National Book Award winner, ND alum Tess Gunty discusses ‘The Rabbit Hutch’

Wednesday night in a crowded Eck Visitors Center auditorium, author and South Bend native Tess Gunty discussed her debut novel, “The Rabbit Hutch,” which recently won the National Book Award for Fiction.

The novel has also won the Waterstones debut fiction prize and the Barnes & Noble Discover Prize.

Published on July 21, “The Rabbit Hutch” follows three summer days in the lives of the residents of the La Lapinière apartments, an affordable housing complex in fictional Vacca Vale, Indiana.

Throughout the early and mid-20th century, Vacca Vale was home to the thriving Zorn Automobiles company. However, in the decades since Zorn’s collapse, Vacca Vale has become another dying Rust Belt city.

Gunty, a 2015 graduate of Notre Dame and graduate of Mishawaka’s Marian High School, said South Bend greatly inspired Vacca Vale. Everything from Vacca Vale’s physical map to the fact that its economy was once dominated by a now-defunct car company — a reference to South Bend’s Studebaker history — reflects Gunty’s hometown.

“When I was younger, I never had read anything that was set in a place like my town, and I think when you never see your home reflected back to you, you assume that stories just don’t happen in the post-industrial Midwest, or there’s no market for that,” Gunty said.

She said when she was in college, she realized “these lives, these kinds of more-neglected places in America are worthy of attention” despite their lack of representation in literature.

Gunty added she chose to set “The Rabbit Hutch” in a fictional city so she could incorporate elements of other Rust Belt cities such as Gary, Indiana, Flint, Michigan, and Youngstown, Ohio, into the story.

Unlike South Bend, “there’s no university in this book, so part of Vacca Vale is a thought experiment to imagine if South Bend had not had another source of identity, employment and economic energy to fall back on when Studebaker closed, what would have happened,” Gunty said.

The road to getting published

Wednesday night, director of Notre Dame’s creative writing program Roy Scranton and dean of the College of Arts and Letters Sarah Mustillo introduced Gunty, who was an English major with a concentration in creative writing while at Notre Dame.

Mustillo described Gunty’s return to Notre Dame as a “celebration” and a testament to the strength of the creative writing program.

“Over the past few decades, the program has become one that we are all very proud of, a program that encourages and develops writing about a variety of themes, among them social justice, spirituality, violence, art, suffering, psychology, philosophy and the environment,” Mustillo said.

Scranton explained that, while a student at Notre Dame, Gunty tutored in the Writing Center, wrote for Notre Dame Magazine, documented the history of the Center for Social Concerns and won a poetry award through the English Department.

Gunty said getting to speak at Notre Dame was the “most meaningful event” she has participated in related to “The Rabbit Hutch.” Notre Dame was where she most developed as a writer, she said.

After graduating from Notre Dame, Gunty earned a master’s degree in creative writing from New York University. It was while at NYU that she began developing and writing “The Rabbit Hutch,” a process, she said, that took over five years.

While working on the novel, Gunty worked as a research assistant and a nanny and didn’t always have a lot of time to write. She said she also started writing many novels and stories that she never finished or published.

She said these unfinished works represented an important step in the creation of “The Rabbit Hutch” and formed the “subterranean dirt” upon which the novel was built.

“I really credit my experiences at Notre Dame with really emphasizing process over anything else and emphasizing the importance of writing as an end in and of itself,” Gunty said. “I never assumed that I would be published.”

‘Entrapment and freedom’

The main character of “The Rabbit Hutch,” is 18-year-old Blandine Watkins, a recently aged-out former foster kid and a voracious reader with a special interest in the works of medieval Catholic mystics. Blandine lives in La Lapinière apartment C4 with three other former foster kids, Malik, Jack and Todd.

In addition to Blandine and her roommates, other La Lapinière residents, who the novel also follows, include Joan, the middle-aged editor of an obituary website; Hope, a young mother struggling to adjust to life with a newborn; and an older couple, former Zorn engineer Reggie and his wife Ida.

“I think that these characters are allowed to explore lots of different forms of entrapment and freedom,” Gunty said.

She said Blandine is most aware of her entrapment and most trying to free herself from it.

“Various systems … have been harmful to her, capitalism and the fossil fuel industry — which is kind of degrading her town, and also the patriarchy, which has made having a female body extremely dangerous for her,” Gunty said.

Because of this, Blandine has a “kind of visceral, animal” reaction to being “trapped in a cage,” Gunty continued.

“For every character, that’s playing out in one way or another,” she said.

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Fashion designer Thom Browne hosts football game photo shoot at Notre Dame

Notre Dame is well known for its football games, but the game on Wednesday, Oct. 26 was a little different.

Two 15-person teams of Notre Dame undergraduates, Team Onslaught in navy and Team Rockne in gray, faced off on South Quad.

According to the Notre Dame Institute for Advanced Study (NDIAS), which hosted the game, “The uniforms — which included not cleats and helmets but cashmere knits, waffle-knit long johns and striped rugby polos — were the real star of the show.”

