Notre Dame valedictorian shares experiences, path to graduation
Kelli Smith | Friday, May 18, 2018
Senior Andrew Grose has always loved languages.
This love started in his hometown of Sheboygan, Wisconsin, where he trained for the national spelling bee as a middle schooler. After making it to the national stage twice, he discovered a passion within himself — studying language.
“The most I got out of that [spelling bee] experience was understanding how words come together to create a meaning that goes far beyond the language itself,” Grose said. “And so you can say I’m somebody who deals in that business primarily.”
And now, as the class of 2018’s valedictorian, Grose will be employing his love of language in a new way to give the Notre Dame valedictory address May 20 at the commencement ceremony.
A double major in pre-professional studies and Spanish, Grose will be graduating with an overall GPA of 3.997. He was also a member of the Glynn Family Honors Program, an early inductee into the Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society, a four-year member of the Dean’s List and has been the recipient of various service and pre-professional studies awards.
“I try not to think of [being valedictorian] as something that has a lot of pressure associated with it,” Grose said. “I think of it not so much as my telling my story, but rather an opportunity to tell the stories of other people I’ve engaged with over the past four years. They’ve been my voice, really.”
Grose said he was initially drawn to Notre Dame because it was the only school that advertised “a more social message” in terms of applying what was learned in the classroom.
“Ultimately here at Notre Dame it’s not about simply learning information, it’s about how you apply that information to help the neighbor,” Grose said. “For me that’s — that can seem like a very simple statement, but it’s really not if you consider how committed to the concept of discipleship a school like Notre Dame really is.”
Though he wasn’t initially able to “find the dialogue” between his majors, Grose said his professors helped him re-define his educational experience and put both of his academic disciplines under the Notre Dame vision of education and social justice.
“I certainly would not have the stance that I have now on how medicine can be an agent for social change if I had not taken Spanish here,” he said. “Because that was where I really learned to apply all facets of my education, through the department of romance languages — it’s definitely I think one of the University’s best-kept secrets, if it is a secret.”
Grose was also a four-year member in the Marching Band drumline and two-year member in the Liturgical Choir.
Grose’s band experience, he said, was “unbelievable” and was the first activity that made him feel comfortable at Notre Dame.
“[Band] made me an ambassador for the University without even knowing what the University stood for,” Grose said. “It gave me more confidence in representing a place, a culture like Notre Dame’s. … It’s really cool to just see all of us going in defined directions, much more defined than we would’ve thought when we were having conversations about our education three years ago at this point.”
An enormous turning point in his college career, Grose said, was studying abroad in Toledo, Spain the summer after his sophomore year and doing a international summer service learning program in El Salvador the summer after his junior year.
“Each of them was so important for me in terms of my educational and my personal formation,” he said. “I’d been studying [Spanish] since grade school, but I’d say here is where I really started to learn it and apply it.”
His El Salvadoran experience was much more than language immersion, Grose said, because of its medical and Catholic Social Teaching orientation. It also contributed to the focus of Grose’s senior thesis, which was a profile of El Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton and a close-reading of his poetry.
“For me, [the Notre Dame experience has] really been finding a voice with which I can speak about, discuss, debate and further exploit issues that matter to me,” he said. “And it’s not necessary that you know what issues those are before you start developing those skills, which is why I’ve really enjoyed having the mentors I’ve had here … the issues kind of fell in place for me in terms of Latin America, US-Latino experience, healthcare in general and public health.”
Grose found service opportunities through his extracurriculars, as well — he was a volunteer at La Casa de Amistad, a South Bend Latino community center where he said the idea of transnationalism became visible to him. He was also a mentor in ‘Bandlink,’ a band program that provides music lessons to kids in the South Bend area.
“I think it’s been incredible to grow from a very scared freshman — I didn’t even know how to march at that point — into somebody who is teaching people how to do that,” Grose said. “And how to uphold the traditions that our University represents. … I mean none of that would have been possible without the people guiding me through it all [the last] four years.”
Some of the most important guidance he received, Grose said, was from the advising groups and professors in both pre-professional studies and Spanish.
“All of them have given me so much to think about whenever I’ve come to them with a question on anything, really,” he said. “How to go about interpreting a poem, how to put a sociological term in context, how to make sense of what I could possibly do with my life. They’ve been such amazing multi-dimensional mentors in that sense.”
Being around a group of people who have “so much energy” in the undergraduate atmosphere and are so service-minded is amongst the top things Grose said he’ll miss most about Notre Dame.
“I think Notre Dame has a special kind of draw to people who are pulled by their desire to really put the information they’re learning in the context they’ve engaged in into action and ultimately for some higher purpose, whether it’s equity, justice, anything,” he said. “That’s something that so many of my friends here really deeply care about and it’s something that really defines the student identity here, that I’ll miss for sure.”
This isn’t the end of Grose’s Notre Dame journey, however — he said he will be returning next fall to pursue a master’s degree in Iberian and Latin American studies.
“My ultimate goal is to find some sort of role where I can balance public health, worker and physician roles and national and international roles,” he said. “If anything, though, the thing that’s been on my mind ever since I left my service-learning experience last year is finding a way to get back to Central America because that is where I met people who really moved with a purpose unlike anything I’d ever seen in any discipline I’ve explored throughout my time at Notre Dame.”