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Tri-Campus Thursday: ‘Latinx Heritage month’ events celebrate diversity within the community


Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 to celebrate the cultures of Americans whose ancestors hail from Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain and Central and South America.

In 1968, the country observed Hispanic Heritage Week and by 1988, the week was expanded to a 30-day period. The independence days of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico and Chile all fall in the first week of Hispanic Heritage month.

The Institute for Latino Studies at Notre Dame is hosting nine events to mark the month. Some of these events are more academic while others focus on highlighting influential Latinx alumni from the University. 

First-year student Angela Olvera attended professor Luis Fraga’s “Latinos and the Reshaping of American Politics” lecture last Thursday. 

“I’m from Texas, and Texas has the worst cases of voter suppression in the country and racial gerrymandering. Hearing about how the Latino population is close to 40% of the country, and yet only like 15% of us vote was interesting,” Olvera said. “It just goes to show how it’s an invisible demographic … the way professor Fraga talks so passionately about it makes me want to get out there and register everyone to vote.”

Olvera also attended the transformative Latina leadership lecture this past Monday with Dorene C. Dominguez, a Notre Dame alumna who is the CEO of Vanir, a construction management and real estate company.

“She talked a lot about impostor syndrome … because she was a first-generation student like I am … and I think it’s really important to just hear success stories about people who share your background and ethnicity,” Olvera said. “I love that they interviewed her … because there’s still so much machismo and sexism that goes on in the Latino community.”

The Institute for Latino Studies is also co-sponsoring events organized by other academic departments for example, the talk by California State senator Monique Limón last week and a lecture by Nathan Henne, an expert in Mayan culture, scheduled Oct. 10, which is Indigenous Peoples Day. 

One of these events is a discussion of the book “Crossing Waters” by Marisel Moreno, Rev. John A. O’Brien associate professor. The book talks about the dynamics of undocumented migration between the Cuba, Dominican Republic, Haiti and Puerto Rico.

Moreno, who teaches Latinx literature and culture in the department of Romance Languages and Literatures, says that the term “Hispanic Heritage Month” is problematic. “The label Hispanic was originally imposed by the U.S. government on a very heterogeneous population to refer to all people of Latin American backgrounds,” Moreno said. “Hispanic is derived from Hispania, which was a Roman region that coincides with what today is Spain. So [the term] Hispanic privileges European ancestry … and the Spanish language.”

Moreno emphasized the linguistic diversity of the Latinx community where people in Haiti speak French, Brazilians speak Portuguese and several other Latinx people speak indigenous languages. 

“I call it Latinx Heritage Month and even that label is problematic. This is inspired by the hashtag ‘Latinidad is Cancelled’ that comes from Afro and indigenous people who would be labeled Latinx but don’t see themselves represented in the … label, because it erases Blackness,” Moreno said. 

Nicholas Crookston, a senior who is co-president of the Latinx Student Alliance (LSA) will be moderating “Latinx Identidades” next Thursday, a panel to shed more light on the diversity within the community. 

“Students and faculty are going to share their stories and knowledge on the complexity … of what we mean by Latino, Latina [and] Latinx,” Crookston said. “We hope to discuss the nuances of all experiences within our community including Afro Latinos, LGBTQ+ Latinos and first generation Latinos.”

“The panel is important because it’ll build cultural proficiency and people’s ease and understanding using the term, so they don’t feel weird about it,” Paloma Garcia-Lopez, associate director of the Institute for Latino Studies said. “We spent a lot of time in the media talking about the undocumented or recent immigrants, which really make up 15% of all Latinos in the US, so 85% are U.S. born.”

The panel is designed for audiences who might not have a lot of experience in Latinx communities.

“We’re trying to help increase the understanding of Latino communities in the U.S. for everybody at Notre Dame … and share some basics about US history that aren’t taught in high school,” Garcia-Lopez said.

The Institute for Latino Studies also collaborates with the Hispanic Alumni of Notre Dame (HAND) for an event each year. 

Students who view the alumni presentations can make appointments for one on one mentorship with them.

“This is a way of exposing them to people who have done pretty creative things with their degrees … there’s boards to serve, community organizations to support and philanthropic efforts,” Garcia-Lopez said. 

At Saint Mary’s, Latinx Heritage month celebrations have largely been spearheaded by students. Jackie Junco, a senior who serves as president of La Fuerza, the College’s club for Latinx students, said that the club held a photo-op event where students could celebrate the diversity of the Latinx community by taking photos with different flags of Latin American and Caribbean countries. La Fuerza also hosted a karaoke night in honor of the month along with their regular volunteering in the west side of South Bend. 

“La Fuerza and our diversity clubs are … the main sources that help support students of color [at Saint Mary’s],” Junco said. “I think implementing some more institutional support and club funding is necessary.” 

In light of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, senior Ashlley Castillo, co-president of LSA at Notre Dame also talked about the need for more institutional support. 

“We know that there are other instances where the University has stepped up for other communities, and I feel like they’re not as responsive for the Latino community. Perhaps they can have a prayer service … at least or offer resources at the UCC to students from Puerto Rico who have had this traumatic experience before with Hurricane Maria a few years prior,” Castillo said. 