Notre Dame graduate and luxury fashion designer Thom Browne ’88 organized the fashionable football game. Each year since 2014, Browne has hosted a football-themed photo shoot to promote his fashion line. Until this year, Browne has always held the shoot at Central Park in New York City.

Photos from the Notre Dame shoot, featuring students as models, were published in GQ and Vogue.

NDIAS director Meghan Sullivan said she was “over the moon” that Browne decided to hold the shoot at his alma mater.

“It was a chance to show the world, like all the readers of Vogue and everybody who follows high-end fashion, that Notre Dame is a big player in this space, and alums from our university are leaders in fashion,” Sullivan said. “Frankly, those students who are in the fashion shoot… watch this space, because, 10 years from now, they’re going to be leaders in this industry.”

Sullivan said students had to apply to take part in the photo shoot, and NDIAS selected them based on their creativity, their interest in fashion and their interest in taking next semester’s one-credit course, “Strong Suits: The Art, Philosophy And Business Of Thom Browne.”

According to NDIAS, the course will explore how fashion is designed and manufactured; the business strategy of artist-owned luxury brands; fashion writing and criticism; and more.

Sullivan, a philosophy professor in addition to her role at NDIAS, and Michael Schreffler, an associate professor in the art, art history and design department, will teach the course, but Browne — NDIAS’s artist-in-residence for the 2022-23 academic year — will be a special guest.

Notre Dame students Luke Thornbrue (left), Aidan O’Brien, Chris Russo and Eno Nto in action during Thom Browne’s football game photo shoot. Courtesy of Sinna Nasseri

As for the football game, NDIAS managing director Angie Appleby Purcell said over 100 students applied to take part in the photo shoot, and 30 were chosen.

Purcell said both Browne and NDIAS wanted to create an opportunity for students that would allow them to creatively and innovatively approach fashion, “an area that, as a University, we don’t have tons of depth in, but have a lot of interest in growing in.”

Purcell wanted students to see the example of Browne, a graduate of the Mendoza College of Business, and know that even if fashion is “not the way you were educated at Notre Dame,” if it’s a passion, one can become ”highly successful.”

Thom Browne poses with Notre Dame student Ian Coates. Courtesy of Barbara Johnston

Ese-Onosen Omoijuanfo, a senior neuroscience and behavior major, was one of the students who modeled for the photo shoot. Omoijuanfo said as a STEM student, she loves going to a liberal arts university like Notre Dame.

“There is so much inspiration to be found in the arts, and as someone working towards being a well-rounded person, it means having these real-life experiences that Notre Dame does an amazing job of providing in my experience,” she said.

She said she applied to participate in the photo shoot because she enjoys studying aesthetics and beauty.

“I have taken a theology course, a philosophy course and a psychology course, and each has approached this topic from a different perspective,” Omoijuanfo said. “When I was looking at the application… it described it as an opportunity to understand the work that goes into creating an aesthetic work of art and offers insight into the philosophy of design and beauty. I thought that participating in a project like this would be interesting to see more of how the production side of aesthetic works.”

Since participating in the shoot, Omoijuanfo said her friends and family have been shocked to see her in magazines and social media posts. So was she.

“I guess I was just oblivious, but I didn’t know or realize where the pictures were going to be published. It wasn’t till one of my friends texted me ‘Hey, you’re in Vogue,’ that I realized,” she said. “Lots of people will send me posts… like ‘What?! How did this happen?’ and it’s funny to explain the story of how it all happened.”

Ese-Onosen Omoijuanfo (front row, second from left) was one of the students who participated in the Thom Browne photo shoot. Courtesy of Sinna Nasseri

Omoijuanfo added that everyone’s reaction has been “super kind and excited.”

“It’s not every day you get to model for Thom Browne, and it’s fun to share that excitement with people and kind of laugh about the randomness of the opportunity to do so,” she said. “I have good friends who really celebrate with me when good things or fun opportunities happen, so it has been a really fun experience.”

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‘Asian Allure’ cultural showcase celebrates finding community

Growing up in the Philippines, junior Liyanna Baloca said she never labeled herself as “Asian.”

“I grew up around Filipinos my whole life,” she recalled. “Being Asian wasn’t something I felt I had to label myself as because it was just normal.”

Then, she said, she arrived at Notre Dame and was suddenly no longer part of the majority.

As a freshman, Baloca attended Campus Ministry’s Asian first-year retreat. There, she said she met some of her closest friends and was first introduced to Notre Dame’s Asian community — a community, she said, has profoundly shaped her Notre Dame experience.

Now, Baloca is the marketing director of the Filipino-American Student Organization, a member of the Asian American Association (AAA) and the director of this year’s annual “Asian Allure” cultural showcase.

“Asian Allure” showcases traditional and modern cultural dance, music and art performances from AAA members and members of other student clubs including the Korean Student Association, South Asian Student Association, Filipino-American Student Organization, Japan Club and Chinese Culture Society.

Performances this year include KPop music, a “Bollywood Medley,” a traditional Chinese fan dance, a Japanese flute performance, a fashion show and more.

