All the leaves are brown and the sky is gray

“Had I been blessed with even limited access to my own mind, there would have been no reason to write,” the writer Joan Didion said in a speech discussing the reasons and methods behind her writing. “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means.” 

When I first read that speech in an online archived edition of The New York Times with a strangely etched illustration of Didion’s face, desperately trying everything I could to improve my writing in the midst of college application season, I was puzzled. The idea that putting words on paper in order to learn what you’re thinking, rather than making up your mind about every idea before committing them to a Google Doc or journal page, was foreign to me. So while I appreciated some of the speech, I resigned myself to the idea that I was not a “writer” in the way that Didion described.

And yet in the past year, I find myself increasingly awake at night or distracted at coffee shops, with the urge to open the notes app on my phone and figure out what I’m thinking. The result of this is often bleak, despondent soliloquies; I tremble at the thought of anyone reading them. And yet, they have so often lifted weeks-long fogs over my mind, allowing me to see what it is that is weighing on me or what I am truly scared of. 

They’re not all apocalyptic or miserable, too, and on the occasion of this Inside Column, I come to my computer, ready to write, with a question far more boring than my previous contribution to the Viewpoint pages: Why am I obsessed with Californian identity?

So many times in high school, I told my mother and anyone who would listen how much I disliked California, how much I couldn’t wait to leave to another state that was less frustrating or insane. It didn’t help that I lived in Sacramento, epitomizing to my restless adolescent self both the dysfunction of our state’s government and the utter boringness of west coast suburbia (see: Lady Bird).

I didn’t feel exactly that way when I left home for my freshman year, but in the time I’ve spent here, I constantly think about how much I’m a Californian and how alien that can be. The tears I cry while watching Lady Bird have become so much more palpable, and there is so much more weight to hearing Lana Del Rey croon about the California sun and the movie stars, or the way the Beach Boys say “Californ-aye-a” on “Surfin’ U.S.A” or the Mamas and Papas’ lyrics that the title of this column is lifted from.

I was in office hours with my political theory professor last year, and our conversation somehow made its way to how Didion’s work was increasingly conquering the shelf of books in my dorm, as I bought secondhand copies of everything she wrote on weekend trips to Chicago bookstores. I had no doubt that her writing prowess and the resonance of her work was part of that, but a huge part was seeking to understand California, to feel it even while trekking through the South Bend snowbanks. Professor Kaplan told me something that has stuck with me: “There’s something about this place that lets people really learn about who they are.”

I think that in many ways, my obsession is silly. I visited a friend in Virginia a couple times this summer from my internship in Washington, D.C. As we drove through the Virginia countryside, I kept coming up blank in response to questions about how things were like in California. The state is massive; there’s little my sleepy, suburban Sacramento adolescence or childhood in San Francisco shares in common with the dozens of Orange County residents I’ve met here. And yet, as I spent those months in D.C., I kept noticing things: our summers are browner in California, our old houses aren’t as old, the heat’s a different creature.

I genuinely think there are things that unify California, that define its identity and spirit. But I think that perhaps this obsession, this fixation comes not from a need to define myself or to categorize various feelings of alienation and homesickness. I don’t know. I wrote, and I did not receive a definitive answer.

But I did finish my Inside Column — see you back in the (superior) News pages.

You can contact Isa Sheikh at

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


NDPD announces use of bodycams, new ND Safe app

The Notre Dame Police Department (NDPD) announced this month that its sworn officers are now wearing body cameras. The department also released the ND Safe app with multiple resources, including one-touch calls to Notre Dame police, St. Joseph County’s 911 center and non-emergency assistance, as well as resources to share location with NDPD or one’s friends.

NDPD chief Keri Kei Shibata says that the decision to start using body cameras has been a long time coming. “We had been thinking about it for a number of years. In fact, we had officers who had been wanting to wear body cameras previous to [the decision],” Shibata said.

Shibata said that the department had held off due to existing safety technology that NDPD already employed.

