Former mayor of South Bend to investigate “Principles of Trust for the 2020s”

Former mayor of South Bend, Pete Buttigieg, is Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study’s (NDIAS) newest faculty fellow. On June 25, NDIAS announced that Buttigieg would serve as a researcher and professor for the 2020-2021 academic year. 

Buttigieg is a local celebrity, having served as the city of South Bend’s mayor for two terms, beginning in 2012 and ending in 2020. Perhaps more notably, however, he was also a Democratic candidate in the 2020 Presidential Election.  Buttigieg ran alongside other major Democratic politicians including Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, and Elizabeth Warren, and even won the Iowa caucus. He suspended his campaign on March 1, 2020 after realizing defeat in subsequent  primaries. Buttigieg still resides in South Bend and will be spending his next few months differently, working as a faculty fellow at Notre Dame. 

Buttigieg was selected to serve as one of the fourteen faculty fellows at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study. The NDIAS is a “University-wide research institute that convenes an interdisciplinary group of faculty, graduate and undergraduate fellows each year to study questions that require a joint focus, benefit from sustained research, and advance understanding of pressing issues that affect our ability to lead valuable, meaningful lives.” 

In a video announcing the 2020-2021 theme, director of NDIAS and professor of philosophy Meghan Sullivan said: “Each year we gather a group of faculty fellows, PhD students, and undergraduate researchers together to investigate the kinds of puzzles that span the university and require bold insights.” The institute invites faculty and students alike to delve into this theme through research, discussion, and teaching. The theme for this year’s study is “Nature of Trust.” 

As a subset of the overarching theme of “Nature of Trust,” Buttigieg will be focusing on “Principles of Trust for the 2020s.” During his time at the university, he will conduct research in two specific areas: how to restore trust in political institutions and, second, the distinctive forces that shape the 2020s. In addition to his research work, he is teaching an undergraduate course entitled “Perspectives on Trust.”

Junior Caroline Zlaket was selected from a rigorous applicant pool to participate in Buttigieg’s undergraduate course in the Fall semester. She said she was most interested in taking this course because she finds the former mayor “incredibly inspiring and compelling.” Further, she described herself as “a bit of a late bloomer in terms of getting up to speed with modern politics,” so she is trying to educate herself as much as possible and Buttigieg’s “Perspectives on Trust” class “seemed like a fantastic way to continue on this path toward being as informed as possible.” 

Sullivan expressed a similar excitement, saying: “I’m thrilled to welcome Pete to the Institute and Notre Dame in the coming year. More than ever, we need scholars and public leaders working together, generating the insights that will make democratic institutions stronger and advance the common good in creative and evidence-based ways.” 

Other faculty fellows seem to be approaching the theme a bit differently, focusing on the intersection of technology and trust. Kate Marshall, Associate Professor of English at the University, said that the fellows are “giving us fascinating ways to think about trust and the existential challenges of new technology.” 

Buttigieg, though, will be sticking to his political “comfort zone,” honing in on the restoration of trust in the democratic process, especially in the 2020s. He shared his excitement about joining NDIAS, saying, “I am delighted to join this academic community to pursue research on one of the most salient issues of our time — the nature of trust. I look forward to engaging with faculty and students from various disciplines at a time in the life of our country that calls for deep and wide-ranging inquiry.” 

A key focus of NDIAS’ mission is to engage students and faculty in meaningful discussion and thought-provoking insights about topical issues. Zlaket emphasized this sentiment, saying, “I think this class will teach me just as much about the world around me as it will about myself. I expect to ask myself a lot of introspective questions about how I find things to be true, what I deem trustworthy or not, how I establish trust with myself and with those I love, etc. Most importantly, I expect to leave the class wiser—about perspectives on trust, yes, but also about what it means to be human and how we come to understand our surroundings.”

Buttigieg will be joining other notable NDIAS faculty fellow alumni, such as former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan and former U.S. Senator Joe Donnelly.

Sydney Missigman is a junior management consulting and Spanish supplementary major from Goodyear, Arizona. If she is not watching the sunset from her lake-view room in Lewis Hall, you can spot her sitting near the lakes or at the Grotto taking in the beautiful South Bend skies. She can be reached at