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Brennan Bollman named valedictorian

Madeline Buckley | Friday, April 17, 2009

Brennan Bollman, the class of 2009 valedictorian, earned a 4.0 grade point average, but she said many of her most valuable learning experiences from the past four years have happened outside of the classroom.

“One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about being at Notre Dame is spending time with friends who will engage issues beyond the classroom,” she said. “I have groups of friends who will cook dinner and invite their professors to their houses. Our learning doesn’t have to be confined to classes and homework and clubs.”

Bollman said she is grateful for the opportunity to speak to her class at graduation.

“I know that my class is full of incredibly engaged and accomplished people, and I’m just one of them,” she said. “I will just work hard to speak well on our behalf because we’re an amazing group of young people.”

Bollman, a biological science major and peace studies minor from St. Joseph, Mich., said she will attend medical school next year in the hopes of becoming a doctor, but she said a career in medicine was not always her goal.

“I came to Notre Dame thinking I would go more along the lines of biomedical research,” she said. “But it was doing the summer service programs that reawakened me to the idea of being a doctor.”

Bollman spent 10 weeks during the summer before sophomore year working in a Catholic worker shelter for women and taught English in Cambodia the following summer. Both service projects were organized through the Center for Social Concerns (CSC).

“Living in that shelter is what really got me engaged in social issues,” she said. “It was really a transformative experience.”

Bollman said her experiences helping individual people through service projects drew her away from research and towards medicine as a career.

“I want to be a doctor not to go into research or teaching, but to focus on one-on-one interaction with patients,” she said. “I’m really interested in practicing primary care medicine in underserved areas either in states or likely internationally.”

Bollman did her undergraduate research for the Notre Dame Haiti Program working to eliminate the disease that causes Elephantitis, and she said she got the chance to spend seven weeks in the country implementing her research during the summer before senior year.

“I love the country,” she said. “It absolutely fascinates me.”

Bollman said she would like to go back to Haiti in the future as a doctor.

Theology professor Fr. Paul Kollman taught Bollman in the theology class, Christianity in Africa, and he said she is an excellent student.

“In the midst of a really keen intellectual ability, she’s got a strong moral compass,” he said. “I think she’s really put her education at the service of the world’s needy in the United States and internationally, especially in Haiti and Cambodia.”

Kollman said Bollman has worked extensively with the C.S.C and is committed to social justice both locally and globally.

“She’s just really an outstanding example of the kind of student Notre Dame is glad to receive and benefit from and also help produce,” he said.

Bollman said her four years at Notre Dame have given her an awareness of the “tough problems” that her generation faces.

“I haven’t learned how to solve anything in my four years here,” she said. “But I have learned that there are very important issues that I will need to address either directly through my work, or indirectly by being a global citizen.”