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Supplementary major in education, schooling, and society to be offered at Notre Dame

Author: Audrey Scott

Bj 9

A supplementary major in education, schooling, and society (ESS) will be offered at Notre Dame beginning this fall allowing students to take ESS courses and complement their primary major in a more intensive way. 

ESS explores the questions of how humans learn and how society, politics, and the economy influence that learning. Since its start in 2002, ESS has grown into one of the largest minors in the College of Arts and Letters, with about 115 students in the program each year.  

As a supplementary major, ESS will consist of eight courses and include an educationally-focused research methods class, a community-based learning course requirement, and an additional elective in addition to the minor's five-course sequence. Enrolled undergraduates will also participate in 14 hours of community-facing observation or engagement in a local school or educational organization. Students will be able to enroll in the supplementary major beginning with the 2021-2022 academic year. ESS will also remain an option as a 15-credit minor. 

“Education, schooling, and society is the perfect program for a supplementary major because it has strong relationships and potential synergies with many of the major disciplines on campus, such as psychology, neuroscience, sociology, economics, English, political science, business, and computer science,” said Nicole McNeil, the director of ESS and a professor of psychology. “We see one of our goals as a supplementary major as helping to attract students to primary majors by providing students with road maps for several rewarding career pathways related to education.”

Housed in the Institute for Educational Initiatives, ESS is not a teacher-preparation program — it is designed to help students acquire diverse perspectives on important questions in education, encouraging students to view educational issues through the lenses of anthropology, English, history, philosophy, political science, psychology, sociology and theology, thus enabling them to better understand the complexities of education and education reform. 

“Education is a lynchpin of societies, and informal and formal education practices are part of our shared humanity,” said Maria McKenna, the senior associate director of ESS and an associate professor of the practice in the Department of Africana Studies. “We think learning about how people learn, how learning and schooling are similar or different around the globe, and how culture, language, and identity intersect with each other is essential knowledge. Learning about all of these ideas makes individuals better parents, community members, and citizens.” 

ESS students can pursue careers such as pediatrician, child clinical and school psychologist, social worker, game and toy designer, politicians, policy think tank analyst, and juvenile justice advocates, McNeil said.

“Education presents us with a paradox: it has limitless potential to be an agent of social change, but at the same time has a long history of perpetuating systemic forms of oppression and inequity,” McNeil said. “For this reason, ESS aligns with Notre Dame's mission to ‘cultivate in its students not only an appreciation for the great achievements of human beings, but also a disciplined sensibility to the poverty, injustice, and oppression that burden the lives of so many.’"