To help students continue to grow in both mind and heart, this spring, the Division of Student Affairs focused on providing engagement opportunities to allow students to reflect on their experiences, deepen social connections, and strengthen their resilience at Notre Dame.
In addition to the many opportunities currently offered through the University Counseling Center, the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, Multicultural Student Programs and Services, Campus Ministry, and the Center for Student Support and Care, the division also provided informal opportunities for students to meet one-on-one or in small groups with Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C., Vice President for Student Affairs, throughout the spring semester.
“In my ongoing conversations with students, a common theme I hear is the challenge of making authentic and meaningful connections, especially after students’ various experiences related to the pandemic and systemic racial injustice,” Olinger said. “As students work to connect with one another and the wider University community, I want to be sure they know how much we as a Division continue to prioritize listening and working together to gain a deeper understanding of the student experience.”
Through fireside chats, students, either individually or as a group, were invited to meet, connect, and share ideas with Olinger every other week near the fireplace on the first floor of Duncan Student Center. Six fireside chats were held throughout the spring semester during lunch, and undergraduate, graduate, and postdoctoral students stopped by regularly at their convenience.
“Some students simply wanted to say ‘hello,’ while others came to discuss specific topics like residence hall accessibility and the graduate experience as it relates to married and parenting students. One student even pitched an app he’s working on outside the classroom. Regardless of the topic, our conversations were always fruitful, and I’m encouraged by their willingness to connect,” Olinger said.
Students were also invited to meet informally with Olinger during student office hours every Thursday inside the office of Student Affairs. Students were seen individually on a first-come, first-served basis and also invited to complete a form if they wanted to request another time and date.
“Providing experiences like these show our commitment to meeting our students where they are. Whether it’s on their lunch break or at a time that works better for their schedules, they know we’re here to help; here to listen. It’s my hope we can continue offering similar ways to engage with students next fall.”