Justin McDevitt is the assistant regional director for alumni and reentry services with Notre Dame Programs for Education in Prison (NDPEP) at the Center for Social Concerns. Receiving his M.A. in political science from the University of Notre Dame in 2014 (he’s currently working towards his Ph.D) and his J.D. from Loyola University Chicago in 2012, McDevitt has taught courses at Notre Dame, Holy Cross College and Westville Correctional Facility in race and politics, global migration, pandemics and society, Christian-Muslim relations and more. He is also the former rector of Stanford Hall, which he considers “the best job in the world.”
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Of the courses that you teach, which are you most passionate about and why?
One of the coolest things to be able to do as a professor is to design your own courses, teach the things that you love and do it in a way that you enjoy doing. I would say the class that I had the most fun teaching and putting together was called “The World and Pandemic,” which looked at the history of pandemics throughout society. I think it was particularly interesting because it was entirely interdisciplinary. It drew on not only my background in law and politics but also on fields like public health, religion, sociology, history and epidemiology. We read about various pandemics throughout history, looked deeply at what they meant and how they changed us as people. The hope was that the students would come out of it less afraid, less indifferent. COVID was hard for everyone but especially hard in prison.
Could you elaborate on the volunteer work you participate in the local South Bend community?
A friend of mine in town founded a nonprofit called Life Outside. We work in the South Bend area to help connect people who have left prison with resources. It adds to the work that I do with our students in prison. I will be working to build networks of resources in this area so that we can better support all people coming back to our community from prison. It is a labor of love.
What do you miss most about your time as a rector?
My apartment was like the living room of the dorm. In Stanford, the rector apartment is right at the intersection of the hallways on the first floor. Everyone walked by my room, so it was just a carousel of guys coming in and hanging out. That aspect of a vibrant community is a little bit different when you’re in an office building. The guys are great. I miss them all the time.