Freshmen attend student government networking fair
Rachel O'Grady | Tuesday, February 16, 2016
Hoping to start getting freshmen involved in student government, the First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership (FUEL) hosted its second annual Freshman Networking Fair on Monday night in the LaFortune ballroom.
Sophomore FUEL co-director Michael Finan said the purpose of the event was to expose freshmen to groups on campus they could get involved in. Representatives from several student government branches spoke to students interested in student leadership.
“It’s really just a great chance to expose them to all the opportunities on campus for them to be a leader,” Finan said. “We have a lot of people from executive council here, from Judicial Council, SUB, Diversity Council, PrismND and a lot of other organizations in the student union, so that they can get a chance to talk to upperclassmen, get a sense for what we’re doing and where they could see themselves in the next three years of their time here at Notre Dame.”
He said FUEL hosted the networking fair at this point in the school year because of upcoming elections and application cycles for student government and other groups.
“Since election season is underway at Notre Dame, FUEL brought a bunch of different groups from the student union to give freshmen an idea of what positions are available for them to run for or be appointed to for the upcoming school year,” Finan said. “Because all the elections are going on right now, if you’re a freshman and you don’t know what you’re doing, you can miss all of that.”
FUEL is a group of 31 freshmen that meet weekly to “introduce them to student government, show them the different branches, develop them as leaders,” according to Finan.
“We wanted to take what we do with FUEL every week and give all freshman a taste of that,” he said.
Freshman Isabella Penola said she was interested in the many opportunities available.
“I’m just here because I want to get more involved in things here next year, and I’m just looking for opportunities to do that,” Penola said. “I just want to get a feel for the different departments, just see what’s out there.”
Freshman Lindsey Meyers also said she came to learn about leadership opportunities.
“I’m here because I’m interested in the leadership opportunities on campus,” she said. “I know that networking is going to help me to understand the future steps I’m going to have to take in order to get a leadership role on campus.”
Sophomore John Kill, director of the student services department in student government, described the work his department does to connect the student body to student government.
“Constituent services is the department that is the gateway for student voices here on campus,” Kill said. “We work with students; right now, one of our main projects is running Onward and moderating Onward, the student government-moderated online forum. We do town halls, puppy days, all that stuff — we have a ton of fun doing all of that, we really enjoy it.
“Our department is great because you really get to see all of the communications between what students want to see and what student government can do, and we see that all the way through to completion.”
Kill said he thinks the constituent services department serves as a good starting place for freshmen interested in student government.
“Freshman should be interested in joining constituent services if they are interested in taking the ideas that their peers discuss in their dorms and the dining halls and their classrooms and actualizing them,” Kill said.
Senior Director of National Engagement and Outreach (NEO) for student government Julia Zanotelli encouraged freshman to “get outside the Notre Dame bubble.”
“The department is trying to engage students with issues beyond our campus and get people engaged with national news and politics especially, seeing as we have an election coming up,” Zanotelli said. “I would say we’re just trying to connect with other schools and organizations outside of our main campus in the best way we can; really we’re trying to get them engaged in these bigger things.
“ … Starting out at Notre Dame it’s sort of easy to get caught in that Notre Dame bubble, so it’s good to expand your horizons and get engaged with the real world.”
Senior Director of Community Outreach Rohan Andresen said his department focuses on building strong community with South Bend.
“The purpose of the community relations department is to bridge the gap between the Notre Dame community and the South Bend community,” he said. “The focus this year has been more on moving away from just doing service in South Bend and kind of to just creating more realistic and legitimate partnerships with the city.”
Andresen said South Bend has undergone a period of evolution and economic growth in the last 10 years, and he added he is excited to see how the University plays into the city’s future development.
“My goal has really been focused on moving towards using the city as an asset,” Andresen said. “My role is trying to figure out initiatives and events and discussions to help accomplish that task. So one of the big things we’re doing, something we’ve done for the past eight years, is Back the Bend Day, which is coming up on April 2, and it’s a day of service where students can go and work in the community.”