“There are also a lot of like solo acts where people are performing or singing songs from their respective cultures,” said sophomore Luke Gil, event coordinator for AAA and “Asian Allure.”

“Asian Allure” takes place Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Washington Hall. Tickets can be purchased in advance for $5 at the LaFortune Student Center box office or for $7 at the door.

Founded in 1996 (and taking a year off during the 2020 pandemic), “Asian Allure” is now in its 25th year. Baloca said she selected this year’s theme, “Home Coming,” to reflect her personal experience finding community, an experience she feels much of the Asian community shares.

“So it’s basically the idea that if I hadn’t gone to the Asian first-year retreat in my freshman year, I wouldn’t be where I am now — directing the ‘Asian Allure’ cultural showcase,” Baloca said. “It’s kind of about how this one choice I made in my freshman year put me into this community… that’s so ingrained in my Notre Dame experience.”

In between performances, Baloca said, “Asian Allure” will follow a storyline where older students try to get freshmen to join in on the showcase and bring them into the community.

Gil said the showcase is not only about bringing together the different Asian clubs on campus, but also the Notre Dame community as a whole.

“Personally, I never came to Notre Dame expecting anything like this to even be possible, so when I first got involved with ‘Asian Allure’ last year as a freshman, it truly was amazing to see all this diverse culture represented at Notre Dame,” Gil said. “I think it’s a really good opportunity for people who haven’t really experienced… cultures outside of their own to just come and watch people work together and put on a show.”

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University sponsors Spanish flamenco performances, cultural events week

Through a week of public performances, a lecture, a dance workshop and a cooking class, flamenco dancer Jaime El Estampio and guitarist Antonio Herrera promise to bring “the magic of Spain” to South Bend.

The week of events celebrating Spanish culture, which takes place Monday, Nov. 7 through Friday, Nov. 11, was organized by Notre Dame teaching professors of Spanish Tatiana Botero and Elena Mangione-Lora.

Mangione-Lora said the duo’s goal is to make interesting cultural events accessible to their students and to the community.

“We want to connect the events to big, relevant questions,” she said.

The week will kick off Monday evening at 6:30 p.m. with a public flamenco performance by El Estampio and Herrera at La Casa de Amistad, 3423 S. Michigan St., South Bend. The free-but-ticketed event is open to all.

“It’s going to be amazing, but the most amazing thing of all is the generosity of these two musicians. They were both engaged in community building and healing through their flamenco master Torombo and his school in Seville, Spain,” Mangione-Lora said. “They visited prisons, the elderly and especially centers for the recovery of drug addiction and promote healing through synchronicity, connectedness and being in tune with community.”

Mangione-Lora said she discovered El Estampio online during the pandemic when she was trying to learn how to sing flamenco “cantes,or songs After speaking with the dancer a few times, she said she realized his talent for engaging students.

Botero said, for two semesters, she and Mangione-Lora invited El Estampio to give virtual lectures to Notre Dame students. Students “fell in love with his charisma, energy and natural teaching abilities,” she said.

“The students were very enthusiastic about the visit in their reflections and evaluations. We even got word that there was an uptick in applications to the Toledo, Spain, study abroad program,” Mangione-Lora said.

The next year, in 2021, Botero and Mangione-Lora brought El Estampio to the South Bend Civic Theatre and Holy Cross Elementary School to perform for the community and local students.

Botero said this year will include more local school visits and greater involvement from Notre Dame students.

“We know the impact live performances and access to the artist have on the students,” Botero said. “We have worked hard to make the events … accessible to all. We wanted to make sure that buying a ticket was not an obstacle to come and enjoy the history and movement that forged flamenco.”

Notre Dame International and the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, both sponsors of the week’s events, also have a goal for the events: “To open hearts and minds toward Europe … to really see the margins and to recognize and celebrate the international locally,” Mangione-Lora said.

“Flamenco does all of these things,” she continued. “It is one of the most recognizable art forms to come from Spain, but it was born of the margins of the persecuted Roma people originally from the east with contributions from Spaniards, Africans from the south and instruments from the South American continent like the cajón from Peru.”

A week celebrating art and emotion

Following Monday’s performance, Tuesday afternoon will feature a public lecture on the Notre Dame campus in 305 Bond Hall.

The lecture by associate professor of anthropology Alex Chavez, titled “Verses and Flows: Migrant Lives and the Sounds of Crossing,” will take place from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Wednesday night, students will have the opportunity to get off-campus and attend a flamenco dance workshop put on by South Bend Latin Dance.

The workshop takes place from 6 to 7 p.m. at Ironhand Wine Bar, and attendees can stay afterward to put their newly-acquired dance skills into practice. The workshop is $15.

Thursday night will feature another free-but-ticketed performance by El Estampio and Herrera, this time on campus in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center’s Leighton Concert Hall at 7 p.m.

