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Panelists encourage Notre Dame students to follow their passions

Marielle Hampe | Sunday, October 9, 2011

When Notre Dame men’s lacrosse head coach Kevin Corrigan began his coaching career, he knew he was dedicating his life to something he loved.

“Find that thing you want to do,” Corrigan said. “Do something you’re passionate about.”

Life after college may be uncertain and expectations of students are high, but Corrigan and three other panelists encouraged students to follow their passions and make their dreams a reality during Friday’s panel, “Discerning Vocation in a World of Expectations,” held after a lacrosse scrimmage and live concert at Arlotta Lacrosse Stadium.

When panelist Eric Byington, current assistant director of women’s rights organization Calling All Crows and founder of the Elias Fund, worked for a mortgage company, he quickly discovered he lacked passion for his job.

“It was draining my soul in a lot of ways,” he said.

Byington quit his job and began the Elias Fund, a nonprofit organization that raises money to alleviate poverty and pay for children’s schooling fees in Zimbabwe.

“I traveled for three months in Africa, and what struck me most were the people’s friendships and relationships,” he said.

During his travel, Byington learned an African saying, “I am strong if you are strong.”

“This saying embodied everything I was experiencing in Zimbabwe. It means together we’re all going to be stronger,” he said.

The Elias Fund practices this saying as it works to strengthen the people in poverty-stricken Zimbabwean communities.

“We can’t stop learning,” Byington said. “Higher education is important, but there is so much to learn from world experience.”

All panelists said they had to take risks to follow their passions. Panelist Peter Friedman, Emmanuel College lacrosse assistant coach and co-founder of Triskallian Tours, encouraged students to evaluate risks before beginning a new project.

“You’ll have to take risks,” he said. “You have to be willing to work twice as hard in the beginning to get a new project started.”

Friedman’s risk was to start Triskallian Tours, an educational-travel and community service program that takes high school students to various locations in Latin America.

Panelist Kevin Dugan, manager of Youth and Community Programs in the Notre Dame Athletic Department and director of men’s lacrosse operations, also discussed the risks new projects require.

“My father said, ‘The person who never took a risk, no one knows his name,'” Dugan said. “To take a risk, you have to throw your heart over the fence. How much do you believe in yourself? Are you willing to bet on yourself?”

Dugan’s love for lacrosse led him to found Fields of Growth, an organization that encourages passion through lacrosse and promotes community growth in Uganda.

This Christmas, Notre Dame seniors Nick Gunty and Brian Powers will go to Uganda with Dugan’s Fields of Growth organization to record a CD with a Ugandan children’s choir. Gunty and Powers, who sang and played guitar before the panel discussion, are following their passion and plan to pursue a career in music after graduation.

Notre Dame’s Gender Relations Center (GRC) and the Notre Dame men’s lacrosse team sponsored the panel.

“In college, there is lots of pressure for students to perform well, lots of anxiety for students to decide who they are,” GRC Assistant Director Elizabeth Moriarty said. “Collaborative events like the panel discussion provide a forum for people to discern a sense of identity and talk about important issues.”