For Notre Dame sociologist Sarah Mustillo, one of the key lessons of the social sciences is that we teach and learn best when we are connected.
Nowhere is that lesson better applied than in Nanovic Hall — the state-of-the-art new home to the Departments of Economics, Political Science, and Sociology, their affiliated centers and programs, and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.
Nanovic Hall includes laboratory and research spaces, classrooms, and offices, all designed to encourage interaction between faculty, undergraduates, and graduate students.
“This building represents an unprecedented commitment by Notre Dame to the social sciences in resources and also in vision,” said Mustillo, professor and chair of sociology. “Prior to our move, faculty were spread out all over campus. Now, we are all in one building, on one floor together with our graduate students and post-docs, which will foster a deeper intellectual environment.”
Supported by a leadership gift from Robert and Elizabeth Nanovic, construction began on the 92,750-square-foot building in June 2015, and it is fully occupied as of July 2017. It features a soaring, three-story forum to be used for events, the latest video conferencing technology in each of the departmental suites, and a formal mediation room modeled after the United Nations that has translation capabilities for up to three languages.
Many social sciences faculty are affiliated with the Nanovic Institute, as well as the Keough School of Global Affairs and the many international institutes now housed in adjoining Jenkins Hall, and their close proximity offers the possibility of additional collaboration, Mustillo said.
The facility is designed to accommodate the tremendous recent growth in the social sciences. The three departments housed there have hired more than 20 faculty in the last three years, and economics and political science are now two of the largest undergraduate majors on campus.
“Perhaps the biggest winners from this new space are our undergraduates, who will inevitably gain greater exposure to a multidisciplinary approach to addressing social issues,” said James Sullivan, the Rev. Thomas J. McDonagh, C.S.C., Associate Professor of Economics and co-founder of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO).
Sullivan has already seen the success of this approach in his work at LEO, which also moved to Nanovic Hall this summer. LEO evaluates the impact of anti-poverty initiatives and has grown from three employees to a staff of nine, in addition to almost 20 faculty affiliates and a team of undergraduate research assistants.
“Our undergraduates all use the tools from their respective disciplines to work together and design evaluations,” Sullivan said. “Among the most rewarding aspects of their work is what they learn from each other. This sort of collaborative learning truly enhances the undergraduate experience.”