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Fighting Irish, Belles and Saints

| Thursday, April 21, 2016

Notre Dame is unique from most any other university in the world. The University offers the integration of spirituality, academia and competitive sports at a level that is unmatched. Take a casual walk around campus and you could pass by people praying at the Grotto, students flocking into Hesburgh Library and workers continuing construction on Notre Dame Stadium. Spiritual growth, rigorous academics and world-class sports teams are just some of the defining characteristics of the University. The combination, and perhaps integration, of such characteristics is what drew many of to love Notre Dame. I know that certainly was the case for me. However, there is one incredible characteristic of Notre Dame that is often underappreciated. Such a characteristic is summarized by a phrase that can be seen on the websites of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross College: “tri-campus community.” I have been fortunate enough to be directly engaged with two thirds of the tri-campus community. This is because, unlike the vast majority of Notre Dame’s class of 2019, I have spent my freshman year at Holy Cross College. I, along with close to 50 other Holy Cross freshmen, am a part of the Gateway program. The program essentially entails living and taking classes at Holy Cross while also taking classes and getting involved at Notre Dame. Contingent on meeting certain standards, those in the program are guaranteed to be admitted to Notre Dame after their freshman year at Holy Cross.

While I first was disappointed with not being granted immediate admission to Notre Dame, I am now immensely grateful for this unique opportunity. Without attending Holy Cross, I would not have met my amazing friends or gotten to engage in riveting conversations with Holy Cross professors. Holy Cross has allowed me to experience things I would otherwise have not experienced, and meet people I would have otherwise not have met. Consequently, being directly involved with both Holy Cross and Notre Dame has taught me the importance of the multi-campus community.

However, the reality behind the tri-campus community is that it often is perceived as a bi-campus community. Everyone is familiar with — and some are directly involved with — the institutions of Saint Mary’s and Notre Dame, but often lost in the mix is Holy Cross College. This could be, and probably is, due to the combination of Holy Cross being the newest member of the tri-campus community and possessing the smallest student body of the tri-campus community. While Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s were founded in 1842 and 1844 respectively, Holy Cross wasn’t established until 1966. Additionally, while Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s possess undergraduate populations of over 8,000 and close to 2,000 respectively, Holy Cross has a student body of just over 500. It only seems natural that Holy Cross could be easily forgotten.

However, I urge anyone who reads this not to forget Holy Cross. Holy Cross isn’t just a small college next to a world-renowned university; it is that, but it is also so much more. Holy Cross, or “HoCro” as many call it, is a place where a sense of community is palpable. If I had to pick one word that comes to mind when thinking of Holy Cross, it would be “relationships.” A typical school day could include conversations with College President Br. John Paige, faculty members and even the many friars studying on campus. Holy Cross, like Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, is a unique place consisting of unique people. It is for that reason that I implore the members of Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross to appreciate and engage our unique community. I am grateful for the ability to spend my college years in a place where three different institutions can be associated with each other. I love that Notre Dame, Saint Mary’s and Holy Cross can all flourish together. I love the tri-campus community so much that I desire for it to be embraced even more.

If you look at the front page of the Observer, you will notice the subtitle “The independent newspaper serving Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s.” I do not know the reasons for the exclusion of Holy Cross and there may be logical explanations for such an exclusion. However, the subtitle of the Observer is a tangible representation of the current nature of the tri-campus community. Unfortunately, Holy Cross is sometimes forgotten. This should not be the case. I hope that all of us within this amazing community appreciate and value the presence of all three institutions. As I leave Holy Cross and move on to Notre Dame, I will always cherish and embrace Holy Cross and the tri-campus community. I pray that you do too.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a senior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

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