Ahead of the Game

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Expand your mind.

Every fall, some of Notre Dame’s most engaging faculty discuss their research on the most pressing and fascinating issues of our times. 

On home game Fridays, the Ahead of the Game series offers an opportunity for intellectual engagement, sharing the experience in an audience of faculty, students, and alumni.

All lectures are at 2:30 p.m. are at LaBar Recital Hall within O'Neill Hall (south side of Notre Dame Stadium).

The full archive of previous lectures (including video for many) can be found here.

Fall 2021 Schedule

9.10.21 (vs. Toledo)

"God, Notre Dame, Country: Glimpses of the University's first Century"

Kathleen Sprows Cummings, the Rev. John A. O'Brien College Professor of American Studies and the William W. and Anna Jean Cushwa Director of the Cushwa Center for the Study of American Catholicism

This lecture provides snapshots of Notre Dame long before it was either a football powerhouse or a top-tier research university. Drawing from material explored in her Notre Dame & America course, Professor Cummings will discuss the University's evolution from a remote missionary outpost of the Catholic Church in the 1840s into a full-fledged college by the 1930s, highlighting a few founding stories and forgotten heroes. 

Watch video

9.17.21 (vs. Purdue)

“Recovering the Voices of Enslaved Catholics in Colonial America”

Sophie White, professor of American Studies

Eighteenth-century Louisiana was a Catholic colony, and the law required that enslaved Africans be baptized. Sophie White’s prize-winning research has revealed an extraordinary archive in which these enslaved Africans testified, and this talk will foreground how they spoke about faith and their relationship to Catholicism. 


10.1.21 (vs. Cincinnati)

"An American Salesman in China: Adventures in the Global Marketplace of the 1920s"

Elisabeth Köll, William Payden Collegiate Professor and Chair, Department of History

In 1922, Frank Canaday took a job as an advertising agent for British American Tobacco in Shanghai, then the largest foreign cigarette company in China. Based on Canaday's observations as an avid diary writer and photographer, Professor Köll shows how Americans did business in China during the early days of globalization and what it tells us about today's China market. 

Watch video

10.22.21 (vs. USC)

"Blackgirl Fairy Tales on the Musical Stage"

La Donna Forsgren, associate professor, Department of Film, Television, and Theatre

During the 1970s, feminists launched critical debates about the influence of fairy tales, positioning the promise of “happily ever after” within the larger cultural and political struggle for gender equality. Unfortunately, these studies and those that followed rarely considered fairy tales created by Black women or the socio-political meaning garnered from their works. Forsgren’s analysis of the Tony Award-winning Once on this Island (1990) and the less-studied but popular musicals The Liberation of Mother Goose (1973) and The Other Cinderella (1976) intervenes within these broader conversations, staking a claim to Blackgirl musical fairy tales as a site of transgressive possibility. 

Watch video

10.29.21 (vs. North Carolina)

"Looking Back to Move Forward: The 1975 Voting Rights Act and Its Relevance to Today"

Luis Fraga, the Joseph and Elizabeth Robbie Professor of Political Science, the Rev. Donald P. McNeill, C.S.C., Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership, and director of the Institute for Latino Studies

Who can vote, how much their vote will count, and the implications for who wins and who loses have long been issues in American politics. What implications does the nation’s past history regarding voting rights have for debates about voter suppression today? 

Watch video

11.5.21 (vs. Navy)

"Race and Racism in Higher Education: Introducing the Notre Dame Initiative on Race and Resilience"

Mark Sanders, professor of English and Africana studies and director, Initiative on Race and Resilience

Taking up historical and contemporary issues of race and systemic racism, in the U.S. and across the globe, this talk will review the mission and specific activities of Notre Dame’s new Initiative on Race and Resilience.

Watch video

11.19.21 (vs. Georgia Tech)

"Pulling the Strings: Playing the English in a Poem to Red Hugh O’Donnell"

Sarah McKibben, associate professor and chair, Department of Irish Language and Literature

Around 1597-98, an Irish poet addressed rebel leader Red Hugh O’Donnell. But instead of praising him, he agonized over English charges he might face for keeping such bad company. Was he just a coward…or a master of parody who mocked the English and celebrated his patron at the same time?