Tickets can be reserved online at

Finally, Friday will conclude the week with two fun, interactive events. At 5 p.m., Carolynn Hines-Johnson of Spanish Rose Dance Studio, a small flamenco studio in South Bend, will host a flamenco workshop.

“It’s really special … because there is little access to authentic flamenco close to South Bend, even in Chicago,” Mangione-Lora said. “Last year, we had people come from Goshen, Chicago and Indianapolis.”

At 7 p.m., the Spanish Club will hold a cooking class. To sign up or get more information on the cooking class, email

Mangione-Lora said she encourages students to get dressed up and enjoy the week’s events with friends.

“The week is a celebration of art as movement, as a means of expression, as [a] channel for pain, anxiety, loneliness, as a refuge from persecution, as a proud manifestation of identity,” she said. “It is an invitation to share in the history, beauty, pain, movement and joy that is flamenco and an invitation to community as we experience it together.”


Where to run, walk and hike in South Bend

I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin, where the UW-Madison campus is seamlessly integrated into the city.

Local families and students alike stroll the same State Street, hike in the same arboretum and frequent the same restaurants and cafes without a second thought. So imagine my surprise when I came to Notre Dame and saw how completely divorced its students are from the rest of the South Bend community!

I’m now a senior, and I’ve realized I often feel more at home in South Bend than I do on campus. And as a marathoner, I feel most at home while running outdoors.

If you’re eager to get outside and explore South Bend, here are (from experience) three of the best trails to check out.

East Bank Trail

The East Bank Trail is great for a long, out-and-back run or bike ride. Tri-campus students can easily access it at the trail entrance on W. Angela Boulevard near Holy Cross College.

Much of the trail runs along the St. Joseph River and takes you past Howard Park, the Notre Dame Rowing facility, the farmer’s market and IU-South Bend.

If you’re down for an even longer run or ride (I use this part for my marathon training), you can take the trail to S. 26th Street and then turn right onto Mishawaka’s Northside Trail.

The Northside Trail offers gorgeous views of the river and Mishawaka’s beautiful parks and suspension bridges (my civil engineer boyfriend loves those). There are also plenty of drinking fountains in case you need a pick-me-up after traversing double-digit miles.

Riverside ‘West Bank’ Trail

Known as “West Bank” among the Notre Dame Running Club, the formal name for this trail is the Riverside Trail. (I just learned this while doing research for this column.)

The trail is about 3.5 miles long, providing another great option for out-and-back journeys, but it also provides easy access to the East Bank and LaSalle trails if you’d rather run/ride/hike a loop.

You can access the trail by turning right down the hill on W. Angela Boulevard and then turning right on Riverside Drive at the roundabout.

The trail runs right along the river and provides beautiful sunrise views. It also takes you through a residential neighborhood and past the newly-revitalized Pinhook Park.

At least three drinking fountains can be found along the trail, and bathrooms are available in Pinhook Park.

LaSalle Trail

Have you ever wanted to run/ride/hike across state lines? The LaSalle Trail makes a trip to Michigan easy.

You enter the trail by turning left on Dublin Road, just past Douglas Road and the Inn at Saint Mary’s.

Numerous restaurants, including Culver’s, McDonald’s, Dunkin’ and Subway, are available right off the trail between Cleveland and Darden roads.

The LaSalle Trail proper extends 3.5 miles to the state line and connects to the Indiana-Michigan River Valley Trail once you reach Michigan. (You won’t even notice you’re on a new trail.)

The River Valley Trail extends an additional 3-or-so miles to the Pulaski Highway. There, you can then take S. Third Street north to Fort Street and hop back on the River Valley Trail, which takes you into the heart of Niles, Michigan.

Despite completing an 18-mile out-and-back run on the LaSalle/River Valley trail, I’ve never traversed the entire thing, so if you’re looking for a long bike ride (or maybe training for an ultramarathon?), the trail provides plenty of ground to cover.

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The views expressed in this Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.


Panel discusses theological interpretation, LGBTQ+ inclusion in the church

Monday night in DeBartolo Hall, PrismND hosted a panel titled “Theology and LGBTQ+ Inclusion.”

The panel featured Baumer Hall rector Fr. Robert Lisowski and Saint Mary’s College assistant professor of religious studies and theology Jessica Coblentz. The panel was followed by a question-and-answer session.

Lisowski opened the discussion by talking about his role in Baumer and his work ministering to the LGBTQ+ community. Lisowski said he became Baumer’s rector in 2020 and was ordained a priest in April 2021.

“During these past three years, it’s really been one of the greatest joys of my priesthood, of my ministry, to accompany our LGBTQ students,” Lisowski said. “I use this phrase of accompaniment because it is one dear to Pope Francis, who has made the reality of accompanying a variety of folks but particularly those who find themselves on the margins, to be the hallmark of his pontificate.”

Lisowski said when he thinks about the reality of pastoral accompaniment, he thinks about stories.

“So often in my ministry, I find myself honored as students begin to share their stories, when they let me learn from their various chapters in life and when they share the ups and downs, the joys and the struggles that brought them to this unique point in life,” he said.