“We have a number of CCTV cameras on campus, so usually when there’s something that happens, and there’s a question about whether something happened a certain way or not, we can investigate that way. But there’s no audio there. The officers have had in-car cameras with body mics for a very long time,” she said.

They ultimately decided to purchase the technology — developed by Axon Enterprise, a firm that develops technology for law enforcement, the military and general public — for a number of reasons.

“They’re becoming more standard for police agencies. We know that the federal agencies are soon going to be required to wear them. And so it’s just becoming a best practice in law enforcement,” Shibata said.

Shibata also referred to national conversations around police reform. NDPD has engaged in that conversation following the death of George Floyd, releasing an extensive “Equity in Policing” report that outlines a commitment to solidarity and details training and policies for officers. 

“We know that at times law enforcement in the United States has played a role in dehumanization, oppression and the infringement of the basic civil and human rights of people in our country. Instances of police brutality are tragic reminders of the systemic racism that exists in the United States,” the statement reads. “We recognize that NDPD is part of the larger criminal justice system that needs to improve in many ways.”

“These truths are uncomfortable, they stain our history and tarnish the reputation of good people doing good work. But, they are truths that are nonetheless acknowledged by the Notre Dame Police Department.”

Shibata said the bodycams “allow us to be more transparent and accountable. It helps us to quickly investigate any complaints. It helps collect evidence in cases if that’s needed. It can also help with training, so officers can review their interactions and supervisors can review with officers and say, ‘How could we have handled this a little bit differently?’ And then if there are disputes about what happened, it can clarify that.”

She said that current policy dictates officers must turn on their body cams any time they are on a call for service or law enforcement interaction, from someone locking their keys in an office to a more serious threat.

“The spirit of the policy that will always be the case is any kind of law enforcement and action will be recorded,” she said. 

Officers must tell citizens who ask if they’re being recorded that they are, and they can turn off the cameras if they are requested or for privacy reasons, such as offering care to a person potentially in a state of undress. They would document the cause in any case this occurred. In case the situation escalates, they would turn the camera back on.

NDPD exists because of a state law allowing colleges to appoint a police force. Notre Dame’s board decided to do so, giving NDPD jurisdiction throughout St. Joseph County, but primarily on campus, Shibata said.

“In an active violence or other serious public safety emergency NDPD officers know the campus inside and out and can get there quickly and take the right action or give the right instruction to the community and other responding agencies,” she wrote in an email. “In addition, in everyday situations we know the campus resources available to students, faculty, and staff so we often have the ability to connect them with those resources rather than taking law enforcement action if appropriate where other police agencies wouldn’t know the resources in that detail or the people to connect them with.”

With the release of the ND Safe application, the work to ensure safety on campus continues. 

“We’re very excited about [the app],” Shibata said. “We had been thinking about a safety app for quite a while. Student government had asked if that was something that we could do, and it was another thing that just fell together and it seemed like the right time to do it.”

Within the app, users can activate features like the Virtual Walkhome feature, which allows a police dispatcher to monitor their walk to or from a residence hall or other location on or off campus. 

ND Safe has other features including FriendWalk, essentially a safety escort service without a person, designed to share a user’s location with friends or family. There’s also Mobile Blue Light, which shares the user’s location with NDPD. The app also has a feature called Social Escape, a self-scheduled call to the user’s mobile phone as a means to leave an uncomfortable or potentially threatening situation.

“It’s a great resource. I like it that people can choose either to have our staff involved or not, depending on what they feel they need. And then most of the options also enable people to really quickly contact 911 or our police department depending on where they are,” Shibata said.


Provost John McGreevy discusses role, book on history of Catholicism

John T. McGreevy began his work as the sixth provost for the University of Notre Dame at the beginning of July.

McGreevy, a history professor who has served on the faculty since 1997 and previously served as chair of the history department and the dean of College of Arts and Letters, was announced as the Charles and Jill Fischer provost in April, four months after Marie Lynn Miranda stepped down from the position. Miranda’s year and a half as provost was largely defined by the University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Identified by a search committee of faculty, students and university president Fr. John Jenkins, McGreevy is cognizant of the fact that many do not understand the job he’s been appointed to.

