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Abby Davis named class of 2016 valedictorian

| Friday, May 13, 2016

Abby Davis — the class of 2016 valedictorian — said during her time at Notre Dame, she has learned how to “maintain a balance” between the different aspects of her life.

“Personally, I think that’s been the biggest challenge of college — just finding balance,” Davis said. “I think that’s something that took me until this year to figure out.”

Davis, a native of Avon Lake, Ohio, earned a 3.99 cumulative grade point average (GPA) in her four years at Notre Dame and will graduate with a degree in political science and minors in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) and Russian. She was also a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program and a Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar.

The University’s selection committee invites students with GPAs above a certain cutoff to submit a valedictory address and an invocation, Davis said. From there, the committee selects students to deliver the speech in DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, where it is recorded, and submit a resume and letter of recommendation.

Davis said she was shocked and excited when she found out she had been named this year’s valedictorian.

“Honestly, there were a few moments where I wasn’t really breathing. It seemed very unreal,” she said. “I’m not sure it’s completely sunk in yet, but after the moment of initial not breathing, I just felt excitement and gratitude.”

Davis said one of the most defining parts of her time at Notre Dame was the opportunity to form relationships with professors.

“One of the things I’ve loved most about studying at Notre Dame and in small classes is just the ability to regularly go to professors’ office hours and get to know them, get to talk about things outside of class,” she said. “I feel like professors have really helped me get the most out of Notre Dame.”

One class in particular, Davis said, helped change the trajectory of her academic career.

“I took sophomore year, kind of on a whim, a class called ‘Post-Soviet Russian [Cinema]’ for my fine arts requirement,” she said. “I knew nothing about film, not so much about post-Soviet Russia, even less about post-Soviet Russian film.”

Davis spent the summer of 2014 studying abroad in Latvia and the fall semester of the same year in Chile. Then, in the summer of 2015, she took courses and conducted research in Russia.

“I just got really into it. The politics, the history — all of it was so interesting to me,” she said. “That’s actually what got me into Russian in the first place, that spur-of-the-moment decision.”

The day after graduation, Davis will return to Russia as a student aid on a University-sponsored trip before moving to Washington D.C. to start her job at Avascent, a consulting firm for companies in government-driven industries.

Outside the classroom, Davis served as co-chair of the University’s Code of Honor Committee and has been involved in various music ensembles and in community service at the South Bend Center for the Homeless. She was a resident of Ryan Hall.

“I think joining musical ensembles helped me because it’s very much a team effort, coming together to work on something as one. It’s a huge stress reliever and, for me, helps create that balance,” she said.

Davis said as a freshman, she could not have imagined being where she is today — she entered the University as a chemistry major.

“I’m just thinking about how grateful I am for the whole Notre Dame experience and everyone I’ve met here — all the amazing friends, all the professors who have been such important mentors to me,” she said.

Ultimately, Davis said, it seems “unreal” that she will be a Notre Dame graduate in a few days time.

“I’ve met some of the most incredible people I’ve ever known here at Notre Dame, who are also incredibly hard-working, incredibly supportive — just incredibly wonderful people,” she said.

“I’m making lists of people I need to stop by and say goodbye to. And you know when you have a lot of really hard goodbyes to say that you’ve had something really special.”

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About Katie Galioto

Katie, the Observer's current Managing Editor, is a senior majoring in political science, with minors in Business Economics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She's a former Walsh Hall resident who now lives off campus and hails from Chanhassen, Minnesota. Follow her on Twitter @katiegalioto.

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