Catholic Intellectual Life

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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

  • New Course Makes Special Effects Real for FTT Students

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    In a new course, Special Effects for Studio and Stage, associate professional faculty member Ken Cole taught Department of Film, Television, and Theatre students how to brainstorm and design a wide range of practical illusions for use in creative productions. The group of about 10 students simulated explosions, used makeup to create realistic-looking wounds, built props out of scraps and spare parts, and conjured up a realistic rainstorm. Read More >

  • Record Fulbright Award Year Led by 15 Arts and Letters Students

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    Fifteen Notre Dame students who studied in the College of Arts and Letters have received grants from the Fulbright program, the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program. A total of 18 students were named Fulbright finalists—the most grantees the University has ever had in the program. Read More >

  • ACE to Send Forth 272 Catholic School Teachers and Leaders in Missioning Ceremonies

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    The University of Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education will send forth 272 Catholic school teachers and leaders to nearly 200 Catholic schools across the country in the annual Missioning Mass, capping two months of professional formation and spiritual renewal. The ceremony, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. July 24 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, will celebrate and bless the next steps on the educators’ journeys back to their respective schools and classrooms. Read More >

  • White House Report on Juvenile Offender Diversion Programs Highlights Project with LEO Ties

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    A White House Council of Economic Advisers report released July 14 includes an account of Reading for Life, a local juvenile diversion program that is being evaluated by the University of Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities. The report, “Economic Costs of Youth Disadvantage and High-Return Opportunities for Change,” features the RFL program, which has been used at the St. Joseph County Juvenile Justice Center since 2007. Read More >