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Class of 2009 valedictorian discusses service work

Tess Civantos | Thursday, May 14, 2009

In her four years as an undergraduate, Brennan Bollman, the class of 2009 valedictorian, has found that Notre Dame has a character all its own.

“I think it’s that people here care about each other, about the local community and the larger world. They care about their hall mates even if they don’t know them; they care about the staff that works here,” Bollman said. “It flows naturally out of the Catholic character of the school.”

The caring that Bollman senses among her classmates is one reason she said she is proud to represent her graduating class at Commencement.

“I’m incredibly excited,” she said. “This is a wonderful graduating class, very engaged and passionate.”

Bollman has come to appreciate the character of Notre Dame and of the class of 2009 through taking part in a range of extracurricular activities.

Bollman served on Voice, the student advisory board of the Center for Social Concerns, and worked to promote NDVotes ’08. She said her involvement with the Center for Social Concerns helped her meet many of her closest friends at Notre Dame.

“One of the cool things about Notre Dame is that I have friends in every major,” Bollman said, “a lot of whom I met through the Center for Social Concerns.”

She said the commitment to service which the Center for Social Concerns represents is a major part of what makes Notre Dame special.

“The Center for Social Concerns is one of the most important things on campus,” she said.

Bollman is a Biological Science major and Peace Studies minor from St. Joseph, Mich., and will attend Harvard Medical School in the fall.

She said she originally planned to pursue a career in biomedical research, but her service work convinced her to become a doctor instead.

Bollman spent the summer after her freshman year working at a Catholic Worker house in New York, and spent the next two summers in Haiti and Cambodia.

“I realized I want to help individual people in individual moments,” Bollman said. “So medicine was a better fit. Everything flowed from that.”

Bollman taught English in Cambodia and worked in Haiti to help implement her undergraduate research work, which focused on eliminating the disease that causes elephantiasis.

Summer service was only one part of Bollman’s active service work throughout her time at Notre Dame.

She has worked at the Sister Maura Brannick Health Center in South Bend for the past two years and helped coordinate the Pathos Project, a class for pre-professional students that integrates discussions about human suffering with service work.

Bollman is also active in Lewis Hall, where she has lived for the past four years.

As Bollman prepares to graduate, she says that her time at Notre Dame has been a wonderful experience.

“I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been offered and the people that I’ve met,” Bollman said. “I hope that I can honor those gifts.”