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University welcomes nine new rectors to campus community

| Tuesday, August 27, 2019

As the school year begins, Notre Dame is welcoming nine new rectors to the community to lead residence halls and build dorm community: Kayla August of Lyons Hall; Robby Francis of Zahm House; Sarah Jesse of Farley Hall; Anna Kenny of Howard Hall; Fr. Joe Pedersen of Siegfried Hall; Clarice Ramirez of Lewis Hall; Libbie Steiner of Ryan Hall; Laurie Svatek of Pasquerilla East Hall; and Jay Verzosa of Alumni Hall.

August, a native of New Orleans, spent the last few years in South Bend working for Campus Ministry at Notre Dame following her graduation from Loyola University in New Orleans. She said she was drawn to becoming a rector because she wanted to expand her Notre Dame experience.

Diane Park | The Observer

“My work in Campus Ministry has been a gift,” August said in an email. “But I wanted the chance to live out the mission of Notre Dame in a new way. I know work in ministry is as diverse as the ways God moves in our lives, and I am looking forward to seeing how he moves in this new context. Getting to know the incredible students of Notre Dame has been one of the biggest blessings of the past three years, and being a rector is a wonderful opportunity to see them through a different lens as they change, learn and grow.”

Playing on the idea of a group of Lyons residents being a pride, August said she wants to increase pride in the Lyons community.

“I hope that the wonderful group of Lyons women show their pride’s pride. The amazing women of Lyons have spirit, talent and diversity that the campus of Notre Dame has and will continue to benefit from,” August said. “This year, I want to make sure we show our pride in new ways and let the ND community know just how great it is to be from under the arch.”

August also said she wants to increase a sense of belonging within the hall.

“The second [goal] is growing the sense of belonging,” August said. “It is my experience that many of the Notre Dame community don’t always feel that they belong. The truth is that they do and that what each person brings makes our community better. I hope to embed this truth in my role with the women of Lyons that they are each a gift to this community just as they are. They belong here and the Pride would be less without them.”

Francis joins the Notre Dame community following his departure from Saint Louis University, where he was a campus minister and minster for students living in the university’s residence halls.

“For the past six years I worked as a Campus Minister at Saint Louis University,” Francis said in an email. “There I led retreats, provided spiritual direction, ministered to students in the residence halls, coordinated faith-based small groups and worked with students involved in fraternity and sorority life. Prior to working at SLU, I worked in youth ministry for the Archdiocese of St. Louis.”

Francis said the role of being a rector appealed to him because it combined many things he enjoyed.

“The role of the rector really is a combination of so many of the things I enjoy doing,” he said in the email. “It’s ministry, it’s community building, it’s being present to guys as they walk through life.”

Among Francis’ goals for Zahm House is to build on the relationships in the dorm, he said.

“I’m a big believer in the importance of relationships, and my goal is to be as intentional as I can in forming those relationships,” he said in the email. 

Jesse is from Ohio, but is already familiar with Notre Dame’s campus — she graduated from ND with majors in theology and psychology. After receiving her diploma, she went to work at a university in Ireland as a ecumenical chaplain before becoming Farley Hall’s new rector.

Kenny rooted her career in residential life, from her undergraduate degree at Aquinas College to her graduate degree at Central Michigan University. She served in some capacity as a residential assistant at both schools.

In an email, Kenny said she was drawn to Notre Dame by “the welcoming and genuine care of and for [the] community by faculty, staff and students.”

After growing up in Waterloo, Iowa, Pedersen graduated from Notre Dame and then went on to work at an Indianapolis parish for two years doing young adult and college campus ministry. Following his time in Indianapolis, Pedersen taught high school religion for two years in Minneapolis and recently has been in formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross.

“Since I first began as a student at Notre Dame in 2005, I have admired rectors and the work they do,” Pedersen said in an email. “When my superiors in Holy Cross invited me to this position, I was excited to have the opportunity to follow in their footsteps.”

Pedersen said he is also excited to help Siegfried defend their O’Leary Cup for residential athletic achievement. 

A native of Los Angeles, Ramirez has past experience working at Notre Dame. She has worked in Notre Dame’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions, Office of Residential Life and Office of Student Success, which assists students who are at high-risk of dropping out of college. Ramirez said in an email she was drawn to rectorship in a unique way — through word of mouth.

“A really great friend of mine that I met in grad school is an alum and lived in Lyons,” Ramirez said. “During our classes, she would often talk about her experience at Notre Dame, especially about her rector and the profound effect she had on her formation throughout undergrad.”

Ramirez said she is excited to embrace Lewis in all its traditions and community.

“I’m extremely excited to build great relationships with all of my Lewis chicks, especially my freshmen,” Ramirez said. “Also, I’m excited to wear a chicken suit!”

Steiner is an Oregon native and graduated from Boston College before completing her master’s degree in theology at Notre Dame. Following graduation, Steiner worked at Saint Gabriel Parish in Indianapolis.

Steiner said in an email she wants to “continue to emphasize and expand Ryan Hall’s charism of accessibility and inclusion.”

Svatek, a Wisconsin native, served in the higher education field and university ministry for over 15 years before joining Notre Dame. Svatek previously served as the director of campus ministry at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, according to the University’s residential life webpage

Hailing from Baltimore, Verzosa received multiple diplomas from Boston College in multiple fields — a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy and master’s degrees in counseling psychology and pastoral ministry. 

He served for several years in various campus ministries, advising students and helping undergrads find homes on their campus.

Svatek declined to interview due to time constraints.

Jesse and Verzosa did not respond after initial email correspondence.

None of the nine responded to a request for comment about the University’s new ID card policy.

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About Mariah Rush

Mariah is a senior majoring in American Studies and minoring in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. She is from the great city of South Bend, and serves as Managing Editor of The Observer. You can find her always on Twitter at @mariahfrush.

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