“No one knows what the provost does,” McGreevy said. “The formal title is chief academic officer… and you’re supposed to guide the academic core; everything from hiring to how do we elevate the reputation of our departments? How do we do cross-college programs? How do we do better with undergraduate education? How do we develop stronger graduate and professional school programs, all that in a general way falls to the provost.”

Notre Dame established the provost position in 1970 under Fr. Hesburgh’s leadership, and the provost is tasked with the overall operation of the academic enterprise, including the faculty, colleges, schools, institutes, centers, libraries and student advising.

McGreevy said that his position allows him to direct Notre Dame’s academic work across programs and colleges, from a twenty-thousand-foot level.

“I won’t get involved in individual ‘we should offer this course this semester’ kind of decisions,” he said. Rather, his role has a larger role in faculty promotion and tenure, developing and strengthening programs and institutionally promoting Notre Dame’s commitment to “really excellent teaching.”

McGreevy said that he is still developing his priorities as provost but he is guided by two overarching goals.

First is a common plan for the academic core, forged from various plans for each of the programs and schools under Notre Dame’s umbrella. He said the goal is to “make Notre Dame better in terms of teaching and learning, in terms of its research programs, all those things.”

Second, McGreevy said he is focused on building strong teams among the leaders that report to him. 

“We have a really great group of deans, great group of provosts, and just to get them really working together and helping me, because I need the help. I can’t do it on my own. And there’s so much wisdom in those rooms,” he said.

McGreevy says that challenges he’s identified moving forward include that the University is “a little bit behind on strategic plans.”

More broadly, McGreevy sees a larger tension at the core of Notre Dame’s path forward, a vision that he says is shared by Fr. Jenkins, and has served as the administration’s project since the 1960s.

“The big challenge for Notre Dame is can it be seriously Catholic and be great,” McGreevy said. “Can we be one of the best private research universities in the world with just absolutely terrific programs at all levels? And can we be distinctly and seriously Catholic? And that’s the big picture mission.”

He says that question comes to the forefront when establishing Notre Dame’s credibility in research, as well as deciding which programs to invest in.

“So we started, a few years ago, a master’s in sacred music and then a doctorate in sacred music, and we’re really good at that. And that’s an example of a program that aligns with our mission, but we become really good at,” he said. “We need more things that everyone unequivocally says ‘okay, yeah, that’s a great program.’”

McGreevy also published a book this month — “Catholicism: A Global History from the French Revolution to Pope Francis” is a 528-page volume out with W.W. Norton. A review in The New York Times says that McGreevy has done “a remarkable job of explaining how the epic struggle between reformists and traditionalists has led us to the present moment in the Roman Catholic Church.”

McGreevy has long studied Catholicism and has published three previous books on various elements of the church’s history. This book drew less from primary research, and was written primarily during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s really based on trying to distill the secondary literature into a readable format and tell the big picture story. So not much research, but a lot of time spent on the 10th and 11th and 12th floor of the library sitting there looking at things and with my laptop writing,” he said.

McGreevy says the book is an attempt to explore the global dimensions of the church, “recognizing that Catholicism is the most multicultural and multilingual institution in the world. And we need histories that reflect that diversity.”

Since the near-death experience of the French Revolution, the church has evolved and changed in many ways over the past 230 years, according to McGreevy.

“We tend to think especially the church is sort of unchanging. And one thing I want to convey in the book is that a lot of things did change, not everything,” McGreevy said. 

Beginning with the French Revolution, McGreevy explained that the event was transformative for the institution.

“What I really want to convey to people is how devastating the French Revolution was for an older, more aristocratic Catholic model, where the nation state and the church were very tightly allied,” he said. “That didn’t go away. But what came in the 19th century was a much more populist, devotional Catholicism, maybe even more a church of the poor. And a church very tightly tied to the papacy.”

The dramatic shift of the French Revolution is followed in history by another dramatic shift, Vatican II, McGreevy said.

