commitment to Catholic social teaching and a strong belief that a liberal arts education can transform lives, WEI has allowed nearly 100 inmates to receive college credit since 2013. Four have earned AA degrees, and seven more will graduate with one this month.

Of the 15 WEI students who have left prison, none have re-entered the correctional system.

Developing a strong foundation in reading, writing, research, public speaking, and critical thinking offers benefits that go far beyond the professional opportunities a degree might one day provide.

“Having the power of complex thought changes the way that people can exist in the world,” said Kate Marshall, a Notre Dame associate professor of English and member of the WEI faculty steering committee. “It changes the way a person relates to a community, the way a person relates to a culture. The liberal arts education provides a model for being in the world.”

Having the power of complex thought changes the way that people can exist in the world. The liberal arts education provides a model for being in the world." Kate Marshall, associate professor of English

A Community of Scholars

It’s a Tuesday afternoon in February, and Gabriel Said Reynolds is leading a class through a close reading of Christian and Islamic texts.

Reynolds, a Notre Dame professor of Islamic studies and theology, frequently guides such conversations in his introductory courses for undergraduates in South Bend. This class, however, looks much different.

The students are all clad in tan jumpsuits. They carry their materials in mesh bags. Their age range spans at least two decades. Half are Christian, half are Muslim.

Once class begins, however, the differences fall away. As Reynolds helps them analyze the assigned texts — today, it’s passages from C.S. Lewis, Thomas Aquinas, the medieval Muslim writer Al-Ghazali, the Bible, and the Quran — the conversation immediately resembles one found in any humanities seminar on the Notre Dame campus.

“They’re really interested and extremely invested in the course,” Reynolds said. “They do the reading, they’re active in class, they ask a lot of questions. It’s also challenging for them, because these are not abstract questions of interpreting a text in an academic way. These are very important topics to them at a personal level.”

For WEI’s founders, creating a thriving intellectual community through intense collegiate coursework has been the goal from day one. Nearly five years ago, a group of Notre Dame and Holy Cross faculty and administrators began exploring the possibility of such a program and developed a relationship with the Bard Prison Initiative, a robust prison education system established in 1999 by Bard College in New York.

In 2013, the program launched at Westville, an all-male prison about 45 miles west of South Bend, with a handful of classes and 20 students enrolled. Now, the program has grown to more than a dozen classes per semester — offerings in science, math, and composition as well as humanities and social science seminars such as the History of Medicine, Labor & America to 1945, and Christ, Church & Culture.

The admissions process is rigorous — 150 inmates from Westville and the Miami (Ind.) Correctional Facility took the entrance essay exam last year, about 70 were selected for personal interviews with members of WEI’s faculty steering committee, and 32 were ultimately admitted to the program.

“We are looking for great potential,” said Alesha Seroczynski, WEI’s director of college operations. “Many applicants did not complete a high school diploma and often earned their GEDs in prison. This is not about doing well on a standardized test or having an excellent high school transcript. We want men who are great thinkers, good writers, and have the potential to be outstanding college students.”

That goal has manifested in men like Ali, a promising student who administrators hope might one day be the first WEI alumnus to enter graduate school.

This semester, he’s in Reynolds’ Islam & Christianity class, as well as the History of Enlightenment and Composition II. He now counts Crime and Punishment and the 18th-century French novel Dangerous Liaisons among his favorite books. Though he entered the program hoping to one day become a writer, he’s thinking bigger now, dreaming of working for a foreign aid organization tackling global issues.

“Through this process, I’ve learned to analyze the world through a different lens,” he said. “The world’s problems aren’t as black and white as we like to think. There’s gray area, and that’s where I’m trying to live. I want to make that gray area colorful.”

We want men who are great thinkers, good writers, and have the potential to be outstanding college students.” Alesha Seroczynski, WEI director of college operations

A Culture of Engagement

Stephen Fallon remembers the moment that changed everything.

Fallon, the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Professor of the Humanities in the Program of Liberal Studies and the Department of English, was handing back the midterm exams in his Shakespeare & Milton course.

He usually offers the upper-level class at Notre Dame, but Fallon had similarly high expectations of his Westville students — careful reading of the texts, engagement in class discussion, thoughtful responses to writing assignments.

In the first half of the semester, one student had been quiet, seemingly disengaged from the material or failing to comprehend it. But seeing Fallon’s response to his essay exam — learning that his ideas had impressed his professor — was a moment of transformation.

“He looked at how well he had done, and you could see in his face that he was surprised,” said Fallon, a member of the group that founded and developed WEI. “He realized he had thoughts of value, that he had done something interesting with the text, that he understood it. That was priceless to me.”

While WEI students currently share living space with inmates not in the program, administrators hope to eventually have a building comprised entirely of WEI students — further enhancing the effort to form an academically focused environment.

Like many faculty members teaching classes at Westville, Marshall was impressed by how quickly students embraced the material they were given. She taught a Novels of American Naturalism class in the program’s second-ever semester, assigning realist fiction including Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and Frank Norris’ McTeague, and she assisted in leading a Modernism seminar last semester.