Lisowski said he is honored when students share their hopes and dreams for the future. He said, as a priest, this is when he feels he is on “holy ground,” and that he seeks to make Baumer a welcoming and inclusive community.

“One of my favorite philosophers is a 20th-century French and Christian existentialist named Gabriel Marcel, and he often writes and speaks about how we so often are tempted to see everything, even persons, not as mysteries to be embraced, but as problems to be solved,” Lisowski said. “I think that’s one of the key issues in our world, in our church, today.”

The exile, Lisowski said, represents a moving spiritual symbol and biblical narrative for members of the LGBTQ+ community.

“We all know the important role that exile played in biblical texts, particularly the Babylonian exile, in which the chosen people find themselves far from home,” he said. “They find themselves questioning their previous understanding of God, find themselves wondering if God had abandoned them, if maybe God’s plan did not apply to them any longer.”

He said this reality — a spiritual narrative of searching for a home and belonging and wondering where God is to be found — is one the LGBTQ+ community knows well.

Lisowski said one way he seeks to minister to LGBTQ+ students is by being intentional in using inclusive language in his liturgies.

“After speaking with some students, I started last year to pray explicitly during my Masses for an end to homophobia and transphobia, to pray for a unity in the body of Christ,” he said.

He said when praying or leading prayers, people should speak of “inviting sisters and brothers and siblings in the Lord Jesus” to gather at one table where everyone has a seat.

Saint Mary’s College assistant professor of religious studies and theology Dr. Jessica Coblentz speaks at the “Theology and LGBTQ+ Inclusion” panel at DeBartolo Hall on Monday, Oct. 24.

After Lisowski concluded with a short prayer, it was Coblentz’ turn to speak.

Coblentz — who teaches courses in feminist and queer theology — said some LGBTQ+ Catholics feel excluded by the church’s teachings on sexuality. She said it is important to remember that church teachings on sexuality and LGBTQ+ people are directly tied to its greater teachings on sex and gender.

“The church holds that sexual activity should be confined to heterosexual marriage,” she explained. “The church also teaches that sex in this context should be unitive and procreative.”

She said these teachings can cause LGBTQ+ Catholics to question how they can “be good in the eyes of God and the church when [their] very nature is inherently disordered.”

Coblentz added that her primary area of research is on Christianity and mental health. She said her research has exposed her to studies linking social and religious messages about LGBTQ+ persons to conditions like depression and suicidal ideation.

“Many LGBTQ+ Christians perceive that they are not really wanted for who they are by the church. They perceive that they do not truly belong in God’s eyes and in the church’s,” Coblentz said. “The exclusion experienced by LGBTQ+ Catholics is, therefore, not just about hurt feelings. It is, for many individuals, a matter of life and death. As such, any Catholic or Catholic institution that strives to be pro-life must contend with the role the church plays in LGBTQ+ exclusion.”

Coblentz said it’s important for Catholics to remember that, when it comes to moral issues, they are not called to unthinking submission to church teachings but rather to form their own opinions based on “rigorous and careful discernment.”

“We are called to study Church teaching, to seek wise spiritual counsel about it and, ultimately, to follow the well-informed conscience that results from this even in difficult moments when one’s conscience leads them to disagree with an official moral teaching,” Coblentz said. “With regard to sexual morality, this process is the responsibility of faithful Catholics and one we should engage in as we grapple with the realities of LGBTQ+ inclusion.”

Coblentz said some theologians debate whether church teaching on sexuality needs to be changed or reinterpreted. Some scholars, particularly those in the subset of queer theology, question whether inclusion should be the end goal of Christians who are concerned about the well-being of LGBTQ+ persons, Coblentz said.

“These theologians call for a more radical rethinking: Instead of inclusion, they call for revolution,” she said. “This revolutionary approach … asks not ‘How do we include LGBTQ+ Catholics in the church, but instead, ‘Can we begin to imagine a church where questions of inclusion are entirely irrelevant because our belonging is simply taken for granted?’”

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Flaherty Hall hosts first color run to benefit breast cancer research

Runners on South Quad on Saturday morning will turn pink for a cause at Flaherty Hall’s color run, the Flaherty Fights 5K.

“Flaherty Fights 5K is our revamped signature event supporting breast cancer awareness and research,” junior and Flaherty Hall vice president Karina Solman said. “In the past, we have done Flaherty Fights, a tabling bake sale event in [LaFortune Student Center], but this year, we decided to amp it up to a color run 5K with pink powder and pink-themed snacks and t-shirts at the finish line.”

This will be the first year Flaherty has held a 5K run. Solman said the hall executives wanted a new signature event that was “more fun, interactive and campus-and-community-facing,” while still retaining the enjoyment the bake sale event brought attendees in years past.

All proceeds from the 5K will be donated to the breast cancer research program at Saint John’s Cancer Institute, which is based out of Santa Monica, California.

The Flaherty Fights 5K will take place Saturday, Oct. 1, at 9 a.m. by the South Quad flagpole. (Courtesy of Gracie Wetli)

Solman said hall executives settled on Saint John’s after Flaherty donor and namesake Mary Hesburgh Flaherty visited the dorm last spring and talked to its residents about her life and charity work.