“That form of the church, I argue, really lasts until the 1960s in the Second Vatican Council and we’re still trying to sort out what era we’re in now,” he said. “[Pope] Francis says that we’re in a change of era, not an era of change. It seems throughout politics, culture, religion, that some things are fundamentally changing right now. And I hope the book provides a savvy history so Catholics and non-Catholics can better understand how we got to where we are.” 

As a historian focused on Catholicism for much of his career, McGreevy says that work shapes his approach as provost. 

“There’s a parallel that I think about a lot, that if we’re going to be a Catholic university, we are going to become more diverse at Notre Dame. That means diverse in American categories… but also diverse in international students too. And that will be the only way we sustain ourselves as a Catholic university,” he said.

He added that the day-to-day work of a history professor has also prepared him well. 

“Being a historian is good training, you read a lot, and you read a lot as provost. And you do think about change over time and how institutions change. And I find myself thinking about that all the time: how Notre Dame should change,” McGreevy said.


Director of national intelligence discusses career, national security risks

On Friday, director of national intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines appeared at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center to discuss her career, the role of the intelligence community and global threats to the United States.

Haines appeared alongside Amy McAuliffe ‘90, assistant director of the CIA’s Weapons and Counterproliferation Mission Center, in a discussion titled “The U.S. Intelligence Community: Assessing Global Threats in Service to Country.”

The discussion was part of the Notre Dame International Security Center’s (NDISC) Jack Kelly and Gail Weiss Lecture Series. Kelly, a Notre Dame alum with 28 years of active and reserve duty as a U.S. Army officer, introduced Haines. 

Haines and McAuliffe on stage at the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center on Friday. / Credit: Isa Sheikh | The Observer

“Years ago, there was a movie. Liam Neeson played a retired intelligence officer. When asked who he was, he said, ‘I have a particular set of skills, skills I’ve acquired for a long career, skills that make people like me very scary for people like you.’ Well, I don’t know how scary the director makes people, but she does have a special set of skills,” Kelly said.

He recounted Haines’s biography, from being raised on the Upper West Side to moving to Japan to study judo at a dojo before studying physics at the University of Chicago. Haines also spent her teenage years caring for her mother, who died when she was 15 years old.

Kelly recounted the story of how Haines built a plane with her husband, attempting a flight across the Atlantic and succeeding. Haines then opened a neighborhood bookstore in Baltimore, which “became a forum where people came and taught and shared ideas,” Kelly said.

Haines next began a career as a lawyer, going to Georgetown Law and ultimately becoming an attorney advisor at the State Department. She was then appointed to national security positions in the Obama administration, including as deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security advisor.

Haines, who was appointed by President Biden as the seventh DNI and the first woman in that position, serves a key role in the administration.

“Every morning, a car pulls down West Executive Drive at the White House. And this woman gets out and goes into the West Wing and every day, she and her briefers go to the first customer, the most important customer of national intelligence in the world, the president, and present to him the daily presidential brief. And that is how the president starts his day because this is the person who holds the secrets, the nightmares that you and I fear,” Kelly said.

Haines began by discussing the intelligence community, inviting students to consider careers in the field. 

“As somebody who has been in different parts of [the intelligence community], it is truly one of the most extraordinary places to work and yet, it’s also one of the most challenging places to figure out,” she said. “I think as a student, as somebody who’s thinking about a career at some point, this gives us an opportunity to frankly talk to you a little bit about it, but also answer some of your questions. So my hope is as you think things through, you will do so.”

Haines discussed how the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) was born out of 9/11 and the government’s response to the perceived heightened security risk. She summarized the office’s role in four priorities.

Firstly, serving as the principal intelligence advisor to the president, as well as senior national security officials. 

“What my organization tries to do is really to pull together what the elements are doing and to facilitate their work so that we can get intelligence before [the president] and key folks who are having to make decisions, right intelligence that they can use in a form that allows them to use it to make a decision at a moment when they need it,” Haines said.

Next, Haines discussed the imperative to coordinate across the intelligence agencies and integrate findings.

Thirdly, Haines discussed setting priorities by managing the budget for the intelligence community. Finally, she said she works to facilitate strategic discussions about the direction of American intelligence.

