Saint Mary’s event highlights South Bend’s Covid-19 Struggles

Monday night, Saint Mary’s looked to highlight the struggles of the height of the Covid-19 pandemic with a program titled, “Listening to Pandemic Narratives: Selections from Covid-19 Oral Histories in the South Bend Area”. The oral program featured audio clips from interviews conducted with members of the South Bend community to get different accounts of what pandemic life was like for residents.

“No one’s collecting our stories here in South Bend,” Jamie Wagman, a history and gender studies professor said. “Julia and I had noticed that other oral historians were doing these collections but no one was documenting South Bend. So we thought, would the stories of people here be mirroring national trends?”

The program was started a year ago by Wagman and Julia Dauer, an English professor, as well as her students from the spring class ‘Doing History.’

This course focused on different historiographical methods and students put their new knowledge to use by interviewing South Bend residents about their pandemic experiences.

“We were thinking a lot about what humanities perspectives can offer in times of Covid-19 as we continue to process the events,” said Dauer. “We were also thinking about how we could better understand and record and preserve some accounts of experiences in our specific local community of the past two years.”

The unusual presentation took its shape from the audio medium. “It’s so powerful hearing people say things in their own words,” said Wagman.

Jaden Daher, research and administrative assistant, concurred, saying “You can hear the emotion in everybody’s voices of like going back to this time and having to almost relive it by retelling it.”

The presentation started with two minutes of photography from the New York Times that highlighted pandemic life, with pictures of hospitals, social distancing, the Black Lives Matter protests and other sights associated with early pandemic times. “I feel like we’ve forgotten so much of what happened,” said Daher. “This makes it all come back to the front of our mind like, ‘Oh my gosh, we did live through that.’”

The audio program began with people recounting the early days of the pandemic, with messages of realization of the horror to come. It then moved on to different people relating how they had to change their lives once the pandemic hit South Bend. A nurse talked about changes in the healthcare field and starting with the Covid unit. A teacher talked about sending children home, not knowing that they were never going to be back in that classroom, as well as the adjustment that came with virtual teaching.

The program continued with sessions called ‘Caretaking and Equity’ and ‘Sociality and Isolation’. The people in these audio clips talked about the struggle and loss of community that came with isolation. A few parents in these clips expressed concern for not only their child’s physical but also mental health. 

If you were not able to attend Monday, the program will be publicly displayed for free at the Civil Rights Heritage Center on Tuesday, October 11 at 6 p.m. Additionally, Saint Mary’s students and staff contributed to an exhibit at The History Museum in South Bend. ‘Fight Fear: Pandemics Past and Present’ addresses historical illnesses and the fears that came with them as we experienced Covid-19. The display is open until July 2023.

You can contact Katelyn Waldschmidt at


Make-A-Wish Club fundraises for children with medical conditions

Notre Dame’s Make-A-Wish Club is a small organization of about 20 to 30 active members who share a collective hope to enrich the lives of children in the South Bend area that face life-threatening medical conditions.

Club members, who call themselves “WishMakers,” works to raise money to fulfill the wish of one child each year. On average, this requires funding of about $7,000 per wish.

But the wish is only part of the package, according to senior Lainey Teeters, the club’s chief of staff.

“Basically our inspiration is just to make a kid’s wish [come true] in the dark time in their life that is sickness. And so, sometimes we get to meet the kids, we get to, like, communicate with them throughout their wish. For example, we’ll send them cards and also little things just to get them excited,” Teeters said. “We really just want to give them something to look forward to.”

Senior Megan Campbell, the club’s Wish Kid liaison works more directly with the Make-A-Wish Foundation, organizing the physical wish details, as well as creating events for the local children waiting for a wish. Campbell mentioned her own experience that drove her to join the club.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but basically one time my family was at Disney World and we happened to be in line… we were up next and [a family] popped right in front of us. We started talking to one of the Wish Kids who was there getting their wish granted with their parents. I just always wanted to support the cause ever since,” Campbell said.

For senior Tyler Knapp, secretary for the club, Make-A-Wish is a cause near and dear to him.

“My inspiration for joining it was because I was actually a Wish kid,” Knapp explained. “So, in my junior year of high school, I was diagnosed with leukemia. And I just know, from going through that experience, how tough it is on all those kids, there’s no, like, good days for that. So I really just wanted to give back to everyone who helped me out in my experience.”

Knapp described feeling grateful that Notre Dame has an opportunity for him to get involved with the organization on campus.