“This event means a lot to all of us in Flaherty because Mary Flaherty is a breast cancer survivor,” Solman said. “When she came and spoke to us last year, we were all moved by her story.”

Solman added that when she, Flaherty Hall president Gracie Wetli and co-vice president Ceci Driano assumed their roles in hall government last spring, they wanted to make their dorm’s signature event “extra special.”

After deciding the event would be a 5K, “we reached out to Mary Flaherty about where she would like the proceeds to go, and she suggested St. John’s … she has been chair of the board of their foundation in the past and is still very much involved with them,” Solman said. “They have a world-renowned breast cancer research program and also work in promoting awareness for women, so she told us that they would be honored to be the recipients of our fundraising efforts.”

The 3.1-mile run will begin at the South Quad flag pole at 9 a.m. Saturday. Participants can register the morning of the run beginning at 8:15 a.m. or online in advance using Student Shop ND. Registration is $15 per participant.

Hall president Wetli encouraged anyone interested to participate, even those who do not consider themselves runners.

“Since this is a color run 5K, it is meant to be very lighthearted and fun,” she said. “Walkers are more than welcome to participate in the 5K, and you will be supporting a great cause in the process. There will also be a free shirt for participants while supplies last.”

Wetli added that both 5K participants and others should come to the bake sale at the start and finish line, which will have donuts and bagels.

“We are very proud of the effort put forth by many members of the Flaherty Hall community to make this event happen. Our signature events commissioners, Celeste Hirschi, Jane Stallman and Adi Yabut, have been extremely helpful in planning this event,” Welti said. “I would also like to give a special thanks to our hall staff … for supporting us in planning this event. We have gotten to work with parking service, RecSports and various vendors throughout the process.”

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On-campus farmer’s market gives students a taste of South Bend

The Notre Dame student government South Bend engagement committee held the first on-campus farmer’s market this past Friday, Sept. 16. The event featured local South Bend restaurants, artisans and vendors.

From 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. in Fieldhouse Mall, students could purchase food from Vegan Bites by Jas, Purple Porch and Mom’s Keiflies. They could also shop for handmade jewelry and art from Skye is the Limit and Gems of Pride.

farmer's market sign
Student Government director of South Bend engagement Quinn McKenna (middle) and other students pose by the On-Campus Farmer’s Market sign at Fieldhouse Mall on Friday. / Courtesy of Notre Dame Student Government

Student government director of South Bend engagement and senior Quinn McKenna said items available for purchase ranged from kombucha to handmade jewelry to Polish pastries.

“Purple Porch had a variety of food including, but not limited to, premade sandwiches, brownies, blueberries, paw paws — a fruit native to Indiana, kombucha and specialty sodas,” she said.

The farmer’s market was the first event held by the South Bend engagement committee, a new body added to student government by the Lee-Stitt administration this academic year.

McKenna said the goal with the farmer’s market — as well as with the South Bend engagement committee as a whole — is to expose students to what South Bend has to offer.

“This department aims to pop the ‘Notre Dame bubble’ and move students to engage with the community in ways other than service,” McKenna said. “South Bend has a very vibrant and creative community, and this department was created to expose students to more of that. Therefore, this market acted as a means of introduction to some local businesses in the hopes that students would venture into the community independently to explore more of what South Bend is all about.”

Sophomore Andres Alvarez, a South Bend native and member of the committee, said about 500 students, faculty, staff and campus visitors checked out the farmer’s market Friday.

Alvarez said many vendors sold out more quickly than expected due to the event’s higher-than-anticipated turnout.

“Some [vendors] were creating more products as they were sitting in their chairs because they were selling out so fast, and others had to return to their shops to get more inventory,” he said. “We learned from the farmer’s market that the Notre Dame community wants to shop locally.”

He said the popularity of the event was encouraging for his committee as they plan future events to engage students with the South Bend community this year.

Currently, he said, the committee is in the process of creating a “South Bend Passport”, which will serve as a guide to introduce students to off-campus restaurants, coffee shops, shopping and other local businesses.

Alvarez said they are also working to invite local community members to campus to teach students about the history of South Bend

“Even though we are Notre Dame, we all should take the time to listen to some prominent voices in the neighboring community.”

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Before graduation, this junior hopes to walk a mile with 500 students

When junior Lane Obringer transferred to Notre Dame from Saint Mary’s College last year, the self-described extrovert from Charlotte, North Carolina, was eager to make new friends.

“It was difficult to meet new people. You felt like you were living your freshman year all over again while being a sophomore, and COVID probably made things difficult as well,” Obringer recalled. “It takes a lot of extraversion to hop right into meeting new people all over again … and I am a very extroverted person, but I wanted to create a platform to streamline the process rather than attending a million club meetings.”

Obringer said she wanted to create a way to meet lots of people from diverse backgrounds and perspectives in an environment where they could have real and honest conversations.