Discussing the challenge of briefing officials and the press without allowing personal proclivities to bias the intelligence, Haines said that, in her experience as a lawyer in the State Department, credibility was key. She said that was achieved by leaving conclusions about policy to those responsible.

“I had to stick to my brief right. In other words, you sort of provide the legal views without providing the policy. What I’ve learned in that position over the years was that my credibility was attached to my ability to do that,” she said. “And it is equally true in my experience in the intelligence community, that you really do have to be, in my view, quite careful about providing our analysis.”

Haines discussed the war in Ukraine, including handling skepticism towards intelligence in the leadup to Putin’s invasion.

“I remember being in the office with the boss, the president, and he said, ‘Okay, you know, [national security adviser] Jake [Sullivan], [secretary of state] Tony [Blinken], you guys gotta get out there and start talking to our allies.’ Because if this was gonna happen, we’ve got to actually figure out with them what we’re going to do in response and whether or not there’s any opportunity to deter … and then they come back and they said, ‘Folks are really skeptical,’” Haines said. “And so [the president] turned to us and said ‘You know, you got to start sharing, you have to help them understand what you’re seeing and why.’”

Haines discussed the role of intelligence and national security, particularly in formulating the annual threat assessment. 

“I think one of the most interesting things over the last few decades in my view is that we are expanding the definition of what national security is in all kinds of ways. When you look, for example, at our annual threat assessment, you will see global health safety, food technology, environmental degradation and climate change. All of these things are represented,” she said. “Climate change has been identified as an urgent national security priority by the president of the United States.”

Haines and McAuliffe took questions from NDISC students, ranging from the challenges of potential politicization of intelligence to tensions with China and intelligence reform. 

One question concerned the ODNI’s ongoing review of documents seized at former president Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and whether the office might become mired in political controversy like the FBI.

“In every scenario in which we are doing our job in association with issues that are at the center of politics and partisan debate, there is obviously the risk of getting caught out in the stands,” Haines said. “What I have found is that the best antidote to it in a sense is truly to just be as focused as one can be on exactly what your job is and not paying attention to some of the craziness around it … Whether or not I’m worried that it’ll happen, I can’t let that affect the decisions that we make, right?”

Contact Isa Sheikh at


Rep. Brendan Boyle, ’99, discusses career, current legislative efforts

On Friday morning, Rep. Brendan Boyle, ‘99, spoke to a group of students about his career path, pursuing opportunities in politics and current legislative priorities. 

Boyle, a Democratic congressman from Pennsylvania’s second district serving his fourth term, is an alumnus of Notre Dame’s Hesburgh Program in Public Service and the inaugural semester in the Washington program.

Friday, he opened with brief introductory remarks and then fielded questions from students invited from various majors, minors and political clubs.

Ricardo Ramirez, director of the Hesburgh Program and an associate professor of political science and Latino studies, introduced Boyle. 

“Congressman Boyle has served as a champion for the working and middle-class families, particularly on issues related to social and economic justice. He, himself, is the first in his family to attend college, and he’s the son of a janitor and a school crossing guard,” Ramirez said.

In his introductory remarks, Boyle discussed his work across policy issues in the House of Representatives, identifying himself as a “generalist.”

“On any given day, I could be voting on energy policy, and then, next, voting on tax policy, and then voting on NATO, and then next voting on a welfare issue and next voting on a defense issue,” he said. 

Boyle, who serves on the influential Ways and Means Committee, recounted key experiences as a lawmaker.

Boyle was in Brussels days before the Russian invasion of Ukraine for the NATO Parliamentary Assembly, to which he’s a delegate.

“At our opening dinner, the vast majority of parliamentarians from the UK, France, Germany … did not believe there would be a war and did not believe there would be an invasion,” he recalled.

He tied the issue to political practice, saying he’s been especially active on the issue because of a large Ukrainian presence in his district in and around Philadelphia. 

Boyle said that this combination of constituent services and policy encapsulates the job of a congressman.

