About ESS

Program mission, requirements, and events

Director: Dr. Andrea Christensen 

Director of Undergraduate Studies: Father Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Ph.D.

Assisted By: Dr. Maria McKenna and Dr. Mike Macaluso


The mission of ESS is threefold: 

1) To provide students with the tools needed to critically analyze issues in education and, through their own research, to examine the ways in which policy and design affect teaching, learning, and youth development.

2) To encourage students to use said tools to serve as advocates for children and families, especially those living in poverty, by promoting equality in a democratic society.

3) To develop thoughtful citizens aware of the role education plays in democracy.

Program Description

The primary goal of this interdisciplinary program is to help students acquire diverse perspectives on important questions in education. Education is a complex and challenging aspect of the human experience. It is both an end in itself and a means to many personal, professional, and spiritual goals. Thus, understanding its history and traditions, analyzing its processes, critiquing its goals, and studying its outcomes are of great importance to all of us. The Education, Schooling, and Society (ESS) program uses the tools and resources of a liberal arts perspective to help students reflect on, research, and influence the role of education in society. In addition, the program provides a rich body of resources for students who may want to pursue careers in education or youth facing careers after graduation, including teaching, research, working for non-profits, or policy making.

Beginning with the 2021-22 academic year, the ESS program is now home to both a minor and supplementary major. Typically, students apply for admission to the program late in their freshman year or during their sophomore year. All students are required to meet with either Father Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Ph.D or Dr. Christensen before enrolling.

ESS Minor Requirements (15 credit hours)

  • Introduction to Education, Schooling, & Society (ESS 33600) and
  • Three Electives (9 credits) – Two Education Focused (ESEI-MEDS) and One Education General (ESED-MEDS) and
  • Senior Capstone Research (3 credits) - The capstone project provides students with an opportunity to build upon and extend the work they have completed in fulfilling the requirements for the minor. Students may undertake this in one of three ways:

In a one-semester seminar course, students learn research models and methods, discuss the social contexts of education, conduct an independent research project and write a final paper.

This seminar is offered only in the fall, but students have the option to continue their project during the spring semester through a section of ESS 47602 Research Lab for additional credit. Note that students who conduct research at an off-campus site must provide their own transportation, but we make every effort to line up carpools or sites that are within walking distance of campus.

This option is essentially a two-semester independent study. Students who have completed at least 2 credits of ESS 47602 Research Lab conduct a Thesis in ESS alongside a supervising IEI faculty member. Seniors may register for 2 credits of ESS 47602 Research Lab in the fall semester, and 3 credits of ESS 48100 Thesis in ESS in the spring semester. This may be an extension of previously conducted research or a new, independent project building on the research techniques and/or content of work in a research lab.

Students who choose this option are required to submit the ESSThesisProposalContract.pdf (in consultation with their supervising faculty members) by April 15 of their junior year.

All ESS theses should be submitted to students' supervisors by the first Friday in April. Final ESS theses should be submitted to Dr. Andrea Christensen, achrist1@nd.edu, by the last Friday of spring classes. 

For students who are required (or choose) to write a thesis in their major. If you incorporate the study of an educational issue into that thesiswe can count it as fulfilling the ESS research requirement. We cannot double-count the credit hours, however, so students who choose this option must take an additional 3-credit course in ESS. This is a great opportunity to integrate your interests and research in your major department with ESS. 

Students who choose this option are required to submit the ESS Thesis Proposal Contract.pdf by April 15 of their junior year. If their primary thesis advisor is not an IEI/ESS faculty member, then ask one of those “core” professors to serve as a second advisor. See ESS Research Professors Brochure.pdf or contact Dr. Andrea Christensen, achrist1@nd.edu, for more information.

All theses should be submitted to students' supervisors by the first Friday in April. Final theses should be submitted to Dr. Andrea Christensen, achrist1@nd.edu, by the last Friday of spring classes. 

What are some good first steps into research?

  • Read through the ESS research brochure, which lists professors and their areas of research, and reach out to learn if they are taking undergraduates as research assistants. 

  • If you have a particular area you're interested in studying (e.g., psychology), check out that department's website for research lab opportunities.

