Letter from the Director

January 17, 2022

Mark Sanders
Professor Mark A. Sanders, Director of the Notre Dame Initiative on Race and Resilience

Happy New Year. I hope the year has begun with great promise for us all.

It's hard to believe our official launch was just one year ago. While we have a long way to go to fulfill our vision, we've accomplished an extraordinary amount. In the last year, our community of scholars has grown to 84 faculty and 38 graduate students, representing nearly every discipline in the College of Arts and Letters. 

We welcomed two new professors in English and Creative Writing, Xavier Aquino and Dionne Bremyer, our first Research Fellow (in partnership with NDIAS) Scott Barton, and our first Artist in Residence (also in partnership with NDIAS), Dwayne Betts. Congratulations Dwayne for winning a MacArthur “Genius” Award this past fall!

IRR was able to support faculty and graduate student research and course development, while partnering with departments and individual faculty to bring probing and challenging programming to campus. And IRR looks forward to new searches. 

As the new year begins, we want to thank Marie Lynn Miranda for her moral and financial support of IRR, and we look forward to working closely with Interim Provost Christine Maziar. And as always, we deeply appreciate the vision and steadfast support of Dean Sarah A. Mustillo, I.A. O'Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters. 

Nikole Hannah Jones Feature
Nikole Hannah-Jones comes to campus on March 15

Be sure to mark your calendars for March 15 at 7 p.m. for an evening with Nikole Hannah-Jones, journalist, author, MacArthur “Genius” Award winner, Pulitzer Prize winner, and creator of The 1619 Project. Special thanks to IRR faculty affiliate Jason Ruiz for his tireless work in bringing Nikole Hannah-Jones, a Notre Dame alumna, back to campus for the 2022 Red Smith/Sojourner Truth Lecture, co-sponsored by the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics, and Democracy, the Initiative on Race and Resilience, and the Provost's Kathleen Cannon, O.P., Distinguished Lecture Series. This event is free but ticketed; watch our website for more details. Thank you Jason for your work and dedication!

In 2022, IRR looks forward to moving into its new suite of offices in O'Shaughnessy Hall, perhaps as early as this February, and into its new conference area, perhaps by next fall.

Yet despite early successes last year, any community, IRR included, concerned with justice and equality knows that we face formidable challenges this year and beyond. The big lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen continues to metastasize in the form of state laws aimed at suppressing and/or nullifying the votes of people of color. While media outlets and national pundits lament the big lie’s staying power, we as a national community have failed to address its appeal – why people choose to believe it. Birtherism, voter suppression, the prospect of voter nullification, the panic over Critical Race Theory, and the attack on the Capitol Building all serve as efforts to reject multiracial democracy and thus to return this country to its past as a herrenvolk democracy in which only one ethnic group exercises democratic freedoms.

As a nation, we would do well to reflect on this political moment in light of Dr. King’s legacy. We will continue to draw strength from the examples of Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, and so many more who struggled for democratic principles, and thus bequeathed to us a legacy of advancements and models of courage that we must build up and so bequeath to ensuing generations.


Mark A. Sanders

Director of the Notre Dame Initiative on Race and Resilience

Professor of English and Africana Studies


I acknowledge my presence on the traditional homelands of Native peoples including the Haudenosauneega, Miami, Peoria, and particularly the Pokégnek Bodéwadmik /Pokagon Potawatomi, who have been using this land for education for thousands of years, and continue to do so.


Read the 2021 Letter from the Director announcing the launch of the Initiative of Race and Resilience