“There’s in the district and there’s in the Capitol. The time that I’m back home is not time off … So in some ways, it’s almost a hybrid of two different positions combined into one,” he said.

Many of the students identified themselves as residents of a particular representative’s district. Boyle interjected when a senior from Sarasota, Florida, mentioned he was from Republican representative Vern Buchanan’s district.

“I’m friendly with Vern, too. That should reassure people that people on both sides of the aisle actually are much more friendly with one another than cable TV would have you believe,” he said.

In response to a question about America’s role on the global stage, Boyle emphasized two priorities after reflecting on the Arab Spring and other events from the past twenty years.

“Two goals immediately come to mind, and they’re sometimes in conflict. One would be to promote democracy and human rights as much as we can around the world. And then the second is stability,” he said. “We can not retreat from the world.”

He also talked about recent legislative action. Boyle, who made history as the first House member to cast a proxy vote on behalf of a colleague amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, discussed being in committee hearings and voting during a trip to Notre Dame a year ago.

“In this very building a few floors up while my wife and daughter were enjoying campus all that Friday, I was up there casting votes and participating in hearings. So literally at Notre Dame, congressional votes have been cast, and I was casting my votes for our amendments, defeating the other side’s amendments for the Build Back Better Act, which ultimately did pass out of the Ways and Means Committee,” Boyle recalled.

He discussed the upcoming midterms and said that while “bread and butter issues” and contrasting the Republicans’ agenda with that of the Democrats under Biden, maintaining a big tent party is key.

“You have to tailor it to your district. The message I would have in northeast Philadelphia would be different than I would have in suburban Philadelphia,” he said.

Boyle also discussed moments when he had to make tough decisions in politics. Sitting on the foreign affairs committee, he opposed the Iran Nuclear Deal and remained steadfast despite pleas to support it from powerful places.

“President Obama lobbied me on Air Force One. Fortunately, it turns out the flight from D.C. to Philadelphia is a very short flight,” he said. “And I was never invited back.”

Throughout his remarks, Boyle emphasized the importance of getting involved in politics. He pointed out that people in high positions of power within congressional offices are often young and can make a significant impact.

“If you walk around Capitol Hill and you walk into congressional offices, you see just how young the individuals are who have a great deal of responsibility,” he said. “And I can tell you from the perspective of wanting to hire good people, we’re constantly looking, and the best thing you can do is be the person who, on a campaign, shows up, volunteers for things, is on time and has a great attitude.”

Contact Isa Sheikh at


University wage increase takes effect

Notre Dame implemented a new wage structure beginning Aug. 1. 

The pay raise for all employees includes a 3% raise for eligible faculty and staff, a new starting rate of $17.50 for hourly employees and a $15 starting rate for student employees. 

The pay raises follow April increases in the starting rate for non-exempt staff to $15 and student workers to $11. 

The latest change was announced in late July through emails sent to members of the Notre Dame community. 

“We’re making a historic investment in all of our people,” executive vice president Shannon Cullinan said in a video posted to the University’s human resources website. “At the heart of who we are is our people.”

Going even further than the new student wages, Hesburgh Libraries has increased its starting wage to $16, and other positions on campus — like research — have gone further still. 

Last semester, students and faculty organized under the Raising the Standard campaign (RSC), calling on Notre Dame to adopt a “just wage structure.” 

Bridget Schippers, codirector of the RSC, said the University’s recent announcement was something to be celebrated. 

“Something that was really exciting in the report that the University put out … was that they said it is our duty as a Catholic university to support our workers and to show that dignity of work,” Schippers said. “Having them recognize that was a huge win in our book because it shows us we are more than just a bare-minimum employer.”

Nonetheless, Schippers said the announcement came as a surprise. 

“I think I can speak for everyone on the team when I say we didn’t expect to see that tangible of results so quickly. Like, that was what we hoped for, and we were working really hard for it,” she said.

The RSC and others have pointed out that Notre Dame is South Bend’s largest employer, and South Bend is a community where 23% of residents live in poverty. 

University spokesperson Dennis Brown said the pay increase is in recognition of the work Notre Dame staff do.