  • Talk to a professor who teaches a course you find interesting about research in her/his area.

  • Visit CUSE (Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement), which has research advice and workshops galore.

  • Ask yourself what interests you (e.g., social justice, ed policy, how children learn) and follow that lead to find a department, professor, and research opportunity.

How can students get involved in the community through academic research?

  • ESS offers courses that allow for that:

    • ESS 20203 - Introduction to Social Problems (Fall)

    • ESS 30401 - Writing Center: Theory and Practice

    • ESS 30574 - Indian School and American Culture

    • ESS 30641 - CBL: Literacy Tutoring in the Elementary Classroom

    • ESS 30670 - CBL: Once Upon a Time

    • ESS 33627 - CBL: Literacy Development and Children 

    • ESS 40263 - Autism Spectrum Disorder (Spring)

    • ESS 40631 - Intro to Catechesis

    • ESS 43250 - Morality, Parenting, and Nature

    • ESS 45652 - Mexican Immigration
  • Check out the ESS research brochure to find a professor who does research in the community.

What are some topics that ESS students have studied?

  • Understanding Influences on College Students' Reading Practices (Capstone Seminar)
  • The Influence of Teacher Attitudes on the Impact of Restorative Justice in School Culture (Capstone Seminar)
  • Formation of Catholic Character and Identity in Native American Catholic Schools (ESS Thesis)
  • Pediatrician-led Counting and Reading Intentions (ESS Thesis)
  • Racial Representation in Classroom Literature (Thesis in Major)
  • Self-Esteem and Segregated Schools in Cape Town, South Africa (Thesis in Major)

2020-21 Senior Capstone Seminar

  • Julian Bonds, The Color of the Canon: The Representation of African-American Students in Prominent High School English Texts
  • Bridey Dages, Extracurricular Activities and Social-Emotional Development
  • LanAnh Dinh, Exploring the Impact of School Resource Officers on Student School Belonging
  • Ashley Finster, Influential Factors of Successful Spanish Foreign Language Education in United States K-12 Programs
  • Abby Hays, Transferring Schools: The Effect of Using a Voucher on Social Adjustment in a Catholic School
  • Katie Kubik, How School Values Relate to Sense of Belonging in LGBTQ+ Students
  • Emma Mangels, Exploring the Role of Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment on Well-Being: An Examination of the PERMA Model in a College Marching Band
  • Rachel McClaine, Maternal Autonomy Support in the Reminiscing and Emotion Training intervention
  • Patrick McGee, Exploring the Similarities and Differences Between Ratings and Rationale of Classroom Teachers and ACT Raters When Grading ACT Essay Responses
  • Annie Morejon, Adversity and Resilience in the Writing Center
  • Colleen O'Leary, Understanding Math Identity: The Early Influences and Career Outcomes of the Mathematics Major
  • Aqeela  Person, Can High School Handbooks Affirm a Successful Learning Environment?
  • Elizabeth Puntillo, Examining the Perceptions of Core Counseling Practices Among Counselors and Counselor Educators 
  • Carly Quast, Effects of College Physical Education Classes on Student Academic Outcomes
  • Danny Rogers, Immigrant Parenting Programs
  • Megan  Schutzen, Experiences of Students of Color at Predominantly White Institutions (PWIs)
  • Cynthia Trujillo, Centering Youth Voice in Schools
  • Jenna Winebrenner, The Impacts of COVID-19 on Collegiate Athletes

 ESS Thesis

  • Emma Downing, Catholic Social Teaching in South Bend Grade Schools

  • Francisco Hernandez-Guzman, Read Like a Man: Comparing narratives of masculinity in secondary education

  • Brady Lefkowitz , LGBTQ Students, Religion, and Schools

  • Aiden McFadden, The Educational Properties of LEGO’s, and Their Role in an Emerging Technological World

  • Analisa Pines, Lies Your Textbook Told You: American History Textbooks’ Portrayal of Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, 1880s-1990s

  • Karli Siefker, Fertile Ground: Sustainability Education as a Restorative Justice Practice

  • Chloe Spang, Finding Relevant Context in Word Problems in Middle School Math Textbooks

