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Sayers announces scholarship

Joe Trombello | Monday, November 17, 2003

In her acceptance speech for the Charles E. Sheedy Award for Excellence in Teaching, professor of English Valerie Sayers announced plans for the creation of a faculty and staff scholarship fund that will provide monetary support to minority and first-generation undergraduates to improve the diversity of the Notre Dame student body.

“I was just waiting for a moment when it would seem like a positive thing – not like a sacrifice – but as something that we on the faculty could do to strengthen the sense of ourselves as part of a community,” she said.

Speaking Friday afternoon to faculty, staff and students, Sayers illustrated the importance of students in helping to create great teachers. She noted that although Notre Dame has taken strides to improve diversity, adding a greater number of minority and first-generation college students would only improve the quality of undergraduate education.

“[The acceptance speech] seemed like it would be a nice moment when I could suggest that students are a huge part of teaching. It’s not as if the teaching award should [only] go to a teacher. It’s the students we teach that make good teaching possible,” Sayers said.

Although the fund does not yet have a formal name, Sayers said that faculty and staff will be shortly notified of its creation though e-mail. She said that donations from faculty and staff will come as monthly payroll deductions from those who choose to contribute. The Office of Financial Aid will use the funds as they see necessary to provide greater monetary support – through grants – for underrepresented students.

Sayers also said that support has come from many sources – including conversations with Mark Roche, Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, as well as Daniel Saracino, director of Admissions, and Joe Russo, director of finical aid. Sayers said that Notre Dame’s commitment to improving diversity, particularly through public affirmations by its administrators, has proven especially positive to her.

“This summer I read a piece in the Chicago Sun Times by our director of admissions Dan Saracino. It was a beautiful defense of affirmative action, and I thought it was so great that someone from Notre Dame was out there, out front, talking about it,” she said.

Sayers contributed her cash prize as part of the Sheedy Award towards the scholarship fund. She said that although the funding may initially be small, she hopes that faculty and staff contributions will create a much larger reservoir of funds, one that may possibly be used as an endowment.

“It may be a small pool in the beginning, but my dream is that eventually it will be substantial.”