The Poverty Studies Curriculum

As an interdisciplinary minor, Poverty Studies identifies courses across the University with a strong emphasis on poverty.  Faculty from all disciplines are invited to design courses for the minor and register them with the administration. Students are invited to design their own emphasis from the diverse list of offerings.

Poverty Studies Interdisciplinary Minor students take four types of courses, for a total of 15 or 16 credit hours:

  1. 2013_fall_appalachia_seminar_1237_640x426_

    Gateway Course: Introduction to Poverty Studies (3 credits)

  2. Experiential Courses (3 or 4 credits, depending on the option chosen)

  3. Electives (6 credits)

  4. Capstone Seminar or Special Studies Capstone (3 credits) 

I. Gateway Course: Introduction to Poverty Studies (3 credits)

PS 23000

The gateway course introduces students to academic research about the nature, causes, and consequences of poverty, and enables them to contribute to the field.  Readings and lectures reveal the interdisciplinary nature of poverty studies, enhance our understanding of what it means to be poor and of the array of interlocking problems that lead to poverty, and guide the formulation of policies to prevent and alleviate poverty. Although the emphasis will be on the poor citizens of the United States, the lessons (such as the methodology for measuring poverty) have cross cultural boundaries and relevance for poverty in other parts of the world, including in developing nations. Introduction to Poverty Studies is offered in both the Fall and Spring (use the Class Search Subject filter  "Poverty Studies" to locate this course).


II. Experiential Learning (3 or 4 credits)


The Experiential Learning Requirement is designed to get students into the field, where classroom concepts come-to-life, disciplinary boundaries are challenged, and students contribute to community life in a meaningful way. Experiential learning will enhance students' understanding of poverty and prepare them for the final capstone experience, whether it is the Capstone Seminar or an independent project. The experiential learning requirement may be satisfied by successfully completing one of the following options:


Option A: Three designated 1-credit Center for Social Concerns Seminars combined with the 1-credit course PS 35001 (4 credits total, see Experiential Learning Requirement for required and optional courses); or

Option B: Three credits of internship(s) with community agencies and organizations addressing poverty:  PS 35002, PS 34002, SOC 45000, or other pre-approved internship in other department (3 credits total); or

Option C: One approved 3-credit community-based learning or research course.  Includes courses taught on campus, including a domestic or international Center for Social Concerns Summer Service Learning Program course or approved internship focused on poverty. (3 credits total)

III. Electives (6 credits)

Two 3-credit courses from the list of approved Poverty Studies Electives. The complete list of electives is available through Class Search by selecting all disciplinary subjects and the "PSIM--Poverty Studies Elect." attribute. Contact if you need assistance searching for courses or want to propose that a course have this attribute added.  

Students studying abroad may take one 3-credit elective toward their minor, with prior approval from the PSIM director, Dr. Jennifer Warlick, or co-director, Dr. Connie Mick.  Classes that have been previously approved carry the PSIM attribute and can be identified via class search for the appropriate campus.  If a class does not already have an attribute but you think it might qualify, please contact the PSIM program.

IV.  Capstone Experience (3 credits)

As the final step in the PSIM, students can choose either to enroll in the Capstone Seminar or to undertake a 3-credit Special Studies Captone project directed by one of the affiliated faculty. The Capstone Seminar is offered in the Fall and Spring, as is the Special Studies Capstone.

Examples of previous capstone projects can be seen here

A. Capstone Seminar

PS 43000, 3 Credits, Standard Grading A-F

The Capstone Seminar builds on topics and issues encountered in Introduction to Poverty Studies (PS 23000).  The instructor may propose several topics and allow students to play a role in selecting the Seminar’s focus. Students will share perspectives of their major disciplines as well as their varied experiences in the field thus ensuring the interdisciplinary nature of the inquiry. Depending on the chosen focus, students may conduct traditional scholarly research and or engage in various ways with poverty-related programs and experts in our local communities. Students are frequently given the choice of working individually or in small groups. Thus the focus and activities of the Capstone Seminar will vary from semester to semester. In all cases, students should expect to produce output that can be shared with fellow students, successive cohorts of poverty minors, faculty, and community members.

Prior to enrolling in PS 43000, students should have completed the gateway course, the experiential learning requirement, and at least one elective course.

B. Special Studies Capstone Option

PS 47000, 3 Credits, Standard Grading A-F

If they have fulfilled all other PSIM requirements, students may opt for an intense independent research or other intellectual experience by enrolling in the Special Studies Capstone course. In this case the student will design a research project that builds upon and merges knowledge gained in Introduction to Poverty Studies (PS 23000), the experiential learning requirement and other community service activities, poverty studies elective courses, and/or related courses in their major. Students should not select a topic that they have not previously studied. The capstone project should be considered the pinnacle of students’ scholarly study of poverty. 

Students should plan ahead for this option. To qualify, students must receive the approval of the Director of the Poverty Studies Program in the semester prior to the one in which the project will be conducted (see below for specific deadlines). Approval is contingent on the successful submission of a proposal (project description) endorsed by a Notre Dame faculty member affiliated with PSIM or a local community member recognized for their expertise in the relevant topic area. Students should realize that faculty members are under no obligation to supervise special studies projects and might be reluctant to take on students who have not completed one or more of their courses. In addition, project advisors will only accept carefully crafted proposals that correspond with their interests and availability. Once the proposal is approved, the Director will grant permission to enroll in PS 47000. Click here for detailed guidelines on the Special Studies Capstone course.

The nature of the final product will vary with the student’s topic and academic focus. Although most students produce a manuscript (the appropriate length is guided by the disciplinary focus of the topic) acceptable products also include works of art (performance and studio), video, etc. that can be performed or otherwise displayed to the members of the PSIM and others interested in the topic (e.g., non-profit organization representatives in the case of community-based research) at special colloquiums held on the last Sunday preceding the last day of classes in the Fall and Spring Semesters of each academic year. 

Course grades for PS 47000 are assigned by project advisors and submitted to the PSIM director who forwards the grades to the Registrar. Note, however, that the PSIM Director will be listed as the instructor of record. Final projects should be submitted to project advisors no later than the last day of classes. Project advisors must submit final evaluations by the last day of final examinations. This course in graded with the standard A-F letters.

We recommend taking this course in the Fall Semester of the senior year. Past experience reveals that graduating seniors encounter multiple distractions (for example, interviews for positions in the private and service sectors and graduate/professional schools) in their final semester that intensify the always present challenges of self-motivation and self-discipline that are part and parcel of conducting independent research.

Graduation Progress and Double Counting Courses

 See your primary advisor for official confirmation of graduation progress, but note that depending on your primary college, you may be able to double count one University requirement with one requirement for PSIM, such as a second Theology course that has a poverty focus, which could count as a PSIM elective as well the second Theology. The course must have the attribute for both requirements to count as such. Arts and Letters and the College of Science both accept this type of double count one time in your college career; similarly, both of these Colleges will not count a course toward both a major and minor. Talk with a PSIM director if you have further questions or want to propose that a course have the PSIM attribute added.