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Employees take courses

Nicole Toczauer | Thursday, April 7, 2011

While many students spend some of their free time at campus jobs, a number of University employees do just the opposite, electing to enroll in courses while employed at Notre Dame.

This semester, 71 non-degree students have taken advantage of an employee benefit facilitating ongoing education for those on the University payroll, Assistant Registrar Chris Temple said.

“There’s a 90 percent tuition remission for an undergraduate course and 100 percent for a graduate one,” Temple said. “Payroll does some tax considerations because the benefit is taxable, which is part of the reason why Human Resources comes into play.”

Eligible candidates — including administrators, faculty, staff, postdoctoral research associates, interns and spouses — must meet academic prerequisites for any course they enroll in. In addition to this, they must obtain the approval of their immediate supervisor, Temple said.

Once employees meet these requirements and receive approval, they have access to courses with spots available after degree-seeking students have finished registering and can begin classes alongside regular students.

Temple said employees often take classes out of a desire to learn without necessarily having a goal of receiving a diploma.

“I really do believe the main reason employees choose to enter classes is personal enrichment,” Temple said. “Some, though, have hope of using these classes to apply to a degree program at some point in the future.”

One such individual is Wendy Wolfe, a Program Administrator for the Glynn Family Honors Program. Through the ND Learning at Work Academy, Wolfe is pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in English at Notre Dame.

“Being a part of this environment on a daily basis has been life-changing and enriching,” Wolfe said in a statement on the Office of Human Resources site. “It has given me a real thirst for knowledge and a desire to continue the learning experience for myself.”

While some of the courses were especially challenging, she said she has enjoyed her classroom experiences since beginning taking courses in the 2009 fall semester. Wolfe won the Fred E. Freeman Staff Scholarship last August. The scholarship awarded her $1,000 per semester to continue her education.

“The Fred Freeman Staff Scholarship has opened up a world of opportunity to me,” Wolfe said in the statement. “I cannot think of a better way to relate to my students and my career than to join them in their learning experience and keep learning right along with them.”

Temple also said taking courses has offered him greater engagement with his work.

“Over the eight years I’ve been employed here, I’ve taken nine classes. Aside from furthering my education, I stay in touch with academic life on campus,” Temple said. “In the Registrars’ Office we handle commencement, registration and scheduling so I like to stay engaged in what’s going on in the classroom.”

After being away from academics for a number of years, Temple said returning to the classroom can be intimidating, although student engagement in some classes helps to break the tension.

“Walking into a class of undergrads is not easy,” he said. “Some classes are discussion focused so you get to know [students] and some are lecture style so you don’t.”

Despite the challenges of re—adjusting to the classroom, Wolfe said the opportunity to continue her education at Notre Dame outweighs any difficulties. Wolfe said she enjoyed the anthropology course she took with Professor Meredith Chesson last semester and has found the course she is taking now just as fulfilling.

“I’m currently in a Political Science class with Professor Eileen Botting which studies Mary Wollstonecraft and Mary Shelley,” Wolfe said. “I’m loving this course as well and have found it to be more than rewarding.”