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Notre Dame adjusts Moreau course based on survey results

| Tuesday, September 13, 2016

One year after creating the Moreau First-Year Experience course, the University has revamped the course’s curriculum, adding more faculty lectures, field trips to locations on campus and discussions of the mission of the Congregation of the Holy Cross.  

Moreau First-Year Experience is a two-semester course which replaced the freshman physical education requirement last year. Throughout the year, students participate in weekly discussions with a class of about 19 peers. Through readings, reflections and videos, the class is meant to help students get accustomed to life at Notre Dame and teach them about about diversity and mental, emotional and physical wellbeing.

“We want Notre Dame to be a community that supports dialogue from a very inclusive and welcoming standpoint,” Maureen Dawson, co-director for the course, said.

The Moreau program directors sent surveys throughout last year and implemented changes to the curriculum based on student and faculty feedback.

“We really took seriously the assessment we put out there in the midterm of 2015,” co-director Paul Manrique said. “Because this course was driven by student interest, we want to pay attention to making sure the existing need is met.”

The program took feedback not only from students enrolled in Moreau but also from upperclassmen. Senior Eva Niklinska worked alongside Manrique and Dawson this summer, analyzing the curriculum and its requirements to try to ensure that first years get as much out of the program and their college experience as possible. 

“I really liked the content,” Niklinska said. “It gives you the right foundations for becoming a healthy, happy student.”

Niklinska compared Moreau to a bucket list and a chance for students to customize their college experiences. She said the focus on mental health, a solid approach to studying and choosing a major that suits each student catalyzes a first year’s success. 

“[The class’s] components are things you don’t really have time to think about unless you’re given the space to do that creatively,” she said.

Dawson said the program plans to implement changes that will shift the focus from the general student’s college experience to a Notre Dame student’s college experience. This spring, for example, the course plans to incorporate faculty lectures in a TED Talk format.

“We are really happy with the content we created that is specific to Notre Dame,” Manrique said.

Fr. Kevin Grove, a residential fellow at the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study, will give a faculty lecture about diversity, and Mendoza professor Carl Ackermann will speak about financial literacy. Additionally, University of Pennsylvania biology professor Brian Gregory will speak about learning environments.

To engage students with the Notre Dame community, Moreau will also incorporate more discussion about the Holy Cross congregation by emphasizing the power of the five pillars of a Holy Cross education: mind, heart, family, zeal and hope.

The program plans to bring students to important campus spots, including the Log Chapel, the Holy Cross Cemetery and the Snite Museum. Manrique said the program directors hope these trips will instill within students a sense of belonging and loyalty. 

“What we’re able to do with this course is giving something tangible to students,” Manrique said. “We’re giving them the language to explain to other people outside the Notre Dame family, and we’re doing that through the pillars.”

Students have their own goals in mind for Moreau. Freshman Francie Fink hopes to make friends with people in her group and to learn more about the roots that make Notre Dame what it is.

“We’re all in this together, and I think it will be extremely valuable to have these people that I can go through my first year with and then hopefully continue to grow with them in the coming years,” she said.

While changes are still to be made, the program’s directors look optimistically upon this next year and Moreau’s impact on Notre Dame’s students.

“Moreau is the fulcrum of the lived experience and the academic experience,” Dawson said. “It’s all about putting the pieces of academic life together, and Moreau starts it off.”

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