Confronting Poverty: Bringing Service to Justice

Mahatma Ghandi says that poverty is the worst form of violence. Jesus says that the poor will always be with us and that they will inherit the kingdom of God. Ronald Reagan says we fought the war on poverty and poverty won. So many religious and political leaders have commented on poverty. What does all this mean? And what should you do about it?

In this course, we will address that enduring question: Why are people poor? We will take an interdisciplinary look at poverty to try to understand the forces that maintain poverty and the forces that resist it. From sustainability to social entrepreneurship, from economics to creative writing, we will explore a variety of mindsets and methods for understanding, representing, and assessing poverty. 

But we will do more than theorize about poverty. We will also engage the local community to understand how poverty persists and is resisted in and around South Bend. We will meet with community leaders who do anti-poverty work and we will serve local residents who live in poverty. We will explore poverty through statistics and stories—the facts and the lived experience of people in poverty.

This framework will help guide our journey:

  • Definitions.  What is poverty?
  • Causes.  Why are people poor? 
  • Consequences.  Who is poor?
  • Privilege.  Who isn’t poor?
  • Rhetoric.  How does the media represent poverty?
  • Solutions.  What should we do about poverty?
Through academic and experiential learning, we will gain a deeper understanding of the public and private programs and institutions that address poverty on the local, national, and global level. We will also gain a deeper understanding of what has worked and what hasn’t in domestic and international efforts to create lasting change to reduce poverty. 

Finally, you will be encouraged to discern how you are called to address poverty in your personal and professional life, exploring individual actions and careers that align with your skills and interests related to poverty, whether that is through the study of medicine, law, politics, social work, business, theology, psychology, economics, English, engineering, or any other field. By the end of this course, you should have a sense of the history of poverty and of how poverty could become history.

Academic Director

Connie Mick Summer Scholars

Connie Snyder Mick, Ph.D., is the associate director for Community-Based Learning at the Center for Social Concerns and co-director of the Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor. She works with faculty to design and implement academic community engagement in courses across the University, informed by pedagogical research on engaged teaching and learning. Her teaching experience includes a variety of Social Concerns Seminars (e.g., Digital Education in Northern Ireland), the Capstone for Poverty Studies, Introduction to Poverty Studies, Rhetorics of Gender and Poverty, Community Writing and Rhetoric, Multimedia Composition, Writing Center Theory and Practice, Graduate Practicum: Teaching Writing, Scientific Writing and Communication, Foresight in Business and Society (CBR), Management Communication, as well as the Ethical Leadership Through Service and Civic Engagement courses for Notre Dame's Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program and for a State Department funded English for Academic Purposes international service-learning course.

Professor Mick awards community-based learning Course Development Grants and Faculty Fellow positions to foster sustainable engaged teaching and scholarship. She also leads the new Community Engagement Faculty Institute, a three-day deep dive into the theory and practice of community-based teaching, research, and scholarship. Prior to this work, she directed the University Writing Center at Notre Dame.

Her research interests include assessment of community engagement to measure impact on student learning and community development, the function of community engagement and service-learning in socio-cultural acquisition among English language learners, the role of writing in social change, the rhetoric of poverty, and the pedagogies of community engagement.