“What’s remarkable about teaching in this program is the way the space of the institution is transformed so rapidly,” she said. “When you teach these classes, you’re not completely unaware of the context, but the context falls away when you’re engaged in an intellectual project. I was surprised how quickly that kind of serious collegiate atmosphere was achieved.”

The environment is not without its challenges. When the program began, students had no access to computers, writing all assignments by hand. They now have limited time each week to use computers to type essays and papers. With no Internet access, their research capabilities are limited to the gradually growing WEI library and materials they request from professors or graduate student tutors.

Nevertheless, the students produce impressive work — one research-based presentation on Native Son and narrative irony, Marshall said, was among the most extraordinary she had ever seen from an undergraduate.

Improving the quality of students’ writing, Fallon said, continues to be a key point of focus for the program. Graduate students and a post-doctoral fellow work with students on their writing, and plans are developing to offer further opportunities for tutoring and training services.

Just as faculty members would know nothing about a Notre Dame student’s background, the professors and administrators avoid knowledge of WEI students’ personal history, learning only what comes out in class discussion.

“Most people at Westville are not going to spend their entire lives there,” said William Carbonaro, an associate professor of sociology who taught a course on U.S. social inequality. “We can talk about how and why they got there, but the more pressing thing as a society is what happens to them once they leave. To me, our role is to give people some hope, give them a chance, let them have a flicker of intuition and insight.

“It seems like it might be a small thing, but if you just kindle that little spark, it can carry people a really long way.”

A Future of Opportunity

Kris and Mike are waiting for another moment that will change everything.

Both men are set to be released this year and will be looking to take their next intellectual step. Kris earned his associate degree prior to starting at WEI; Mike will earn his in May. They’re hoping to add their names to the list of WEI students who have applied for transfer to other schools, including Holy Cross, Ball State University, Indiana University South Bend, Purdue University Calumet, and Wabash College.

Since entering the Westville program, Kris’ passion for reading and writing has rapidly accelerated. He loves coming-of-age novels and takes mental notes on style and structure as he reads, applying observations about what he does and doesn’t like to his own writing. His paper analyzing how the Chris Abani novel GraceLand, set in the slums of Nigeria, functioned as a metaphor for the nation as a whole remains a major point of pride.

And the chance to engage with his peers and Notre Dame professors on works like Paradise Lost or King Lear has sharpened his critical-thinking ability, which he knows will be essential once he walks past Westville’s walls.

“You can apply that to any obstacle that comes your way,” he said. “At work, at school, or in my personal life, now I know anger is not the best route. I just need to slow down, take a few minutes, think about it, and make the best decision I possibly can.”

For Mike, his Westville education has been a chance to hit the reset button. As a college freshman, he studied journalism, and he hopes to return to that track soon, perhaps one day covering sports or writing a book about his life experiences.

In a course on Inequality in American Education — taught by Maria McKenna, senior associate director of Notre Dame’s education, schooling, and society minor — he spent several weeks researching disadvantages facing students with attention and behavioral issues. That and other experiences in WEI classes have helped reform the way he thinks about the world — and the way he thinks about himself.

“I’ve come to find out who I am and what I stand for and what I believe in,” Mike said. “I’m able to put those principles into my everyday life. That’s something I wasn’t doing before I got locked up. I’ve learned that I’m a pretty strong guy, and I can overcome a lot of difficulties. This experience has allowed me to get my mind right and really focus on what I want to do.”

WEI’s leadership team — which includes Seroczynski; Fallon; Marshall; Jay Caponigro, Notre Dame’s director of community engagement; Christopher Kolda, chair of the Department of Physics; Richard Pierce, an associate professor of history; and Brother Jesus Alonso, C.S.C., Holy Cross’ vice president for strategic initiatives — are also optimistic about the future. By 2019, they hope to have 100 students enrolled simultaneously, and anxiously await the day when the first WEI student completes the requirements for a Holy Cross bachelor’s degree.

This education, they know, will allow WEI students to return to society as avid learners, clear writers, and bright thinkers.

It will have changed everything.

“I want them to become sensitive and thoughtful participants in their own lives. I want them to avoid becoming easy prey to easy answers,” Fallon said. “I want them to be better advocates for themselves. I want them to get the tools that a liberal arts education can give a person. This will prepare them to do anything.”

History Alumnus Published in Cold War Journal

The Department of History would like to recognize Jared McBrady (Class of 2010) for his recent publication in the Journal of Cold War Studies. In his article "The Challenge of Peace: Ronald Reagan, John Paul II, and the American Bishops," Jared discusses the dynamics surrounding the drafting of the 1983 pastoral letter on nuclear weapons policy. The article, which was published in the journal's winter 2015 edition, was originally conceived as part of Jared's senior History thesis. Congratulations, Jared!

For those who would like to read Jared's article, follow this link.


  • Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism
  • Gender Studies Program
  • Institute for Latino Studies
  • Kellogg Institute
  • Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies
  • Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies
  • Medieval Institute
  • Nanovic Institute for European Studies
  • John J. Reilly Center