This became the inspiration behind the Instagram account she founded last semester, @lanewalksnd.

In the account’s bio, a link leads to a Google Calendar where any Notre Dame student can sign up for a 20-minute, one-mile walk around Saint Mary’s Lake with Obringer. As of Sunday, she has walked with 73 students and is almost 15% of the way to her goal of walking with 500 students before she graduates in the spring of 2024.

Her thoughtfully-designed Instagram feed features photos of each student she’s walked with, decorated with their names and facts about them in Obringer’s flowy and often colorful calligraphy.

Obringer started @lanewalksnd last semester and, when she began the project, she said she was certain only her close friends were going to sign up for walks.

“I thought … I wouldn’t really meet other people, and my first four walks on the very first day were all people that I had literally never seen in my entire life,” she said.

That very first day was Easter Monday this past spring. Soon, Obringer was going on four walks every day last semester, including Saturdays and Sundays.

This semester, she said she’s limited her schedule to three walks per day so that she can “be more present” with every walker.

“The benefits of doing this project are definitely meeting other people,” she said. “That sounds kind of surface level, but there’s something to be said about walking around campus and seeing a friendly face or recognizing someone’s name.”

Obringer added the walks have allowed her to connect with many people outside of her typical social circle. Furthermore, the @lanewalksnd project relates to Obringer’s future career goals.

A psychology major with minors in innovation and entrepreneurship and gender studies, Obringer hopes to pursue a career in organizational health, which she describes as “fun HR.”

“It’s understanding how people and teams work; how to make you like your job,” she explained.

In her studies, Obringer said she finds it interesting that 97% of psychological studies focus on the clinical or abnormal, while only 3% of studies focus on positive psychology. She tries to incorporate positive psychology into her walks and the interactions she has with each walker.

On every walk, she said she takes into account this question: “How do you make someone feel like a valued member of a community?”

“So that’s what taking their photo at the end of the walk and posting it on the Instagram is about … because you feel like, even though it’s very, very small, you’re part of something larger and, ultimately, that’s what I think a lot of Notre Dame students strive for,” she said.

For the duration of each walk, Obringer said she tries to give walkers space to talk about whatever they want.

Junior Drew Braaten, a business analytics major with an interest in filmmaking, walked with Obringer at the beginning of this semester. He called the walk a “15-minute, new friend appointment.”

“It was a beautiful Friday afternoon,” he recalled. “I was super interested in hearing about the project and asked her questions about how she keeps up all the walks. Lane was interested in my video-making. We finished the conversation with the wholesome story of the last time she cried.”

Sarah Mahoney, a sophomore environmental science and pre-med student who walked with Obringer in April, said “there was never a gap” in their conversation.

“Sharing a personal experience and conversation is a truly impactful way to get to know another person on a deeper level,” Mahoney said. “[Lane’s project] is such an inspiring project and a great way to unite students in the ND community.”

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Women’s clubs share their experiences

This semester marks 50 years since women first stepped foot on Notre Dame’s campus as students.

To honor this milestone, The Observer reached out to leaders from five student clubs that are either geared toward women or focus on advocating for women’s rights.

Baraka Bouts Notre Dame Women’s Boxing club

When Rachel Salamone was a first-year, she knew she wanted to try a new sport.

Walking the stadium concourse at the Student Activities Fair three years ago, Baraka Bouts, the Notre Dame Women’s Boxing club, caught her attention.

“I had heard a bit about the boxing club, but when I saw people throwing mitts at the Activities Fair, I thought it was the coolest thing I had seen all night and I was sold,” she recalled.

Now in its twentieth year, the boxing club is the largest women’s club on campus, Salamone, now the club president, said. With over 300 members, it is also the largest all-female boxing club in the world.

Salamone said the club “works to instill confidence, skill and community” in its members through daily training. At least 100 club members train each year for the club’s best-known event, the annual Baraka Bouts boxing tournament – three nights of club members going head-to-head for one minute and 15 seconds in the Duncan Student Center’s Dahnke Ballroom.

“The dual nature of Notre Dame Women’s Boxing that blends female empowerment with boxing and makes quality education more accessible in Uganda makes the program especially unique and inspiring,” Salamone said.

Feminist ND

Chess Blacklock, a senior with plans to go into public health after graduation, is the president of FeministND.

She said FeministND was one of the first student organizations she got involved in as a freshman and joined its executive board as service chair her sophomore year before becoming president as a junior.

Blacklock said the club’s mission is to “shed a positive light on feminism and the value of the ideology and movement as well as to bring a greater awareness of women’s role in history and women’s contributions to our current society.”

“We bring strong women’s voices to campus, celebrate powerful women and encourage women to seek out positions of power,” she continued. “Additionally, we seek to provide a space free of political or religious bias [for] students to share their opinions and ideas concerning gender issues and feminism while also acting as a general support group for women.”

One of the club’s biggest events is its annual menstrual product drive, which collects pads and tampons for local shelters for people experiencing homelessness. Blacklock said the success of last year’s menstrual product drive is one of the club’s proudest accomplishments.

