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RouteND program supports enlisted service members applying to Notre Dame

| Thursday, April 22, 2021

Launched in March 2021, RouteND aims to encourage young members of the armed forces to apply to Notre Dame and helps guide them in their enrollment. 

Through the program, alumni serving in the military recruit service members who they believe are qualified to apply to the University. 

Megan Leis, assistant director of military and veterans affairs, helped plan and launch RouteND. She said alumni serving in active duty are in a unique position to seek out stellar individuals. 

“There’s so many folks that would just thrive at Notre Dame and we want to kind of help pave the way for them to get here,” Leis said. 

Oftentimes, service members will spend four to eight years in the military and then look to transition to higher education, Leis said.

The program is offered through the Office of Military and Veterans Affairs (OMVA) in partnership with the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and the Alumni Association. 

The OMVA was established in 2017. Its goal is to support the military, veterans and their families by showing gratitude to service members, fulfilling the moral obligation to honor our troops and expanding Notre Dame’s impact on the military community. 

Alumna Lt. Mary Coyne of the U.S. Navy Reserves said she was personally interested in taking part in RouteND because her grandfather came to Notre Dame after serving in the Navy in World War II with help from a similar program. 

“I think a lot of men and women who are getting out of the Navy who enlisted in the past sometimes aren’t aware of the different opportunities available to them and just how unique and valuable their experiences [are],” Coyne said. 

Part of the inspiration for the program came from first-year John Noonan, who was an active duty submariner and enrolled in Notre Dame with the encouragement and mentorship of alumnus Lt. Tom Catalano. 

“That was a little bit of a prototype for us, and we thought that this might be a good endeavor to kind of explore,” said Leis. “We’re always looking for creative ways to engage.”

The program is currently in the pilot phase and is focused on connecting with alumni. After a virtual information session last month, over 100 alumni signed up to work with RouteND, Leis said. 

Coyne said she is tapping into her network of colleagues to identify potential candidates, especially via LinkedIn. 

“I think that’s the biggest hurdle that this program is going to have to overcome … just making people aware of it,” Coyne said. 

Service members would bring diversity of experience and a new perspective to Notre Dame students, Coyne said.

“I think we need more people around us in classes on campus that can remind everyone who’s 17 to 21 how lucky they truly are,” Coyne said.

Leis said she believes the program is a manifestation of Notre Dame’s gratitude for our troops and their families.

“I think this program is a mechanism by which we can show that gratitude, and … I think it’s also important to enroll student veterans because they enrich the academic environment tremendously,” Leis said.

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