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Monk’s seminars featured diverse students, syllabus list

Jarrett Lantz | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

During his tenure as president, Father Edward Malloy worked to draw students from diverse backgrounds to Notre Dame. And for the lucky few in his freshman seminar class each year, he was able to extend a personal welcome.

Ever since the second year of his presidency, Malloy has taught a literature seminar for first-year students. Unlike most seminars, many of the students in Malloy’s class were selectively chosen on recommendation of a first year advisor or another administrator. As a man who has visited more than 70 countries, Malloy strove to bring a wide range of people, cultures and ideas to his classroom.

“The people in my class have been gerrymandered to be quite diverse racially, ethnically, and internationally,” Malloy said. “Usually half of the students are men and half women. I’ve enjoyed teaching it, because I think we’re modeling a little bit of my hope for Notre Dame as a multicultural and international institution.”

Like the students in his class, the course content represented a wide range of cultures, including Indian, Chinese, Israeli and Vietnamese. This year, students read books such as The Life of Pi, Night of Many Dreams, Tears of the Giraffe and Around the World in 80 Days, as well as watching The English Patient and The Motorcycle Diaries.

“All of [the books and movies] are set in a different culture or country or time in history,” Malloy said. “[They] are intended to help the students learn the capacity for empathy to try to get inside the experience of people different from themselves.”

Many of Malloy’s students agreed that along with the books and movies, the diverse population of the classes allowed the students to learn a great deal about each other’s cultures.

“It is difficult to get to know students in other classes, but in this particular class, closer relationships are formed,” said Frank Guerra, a student in Malloy’s class. “We have learned so much about our different backgrounds and different personalities. Our discussions have led to challenging each other’s view, but respecting everyone’s individual opinion.”

Richelle Thomas, a fellow student, agreed that the diversity in the class benefited students.

“There are people of many different races and cultures represented and [people] from different parts of the country as well,” Thomas said. “We are all very different and unique. Everyone has their own story and experiences that help them bring new ideas to the table.”

Although many Notre Dame freshmen say they felt out of place arriving at school, some of those chosen for Malloy’s class had a particularly hard time adjusting due to factors such as living in another country. However, Malloy’s former students have noted that the class helped them fit in to the Notre Dame culture.

“I was talking to my adviser about how I did not feel like Notre Dame was very diverse and was having trouble relating to other students,” said Susan Kippels, a freshman who has lived in Jerusalem and England and whose family resides in Uganda. “As a result, she told me this class would be a good fit for me, and it has been.”

Malloy believed in strong interactions with each of his students. During the course of the semester, Malloy called in each of his students individually to discuss their backgrounds, their thoughts of the class, or whatever was on their mind.

“I feel that Monk took an interest into what each one of us valued and thought,” Guerra said. “He wanted to hear from each one of us and not only hear from the few outspoken students. Everyone added his or her own take on the topic of conversation.”

Unfortunately for Notre Dame’s incoming freshmen, Malloy will not teach any classes next year. Instead of teaching, he plans to spend his first year as president emeritus writing books, taking in concerts at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center and relaxing. Malloy does plan to teach at the University after his sabbatical year, but he’s not quite sure what.

“It could be [another literature class], it could be an ethics class – I could teach a course on biography and autobiography, or I could teach a course on education or higher education or leadership,” Malloy said. “There’s a lot of different possibilities, and I think what I’ll do second semester of next year is pin it down.”