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Things Notre Dame Students Like

Ward Pettibone | Friday, September 10, 2010

Off the top of the head, what do Notre Dame students like most? The Grotto, perhaps, or Irish flags? Whatever first comes to mind, chances are it is included in Bob Kessler’s new book, “Things Notre Dame Students Like.”

Kessler, a 2009 graduate of the University, has assembled a list of 100 things Notre Dame students like, ranging from the straightforward (#25 “Planning things,” #35 “Making t-shirts,” #71 “Viewpoint wars”) to the humorous (#52 “Talking about squirrels,” #78 “Feeling strongly about New Jersey,” #86 “Being overly proud of their original ID”). Based on his blog, www.thingsnotredamestudentslike.com, which has been in existence since 2009, the book expands upon the idea with new sub-lists (“Things Notre Dame Couples Like,” “Things Coach Brey Likes”) and plenty of charts and diagrams (a map of the U.S. according to Admissions, a pie chart of the “Notre Dame Student Dress Code”).

Kessler writes with a wry humor that will make any alumni or current student smile. Readers will likely nod and smile knowingly at Kessler’s observations about The Shirt: “Despite the consistently ridiculous look and fit of The Shirt, Notre Dame Students will continue to wear it,” Parietals: “Deep down most Notre Dame Students actually like parietals,” and Rudy: “Rudy’s plight doesn’t really mirror the path of any current Notre Dame students.”

In writing “Things Notre Dame Students Like,” Kessler tried to answer four questions: “What is this thing?” “Why do Notre Dame students like it?” “How is this different from other schools?” and “Why is this an important aspect of Notre Dame culture?” His goal was to depict the things that make Notre Dame unique, and measured his success based on the response to an article – “If people respond to it, talk about it, or comment on it, then I know I did a good job,” he says. “Any entry that has the capability to incite a Viewpoint war is definitely a good one.”

In addition to replacing outdated references for publication in the book (for example #19, originally “The OC and other teen dramas,” is now “Cable in dorm rooms”), Kessler re-wrote many of the original articles to match the style of prose that had evolved over a year of blogging. After reaching out to the authors of several Notre Dame books, Kessler received help from alumni to publish the book. He observed, “Notre Dame people are so willing to help one another.”

For Kessler, the transition from blog to book was a turning point, marking the end of his experience as a Notre Dame student. As an alumnus, his advice to current students can best be summed up as: diversify.

Notre Dame has so much to offer that if one is restricted to one area of activity, they risk missing out on some of the best parts of this wonderful place. He worries that Notre Dame is losing the type of students that are not only intelligent, but also “think winning the intramural football championship would be the highlight” of their time at Notre Dame. Dorm life is his favorite aspect about Notre Dame life and he said that most of the articles in his book are strongly influenced by the unique dorm culture. For Kessler, the relationships built here are the most worthwhile part of college.

After graduating, Kessler spent a year teaching English in China, and now does volunteer work and freelance writing while continuing to apply for full-time positions.

Kessler considers himself “retired from writing about Notre Dame,” but acknowledges “there’s always a chance I’ll pull a Brett Favre.”

“Things Notre Dame Students Like” is a well-written, funny and sharply perceptive book about the culture of our beloved school, highly recommended for alumni, current students and anyone curious about what exactly makes our home under the Dome so special.