“These increases are in appreciation for the perseverance of and contributions by faculty and staff and their service to serve our students, as well as the broader community, the Church and the world,” Brown said in an email.

Schippers said that while the pay raises are a major victory, she hopes that in the future, it won’t require advocacy to ensure employees across campus receive a just wage.

In its spring proposal, the RSC presented several policies to this end, including an employment board that would have staff appointments. 

The RSC has also advocated for a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to be built into the wage structure. With a COLA in place, wages would increase as the cost of living increases for employees.

“It’s shocking to me that we don’t have a COLA as a university, because it’s not a super brand-new, novel idea. My high school back at home has one,” Schippers said.

Staff across campus, from faculty to student workers, are now receiving bigger paychecks. While inflation and the global economy have contributed to affordability challenges for these employees, the University says that this recent raise is a moral investment. 

“Investing in the faculty, staff and students who work at Notre Dame is part and parcel of the University’s mission to be a force for good in the world,” Brown said.

Isa Sheikh

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University hosts Welcome Weekend

More than 2,000 first-year students will descend upon campus to begin their Notre Dame experience this year. The class of 2026, heralded as the most diverse and selective cohort to date, will move into residence halls and acclimate to the campus community around them through Welcome Weekend.

Welcome Weekend, the University’s annual process of orienting first-years, will involve the typical introduction to hall staff and fellow hallmates, connecting with faculty and staff and accessing academic, spiritual and wellness resources. In the days preceding the class of 2026’s first classes, student leaders and volunteers across campus will come together to embrace the new students.

Andrew Whittington, program director for first-year advising in the Center for University Advising, said the weekend serves as a gateway to many of the unique aspects of the Notre Dame experience. 

“Our team of faculty, staff, and students seeks to share and invite students into the unique characteristics of our Catholic, Holy Cross undergraduate experience,” he wrote in an email. 

Emily Orsini, program director for new student engagement and formation, said allowing new students to feel connected and build community were priorities. 

“The most important part of welcoming the class of 2026 is to make sure every new student feels welcome,” Orsini wrote in an email. “We want to make sure we have diverse programming opportunities that students will be able to engage in. We want to create time and space throughout the weekend where new students can form connections with one another to start to build community.”

This year’s Welcome Weekend will feature reimagined aspects, including a scaled-back vision of the Moreau First-Year Experience class kickoff. Orsini said the University will also emphasize diversity, equity and inclusion in its programming during the weekend.

Staff also looked to add flexibility to the experience, developing periods of opt-in programming.

“That allows students to pick their own adventure and do what they need or want during that time. Students will have options to attend programs that campus partners have organized, hang out in the hall, take a nap, unpack, etc. We know how busy this weekend can be and we hope this time will provide students with what they need whether that be rest or participating in an activity,” Orsini said. 

Whittington emphasized that Welcome Weekend is only the beginning of a much longer experience and no student is able to garner a complete sense of belonging in just a few days.

“But, Welcome Weekend’s combination of residential, curricular, and co-curricular engagement serves as an invitation, hopefully, an inspiring and dynamic invitation,” he wrote. “As far as my role goes, I’m in the business of communicating those first truths that each new student belongs here, can grow here, and can do good here.”

Orsini concurred that though the weekend is simply an introduction, it holds a lot of potential. 

“I think it’s a time for students to start to familiarize themselves with the Notre Dame community as well as the resources and academic opportunities that are offered here,” she noted. “We hope Welcome Weekend is a time where students get excited about their time here from both the academic and social engagement perspectives.”

As Welcome Weekend committees arrived in dorms across campus preparing to help move in the class of 2026, Whittington wrote that the weekend provided an opportunity to embrace the incoming class. 

“These new students, your new classmates, had the choice of joining any number of impressive university communities. They chose us. We’re just so darn grateful for that decision and are honored to celebrate them, learn more about them, and invite them to take their place alongside us as members of the Notre Dame family,” he stated. 

A version of this story was published in our Aug. 19 print issue.

Isa Sheikh

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