‘There’s always another way’: Student Government leaders plan for successful school year

Over the summer, Patrick Lee, Sofie Stitt, Nicole Baumann and the rest of Notre Dame Student Government were hard at work for the student body. 

Lee, the student body president, explained that he stayed in South Bend to plan for the year and build relationships with administrators, other staff members and cabinet directors. 

“I never count the hours, so it’s hard to tabulate, but [my work] was a lot of meeting with administrators, trying to build relationships and paving the way for our initiatives to follow. I think, also, the great majority of the time was spent meeting with Nicole and our directors,” Lee said. 

Baumann, the chief of staff, said she came back to the University for the whole month of August to help Lee with planning and organization for the coming school year after spending the first part of the summer in Los Angeles working with non-profit organizations. 

“With Patrick, that was a lot of strategizing for the year,” she said. 

Stitt, the vice president, was in Chicago completing a finance internship, but she said she contributed to the summer work virtually. 

Lee said the 17 department directors each have five to fine goals for the year, which are outlined on the Student Government progress tracker. The website is set up so interested students can click on each department and scroll through all of the goals. Lee said more information can be found by contacting each department. 

Lee explained that one of the main goals of the progress tracker is to combat voter apathy. 

“The number one thing that we encountered in our election was voter apathy. A lot of times, people don’t know what Student Government is and what we do,” he said. “Now, we have made sure that if anybody ever asks that question, they can reference this extensive guide and immediately know what’s going on.”

Lee, Stitt and Baumann all expressed excitement about the new progress tracker, saying it will help keep the cabinet on track. 

“We think that the progress tracker goes a long way for both accountability and transparency, which are really two of our highest values,” Lee said. 

Baumann, who described the tracker as a “holistic view,” also noted that the tracker and goals may change throughout the year. 

“[The executive cabinet members] are always looking for new ideas from their department chairs, as well as from the student body,” she said. 

Currently, the organization has finished 15 out of the 90 goals outlined, making them 16.5% of the way to completion. 

Many of the completed projects were oriented toward new student engagement, such as “Football 101” for international students and “Flick on the Field” at the end of the first week of classes. 

Two major improvements to student life occurred in the residence and dining halls. 

Safety after parietals was a massive change to Notre Dame student life that was implemented this fall after three years in the works. The final push was brought about by Lane Obringer, director of gender relations, Title IX and women’s initiatives.

The new rules state that if a student feels unsafe in a dorm environment past parietals, they can leave without fear of repercussions, Baumann said. 

Lee said he was happy about finishing a movement started by previous departments and about how they collaborated with administrators. 

“Certainly credit to the previous administrations, but it’s been our approach since we took office that the administrators that we worked with on safety after parietals, and as well as most administrators, actually share goals with our organization,” Lee explained. “We approached those conversations at first with a cooperative mindset, as opposed to an adversarial mindset.”

Stitt emphasized that, although the cabinet has completed the initiative, they will continue to promote those resources to the student body. 

Another one of the campaign’s main goals was to bring back healthier options for students in dining halls. The cabinet accomplished this by not only bringing back vegan and vegetarian options for every meal and carving stations on Thursday, but also by changing the dining hall hours to be open until 8 p.m. on weekends. 

Coming up, Baumann said she is excited about bringing back the Sustainability Cup, Race Relations Week in October and the suicide memorial prayer service, among various other programs in the works. 

Some of the goals for the cabinet won’t be completed until the end of their term, such as Pridefest 2023 and Back the Bend.

Baumann noted that this year, Back the Bend will hopefully be a national endeavor, with alumni clubs joining throughout the country. 

The leadership team also said they are working toward better communication in the coming year. They will start to implement better social media engagement and a podcast called “Pod, Country, Notre Dame.”

Stitt said they encourage interested students, especially first-years and transfers, to get involved in Student Government by coming to their weekly coffee chats and reaching out to department directors. 

“We’re just really excited for [everyone] to be here. We cannot wait to serve them this year,” Stitt said. “We really just encourage [new students] to get involved on campus, whether that’s with student government or with clubs or intramural sports or in the dorm.”

Lee, echoing Stitt’s sentiment, called for any interested students to bring them ideas. 

“I think I can speak for the three of us in saying there’s really nothing that we wouldn’t do for the student body,” Lee said. “If anybody wants to see anything or they have any ideas, come chat and we’ll make it happen.”

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Yes to more intentional living

This past summer, I had the chance to live in Washington, D.C. as I completed my internship. And while there is so much to learn from living alone in a big city in your twenties, one lesson that really stuck with me was undertaking living with more intention. This lifestyle entails practicing deliberate intention every day; it starts with a calculated, conscious choice to pursue a specific course of action or direction.

As my junior year spring semester came to an end, I was left completely exhausted. It felt like I was stuck on autopilot with a predictable routine. I wasn’t making progress toward my goals and it felt like I was missing something. I said yes to too many commitments and was left procrastinating heavily to avoid dealing with all of it. Does this feel familiar to you? If so, then it’s probably time to live with more intention; it is time to step out of mindless activities and ensure your life is based on your own conscious choice of how you want your life to be. 

