Monday, May 10, 2010

The Complexities of Loving Thee Notre Dame

As I began working on my third newsletter as Communications Director for the Black Alumni Board, I was starting to feel comfortable in the process: develop feature idea, interview enthusiastic Black Alumnus, write a compelling piece that allows fellow Black Alum to stay connected to our Alma Mater, distribute. Well when I sat down to interview Cedric Strickland, current Notre Dame Freshman, my sacred process got a wake-up call.

Cedric, a pleasant First Year from Atlanta, spoke graciously of the efforts of the Notre Dame Alumni—specifically the Notre Dame Club of Atlanta—who helped him and his family get to campus in the Fall, and even provided him with those Freshman year essentials—sheets, towels, books and even a little spending money.

“I made just one or two phone calls and was immediately flooded with support from people offering to help. I was so shocked because I was just looking for a ride to campus.”

When I asked him why he chose Notre Dame, he praised the University’s recruiting process, which he described as thorough, yet genuine.

“I was impressed when I received a call from a current student whom I had met during my Spring Visitation weekend,” Cedric recalls. “The conversation was unforced and sincere. I didn’t feel like she was calling to ‘make the sale,’ but instead was truly interested in me as a student.”

“Compared to the other schools I applied to, Notre Dame was not expert in just one field, but had top-notch programs across the boards,” Cedric explained. “I have a strong interest in math and science, but I wanted the flexibility to pursue other subjects; as well as the possibility to change my major once or twice, but still get an outstanding education.”

I was practically beaming as I listened to this Questbridge Scholarship Recipient, Gates Millennium Scholar, speak of the reasons he had chosen Our Lady’s University; and of how Alumni, strangers in every way but Notre Dame, rallied together to support our newest member of the family.

The cold splash of reality came when Cedric delved deeper and analyzed his first year. First a pause, then a list of the negatives: ridiculously cold weather, small-town syndrome, glaring lack of diversity and courses that seemed to move on fast-forward. It was a typical ND litany, but I was waiting for the positive aspects I’d enjoyed: quad-specific dorm spirit, epic football games, omelets made to order in South Dining Hall, that one professor who stimulates intellectual curiosity and friends who seem heaven-sent. I asked if he was happy he had chosen Notre Dame.

“I’m not unhappy. I’m just still trying to process of all of these changes. It’s just been hard to make any sort of connection between my life at home and my life here,” he admitted.

While Cedric’s responses were not completely without cheer, I recognize that we each have a unique Notre Dame experience and I long for this talented young man to see his next three years on campus as ones to enjoy, not simply endure. Ultimately, I want Cedric to be able to remove the question mark from Love Thee Notre Dame.

So, I call on the entire Black Alumni family to band together once more, but not for monetary support. This effort is far more significant than that. We need to come together to show this future alumnus, and other current students, that no matter how stony our path, the Notre Dame experience is exceptional, breathtaking and, above all, worth every struggle.


  1. This is especially why we need Black Alumni mentors for every one of our students on campus! It is imperative that the students are never without the image of what it looks like on the other side of their undergraduate academic journey. To become a BA of ND mentor, please forward your contact information to the BA of ND Mentoring Director at CDAnderson.mba2000 @ [Please note: there are spaces in front of and behind the '@' in order to prevent spam, please correct when emailing.]

    Welcome to the Notre Dame family Cedric... I look forward to connecting with you on my next visit to campus!


  2. Life at ND can be tough. I think its the bonds your form with your friends, mentors, alumni and staff that get you through the rough spots that makes the Black ND experience so special Hang in there Cedric!

  3. I can relate to Cedric's concerns, with one difference: I was not an out-of-towner, I grew-up in the shadow of the Dome, so to speak. I am from South Bend and I decided in the 7th grade that I would attend Notre Dame. I was well aware of the caliber of the university's academic programs, but even I was in for a shock when I arrived. The people I met on campus were completely different that the ones I had known throughout my childhood, this was especially true for the African American community on campus. Needless to say distance and time have allowed me to process those experiences, both good and bad, and I have to accept that they all added to who I was when I started at ND. I can easily identify my true friends from 'other people who attended Notre Dame.' Those skills come with time. Hang in there. Keep your eyes on the bigger picture: A truly unique and world-class education. That outweighs any of the things that may make you reconsider your choice.

    Monise L. Seward, Ed.S.
    Snellville, GA by way of South Bend, IN