Thesis in Major

  • Elizabeth Allgaier, From Students to Educators: African American Male Teachers' Classroom Experiences Inform Classroom Practices

  • Emily Brigham, Understanding Report Discrepancy: Parent and Teacher Reports of Child Adjustment

  • Curry Cappel, Latin in the 21st Century: Why and How

  • Heather Christman, A Chestertonian Pedagogy: Enchantment in Catholic Education

  • Maria D'Ambrose, A New Measure of Science Identity Utilizing A Self-Determination Theory Approach

  • Erin Doyle, The Montessori Method and Education Reform: History and Potential

  • Caroline Freeman, The Socialist Origins of Public Schools and Our Nation's Shift to a Capitalist Education Model

  • Odalis Gonzalez, Bien Unidos-- School and Community Are One: The Educational Experience of Latinx Students in Rural U.S. Public School System

  • Lauren Klein, Where Are the Teachers? A Study of the Revolving Door in Education as a Cause and a Consequence

  • Meg Murphy, Collab


ESS Supplementary Major Requirements (24 credit hours)

  • The completion of all ESS minor requirements listed above (15 credits) and
  • An educationally-relevant Community Based Learning course (CBL) (within or outside of ESS with approval) (3 credits). Requirement may be fulfilled by completing an SSLP through the Center for Social Concerns and
  • An educationally-relevant research methods course (3 credits) and
  • One additional Education Focused elective (3 credits) and
  • Community Outreach Requirement: A signed statement by the student and supervising faculty member that the student has engaged in a practical learning experience that involves a minimum of 14 hours of service, research, or structured observation in PK-12 schools or educationally-relevant community organizations serving PK-12 students. 

Supplementary major students will focus their coursework within ESS along one of the following three tracks with the help of ESS advisers and the use of course attributes.

Students in the learning sciences track examine the mechanisms involved in learning, thinking, and problem solving in school and non-school settings. They learn basic theories of cognition, learning, and development; expand their methodological toolkit for testing and evaluating said theories; and gain a rich understanding of how to apply empirical research evidence to design innovative learning environments, including those built around new technologies and media. Through this track, student gain a deeper understanding of how the reciprocal relations among mind, brain, behavior, and environment contribute to human learning. They also gain expertise in the design, analysis, and evaluation of formal and informal educational interventions.

Students in the comparative education and policy track examine the policymaking and social programs relevant to mass education. They learn about the historical and contemporary contexts that shape education as well as the underlying philosophical principles and political systems that govern education’s role in social and economic change. Students will have the opportunity to study topics relevant to comparative and international education, including international development education; ethnographic, anthropological, and historical approaches to education; postcolonial thought; learning from high performing systems; and area studies of particular country's education systems, including the United States.

Students in the language, literacy, and culture track critically evaluate the ways in which culture, history, and ideology shape literacy practices in schools, classrooms, and homes. They learn about how children, adolescents, parents, and teachers read, write, speak, and use images to understand and change their world. In the process, students learn, evaluate, and practice strategies for creating culturally-responsive, reciprocal instructional environments.  Further, students will have the opportunity to consider literacy and literate practices beyond traditional notions of decoding/encoding, understanding how one’s literacy contributes to their sense-making in/of the world and to their active participation in groups and social and cultural contexts.

General Policies

The ESS program will accept courses marked as “Univ. Req.” via the online Class Search if they are listed/cross-listed with ESS. The program will not accept CSEM courses for credit but will consider education-related USEM courses on a case-by-case basis. ESS will accept no more than one international course for credit toward the minor and two for the supplementary major. It is important to note that ESS students may not count courses that apply to other majors or minors without replacing those credit hours with another elective course within ESS.

ESS faculty work closely with students on undergraduate discernment, research, and postgraduate planning (e.g., employment, graduate or professional school, service opportunities).For more information or to sign up for the minor, contact Andrea Christensen at achrist1@nd.edu.

Course Descriptions

Please see InsideND for a complete list of current and past courses.


 Connect With Us

Father Kevin Sandberg, C.S.C., Ph.D. -  ESS Director of Undergraduate Studies
ksandberg@nd.edu  |  Phone 574.631.4517
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