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Seniors reflect, give advice at panel

| Sunday, April 27, 2014

On Friday in South Dining Hall’s Oak Room, AnnaLee Rice, a Tocqueville Fellow and senior political science major who will work at Red Edge Digital Advocacy, organized and moderated a “Seniors for Lunch” panel to give seniors a chance to look back and share advice on the undergraduate experience.

The four seniors comprising the panel – Sarah McGough, a senior anthropology major who will be going to Harvard University for a Masters in Public Health, Will Miller, a senior political science major who will work at Bain & Company, Tori Roeck, a senior classics major who will be going to the University of Oxford for a MSc in Refugee and Forced Migration Studies, and Luke Pardue, a senior economics and philosophy major who will work at the Federal Reserve in Washington — have “navigated the tumultuous weather of undergraduate life,” Rice said. Editor’s note: Roeck is a senior news writer for The Observer.

Rice asked, “What advice have you been given at Notre Dame that you have listened to or ignored worked out for the positive?”

McGough said not listening to her advisors on following set criteria in a given major was beneficial. 

“I didn’t listen to that because I didn’t want to check all the boxes off to graduate with X, Y or Z,” she said. “It’s tricky because obviously you have to graduate with things, but it’s gratifying because I organized my choices to build a cohesive narrative. Don’t check boxes; build a framework.”

Miller said he benefitted from learning outside the classroom as well as inside of it.

“Oftentimes we let ourselves be constrained by what’s available in classes or clubs. That can be as inhibiting as it can be freeing,” Miller said.

Roeck said a mentality or pressure exists which makes kids feel like they have to do everything and overextend themselves.

“I came in being too ambitious and zealous,” Roeck said. “If you’re biting off more than you can chew, you’re not going to be successful. Don’t let people push you to do too much.”

Pardue said he recommends for students to take classes they are interested in, not just because they fit inside a major requirement.

“I came in being interested in all these different subjects and thinking that the only way I could engage these interests is taking the major or minor,” Pardue said. 

Rice specifically addressed Pardue and Miller who will be pursuing business interests after graduating. She asked, “Can you be Arts & Letters and still be successful in business? And if so, how?”

Pardue said, “People want to see you’re well rounded and have analytical skills. You can get [business] skills outside the classroom. The idea is to focus on you to take the initiative.”

Miller said, “I think it’s a shame that people feel forced to go to business right away. If you’re Arts & Letters and want to go into business and consulting, make sure you supplement your experiences in the classroom with clubs and organizations that train those skills.”

Rice asked McGough and Roeck about the benefits of studying abroad.

McGough said her experience abroad allowed her to engage with the community and culture they studied on campus.

Rice asked, “Has there ever been a moment where you didn’t think you were going to make it? How did you deal with it?”

Pardue said failure is inevitable at some point at the University.

“Everyone has those moments. In high school, we all did well. You have this moment when you fail a test at Notre Dame and you’re like, ‘they found me out, I’m a fraud’,” Pardue said. “Take a deep breath. In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t matter. You will come back from that.”

Rice asked how the seniors justified fitting in social lives.

Roeck said balancing productivity with some unproductive fun would make you better at your work.

“They’re sanity breaks.” McGough said. “We overextend ourselves in every area.”

Rice asked, “What is the best advice you have been given?”

Roeck said, “David O’Connor in the philosophy department … gave us his version of a commencement address. He said, ‘If you’re spending more than half your life on things you hate, then you’re doing something wrong.’”

Miller said, “This isn’t exactly from a professor so I’m breaking the rules. Put work on the x-axis and success on the y-axis and you’ll see your success. We have a lot of agency and control on how we do.”

McGough said she once jokingly worried about having a typo in her senior thesis to her thesis advisor, Carolyn Nordstrom. McGough said Nordstrom looked at her and said, ‘Sarah, do you know what happens when there’s a typo? You look at it and go ‘oh, isn’t that cute. It means I’m human.’”

McGough said, “Letting those tiny shortcomings consume you is a waste of energy.”

Pardue said, “Steven Reifenberg said, ‘You should do one thing in college that takes you out of your comfort zone.’ So many kids get caught up in what they want to do. Take a leap and do something that will push you.”

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About Kyle Witzigman

Kyle, of Springdale, Arkansas, is a junior political science major and constitutional studies minor. He lives in Morrissey Manor.

Contact Kyle