Moreno and Garcia-Lopez both cited hiring more Latinx faculty members as a first step to building a community that is more supportive of Latinx students. 

Crookston hopes that Latinx Heritage Month events on campus will help build more unity between students of all backgrounds.

“LSA events have always been open for all to attend,” he said. “We want this to be an invitation for the wider community to celebrate with us this month and year round.”

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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 kquint@nd.edu

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Notre Dame undergraduate admissions to remain test-optional through 2024

The University’s division of undergraduate enrollment announced in a press release Tuesday that it will remain test-optional through the 2024 application cycle. The practice, which allows applicants to choose whether to submit standardized test scores, was first adopted by Notre Dame in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. One-third of the students admitted to the class of 2026 did not submit a test score with their application, the release said.

“By remaining test-optional through the 2024 admissions cycle, we will have the opportunity to continue to study the impact of this practice while giving students the ability to choose whether or not they wish to include test information in putting forward their best and strongest application,” vice president for undergraduate enrollment Micki Kidder said in the release.

The policy applies to both the restrictive early action and regular decision application cycles.

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The scenic drive is always shorter: Thank you from a Gateway 9.0

July 22, 2022 might as well be a national holiday. It was the day Gateway students and transfers received their housing assignments. Perhaps more importantly, it was the day Gateways finally got the gift of a cookie-cutter response to the age-old Notre Dame question: “What dorm are you in?” 

When I started my freshman year as a Holy Cross-Notre Dame Gateway student, I found this dorm question particularly daunting; a seemingly simple question for the average Notre Dame student felt like an embarrassing admittance for me. It felt like telling people over and over again, “Notre Dame didn’t want me, I wasn’t enough.” But I grew to realize no one was thinking that. Being a Gateway is not about the crushing rejection; being a Gateway is about the beautiful opportunity.

Being a Gateway is about going to Siegfried (Siggy) Dining Hall at Holy Cross right before closing time. You get some ice cream and adorn your dessert with a seemingly endless array of toppings before biking to Hesburgh Library to cram for a Notre Dame exam. Being a Gateway is about rolling out of bed two minutes before your Holy Cross class and arriving on time; it’s also about leaving half an hour before Moreau and never being on time. Being a Gateway is about looking at the Holy Cross arch with the same fondness and affection as the golden dome. Being a Gateway is about feeling like you belong everywhere and nowhere at the same time.

Like many Gateways, the year felt like a tug-of-war: I felt stretched between worlds, the small tight-knit community at Holy Cross and the broad network at Notre Dame. I’ve realized, however, that “everyone Gateways differently.” In other words, we all found our own unique way to balance two emails, two ID cards, two campuses and two distinct facets of our identities. Some Gateways fostered friendships exclusively within the cohort, while others connected more with Holy Cross or Notre Dame students. Some preferred the Pfeil Center to work out, while others preferred the Smith Center or the Rock. Gateway gave us the luxury of choice. We could choose where we wanted to exercise, study, eat and socialize. But, at the end of every chaotic day, we all returned to the illuminated St. Joe’s chapel, the small classes and the quaint dining hall. We all returned to our Twin XL beds in Anselm, Basil, James, North, Pulte and South. 

Of course, there were times when I missed Holy Cross events to study at LaFun and there were weeks when I hardly ate meals at Siggy. Now that I’m at Notre Dame full-time, I look back on these moments when I chose Notre Dame over Holy Cross with a twinge of regret. I miss the coziness of the tiny Holy Cross dining hall. I miss the kitchen staff knowing my name. I miss eating lunch alongside professors and peers alike. I miss watching pickup basketball games in the Pfeil Center while running around the indoor track. I miss the three a.m. strolls to the Student Union in my pajamas to get Reese’s peanut butter cups; I miss always being a two minute walk from friends. I miss so much of the Holy Cross experience. 

I admit, starting sophomore year with a concise answer to the “dorm question,” instead of a long-winded explanation of the Gateway program sometimes feels like a departure from my identity, but I’m learning to embrace the easy answer. I’m also learning that just because I don’t live at Holy Cross anymore doesn’t make me any less of a Gateway. I can still return to Siggy for meals with friends, work out in the Pfeil and pull ridiculous hours studying in the Vincent atrium. I can still wear my North Hall sweatshirt and take my Notre Dame friends on “field trips” to my forever home, Holy Cross. 

With time, some Gateways might shed their old identity, but we will forever be bonded by Holy Hikes and housing crises and awkward moments swiping into North Dining Hall. We will forever be bonded by our commitment to fulfill the promise to attend Notre Dame.

To the current Gateway 10.0s: Embrace every aspect of your experience this year. Embrace your professors; embrace the Saints; embrace the mundane moments that will someday be extraordinary. There will be times when you feel like an outsider on Notre Dame’s campus, like anything but the “shiny, special thing.” I assure you, you are just as capable and spectacular as any Notre Dame student. Take your time and fall in love with where and who you are right now. Fall in love with your next door neighbor who isn’t a Gateway, but might just become your best friend. This is your year. You don’t have to do it my way, but do it right. 