“I’m honestly really thankful for the opportunity to be able to do something like this,” Knapp said. “I’m so glad that Notre Dame has a club like this where I can give back so easily. I don’t even have to reach outside of campus to be able to help out.”

Among the various inspirations of members for joining, all agree on a common theme of “direct impact.” Members enjoy knowing how they are helping out. Sophomore Kaitlyn Leshak, the club’s publicist, explained what she feels is unique about Make-A-Wish.

“[Make-A-Wish] is such a big organization, and even though we’re such a small branch, you know that your fundraising is out there working and that people are getting something out of it,” Leshak said.

Sometimes, members even get to experience the effects of the club’s work first-hand. Teeters recalled a couple of the wishes she has gotten to witness as part of the club.

“My freshman year we granted the wish of someone and it was a Best Buy shopping spree. And so the club members went to Best Buy with him and he got a computer, a TV, a bunch of video games, like all sorts of electronics because that’s what he really liked,” Teeters said. “Another one we did, her dream was to be an artist. And so she got to go to the Chicago Art Institute and she got a year membership and then also had a day where she worked with the team to create art.”

Wishes look different for every kid. For some, their dreams and role models are actually here on the Notre Dame campus.

“We’ve granted wishes for people to come to a Notre Dame football game. And they get to experience the entire Notre Dame game day. They get to walk out with the team. They get to experience the locker room, they get to go on the field, they get to do all of that,” Teeters said.

As far as the funding goes towards ensuring these wishes can be granted, the club’s two biggest fundraisers every year are typically Notre Dame Day and their football concession stand. The Make-A-Wish club also plans various bagel stands, holiday events and restaurant fundraisers throughout the year.

Coming up this semester, the club has a few additional fundraisers in the works. On October 14th, they will be hosting an “egg roulette,” where a couple of professors and students have volunteered to have an egg cracked on their heads — whether it will be hard-boiled or regular is up to luck.

Another event on the books for the club is a Halloween Party on October 29th. Teeters explained that there will be a bunch of Wish Kids there enjoying trick-or-treating, face painting and fun games.

The club meets every other Wednesday and if students are interested in joining Make-A-Wish, the club’s leadership encourages them to reach out to

“We always get a lot of signups for the club, but then people don’t feel like they can get as involved,” Knapp explained. “But, [there are] so many little things that you can do that take up very little of your time, but have such a big impact on us in our fundraising efforts and what we do.”

Leshak reiterated the same message.

“This is like so little time, but so much meaning,” Leshak said.

Lainey Teeters ended by describing why, out of all the available clubs, she chose to join Make-A-Wish her freshman year.

“I think it’s important because you really do make a direct impact on these kids’ lives,” Teeters said. “In the end, like that is something they’re going to remember for the rest of their lives.”

You can contact Kelsey Quint at


Police investigating two reports of sexual assault connected to off-campus party

The St. Joseph County Police Department is investigating two instances of sexual assault reported last weekend, according to an email from the Saint Mary’s campus safety department.

Phil Bambenek, the College’s director of the campus safety department, said in the email the assaults appear to be connected to at least one student party that occurred Friday night and Saturday morning at University Edge Apartments.

The email said one of the instances of sexual assault occurred when a student was coerced into a sexual act but then did not explicitly consent to any further activity.

The details of the second reported assault are unclear but it appears to be connected to the same University Edge student party, the email said.

Bambenek went on to give more information on what constitutes sexual assault and the definition of consent.

“Anyone initiating any kind of sexual contact with another person must seek consent and not engage in sexual contact unless consent is given,” he wrote. “‘Consent’ means informed, freely given agreement, communicated by clearly understandable words or actions, to participate in each form of sexual activity. Consent cannot be inferred from silence, passivity, or lack of active resistance.’”

A person who is incapacitated is unable to give consent, Bambenek added. The email requested any witnesses to contact the police department at (574) 235-9611 to assist in the investigation.


Notre Dame dedicates new hydroelectric facility on river

Notre Dame dedicated its new hydroelectric facility, called ND Hydro, on the dam of St. Joseph River in downtown South Bend last week.

The 2.5 megawatt facility is situated along the riverbed beneath Seitz Park and has been generating power for the University since its completion in May.

A statement announcing the plant’s dedication said that it brought Notre Dame one step closer to its sustainability goals.

“As a source of clean, renewable energy, the state-of-the-art facility will generate an estimated 7 percent of the electricity for campus and offset 9,700 tons of carbon dioxide annually, benefiting both the University and surrounding community,” the statement said.

Assistant vice president of utilities and maintenance Paul Kempf said that plans for ND Hydro have a long history.

