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Alumni enjoy working for alma mater

by LAURA McCRYSTAL | Monday, October 4, 2010

Stephanie Mola graduated from Notre Dame in 2009 and moved to Florida to work for Johnson & Johnson, but a “Notre Dame itch” brought her back to South Bend a year later.

“Along the way there just seemed to be a big part of me missing and a lot of it pointed me back here,” she said. “And this just kind of fell in my lap and seemed like the perfect fit.”

Now, as the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s young alumni programs manager, Mola is one of many young graduates to work for her alma mater.

While Mola said she is happy to be back at Notre Dame, there are differences between being a student on campus and being an employee.

For example, she said students are not necessarily aware of the number of people who work on campus as full-time University employees.

“Now I walk around and see all these people I work with that I didn’t really know existed before,” she said. 

One difficult part of returning to Notre Dame as an employee, Mola said, is separating herself from student life because she has friends who are still undergraduates. As a former Notre Dame softball player, it is especially difficult for her to be on campus but no longer playing with the rest of the team.

“It’s hard to seem them. It’s hard to go by the field and hear about them going to practice, and I’m not going with them,” she said.

Because Mola graduated recently, however, she said she is better able to do her job at the Alumni Association, where she organizes programs for both for current students and alumni who graduated within the past 10 years.

Mola said she has also learned since she began working at the Alumni Association that people who work for the University, even if they are not alumni, are just as enthusiastic about Notre Dame as the student body.

“I guess an easy parallel from both perspectives is Notre Dame’s pretty well-known for having great people,” she said. “Everybody here is so welcoming and wants you to do well, just like when you were a student.”

Mola said she does not know what she will do in the future, especially since her current position is best filled by a young alum. She said she would be open, however, to other positions at the University.

“I’ll tell you, I left this place once and it’s going to be hard to do it again,” she said. “So I can definitely see myself staying here for a long time.”

John Whitty, a 2010 Notre Dame graduate who now works for the athletic department’s Joyce Grants-in-Aid Program, said he also experienced a transition from being a student to being a University employee.

Unlike Mola, Whitty began working for Notre Dame immediately following graduation.

“I think it’s definitely a different experience working for a university than attending a university, but it’s been a good opportunity to see the different sides of the University as a whole,” Whitty said. “And I’m bummed that my card doesn’t work at the dining hall anymore.”

He currently works with donors who give enough to the Athletic Department each year to fund one student athlete’s scholarship.

Whitty did not plan to stay at Notre Dame following graduation, but he began working in the athletic department during the second semester of his senior year. 

“As the semester progressed, I talked to my superiors and they expressed interest in keeping me,” he said. “It was pretty much too good of an opportunity to pass up. So I decided to stay here and it’s actually worked out pretty well.”

Because he works for the athletic department, Whitty said the contrast between his life and that of undergraduate students is perhaps best exemplified on home football weekends.

“I get to see a lot of insider stuff from places we take the donors, but it’s definitely not … the student weekend football experience,” he said. “I’m pretty busy on football weekends, but I definitely don’t get to tailgate.”

Although he would like to go to graduate school for business or sports administration in the future, Whitty said he is happy in his current role at the University.

“I like where I’m at right now, but I’m always open to options other places as well,” he said. “There’s no question that if there were positions available … I would stay at Notre Dame.”

Sarah Rodts, also a 2009 Notre Dame graduate, began working for the University’s athletics media relations office following graduation.

Rodts had planned to go to law school following graduation, but said she realized last spring she was not passionate about it. During the final semester of her senior year, she cancelled her plans to work at a law firm in Chicago and decided to work toward her dream of being a sports broadcast reporter.

Now, she splits her time between two jobs: one at Notre Dame, and one at WNDU, a local television station.

“In terms of whether or not I thought I would end up doing it last year at this time, absolutely not, … but as it’s all falling into place, it could not be more perfect,” Rodts said. “I’m learning a lot about athletics and how it is to work in the media, but then I’m on the other side of it, too.”

Rodts said one of the highlights of working for athletics media relations thus far was serving as the University liaison to an Adidas production crew that came to campus on a football weekend to shoot a commercial. 

While it is difficult to transition from student life to working 13-hour days, seven days a week, Rodts was prepared for the change.

“I was going to have to separate my undergrad life from the post-grad life,” she said.

In addition, she said her busy work schedule does not allow her much time to miss being a student. 

Even though she was prepared to face this transition, Rodts said it is hard when she does not have time to see her friends who are still undergraduates. But her current positions are perfect for her planned career path, and she is happy to remain at Notre Dame.

“I’m still so much a part of the University, and I don’t feel like graduation has made me any less a part of it,” she said.