“This past year, we collected over 900 products to donate,” she said. “Additionally, we collaborated with Campus Cup to allow students to sign up and receive a free menstrual cup. We had over 300 sign-ups for this programming, and while many students picked theirs up for personal use, many also chose for us to donate them.”

FeministND currently has about 200 members. The club has existed since 2016, but Blacklock said feminist clubs have had a presence at Notre Dame since women were admitted to the University half a century ago.

“Though we know these previous clubs existed because of the active role alumni have in our club, we don’t know too much about how these clubs operated due to the lack of consistent and thorough record keeping,” Blacklock explained.

Magnificat Choir

Hannah Schmitz, a junior theology major living in Welsh Family Hall, is the alumni relations and social media manager for the Magnificat Choir, a liturgical choir that welcomes all tri-campus students who sing in the treble range.

The choir sings each week at the 5 p.m. Saturday Vigil Mass at the Basilica and rehearses three times a week.

Schmitz said she decided to join the choir last fall when she was looking for community and a way to continue doing music ministry.

“I had grown up singing in a church choir, and it was something that I had missed doing my freshman year of college,” she said.

After realizing how much joy the choir had given her in just a year, she said she desired to pursue a leadership position.

The choir currently has about 45 members and Schmitz said they’ve built a great community centered around a passion for music and enjoyment of one another’s company.

In addition to rehearsal, choir members participate in group outings about once a month, including ice skating, volleyball and volunteering in the community.

“But honestly, sometimes we have the most fun just going to dinner together after a rehearsal or Mass and enjoying each other’s company,” Schmitz said. “During the fall semester, we love singing at the football Masses and seeing everyone decked out in Notre Dame gear.”

Schmitz said her proudest moment with the choir was last spring when they recorded the first half of their upcoming album.

“We worked for months to prepare these pieces before diving headfirst into a five-hour long recording session in the Lady Chapel of the Basilica,” she said. “We are very proud of what we accomplished so far and we are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to finish the album this upcoming spring. We are all very excited to hear the final product.”

Network of Enlightened Women

Gavriella Aviva Lund, a senior neuroscience major with a minor in theology, said one of her many passions is “bringing people of diverse backgrounds together to learn more about each other and to find common ground to build stronger communities locally and beyond.”

In fall 2020, Lund and Theresa Olohan ’21 began the process of founding a chapter of the Network of Enlightened Women (NeW) on Notre Dame’s campus.

NeW is a national organization, originally founded at the University of Virginia in 2004, that connects conservative college women and creates a space for them to talk about public policy and conservative values, Lund explained.

Lund said she and Olohan wanted to establish a chapter at Notre Dame to “provide an open community where women on campus could discuss and learn about social and policy issues they cared about while developing a network of women across the country who pursue the same mission as leaders in their professions.”

NeW at ND was established in the spring of 2021, and, now, the club has about 125 members. They meet at least twice a month, and members have enjoyed fun activities such as roller rink trips and ice skating, as well as lectures and professional development opportunities.

Lund currently serves as president of NeW at ND and said, though the club is branded as a space for women with “conservative values,” it does not endorse specific political parties or candidates.

“The university setting was originally meant to be a space where ideas are exchanged, which requires a difference of opinions,” Lund said.

She said NeW at ND plans to highlight this with the theme of the club this year: “Embrace and Engage.”

Instead of being afraid of those with different opinions on social issues or policies, she continued, she encourages people to, first, embrace the dignity and goodwill of every person and then “engage in an open dialogue to understand where our peers are coming from.”

“Coming together as one united community, we can learn so much from each other and make prominent social change,” Lund said.

Shades of Ebony

Thaddea Ampadu, a senior accounting major, is the co-president of Shades of Ebony, a club geared toward Black women at Notre Dame focusing on service and sisterhood.

Shades was founded 21 years ago by Arienne Thompson ’04 and Terri Baxter ’05 to create a space where Black women could come together and share their experiences.

Its mission is to “unify, empower and inspire women of all shades” through engaging in dialogue and service in the South Bend community, Ampadu said.

The club’s general meetings – which take place weekly or biweekly depending on what leadership has planned – often include discussions on topics like mental health, mentorship, career development, social life and equitable access to resources at Notre Dame and beyond.

“There are very few women of color on campus, and because of this, there are rarely opportunities to meet and have dialogue,” Ampadu said. “Attending our meetings is always the highlight of my week because I don’t have to explain certain parts of my identity because most, if not all, of us share those same identities and experiences.”

She said Shades has about 30 active members and about 50 who attend events more occasionally.

The club cohosts events and holiday parties with other student clubs including Wabruda, the Black Student Association and the Gender Relations Center.

Last year, Shades was named the “Club of the Year” by the Club Coordination Council. Ampadu and other club leaders are proud of the events Shades has organized and their successful efforts to revive the club after the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The community is absolutely beautiful,” Ampadu said. “When we meet, I can visibly see how relaxed and comfortable our members become surrounded by women that look like them.”