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Campus empties as students depart on break

Tricia de Groot | Friday, October 15, 2004

While most of students are just relieved to be done with all of their midterms and are looking forward to a week of family and sleep at home, a number of their peers made the decision months ago to commit themselves to serve the underprivileged by means of a fall break seminar.

There are seven different one-credit seminars offered this year, with locations extending from the Seattle area to Appalachia where, according to the Center for Social Concerns Web site, students will “examine social issues from multiple perspectives, read relevant texts, study the Catholic social tradition and take an active role in building a learning community.”

The fall break seminars, staffed by members from the Center for Social Concerns, faculty and staff from other academic departments, student leaders and community partners, are one of three annual sets of academic break seminars sponsored by the University.

Angela Miller McGraw, Appalachia seminar director, said that the CSC has seen a steady increase in applications for the seminars in recent years.

“The number of applicants was particularly high this fall, which we attribute to changing from a paper to an online application,” Miller McGraw said.

She said there were over 350 applicants for slots this fall, and that the CSC plans to move up the application period for the spring seminars to coincide with the regular University registration period.

“This means that students will have to plan ahead, but it will significantly lighten administrative work for the Registrar’s Office,” Miller McGraw said.

Though financial, administrative and space constraints restrict the CSC’s ability to expand the seminar programs, Miller McGraw said they will “continue to think creatively about how to increase opportunities for participation.”

Junior Jenna Leary, who will be helping flood victims and reinforcing creek banks in Dry Creek, W.Va. said, “What’s going on in West Virginia is a real environmental issue, and I really feel like I am going to be making a difference.”

With the desire for service comes the draw of doing something outside the comfort zone for Notre Dame students.

“I’m really excited, but I’m kind of nervous too because I’m not really sure what to expect,” junior Claire Chiappetta, who will be working on the Appalachia seminar, said.

Seminar students are not only donating their time and services to aid others, but are also addressing various cultural and social issues.

The Washington D.C. seminar, for example, requires that students examine pressing social issues, such as abortion and stem cell research, with regard to the upcoming presidential election. As a result, these one-credit seminars also require article summaries, papers and group discussions, which vary for each seminar.

“I’ve heard a lot of great things about it from people that have done it in the past, and from the classes we have been going to about Appalachia, it seems like there is so much that we can learn from their culture,” junior Christy Tacit, going to Appalachia, said. “It should be a major eye-opener for a lot of us, but i think it is a great way to spend our time. Clearly, they need our help.”