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Cultural Passport gets students off campus

by MOLLY MADDEN | Friday, September 3, 2010

While many Notre Dame students may decide to study abroad and travel to far-off places, a new program on campus is encouraging students to seek out the marvels in the local community.

First created last spring, the Cultural Passport program was developed through a partnership with the College of Science and Mayor Stephen Luecke of South Bend. The program gives every student a cultural passport featuring 14 destinations in the South Bend area where students are encouraged to visit.

“I believe that all of our students need to graduate with not only a great education but actually knowing something about the community that they’ve lived in for four years,” Dean Gregory Crawford of the College of Science said.

When the program was conceived last year, it was initially only offered to a select group of students from the College of Science and was more of a “prototype” according to Crawford. However, the program has been expanded to include every undergraduate and graduate student at Notre Dame.

Each passport features a description of the location, hours of operation and some destinations even offer special discounts for Notre Dame students. The goal of the passport format, according to Crawford, is to get students to visit as many of the destinations as possible. At every location a student shows the passport, they will receive a stamp on the passport for that organization.

Crawford said he came up with the idea when he realized how few Notre Dame students ever venture into the South Bend community.

“Before starting this program, I visited most of the places that are in the passports and I was fascinated by all these various organizations,” he said. “I started working with the Mayor’s office and together we compiled this list of fourteen locations that we encourage students to visit during their time here at Notre Dame.”

Crawford and Mayor Luecke worked with each of the fourteen destinations to be included in the program. The Mayor’s Office agreed to print up a special certificate for any student who receives a stamp from every location in the passport.  But Crawford hopes that students participate in the program for different reasons.

“This is a nice and easy way to engage the community, and a very important one,” he said.  “I would hate to think that they would participate in this simply to receive a certificate.”

Each College has the passports and students are encouraged to go to their dean’s office and pick one up.

The Class of 2014 received their passports during Freshmen Orientation. Many of the freshmen said the passports have made them see there is a lot more to South Bend than just Notre Dame.

“I would have never thought to explore South Bend until I got my passport,” freshman Gina Rogari said. “I didn’t know we had some of those things around here.”

Freshman Molly Shank said while she found the passport “helpful,” initially she wasn’t sure of its purpose.

“There wasn’t a whole lot of explanation about the program,” she said. “They need to explain it better because I would definitely use it now.”

Crawford said the program will be reviewed at the end of the year and feedback will be solicited from the students who participated in the program to see if any changes should be made.

Crawford said he has little doubt that the program will help bring new outlook to the students who take advantage of the program and the city of South Bend.

“Our students should be able to leave this community that they’ve lived in for four years and tell people all about it,” he said.  “Besides, I think that when they visit some of these places, they will be blown away by what they see.”