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What’s on your mindset?

Kate Barrett | Wednesday, August 25, 2010

By now you’ve heard it so very many times, but nevertheless, welcome, from those of us who live here all year round and don’t leave after four years. Welcome back, and a special welcome to the class of 2014.  Each and every one of you has traveled a different path, which has now led you to Notre Dame. Know that you’re here for a reason and that many, many people rejoice in your presence here.

The beginning of a new academic year at colleges and universities brings with it an annual custom out of Beloit College in Beloit, Wisc., called the Mindset List. Designed to help college faculty “relate” to their students without looking hopelessly out of touch, the list urges professors to remember (among other things) that to the student sitting in front of them, phones have always been cordless, and email is passé, too slow to be tolerated as a preferred form of communication.

So it got me thinking, if we had our own mindset list here for our brand-new Class of 2014, what would it include? Well, in the lifetimes — or at least memories — of those of you born in or around 1992, Sacred Heart has always been a Basilica.

The Burke Memorial (behind West Quad) has always been a nine-hole course.

“The Shirt” has always been the attire of choice for home games.

Howard, Cavanaugh and Pangborn, all men’s residences when I was a student, have always been women’s halls (of course, as recently as 1971 every hall was a men’s hall).

Grace and Flanner have always been office buildings.

North Dining Hall has always had that funky split-level front on it.

Notre Dame has (ouch!) not won a national championship nor produced a Heisman Trophy winner.

The problem with these annual lists is that they assume that no students pay attention to anything that ever happened before they were born (come on, you know we used to win national championships, right?), and that those of us who are, ahem, older than students can’t believe that time actually has continued to march on since we graduated.

So, classes of 2011, ‘12, ‘13 and ‘14, what’s your mindset? Despite what the lists claim, I’ll bet you have more in common with the classes of, say, 1974, 1985, 1962 or 2000 than we even realize. You may also have more in common with each other than you first believed when you walked into your new room and thought, “There is no way I’m going to make it a whole year with her.”

Notre Dame students share a particular (some might say peculiar) mindset, a sense of tradition and connection to something bigger and older than themselves. Maybe it’s because we make so much here of customs and rituals that have been around for years, decades, even generations. Maybe it’s because the celebration of our faith remains the most important ritual we’ve shared here since the first days when Holy Cross missionary priests staked their claim by the shores of the lakes.

And our faith makes us ready and able to welcome each new class of students to the ongoing community history of this place, to invite each of you to become a part of the mindset of future students who will come to Notre Dame long after you’ve left. When we follow the example of Christ, we will recognize that, along with bringing laptops and smart phones and iPods to school this semester, some members of the Notre Dame family have brought with them the weight of a serious family illness or recent death, or the fear of a parent’s impending joblessness or recent divorce. When we live out our belief in the Gospel, we’ll reach out over and over to include and support those who need us the most.

Some of the more superficial details have changed: when I lived in Farley we had phones in our rooms, provided by the university, and they all had cords. However, in many more important ways our mindset remains the same. Whether we graduated 25 years ago or are just getting started, we have the responsibility and the opportunity to ensure that those who follow us here will know that faith in God and love of the Lord Jesus Christ are at the heart of the life and mindset of Notre Dame.

This week’s FaithPoint was written by Kate Barrett, director of the Emmaus program in Campus Ministry. She can be reached at kbarrett@nd.edu

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.