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Student government, administration groups help first years get involved

| Friday, August 17, 2018

When Notre Dame’s newest class arrives on campus during Welcome Weekend, they will not only be greeted by hall representatives waiting to unload packed cars, but also several student government and administrative groups ready to help them get involved in on-campus activities.

The First Undergraduate Experience in Leadership program, or FUEL, is student government’s only department made up entirely of first years, sophomore FUEL co-director Clark Bowden said in an email.

“I would say that the main purpose of FUEL would be to mentor and guide the leaders of the first-year class, in this case, the class of 2022,” Bowden said. “In doing so, [sophomore co-director Rachel Ingal] and I will select 20 or so students from the incoming first-year class to join our team. From there, these 20 FUELers will learn more about the executive branch of the student government while developing leadership and collaboration skills.”

Because the student government team is chosen in the spring, getting involved can sometimes be difficult for first years. FUEL seeks to rectify that issue by having members pick a department in which to serve outside of FUEL, Bowden said.

“This way, all the departments have a first-year opinion, as well as giving the FUELers an idea of how the rest of the Student Government operates,” he said.

Bowden said FUEL members make all of the group’s decisions themselves, while he and Ingal are there to “guide collaboration and increase cohesiveness.” One of his and Ingal’s main goals for the year, Bowden said, is to have the committee plan and organize its own event, an exercise that has taken place in the past but did not occur last year.

At a more localized level, Freshman Class Council (FCC) is another option for first years wanting to serve their classmates. Generally the largest of the class councils, the FCC is composed of representatives elected by the first years in each residence hall, Ryan Willerton, associate vice president for career and professional development and advisor to the FCC, said in an email. Charged with forging “class unity,” FCC uses a variety of tools to accomplish this, Willerton said.

“Unity can come in many different ways — social events such as dances and outdoor events, food giveaways, etc. FCC also coordinates ordering official apparel for the class and raises funds through organizing one of the football gameday concession stands,” he said.

Willerton said the FCC’s work evolves over the course of the school year, as in the beginning the focus is on building relationships amongst council members who do not know each other particularly well.

“At the first few meetings much of the time is spent learning each other’s names and halls and backgrounds,” he said. “Once the spring semester starts, the council has already slated many of their events and initiatives and they become more comfortable to coordinate events.”

For Willerton, watching what past council members achieve on campus after their time on the council is a highlight of his job.

“Community is the core of the Notre Dame undergraduate experience,” he said. “I enjoy re-connecting with former FCC members as they move on to serve in other student clubs, organizations and initiatives on campus. For those I do not get to see as often after their freshman year, seeing them and meeting their families at [Junior Parents Weekend] and now graduation weekends is a highlight.”

Though it is responsible for a wider range than just the freshman class, the Student Activity Office (SAO) is another resource for first years who want to get involved, director of student centers, activities and events Karen Kennedy said in an email. She said SAO’s Student Activities Night is a great opportunity to become familiar with all of the activities and clubs the University has to offer.

“I encourage all first year students to attend Student Activities Night on Tuesday, Aug. 28 in the [Notre Dame Stadium] concourse,” Kennedy said. “Every recognized club and organization is able to have a table at this event, and students can learn about and engage with as many groups as they wish. Student Activities Night is a tremendous resource for new students to learn about the many involvement and leadership opportunities available on campus.”

Beyond that, SAO also has an open-door policy for students seeking guidance about getting involved, Kennedy said. She also noted the important advice and mentorship upperclassmen can offer in this regard.

Kennedy said she would like students to be able find a sense of belonging at Notre Dame through involvement with campus activities.

“I hope students take advantage of the wide variety of resources and support available to them and find communities and activities that help make Notre Dame not only a tremendous educational experience, but also a home,” she said.

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About Tom Naatz

Tom is a senior at University of Notre Dame. He is majoring in Political Science and Spanish and is originally from Rockville, Maryland. Formerly The Observer's Notre Dame News Editor, he's now a proud columnist for the paper.

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