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Notre Dame Class of 2009 shines as ‘strongest ever’

Heather VanHoegarden | Saturday, August 20, 2005

During a year when everything from the president of the University to the head football coach to the dean of First Year of Studies has changed, one thing has been constant – Notre Dame freshmen continue to get stronger academically.

The class of 2009, comprised of 2,000 students selected from an applicant pool of 11,316, is as unique and talented as ever before, said director of admissions Dan Saracino.

“It sounds like an old record, but this class is stronger than ever,” he said. “In terms of academics and in terms of broad diversity this class is the strongest ever.”

The class comes to Notre Dame in a time of transition, with University President Father John Jenkins having taken office July 1, and new football coach Charlie Weis set to coach his first game Sept. 3. In the First Year of Studies program, theology professor Rev. Hugh Page takes over for Dean Eileen Kolman, who retired last spring after 15 years at the helm of the program. There is even a new entrance to campus.

“It’s an exciting time to be here,” Saracino said. “What I would say to a first year student is to look what you’re a part of right now. From the new entrance to the campus, to the new Dome, to the new president, to the new provost, to the new dean of the First Year of Studies, to the new football coach – you’re part of an exciting transition at Notre Dame. It’s a great time to be at Notre Dame.”

But even with these changes at Notre Dame, the Class of 2009 is similar to previous classes in its involvement. Eighty four percent of students were involved in community service and 72 percent earned at least one varsity letter in high school.

“We look at the same measures,” Saracino said. “The class is a little bit stronger across the board. To achieve those goals we really are denying students that are one-dimensional. When we select a class it’s really a thoughtful process – we’re not just looking at one thing.”

One quality of this class, however, that disappointed Saracino was diversity, as 21.2 percent of incoming freshmen are of an ethnic minority background – a figure that has stayed relatively constant the past two years.

“That is a disappointment because we want it to grow; we don’t want it to be stagnant,” Saracino said. “When we are reaching out to get the best students that we can academically and extracurricularly and we definitely want to reach out to increase ethnic students – more black students especially. We did not see at all an increase in the number of black students – and that’s not acceptable.”

Saracino said that he hopes with more aggressive recruiting these talented students will want to come to Notre Dame.

The following facts help paint a picture of the class of 2009:

u Fifty-one percent were involved in the performing arts in high school

u Thirty-nine percent were the captain of at least one sport in high school

u Forty-six percent were involved in student government

u Thirteen percent were editors of high school publications

u Seven percent were either senior class or student body presidents

u Seven percent are first generation college students

u Six percent were Eagle Scouts or won the gold award

Because of this involvement, Saracino said it’s difficult to identify one specific thing that makes the class of 2009 different.

“I don’t think I can think of one thing that makes them stand out,” Saracino said. “They each have their own stories – each class has some things that make them special. Each class has its own character, but I think the character will play out during the course of their experience at Notre Dame.”