A Passion for Inquiry

Faculty in the College of Arts and Letters are at the forefront of fields as wide-ranging as development economics, philosophy of religion, quantitative psychology, and Shakespeare. They bring to the classroom and to conversations with our students the latest knowledge in their disciplines and their skills and passions as active researchers. They also teach both graduate and undergraduate students to become researchers in their own right, helping them develop as lifelong learners and thought leaders.

With support from Notre Dame Research and the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, Notre Dame faculty have won 68 National Endowment for the Humanities grants since 1999, more than any other university in the country.

#1 in NEH Fellowships:

  • Notre Dame: 68
  • Harvard: 35
  • University of Chicago: 33
  • Princeton: 32
  • Washington (St. Louis): 25

(Totals from 1999-2021—as of September 2021)

Grace Number One

Award-Winning Research

The total number of Arts and Letters faculty who have received major national fellowships across the social sciences, arts, and humanities places us among the Top 5 private research universities in the nation. Our graduate students also continue to distinguish themselves by winning external awards, including prestigious National Science Foundation, Fulbright, Newcombe, and Mellon/ACLS fellowships. This research focus extends to our undergraduate programs, where the number of students completing a senior thesis surged from 9% in 2008 to 41% in 2020.


Research Highlights

Finding Solutions to Fight Poverty

Notre Dame’s Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO), is the nation’s first research center that partners academics with a national network of domestic social-service providers to confront the challenge of American poverty. LEO scholars evaluate the impact of existing anti-poverty programs to identify the most effective and replicable solutions. 

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Unrivaled Focus on the Middle Ages

Notre Dame’s renowned Medieval Institute is the largest and most influential academic institute of its kind in North America, with more than 60 faculty members from 13 different disciplines and an unparalleled library collection. Notre Dame is the only university to claim three consecutive Gründler awards for best book in Medieval studies.

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Preparing Transformative Leaders

Guided by political scientist Luis Fraga, the Institute for Latino Studies advances understanding of the fastest-growing and youngest population in the country and in the U.S. Catholic Church. ILS strengthens Notre Dame’s mission to prepare transformative leaders among Latinos and all members of our society.

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Revitalizing Sacred Music

Renowned for her research at the intersection of musicology and theology, endowed professor Margot Fassler directs Sacred Music at Notre Dame, one of the world’s leading programs in sacred music for many faiths and the unquestioned leader in Catholic sacred music. This innovative program builds multi-generational partnerships between academia and communities of worship.

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A Leader in Italian Studies

With world-renowned faculty, including many of the top scholars on Dante, the Center for Italian Studies is engages in significant research, education, and outreach on campus, in Rome, and around the globe. Interdisciplinary collaborations with literature, history, theology, art history, classics, music, architecture, philosophy are a hallmark of Italian studies at Notre Dame, as are the thousands of volumes in the Hesburgh Libraries’ Italian studies resources and the Zahm Collection in Dante Studies.

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Raising Kids with Character

Every family seeks to raise healthy, intelligent, and empathetic children. The William J. Shaw Center for Children and Families conducts a variety of research projects to advance the wellbeing of children and their parents, including overcoming developmental disabilities and optimizing learning.

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Uncovering Stories of the Enslaved

It is extremely rare to find evidence from the colonial period that contains the words of enslaved people, because they were usually denied access to literacy and because slavery attempts to strip the enslaved of their identity and individuality. Sophie White, a professor in the Department of American Studies, offers an exceptional glimpse into the lives of the enslaved — through their own words — in courtroom testimony from 18th-century Louisiana defendants, witnesses, and victims she uncovered.

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Studying How Stress Affects Aging

How does stress impact us? Psychologist Cindy Bergman and her team in the Adult Development & Aging Lab study how stress changes our health and how we age. The research team analyzes how everyday stress and someone’s ability to regulate their response can benefit or impede health nearly a decade later as well as provide direction for stress prevention and intervention strategies.

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Powerful, Equitable Literacy

As director of the Center for Literacy Education, English professor Ernest Morrell researches how students can analyze and produce media in ways that move them beyond basic literacy and empower them to engage meaningfully with the world. With literacy being a key indicator of future success and well-being, Morrell works to inspire a culture of reading at the community level.

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How Life Changes the Body

In the Hormones, Health, and Human Behavior Laboratory, anthropologist Lee Gettler studies the way men change as they go through major life transitions, including marriage and fatherhood. His research team, which often includes interdisciplinary studies with Notre Dame psychologists, is also working to understand the psychobiology of motherhood and fatherhood and the physical and mental health of parents.

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The American Catholic Experience

Through interdisciplinary, ecumenical cooperation, the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism seeks to continually bring new perspective and understanding of Catholic life in America. Its faculty are a rich source of commentary and analysis for media and its academic events and publications engage scholars from a wide range of subject areas.

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Design for Social Good

Art students and faculty at Notre Dame uphold the University’s dedication to service through innovative graphic and industrial design solutions, including campaigns to address AIDS and xenophobia in South Africa and products such as a $3 washing machine, a rapid deploy emergency shelter, and a self-sanitizing umbilical cord cutter.

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