“This dates back to around 2010, when we were working on our long-range plan for utilities,” Kempf said. “One of the things we were looking at during that time was how to reduce our carbon footprint.”

While exploring different options for green energy, the University contacted the city to re-open negotiations into use of the St. Joseph River dam. 

“We were aware of the fact that the city had, back in the ’80s, gotten an exemption from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC),” Kempf said. “The city had long thought that they would use that permit to find a third party who could make a profit venture out of producing electricity and potentially generate some income for the city as well. As it turns out, over a 30-year period, no such parties came forward.”

But the University stepped up, hoping to make a long-term investment for future carbon reductions — and FERC transferred the exemption to Notre Dame. 

The University aimed to maximize energy output, without compromising the integrity of the surrounding environment, but the site was also small in size, so the project required extensive planning. After years of permitting and design, construction commenced in the summer of 2019.

“It’s a different design of turbine, it’s unique. This is the first installation in North America of that turbine and it’s the largest installation in the world,” Kempf said. ND Hydro uses a new low-cost, modular turbine technology from Voith, a German manufacturer of hydro solutions. 

Hydroelectricity differs from solar, considered the more traditional green energy source. 

“The solar array sounds big because it’s 20 megawatts, but the problem with solar is that 12 hours a day, it doesn’t do anything,” Kempf explained. “It’s the tortoise and the hare in a way. Solar is the one that, when the sun’s bright and the sky is clear, man, you’re making a lot of energy. But when the clouds come out, or the sun goes down, you get nothing, and the hydro project tends to just sit there and just keeps going and going and going.”

The design team kept their mindsets on these long-term benefits and also prioritized protecting the nature and wildlife surrounding the facility.

“It’s an environmentally friendly turbine in the sense that there’s no oil involved,” Kempf explained, “So if you had a bearing or something like that leak, you’re not going to put any oil into the river.”

Additionally, the hydro facility is actually buried underneath the park. 

“The use of the whole park space came back so there’s no open channels, everything is buried, so you can’t see most of what we’ve done,” Kempf explained. “You can literally walk right over the top of all of this sort of stuff.”

While construction continued, Kempf said the University was careful to listen to the input of local stakeholders and environmental groups, including the Indiana Department of Natural Resources  (DNR) and the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

“The DNR, in particular, was about fish migration, and we will protect the fish so that they don’t get injured going through the turbines. So we designed it to be fish-friendly,” Kempf said. “I certainly learned way more than I ever expected to learn about fish.”

After a little less than three years of construction, the facility was finished this past May and ran throughout the summer. 

Kempf, a life-long resident of South Bend, reflected on the project. He said the facility ties the city’s past to its future.

“[South Bend’s] industrial growth dates back to when the dam was built in 1844,” Kempf said. “There were all these little factories that used hydropower … they used the water to spin water wheels that turned into mechanical energy to make textiles … this carried on until about the 1900s when that mode of industry kind of died.”

Kempf recalled another chapter in South Bend’s hydroelectric history.

“And then there was a preeminent farm implement manufacturer in South Bend called the Oliver Plow Company. And Mr. Oliver bought the whole West property on the side of the river he actually built a hydroelectric plant that powered his factories,” Kempf said. “He owned the hotel in town. He owned the opera house in town. So a good part of downtown and his factory fed off of this and that ran until probably the late 50s and early 60s.”

Kempf said that by opening ND Hydro, Notre Dame has become a part of the dam’s story.

“This is sort of the third coming of hydropower to South Bend,” Kempf said. “This resource, this dam that was built in 1844, has sort of blossomed and wilted and this is the third time to put it back to good use.”

With the hydro facility completed, the University continues to search for different ways to reduce its environmental impact. 

“This is just one lever we’ve pulled of a number,” Kempf said. “When you think about how you would invest your money, you build a diversified portfolio. And so the world is out there trying to decide what’s the best way to green the world and reduce carbon. I think our philosophy has been to have a diverse portfolio of assets that help us because they all do have different benefits and none of them are perfect, right?”

Kempf said that the burden to reduce the University’s carbon footprint needs to be believed by every member of the community.

“What’s still really important, that I think people sometimes forget, is that each and every one of us needs to make a commitment to use less energy,” he said. “There’s nothing that does more to reduce carbon footprint than eliminating energy that never has to be produced.”

Contact Kelsey Quint at


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.”

Contact Claire at


El Campito to host third annual Taco Battle fundraiser

El Campito Child Development Center, a bilingual early childcare center in South Bend, will host its third annual Taco Battle fundraiser featuring local vendors on Tuesday.

