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.
Posted by Amelia Thompson at 5:12 PM