The Social Enterprise and Microfinance Internships (SEMI) offer sophomore and junior business majors (or any student who has taken the prerequisite enterprise and microfinance courses) a chance to work with organization that either provide social welfare service (combating poverty, providing access to healthcare, reducing recidivism) or provide “high impact” financial services to communities, small businesses and individuals. The organizations that Notre Dame partners with operate throughout the United States in urban and rural areas. Depending on the organization they are placed with, students might learn how microfinance operations structure their loans, help research startups and conduct market research, or help develop business plans and economic models. Interns are expected to develop academically and follow a syllabus of reading and writing during their eight-week assignments that are designed to help them engage with the development and service organization they work for. Students who are selected for one of the internships are awarded a stipend to cover the cost of housing, food, and transportation, and, in addition, receive a substantial scholarship for their effort. Students who participate in the internships don’t necessarily have to hold a burning desire to go into non-profit work, though many of them are inspired by the work they do and develop a strong interest in social services. However, these microfinance companies and micro-entrepreneurs require the same kinds of skills and techniques that big, for-profit corporations need, so interns get the pride and satisfaction of engaging in a social justice cause without losing out on any of the financial or business experience of their corporate corporate-intern counterparts. For example, Mission Markets, Inc., a New York based firm that “makes it easier to learn, source and move capital into investments that have a positive social and environmental impact,” explains in their SEMI site description that “past projects have included specific market research reports, impact sector development reports, and mapping particular impact ecosystem stakeholders and the relationships between them.” During the first week, Mission Markets teaches interns about impact investing and the specific markets it works with. And CleanTurn, a SEMI partner in Columbus, Ohio, says that it “will ensure the student has exposure to every aspect of the business, operations, business development, etc. The student will understand the dynamics involved in starting and stabilizing a social venture in a service based company.”
Notre Dame’s community-based learning courses also include international opportunities, like “Approaches to Poverty and Development in Chile,” where students travel to Santiago to study at the Jesuit University Alberto Hurtado and work with local service agencies. Notre Dame is great at preparing students for the opportunities and responsibilities of service learning abroad. All students are required to take a one-credit class that helps them prepare for the experience before participating, and students are encouraged to talk to professors in their major before their travel to discuss any reading or areas of inquiry that might prove useful in their overall degree and career plans. Before they arrive, students are well-versed in the cultural, economic, and political realities in Chile, and they have devoted thoughtful consideration to the theological concerns that they will be addressing as well. This way students don’t have to spend their precious time abroad with experts learning the basics that they can pick up anywhere. In addition, because the students have all spent a whole semester together at home, they have already bonded as a group and can avoid the additional strain of getting to know one another in a foreign country. The class is divided into two sections that deal with perspectives on poverty and approaches to development, respectively. Students are given a multidisciplinary understanding of the social, economic, moral, and theological issues surrounding poverty and development through a series of lectures by Alberto Hurtado faculty and guest lecturers, who often work in organizations that provide social resources. Throughout these lectures, students are encouraged to add insights and ask questions that have arisen from their weekly work with social service organizations in Santiago. This sense of collective engagement and collaborative inquiry is enhanced as each session a few of the students make a simple meal and the group dines together. Students also get the benefit of a total language immersion, as all lectures, presentations, readings, and papers are in Spanish.
The primary purpose of the International Summer Service Learning Program is to educate students about the causes and consequences of endemic poverty throughout the world and “to create links of solidarity across borders.” These service learning programs grant students international perspective and cross-cultural understanding while training them to cipher through complex problems, just as they gain insights into “the multi-dimensionality of poverty in the developing world,” and “analyze root causes, and identify strategies for social development” to help alleviate and prevent it. This international education is also vital to understanding the social issues that affect a huge portion of the world’s population and developing a sense of global citizenship. This experience is great for anyone interested in development, sustainability, international affairs—or any career that requires dynamic, creative thinking and a willingness to take risks. In the past, students have taught children in Bangladesh; worked with women in prison, helped with nutrition programs, and conducted environmental research in Bolivia; and worked with various HIV/AIDS related issues in Cambodia. Before they travel, students take a semester-long course that prepares them for the experience with weekly classes, public lectures, special training, and a weekend retreat to develop cross-cultural skills. Students also have to option to integrate their experience into a senior thesis, independent study, or research with a member of faculty. The early start that students get helps with the planning and logistics of these kinds of arrangements.
Prominent alumni include notable voices in the fields of government, politics and foreign policy, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, political analyst Mark Shields, and U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly. Notre Dame alumni maintain the dedication to service they learned in college throughout their extensive alumni networks. Alumni continue to be service leaders and stewards of their communities through programs like the Hesburgh Service Initiative’s Month of Service, which bring alumni and current students together. According to the university, the initiative celebrates the 16th President of the University of Notre Dame, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., “who spent his life championing major social issues,” by announcing a service theme every year that “is an invitation to celebrate, through continuing his pursuit of peace and stalwart promotion of human dignity.” Many of the service learning initiatives on campus trace their roots to Father Hesburgh’s tenure as president of the university. Students can visit Go IRISH, the careers center’s primary recruiting database, for information about interviewing opportunities, employer information sessions, or opportunities that specifically seek a Notre Dame student or alum.