The event will be hosted at two United Federal Credit Union locations on Ireland Rd. South Bend and Main St. in Mishawaka from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. In the evening, the event will be hosted at El Campito in South Bend from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.

A $10 ticket gets tacos from local vendors and the ability for attendees to vote for their favorite. The flyer for the event states that the revenue will work to “promote the educational, social and economic success of culturally diverse children and their families at El Campito.”

Two El Campito students pose with plush tacos. / Courtesy of Aleyna Mitchell.

Aleyna Mitchell, director of development and community outreach for El Campito, noted that the fundraiser will include much more than just tacos.

“The night event is great because it’s for the whole family. It’s not just … you come in, you eat, you leave … it’s a party,” Mitchell said.

The event is El Campito’s largest annual fundraiser and helps the center support its families.

“We serve [primarily] Latino families,” Mitchell said. “It’s in our nature as a bilingual center … Low-income, sometimes non-English speaking families are our main base that we provide for.”

El Campito’s curriculum is taught in both Spanish and English, and it is “the only licensed, NAEYC accredited bilingual child development center in Northern Indiana,” according to their website.

Shelley Pulaski, board member and treasurer for El Campito, stressed the financial importance of the fundraiser for the organization.

“What’s so crucial about this fundraiser for El Campito is it gives us unrestricted funds that we can spend on our institution,” Pulaski said.

The money raised in the Taco Battle will be put towards a new HVAC unit as well as other technological improvements for the almost 100-year-old facility.

“This is where the Taco Battle is so important,” Pulaski stated. “It gives us the ability to improve the [building] quality for the children … to [install] air purifiers, better Wi-Fi, all the electronics that are needed in this day and age.”

Tatiana Botero, teaching professor of Spanish at Notre Dame and El Campito board member, teaches a community-engaged learning class that gives her students the opportunity to document the immigration stories of many El Campito families.

For students who are not involved in Botero’s project, the Taco Battle gives the tri-campus the opportunity to become involved in and gain a greater awareness of the South Bend community. Students will also be able to learn more about possible volunteer opportunities with El Campito.

“I always want to encourage my students to try to break the walls of a classroom and be able to experience what’s happening in the classroom outside, not just on the campus of Notre Dame but also in the greater South Bend area,” Botero said.

Contact Caroline Mereness at


Architecture students help revitalize South Bend, Kalamazoo

An architectural drawing of a proposed design for downtown Kalamazoo. / Credit: Kate Naessens – The Observer

Marianne Cusato is leading a new initiative to revitalize underutilized areas of South Bend and Kalamazoo, Mich., while also providing a professional environment and learning opportunities for students.

“It’s a combination of looking at human community development patterns and how we can use that to build a better home,” said Cusato, professor of the practice and director of housing and community regeneration initiatives within the School of Architecture.

During a four-day period, a team of students and faculty from the School of Architecture met with public officials, city planners and various industry professionals in a practice known as a “charette” to discuss and map out plans to make better use of Kalamazoo’s layout. The goal of the project is to make the city more accessible and enjoyable for the public.

“There is no hierarchy in charette” is a phrase senior Angelica Ketcham heard repeatedly throughout her experience that describes the teamwork involved.

“Small, midwest towns are an interesting urban design puzzle because a lot of them experienced urban renewal in the ’80s and ’90s,” Ketcham said. “The goal of the charette is less ‘this is what’s wrong with your city, and this is how we are going to fix it’ but ‘this is what is great about your city, how can we do more of it? How can we emphasize it? How can we revitalize what’s around it?’”

Dylan Rumsey, a third-year graduate student, explained that after the “core downtown area” of Kalamazoo was identified, the next step was to create a zoning plan to support the commercial areas.

Then, the architects had to decide what buildings were worth preserving or replacing, how to better direct traffic to make these areas more commercially friendly and how to utilize the surrounding alley networks to make the street itself more accessible on foot.

“We were really just thinking how we could take the space in between the buildings and best utilize it for traffic and pedestrians,” Rumsey said.

While reflecting on his time in Kalamazoo, Rumsey said he hopes urban planning can be more centered around the consumer experience in the future.

“Designing public spaces should be the number one approach to any kind of urban planning, and I think that is something we’ve really missed the mark on here, especially in middle America, because cities just aren’t nice places to walk around,” he explained.

An architectural drawing created by Notre Dame architecture students participating in the charette project. / Credit: Kate Naessens – The Observer

Now, with the plan itself finished, Ketcham and Rumsey said they are going through the process of compiling the results of the charette to present in a public report in the coming months.

