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ND to hold first annual CommUniversity Day

Ann-Marie Woods | Friday, April 3, 2009

In an effort to “build relationships, partnerships and fellowship” with the South Bend community, Notre Dame students will collaborate with community members through Notre Dame’s first annual CommUniversity Day, which will offer more than 20 service projects on and off campus throughout the day.

“The idea for the day is one body, many gifts,” Michelle Byrne, outgoing chair for the Social Concerns Committee, said. “No matter what your talent, there is definitely a way you can serve your community.”

The inspiration for CommUniversity Day came from student body President Emeritus Bob Reish’s research of other universities’ service programs.

Student government concluded that while a large majority of Notre Dame students participate in some form of service, our campus and community lacked “one cohesive day,” Byrne said.

“We wanted to help improve community relations, but we didn’t think our efforts have been as robust and cohesive as they could be,” she said.

Beginning Saturday morning at 9 a.m., students are invited to a kickoff breakfast in the library auditorium, where they can pick up a T-shirt and a light breakfast before starting their projects. Fr. Joe Carey, assistant director of Campus Ministry for Religious Education and Retreats, will speak to the students before the service projects begin.

“Fr. Joe Carey is involved in Campus Ministry, [Notre Dame Encounter] retreats and he is well-loved here at Notre Dame,” Byrne said. “He will speak to the students to help get people excited about the day.”

With a wide variety of service projects off campus, in addition to dorm events on campus, Byrne said student government, along with the Center for Social Concern’s (CSC) Canned Food Drive, hopes to get as many students and community members involved as possible.

Some of the off-campus projects include park clean-ups, mural painting, scavenger hunts with local students, Habitat for Humanity housework, cleaning up the zoo and volunteering at nursing homes, she said.

In addition, students can contribute on campus, with Knott’s Angel for a Day, Pasquerilla West’s Project Paint, and the CSC’s annual Canned Food Drive.

While service is an integral part of CommUniversity, Byrne also emphasized the importance of helping the community feel comfortable here at Notre Dame. Community members are invited to visit Notre Dame for campus tours, Easter egg hunts for children and technology tutoring for senior citizens as well as making available facilities like the Joyce Center and the Snite Museum for visitors.

“We want to emphasize that this is not a service day; it is about building partnerships, fellowships, relationships and mutuality,” Byrne said. “We want the community to feel welcome here at Notre Dame.”

The day will culminate at the Robinson Learning Center from 4-7 p.m., where students and the community are invited to a “block party,” with food, entertainment and speakers, including Jan Botz, vice president of the Office of Public Affairs and Communication, Ann Puzzello, vice president of the South Bend Common Council and several student government members.

Byrne said the turnout for the event has been successful, with more than 600 students registered for service projects.

Students can register online at studentgovernment.nd.edu up until Friday, and the first 1,000 students will receive a free T-shirt. Students may also register the day of the event to participate in a project on or off campus, she said.

Additionally, many of the athletic teams will be participating in service projects throughout the day, contributing to the unified day of service and collaboration with the community.

Because of the support from the student body and South Bend community for the first annual CommUniversity Day, the new Social Concerns Committee chair, Rachel Roseberry, said she is optimistic about the future of this event.

“Absolutely we hope this becomes an annual event,” she said. “We hope to make it bigger and involve more students and community members.”

The expectation is that the Notre Dame and South Bend community will become familiar with the catchphrase, CommUniversity, and the event will grow with each year, Roseberry said.

“The question won’t be are you participating, but rather which project are you doing,” Byrne said. “It will be the thing to do.”