Ironically, living with more intention happened to me unintentionally. Having to balance a 40-hour work week with online classes and the desire to explore the city meant I not only had to closely plan my days, but also had to prioritize. I had to sit down and decide what mattered to me most and how I wanted to split my time. I had to identify normal behaviors and patterns that just seemed to suck time out from under me and redirect my efforts toward other activities. For instance, I started completely turning my phone off after 9 p.m. (unless I was out, of course). Since I couldn’t sit there and just scroll for hours at a time, I had to find fulfilling activities. I started working out more often, going on long evening walks, organizing other areas of my life like my finances and I even read six books in under a month. 

Moreover, living alone in a new city meant I had to be intentional about relationships and meeting new people. I had to schedule times to FaceTime with friends and family back home. I also had to be more proactive in going out and meeting new people or connecting with coworkers over happy hour. I tried to be more present and truly enjoy the times when I was surrounded by exciting new people. 

A third big part of living with intention is learning to say no. If a commitment does not align itself with what you value or does not bring you any closer to the person you hope to be, do not be afraid to say no. Some days it feels like I have to stay open and keep saying yes to everything: yes to starting a new research project, yes to leading a club, yes to volunteering for dorm events, yes to going out every single night, yes, yes, yes … and quite frankly, it can be overwhelming. Living with intention means you will recognize how precious your time is, savor the moments of free time you have and decline participating in activities that do not add value to your life. Keep in mind that added value comes in all shapes and forms: happiness, more free time, longer breaks, etc. Value is not only centered around more money or more prestigious status. 

All this is to say that you start settling into a routine for the semester and feel overwhelmed by all the commitments and tasks you have to complete, so take some time to identify your goals for the semester and highlight what matters to you most. Let these goals and values become a compass for more intentional deliberate living. How else do you think you could tune in to yourself? 

Krista Lourdes Akiki is a senior majoring in business analytics and minoring in computing and digital technologies. She grew up in Beirut, Lebanon and moved back to the U.S. to pursue her undergraduate degree. She loves learning new languages, traveling and of course trying new foods. She craves adventure and new experiences and hopes to share these with readers through her writing. She can be reached at or @kristalourdesakiki via Twitter.

The views expressed in the column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Krista Lourdes Akiki

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Play the long game

Since it’s the beginning of the school year, I’m sure all of you noticed that the gym is packed and it’s a pain waiting for just about every machine. I’m sure you also know in about three weeks this won’t be a problem anymore.

It’s also pretty obvious why it is the case. There’s almost no work for the first couple of weeks, so everyone has extra time. Also, it’s a New Year’s Resolution. For people that didn’t exercise consistently the prior school year, they want to dedicate themselves to it this year, so they try to start off the semester strong. Then more work comes in and motivation fades, which lowers the number of people in the gym and restores the balance.

While these are the obvious reasons, there is one that goes under the radar: insufficient planning. Going from doing nothing to working out everyday is unsustainable. Instead of just going to the gym over and over as long as your motivation lasts, a better solution is to plan out a weekly schedule that is repeatable for the entire year. Know what your goals are, then determine a sustainable way to achieve them. While dedicating yourself fully to your goals sounds great on paper, easing into the process and creating a long-term path to success create better odds of success in my opinion.

The long-term approach applies to most goals you strive towards. Sustained success in areas like diet, sports or investing often requires a long-term outlook. Greg Doucette, a former bodybuilder and YouTube fitness coach, preaches choosing a diet that keeps you in shape but is also repeatable. This means eating foods you like that still get the job done. As a world record powerlifter and bodybuilder, diet literally makes or breaks his ability to perform well in his profession. Even then, besides the necessary cuts right before a competition, Doucette would not attempt crazy diet changes in-season or during the offseason. Instead, he would eat a similar volume with foods he liked with slower progressions to the heights he was working towards. This also allowed him to avoid the typical cycles of eating for bodybuilders with uncomfortably large amounts of food or so little food that it becomes difficult to get out of bed. 

Sports like football and cross country have perfect examples of how taking a longer outlook is the best way to have consistent results over the years. Tom Brady has used pliability to stay at the top of the NFL up until 45. Despite being the least athletic player on the field in every game he has ever played, his commitment to staying flexible and eating the right foods has allowed him to achieve unmatched longevity.

In cross country, longevity is more about performance during a race rather than the individual’s health. At the beginning of races, a few kids would come out with a jolt of adrenaline and sprint to take a huge lead. Those kids would never win. They were running at a pace they could not sustain and the runners behind them would take the lead with more left in the tank for the final stretch.

In investing, it works the same way. Going after meme stocks may yield a big gain out of luck, but picking an index with solid returns and low risk over time will give you the best chance at making money over time. Famous investors like Warren Buffett and Charlie Munger apply this approach to their work and life for sustained success and happiness.

While shooting for the fastest path to goals may seem like a high level of dedication, it often leaves people tired of the process and short of their intended goal over and over again. Motivation comes and goes, so creating a process with reasonable expectations that still leads to success over time is the safest way to accomplish goals. With that said, for school, health, fitness or whatever you are doing, I suggest you try a long-term approach and watch yourself progress slowly over time.

Mikey Colgan is a sophomore from Boston, Mass. majoring in Finance and ACMS. He can be reached at

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

Mikey Colgan

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