The next charette will be with Habitat for Humanity in Mishawaka during fall break, Cusato said.

“We’ll do three charettes a year, plus a charette lab course, which does the prep work and follow-up for each of the charettes,” she said.

Cusato said students can expect to experience real-world problem-solving from being involved in this initiative.

“For so long, we have been on autopilot, just accepting that the world around us is just the world around us, but with these charrettes, there’s a real energy around them from feeling like you can actually be a part of a solution,” she said.

Contact Kate at


Beginner’s guide to eating well in South Bend

On a day-to-day basis, the Notre Dame bubble can sometimes leave students with limited dining options. South Bend and Mishawaka, however, have a plethora of wonderful restaurants you NEED to hit before you leave. I know everyone has their go-to spots, so these may not be everyone’s favorites, but first-years, I hope this list helps you to find favorites of your own.

For GREAT brunch: 

Hit Peggs. There’s no reservations, but you can get through the short wait with a cup of coffee or a glass of water in their adorable mugs. Or, if you want to stroll around downtown South Bend — which I highly suggest you do even if you aren’t in line for Peggs — they’ll call you when there’s a table opening. The food is great overall; I’ve had about four different meals there. My favorite? The Chicken and Waffles with a freshly pressed juice and their cinnamon rolls that are to die for.

For a lunch-y/brunch-y combo moment: 

Hit the Metro Diner in Mishawaka. Their food is excellent; I have never gotten the same thing twice. They have all of your midwestern classics from a great chicken salad sandwich to a warm chicken pot pie. Also, readers over 21, their bottomless mimosas are the perfect balance between OJ and sparkling wine. 

For local coffee, fun teas and a snack: 

Yes, Starbucks is always a functional option for getting some work done and housing a few salted caramel cold brews or iced peach green tea lemonades, but every city has a Starbucks, a Dunkin’ or both. You can do that anywhere. 

Instead, hit Chicory Cafe. This adorable New Orleans-style cafe has a great little menu for any time of day.  They have locally roasted, organic, fair-trade coffee that smells amazing the second you walk in. My go-to order? Their lavender London Fog latte with an order of the beignets. Hands down the best tea-latte in town and sometimes, I’ll get two beignet orders in one visit. 

As a side note, the casual atmosphere also makes it a great first date coffee spot. And, if you’re feeling nostalgic, there’s no one telling you you can’t get dino nuggets off the kids menu (speaking from experience on both those fronts).

The space also does live music, has a piano at all times and a comfy couch in the corner where a larger group can sit and talk. 

For a fun, casual dinner: 

The Lauber. Whether you’re getting dinner with friends, your parents are in town or you have a club leadership dinner to organize, the Lauber is a great option. The two patios are so much fun, you’ll want to sit out on them even as it gets cold. The setting sun as you eat is so pretty outside and peeks so well through the garage doors of the former sheet metal company into the exciting bar and restaurant atmosphere. 

Get the Tin Can Nachos as a fun appetizer to share within the group and watch as your server lifts the can away to see the nachos spill all over each other. There are great vegetarian and vegan options here as well and a bunch of origial pizzas. In terms of what I get, I’m always torn between the Prime Melt and the Power Salad. Their specialty drinks and desserts change with the seasons but they are always good, too. 

For a place almost as new as you: 

If you’re looking for somewhere with a great vibe, great music and incredible food, but that’s still making a name for itself (which, by extension, you get to be a part of), hit Fatbird. Go with a couple friends and share a few of their incredible entrees, all made with southern influences. The Jambalaya, the fried chicken and the chicken salad sandwich on a croissant are all worth your time and you cannot miss with a single one of the sides. The drinks are made classically and elegantly, but they also have a drink list full of twists on old classics as well. The dessert is always yummy too, even though I barely have room for it. 

For a milestone or a birthday:

Hit Corndance. The exciting twist on a classic steakhouse is always fun. The food is incredible and the space is entertaining. It is a little pricier than most of these other locations but it is a great way to celebrate an important event in your life. The sides do not miss here either, especially when they accompany the Sword of John Adams. What is that you ask? It is a literal sword (dagger-like structure) stuck into a plate skewering different cuts and kinds of meat. Owned by the same people who own Evil Czech and Jesus (two other great restaurants in South Bend), Corndance features their locally-famous dessert, Cake in a Can. Yes, it’s exactly what it sounds like. 

Best of luck, first-years, on your first forays outside the Notre Dame bubble and upperclassmen, if you haven’t broken out yet, try one of these places as soon as you can! You won’t be sorry you did. 

You can contact Manni at