University of Notre Dame
University of Notre Dame


A Conversation With: Dan Graff, Higgins Labor Program

Dan Graff is director of the Higgins Labor Program and a faculty member in the Department of History. Prof. Graff will teach a history University Seminar, Abraham Lincoln’s America, in spring 2017.

What is the Higgins Labor Program?

We are a unit of the Center for Social Concerns — we sponsor research, education, and dialogue on issues involving work, opportunity, and social justice. We hope to connect students to the Catholic Social Tradition’s commitment to workers and workers’ rights. We would like the Notre Dame community to get involved in labor issues locally, in South Bend, and beyond, both nationally and internationally.

The program grew out of the tradition of “labor priests” like Msgr. John Ryan, Msgr. Higgins, and Rev. Patrick Sullivan, who just published the first volume of a series about them.

How can first-year students get involved in the Higgins Labor Program?

Well, I would love to see first-year students contribute to our Labor Song of the Month or our Work of Art, Art of Work.

We also have a variety of events that students can attend, like our Lunchtime Labor RAPS, where we invite scholars, activists, and policymakers to talk about an important issue. This semester, we had Prof. Judith Fox from the Notre Dame Law School talk about the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, where she serves as a board member. We also had Tom Kellenberg from the Notre Dame Washington Program talk about protecting the rights of LGBT workers.

But, I think that our Labor Cafés would be the best place for a new student to start. The Cafés are organized around a topic selected by students; students select a few short readings for it, and then we meet in Geddes for coffee and an informal discussion that they lead.

The next Labor Café is November 4th and will deal with labor and the 2016 election.

The First Year of Studies will produce a short video of the next Labor Café. If you are a first-year student interested in attending the event and would be willing to be featured in this video, please email Lisa Walenceus at