I hope this message finds you settled in and preparing for your first full week of classes! I am thrilled to write today to welcome you to another academic year at the University of Notre Dame.
As you may know, I serve as the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs. If you are not familiar with the work of Student Affairs, our team comprises more than 250 professional staff from an array of offices dedicated to helping you integrate what you learn in the classroom or the lab with other aspects of your life. Or, as we like to say at Notre Dame, we are committed to the formation of your heart alongside the formation of your mind. Having spent my entire ministry as a Holy Cross priest living and working alongside students, I could not be more excited to work closely with you, your professors, and colleagues across the University to do my part to contribute to the intellectual, spiritual, and moral formation we seek to provide to you at Notre Dame.
Last year, a recurring theme in my first year as Vice President was listening. As I shared then, my biggest priority was to listen and engage deeply and widely in order to get to know you, our students, and to come to a better understanding of your hopes, dreams, and even your frustrations, too. I am grateful for the many conversations I’ve shared with students, whether in formal contexts, such as the administration of the Inclusive Campus Student Survey and listening sessions offered through Campus Ministry, or informal settings like open office hours and Fireside Chats. I look forward to resuming these opportunities for engagement with you throughout the next year.
As a part of this work, I also encouraged you to consider your own opportunities for listening, including spending time in quiet and prayer, and paying attention especially to God’s voice in your lives. I, along with my colleagues in Student Affairs, have heard through our conversations that creating time and space for prayer, reflection, and meditation is important to many of our students. As such, our Division, and the University as a whole, works diligently to support you in these efforts through campus spaces and programming as well as free subscription services to the Calm and Hallow apps. I assure you that making time in the midst of your busy days for silence and prayer will not only strengthen and enrich your life and your academic and personal pursuits, but is absolutely critical for achieving further awareness of God’s voice and the deepest longings of your heart that we hope you find during your time at Notre Dame.
As we enter this new academic year, I invite us all to lend particular attention to reflection in community. As our student leaders explored during their recent TeamND retreat, this year is an opportunity for students and staff alike to reflect on the many conversations we have had in the last year. In a particular way, I have very much appreciated our conversations around how we might build bridges of mutual understanding and love in a community of diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives; the ways we seek formation and growth as community members called to service and leadership at Notre Dame and beyond; and when and how we cultivate authentic relationships — with one another, with others at the University, and with God — in the context of community.
This kind of reflection and your continued engagement has not only shaped our work as a division, but has also informed our next strategic plan. I look forward to continuing to reflect upon past and future conversations with you and to further engage your input to strengthen our work and the opportunities we provide to you in the coming academic year.
Please know of my personal prayers for each of you as you begin this new year of exploration, growth, and transformation, and trust in the support of all of us here in the Division of Student Affairs through the many challenges and blessings this year is sure to bring. Thank you for the ways you care for and support one another, and all you do to make our University a wonderful place to live and learn. May we all find plenty of opportunity for reflection and community in the year ahead.
In Notre Dame,
Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.
Vice President for Student Affairs