Kate Casper

Kate Casper (aka, Casper, Underdog, or Jasmine) is from Northern Virginia, currently residing in Breen-Phillips Hall. She strives to be the best waste of your time. You can contact her at kcasper@nd.edu.

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An apology for majoring in both business and liberal studies

This past summer, my friends and I made a joint goal to finish reading the colossus that is “Anna Karenina.” At over 800 pages, this piece of Russian literature is one Leo Tolstoy’s most famous works, second only to “War and Peace.” My friend group and I all started this book at different points of our lives but failed to finish the work. This time, our joint mission and incentive was to watch the film version (directed by Joe Wright, featuring Keira Knightley and Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Anna and Count Vronsky respectively).  

 It took me nearly a month to complete the text, and I couldn’t help but feel like “Anna Karenina” followed me everywhere. I was consumed by the work and found it popping up in my daily life (more specifically, my summer course that I was taking — managerial economics). To accommodate my study abroad schedule in junior spring, I decided to get ahead and take a class required for all business majors in Mendoza. I supposed with the extra time summer brought, I would focus better on the partial derivatives and game theory necessary for a successful completion of the course. 

 However, I was surprised at how much I connected managerial economics with “Anna Karenina.” For example, I was looking at my assigned reading and, in the article, “Competition Is for Losers” by Peter Thiel, he ends the piece by doing a spin-off of Tolstoy’s famous opening, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” Instead, Thiel offers that business is the opposite, and that “All failed companies are the same: They failed to escape competition.” It is the monopolies (happy families) who solve unique problems and differentiate themselves who are successful. 

 To provide some context about the text, “Anna Karenina” follows the scandalizing story of the eponymous character’s affair with Count Vronksy, and the social dilemmas that surround the circumstance. This is a very condensed one-sentence summary that doesn’t nearly begin to cover the layers and intricacies of the book. However, when one of my friends and I discussed our thoughts on it, we were both struck with the question “Why was it named ‘Anna Karenina’?”

 For most of the text, other characters besides Anna Karenina were the subject of Tolstoy’s prose. For almost 100 pages, we read about Levin’s accordance with the plight of the peasants, as he takes to the field with his scythe. We read about political hearings and listen to Kitty’s qualms. But we very rarely get much time with Anna Karenina herself. As I considered this question more and more, I realized that perhaps that was the beauty of the text, and that it could be answered using the concept I revisited in managerial economics that summer.

 According to the law of diminishing marginal utility, when the quantity of something increases, its marginal utility decreases and vice versa. This inverse relationship put in layman’s terms shows that the less of something we have (the presence of scarcity), the more valuable it becomes, and the more it is revered. In the same way, I considered Tolstoy’s careful placement of Anna Karenina in the text. Whenever I started to get wrapped up in her storyline, wanting to read on and on about her dissent into dejection and frustration, Tolstoy would simply switch the storyline to another character, and I was left wanting more. Anna Karenina throughout the text is very much unavailable to the other characters; she has an air of elusiveness that makes her all-the-more attractive and alluring. In the same way, as readers, we feel the intangibility of her character, and it is almost as Tolstoy transports her illusory but captivating presence to his audience. I only began to articulate this thought one night as I was in the middle of a practice set for managerial econ.

 A lot of people question my choice to study both business (marketing) and the program of liberal studies (great books). Many see them as antithetical to one another. While this claim is based on very valid concerns and points, I argue that the two majors can be interdisciplinary. The term interdisciplinary may seem like a lazy term to describe things that one can’t neatly wrap with a bow, but I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing. I’ve learned about the nature of storytelling in unique ways, through my experience in marketing classes, to reading Aristotle’s “Poetics” in my second great books seminar. I’ve discussed Hannah Arendt in my business ethics class and my political theory tutorial. I believe in a lot of ways, business and the program of liberal studies (and liberal arts in general) can supplement one another, build on one another, and create a foundation for a lifetime of discovery and learning.

 While undergraduate school is typically only four years, I feel as though I’ve lived an extra lifetime in my two majors. I have done coding and research in the Mendoza basement, presented with Student International Business Council and have gotten beverages thrown in my vicinity in Ackerman’s finance class. But I also have read poetry, participated in symposiums and have fallen in love with philosophy and political theory in the best student lounge on campus. The duality of my two majors has been the highlight of my Notre Dame experience thus far. Although I may have complained incessantly throughout my two accounting courses, or lamented a difficult oral exam, I hold both Mendoza and Arts and Letters in high regard. I wouldn’t be the student — or person — I am today without my two majors. Perhaps people would think of business and liberal studies as representing “War and Peace,” but I think “Anna Karenina” has shown me that they are much more compatible than most think.

Elizabeth Prater

Elizabeth Prater is a junior at Notre Dame double majoring in marketing and program of liberal studies (great books). She is interested in the cultural implications of analyzing classics & literature under a contemporary lens. When she isn’t writing, she loves playing the fiddle, hiking in the PNW, going to concerts with friends, and offering unsolicited book recommendations. Elizabeth always appreciates hearing from readers, so feel free to reach out eprater@nd.edu or @elizabethlianap on Twitter.