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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.”

Contact Claire Reid at creid6@nd.edu.