Theologian to succeed Professor O. Carter Snead as head of dCEC

The de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture (dCEC) announced on January 23 the appointment of Professor Jennifer Newsome Martin as their next director. Dean of Arts and Letters Sarah Mustillo appointed Martin to succeed O. Carter Snead, who has led the center since his appointment in 2012. Martin will begin her tenure as dCEC director on July 1, 2024.

Snead celebrated Martin’s appointment in a press release from the dCEC: “I can think of no one better to lead the Center into the future than my friend and dCEC faculty fellow Jenny Martin.” Snead continued, “She has a heart for the dCEC’s mission in all its dimensions, is a brilliant scholar, a beloved teacher, and a dynamic and inspiring leader. Simply put, Jenny is one of the most exciting Catholic intellectuals in academia today.”

Martin holds joint appointments as an associate professor in the Program of Liberal Studies (PLS) and the Department of Theology. As a faculty fellow with the dCEC, Martin’s research has focused on the thought of Hans Urs von Balthasar and 19th- and 20th-century Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox thought. 

She will be the third director of the dCEC, which was founded in 1999, in order to engage with “the most pressing and complex questions of ethics, culture, and public policy today.” Through its various programs, the center also aims to “strengthen Notre Dame’s Catholic character on campus,” especially through its Culture of Life Initiatives, which have included sponsoring the university’s attendance at the annual March for Life.

Martin outlined some ideas that she hopes to implement as director in an interview with the Rover. She was also clear that her background as a “humanist and theologian” will play an influential role in her plans “to heighten the humanities element of the center.”

She continued, explaining that the center’s approach to ethics will center around a conception of “full human flourishing,” including “public policy, books or religious traditions, and historical traditions.”  

One initiative highlighted was an increased emphasis on Dante as a central figure for the center. She explained, “Dante is so important for so many different fields, and the dCEC is very self-consciously interdisciplinary.” Martin expanded this idea in her Directorship Vision Statement, where she wrote about the possibility of “collaborating with the Center for Italian Studies and the Zahm Dante Collection in the Hesburgh Libraries’ Rare Books collection to situate Notre Dame as an interdisciplinary destination for Dante Studies.”

Martin also expressed her hope that the university—through the center—would expand its influence in local South Bend schools as part of its “student formation” programming. This focus would “bring and shore up the humanities education in diocesan schools as well, so that there is a Catholic vision of the humanities animating even the high school level.” 

She wrote, “One way of doing this might be to recruit (with funding) current Notre Dame professors in history, literature, the social sciences, theology, music, sacred music, and fine arts to serve as what we might call the ‘dCEC St. John Henry Newman Fellows.’”

But alongside these new enterprises, Martin also stressed her role as “a faithful steward of the good work of my predecessors.”

As director, Martin will inherit a directorship that has been marked by “twelve years of unprecedented growth,” according to the center’s announcement. Since the beginning of Snead’s tenure, the dCEC has expanded its initiatives dramatically, including its annual Fall Conference, various book series, and its steady support of students through the Sorin Fellows Program

The dCEC staff expressed their appreciation for Snead’s time in office. Margaret Cabaniss, Assistant Director of the dCEC, highlighted Snead’s leadership “to project Notre Dame’s countercultural voice into the public square on the most pressing questions of human dignity, freedom, and the common good.”

During her 12-year tenure, Martin has received several teaching awards. Several former students shared their enthusiasm for their experience with the Rover.

Frankie Machado, a junior who took a course with Martin, commented on her role as a teacher. He remarked, “Professor Martin provided me with an excitement and passion for texts which I had always heard of but never knew the reason for their [fame]. She made me excited to learn about books like the Iliad and the Odyssey and discuss hard texts such as Plato’s Symposium in our Great Books Seminar I Class.”

Another former student, Marcelle Cuoto, echoed this sentiment: “I had the experience of having Professor Martin teach me in both the Theology and PLS departments, and I was so thrilled when I heard she was being appointed. Her classes were so inspiring and she developed the students’ appreciation of beauty, especially in its relation to truth.”

Michael Canady is a sophomore studying classics and constitutional studies. His current interests include the JFK Assassination and whether his last name’s etymology has evolved from Kennedy. He can be reached at

Madelyn Stout is a senior majoring in political science and English. She is on her sixth book of the semester and is contemplating why since she is employed come post-graduation. If you’re interested in either the book she is currently reading or Christian education email her at

Photo Credit: dCEC website

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