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Notre Dame salutatorian reflects on journey, discusses future military career

| Friday, May 13, 2022

Morgan La Sala of Wayne, New Jersey, has been selected as Notre Dame’s class of 2022 salutatorian.

La Sala majored in mechanical engineering and was a very active member of Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC) during her time as an undergraduate. La Sala lived in Flaherty Hall for three years, serving as the Big-Little commissioner and as a member of the Welcome Weekend team for her dorm.

Although ROTC became a defining characteristic of her time at Notre Dame, La Sala did not arrive on campus as a part of the program. She said she always felt drawn toward military duty because of her father’s time in active service but was not sure she was approaching the call for the right reasons.

“My dad was in the military, I considered going to the Naval Academy, so I had some interest in the military, but thought I didn’t really want that. And then through these engineering explorations, I kind of realized I didn’t really want the typical job and that drew me back to the ROTC,” she said.

Morgan La Sala, 2022 Notre Dame salutatorianCourtesy of Morgan La Sala, photo by Barbara Johnston/Notre Dame
Morgan La Sala, a mechanical engineering major from Wayne, New Jersey, has been selected as the Notre Dame class of 2022 salutatorian.

After her first fall semester on campus, La Sala went to the Pasquerilla Center to enroll in NROTC.

“I would see the people walking around in their uniforms and that really inspired me, so I went over to Pasquerilla Center at the end of my first semester and just signed up,” she said. “It’s been a super awesome experience. I think it’s really helped define my role at Notre Dame.”

La Sala said her time as a midshipman has helped her with her leadership skills and provided her with a support system of students with similar goals.

“The people have just been amazing. You have this group of people that all have the same goal, that same desire to serve in the military, be part of something bigger than yourself. So you have that camaraderie which is really awesome,” she said. “You get a lot of different experiences, and it changes so rapidly. So, you really learn to be flexible, you learn to adapt, you learn how to make a new position your own.”

La Sala will attend the tri-military commissioning ceremony Saturday, where she will become a commissioned ensign. After graduation, she will head to Pensacola, Florida, and begin training to become a pilot.

When La Sala first heard she was in the running for valedictorian and salutatorian, she said she was very surprised.

“Coming in freshman year, I just wanted to do my best. I really didn’t know where I would fall,” she said. “When I found out that I was in the running, I was actually pretty shocked just because every single person I run into at the school is crazy impressive … you don’t really picture yourself as also being in that group.”

She expressed her deep gratitude for her fellow mechanical engineering majors and the challenges she faced as part of a difficult major.

“The hardest part is that they push you out of your comfort zone, but it’s for the best because you come out stronger and you have something to be proud of after it,” she said.

La Sala noted that she would not have been as successful as she is without her “incredible support systems.”

“I know that I 100% wouldn’t be able to be here without my two parents, as well as my roommates,” La Sala said. “The people I’ve lived with have just made this experience so much easier and made it super fun. They’ve really allowed me to live the full Notre Dame experience.”

As part of her selection, La Sala will offer the invocation prayer at the beginning of the commencement ceremony Sunday.

La Sala said unlike the draft of her valedictory speech, writing the invocation came easily to her. She explained that her prayer will contain three main sections: the journey to Notre Dame, the experience the class had while undergraduates and the call to continue being a force for good as they go out into the world.

“In my prayer I really want to express a lot of gratitude for how we all got to Notre Dame,” she said. “Then, I want to express a lot of gratitude for while we were at Notre Dame, all those people that helped us out: roommates, professors that were an inspiration, hall staff that really supported us, families who were there from miles away on the phone or things like that … Then, looking forward, just asking for guidance to keep us on a path of doing good for others.”

While reflecting on the lessons she learned at Notre Dame, La Sala said there were three main tools she believes will help her and all other graduates make a difference outside of the University.

“I think three tools that can help guide us to make good decisions in the future are this community, this passion for service and the fighting spirit,” La Sala said. “You have the courage to do something difficult because the Fighting Irish showed you how to do that.”

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About Bella Laufenberg

Bella Laufenberg is a sophomore biological sciences major, who likes news much more than organic chemistry. She is also in the journalism, ethics and democracy minor. At The Observer, she currently serves as an Associate News Editor.

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