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I love being around students’

Sarah Mervosh | Thursday, September 2, 2010

Fr. Tom Doyle’s first days as vice president for Student Affairs since students returned to school have been jam-packed, and that’s just the way he likes them.

From 8 a.m. to after dinnertime, he’s in back-to-back meetings. He’s addressing an email about a fire drill occurring during the middle of mass. He’s going over the schedule for events for the Purdue weekend.

But after the workday is over, that’s when his real work begins.

After hours during the past week, Doyle rode the mechanical bull during Irish Shenanigans, donning full priest vestments. He jousted against the senior class president and won. He attended Activities Night.

“Going to student activities night was the highlight of my day,” Doyle said. “I love being around students.”

Interacting with students will help him accomplish one of his primary goals for his first year as vice president for Student Affairs.

Doyle aims to answer two essential questions: Who are the Notre Dame students of today and how can his department support them in becoming the best they can be?

“My question is, who are the students? That’s the first question. Then you start to build programs and structures around who the students are,” he said.

Doyle said he plans to collect data about the Notre Dame student body and conduct research about its generation to find out how Student Affairs can best serve the student body.

“How do we promote a virtuous way of life? How do we help people to have fun? How do we help them to play? How do we help them to laugh?” he said. “How do we encourage them to make mistakes in life? We can’t learn if we don’t make mistakes.”

Doyle also plans to make some structural changes over the course of the semester, the first of which occurred over the summer when the position of associate vice president for Residence Life was eliminated.

Bill Kirk served as associate vice president for Residence Life since 2003.

“Bill served the University extremely well for the past two decades,” Doyle said. “He was a loyal, a thoughtful and a caring administrator for Student Affairs.

“The position was eliminated in anticipation of a restructuring that I want to do,” he said.

In his position for Student Affairs, Kirk oversaw the Notre Dame Security Police (NDSP) and the Office of Residence Life and Housing.

Brian Coughlin, assistant vice president for Student Affairs, has temporarily taken over as head of Residence Life and Housing. Ann Firth, associate vice president for Student Affairs, is overseeing NDSP.

In the coming year, Doyle also aims to recognize the diversity of the student body and the Church — from traditional Catholics to openly gay students.

“It is a big Church. How do we all sort of belong as one Church together?”

He hopes to work to attract and facilitate all types of diversity, including economic, cultural and geographical diversity, as well as diversity of experience.

“I think there is a narrow segment of the American population for which Notre Dame is a very attractive option,” he said. “But we do grow through deep and meaningful relationships with people who are different than us.”

Doyle also considers the culture of the University’s 29 residence halls as particularly important.

“People don’t live in less than 100 square feet because they can’t find a better value somewhere else,” he said. “The culture of these buildings is what makes people come back.

“We need to work hard to preserve them,” he said. “We can’t take them for granted.”

And as a new resident of Pasquerilla East Hall, Doyle is not taking his new home for granted.

“I love living in a dormitory,” he said.

Plus, living in a female dormitory has its perks — the girls bake him cookies.

“That’s never happened in a guy’s dormitory,” Doyle said with a laugh.