Catholic Intellectual Life

At Notre Dame, an Arts and Letters liberal education is also a Catholic liberal education.

This Catholic dimension of our identity shapes our educational efforts in two key ways.

First, in contrast to the great secular research universities and private colleges, Notre Dame places the formal study of theology and philosophy at its educational core. The University requires each student to take two courses in each subject, with the conviction that the study of God is as reasonable, as intellectually demanding, as the study of human psychology or the contemporary economy. Precisely because we offer a Catholic liberal education, no religious or intellectual question—certainly not the most profound existential questions—is bracketed at Notre Dame or limited by a cramped understanding of critical reflection.

This insistence on the integration of reason and religious faith is a hallmark of Catholicism. The French Catholic philosopher Simone Weil once wrote that “if one turns aside from Christ to go toward the truth, one will not go far before falling into his arms.”

A second distinctive quality of a Catholic liberal education at Notre Dame is the opportunity—in each of our Arts and Letters departments—to cultivate some dimension of the Catholic intellectual tradition, a tradition responsible for the founding of first universities during the medieval period and an inexhaustible cultural resource from the earliest days of Christianity.

Students might study Dante in the College’s Italian studies program, the sociology of religion in the sociology department or the ethical implications of differing definitions of poverty in the economics program. They may stage a play with an explicit connection to Catholic notions of social justice, devote themselves to analyzing the cognitive development of children, or focus their attention on a rare tapestry. They may focus intensively on language acquisition, a priority for the College, precisely because Catholicism is the world’s most multicultural and multilingual intellectual tradition.

In all these endeavors, students and faculty together explore the traditional concern of liberal education in a distinctive and enriching Catholic context.

This context, finally, is not simply academic. The College, in conjunction with the University, seeks to nourish and integrate the spiritual as well as intellectual lives of students and faculty. In response to Catholic social teaching in particular, the College of Arts and Letters fosters research and study that furthers social justice and serves the common good.

Both within and beyond the classroom, students and faculty alike strive to advance social justice and to serve church, community, and the world.

Undergraduate Programs

Among the majors and minors offered by the College’s 20 academic departments, undergraduates can pursue a number of programs that focus in particular on understanding and addressing vital concerns within Church and society, including:

Graduate Programs

The College houses a number of graduate programs devoted to preparing students to serve the Church and world in meaningful ways, including:

Centers, Institutes, and Special Programs


Catholic Intellectual Tradition



Liberal Arts at Notre Dame

The Liberal Arts at Notre Dame


Arts and Letters News

  • Arts and Letters Faculty Win Grants from Notre Dame Research

    Great Hall windows

    Notre Dame Research has provided awards to more than a dozen College of Arts and Letters faculty members from its Internal Grants Program for 2016. The grant awardees spanned the University in four program categories: Faculty Research Support (Initiation), Faculty Research Support (Regular), Equipment Restoration and Renewal, and Library Acquisitions. Read More >

  • Four Arts and Letters Students Honored with Undergraduate Library Research Awards

    Hesburgh Library

    Sponsored by the Hesburgh Libraries and the Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement (CUSE), the ULRA competition honors those who conduct original research and draws focus to the extensive sources and methods of scholarly inquiry that modern-day research libraries offer today’s students. Read More >

  • 13 Arts and Letters Faculty Honored For Exemplary Work in Undergraduate Teaching

    The golden dome

    Eleven faculty members from the College of Arts and Letters have won 2016 Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching, and two have been honored with Dockweiler Awards for Excellence in Undergraduate Advising. The awards are presented by the Office of the Provost, and the recipients are selected through a process that includes peer and student nominations. Read More >

  • Seniors Teresa Kennedy and Connor Hayes to Receive 2016 Yarrow Award in Peace Studies

    2016 Yarrow Award Winners

    Notre Dame seniors Teresa Kennedy and Connor Hayes have been selected to receive the 2016 Yarrow Award from the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. Kennedy, an anthropology and peace studies major from Wilbraham, Massachusetts, and Hayes, a political science and peace studies major from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, will accept their awards at the Kroc Institute’s undergraduate recognition ceremony on May 13. Read More >