Building a More Inclusive Campus

Author: Rev. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.

Dear Students,

Happy New Year!

I hope this message finds you well after returning to campus following a restful Christmas break. I am thrilled to welcome you home as we kick off the next semester and look ahead to what I hope are much warmer days to come.

This week marks the start of our annual campus commemoration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Walk the Walk Week. The celebration, which began on Monday and continues through January 22, includes a series of University, department, and student-sponsored events designed to help each of us consider how we—both individually and collectively—can take an active role in making Notre Dame a place where all belong and feel supported.

Earlier this academic year, I encouraged each of you to consider how we as members of the Notre Dame community can engage with difference to support the University’s aspiration of building a more inclusive community that both recognizes and celebrates the God-given dignity of every member. I hope that as you participate in this week’s events and reflect on the legacy of Dr. King, you take the time to revisit this theme to form deeper connections and collectively strengthen the place we call home.

As you may know, last spring, the Division of Student Affairs launched our most recent strategic plan, which is guided by the six broad goals of faith and formation; diversity, equity, and inclusion; health and well-being; connection and community; reflection and discernment; and staff recruitment, development, and retention.

Today, I’d like to focus on our work surrounding Goal 2: Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In the fall, we officially opened the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (the Center) in the newly remodeled second floor of the LaFortune Student Center. An inviting, refreshing, and vibrant space, it has been both moving and inspiring to see the ways in which the Center has become a place that supports the belonging and flourishing of all students, and especially those who are often most underrepresented.

I am thrilled to share with you that, this spring, we will continue building upon the work of the Center and meeting the needs of our growing underrepresented student population through the recruitment of an inaugural Executive Director for Diversity and Engagement to nurture belonging and inclusion among all students while further engaging underrepresented voices throughout our campus community.

The new Executive Director will oversee the Center for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion along with Multicultural Student Programs and Services (MSPS), the Gender Relations Center (GRC), and the Office of Student Enrichment (OSE). The Executive Director will report directly to me, serve as a member of the Student Affairs leadership team, and launch a sixth unit within the Division to complement the work of Campus Ministry, Career and Professional Development, Residential Life, Student Development, and Student Health and Wellness.

I look forward to sharing more with you in the months to come about the person selected for the role and the work we will collectively achieve for many years to come. In the meantime, if you haven’t already, please visit the Center to explore the various opportunities, peer support, and resources available to you. Additionally, consider learning more about the Center’s new PwC Programming and Professional Development Grants, which are designed to enhance collaborations between student clubs and organizations and provide professional development opportunities to members of recognized student groups.

Please know of my prayers for each of you as you begin this next semester, and trust in the support of all of us here in Student Affairs and throughout the University. Even as your schedules begin to fill up in the coming weeks, I hope you will continue to find time to engage with difference and cultivate meaningful relationships with God and one another. Best wishes on the spring semester!

In Notre Dame,

Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.
Vice President for Student Affairs