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

  • History Professor Wins Urban History Association Book Award

    Alexander Martin

    Alexander Martin, a Notre Dame professor of history, has won the Urban History Association’s Best Book Award for a work of non-North American urban history published in 2013-14. His book, Enlightened Metropolis: Constructing Imperial Moscow, 1762–1855 also won the 2013 Marc Raeff Book Prize awarded by the Eighteenth-Century Russian Studies Association to the best book in any discipline or language on the history and culture of Russia during that time period. Read More >

  • First Cohort of Financial Economics and Econometrics Students Find Success in the Job Market

    Matt Castellini

    Nine months before his May 2016 graduation, Matt Castellini knew where he was headed after Notre Dame. An economics major enrolled in the department’s new Financial Economics and Econometrics concentration (FEE), Castellini landed a job as a credit sales analyst at Bank of America Merrill Lynch after interning with the company last summer. He’s not alone, either. Just one year into the new program, the concentration’s first cohort has yet to graduate, but many have positions waiting for them at firms such as Boston Consulting Group, Mercer Consulting, and Deutsche Bank. Read More >

  • ‘Stakes Are High’ in Pope’s Visit to Mexico, Experts Say

    Pope Francis

    When Pope Francis travels to Mexico Feb. 12-17, he will visit six cities—including two in the state of Chiapas, Mexico’s poorest state—and will celebrate a Mass in Ciudad Juárez across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas. The first pope from Latin America, where 40 percent of the world’s Catholics live, he will be touring the country that’s home to the second largest Catholic population in the world. Read More >

  • Arts and Letters Neuroscience Majors Find Array of Research, Career Opportunities

    Neuroscience and behavior major

    Notre Dame students in the College of Arts and Letters’ newest major see neuroscience and behavior as great preparation for any number of exciting careers. Whether they plan to pursue medical school or graduate school, clinical research or lab work, neuroscience majors can customize the curriculum to fit their needs. Students are also able to integrate research opportunities based on their individual interests. Read More >