I am thrilled to add my welcome to the many offices, staff, faculty, and students who have been in touch with you this summer as you prepare to begin your journey at Notre Dame. I write on behalf of myself and my colleagues in the Division of Student Affairs, and to share a bit about the community you will join in just a few short weeks.
I serve as the University’s Vice President for Student Affairs, and I am honored to lead a team of professionals who support your formation in our residential communities and a variety of departments dedicated to student life. My colleagues and I are committed to making Notre Dame a place where you can grow in mind and heart, deepen your faith, develop your character, and form lifelong friendships. All of this takes place in the context of our 32 residence halls, more than 500 student clubs and organizations that seek your involvement and leadership, retreats and faith formation opportunities offered through Campus Ministry, and the many services and programs dedicated to your vocational discernment and personal well-being. You can learn more about Student Affairs and our services here, and this video helps to illustrate how our work contributes to your student experience and lifelong formation.
You will soon learn our students often introduce themselves with a “Notre Dame introduction” (where you live, your major, and where you are from). Here is mine: I grew up in Springfield, Pennsylvania, graduated from Notre Dame in 2001 with a degree in history and government, and lived in Morrissey Hall, where I served as a Resident Assistant and, later on, Assistant Rector. I went on to earn two post-graduate degrees from Notre Dame: a juris doctor in 2004 and a master of divinity in 2009. After law school, I entered formation with the Congregation of Holy Cross and was ordained a Holy Cross priest in April 2010. I returned to Notre Dame in 2018 to serve as the University’s Vice President for Mission Engagement and Church Affairs before I was appointed Vice President for Student Affairs in July 2021. Since returning to Notre Dame in 2018, I have lived as a priest-in-residence in Alumni Hall.
Your New Home
My time here – whether as a student, a Holy Cross priest, or an administrator – has been profoundly shaped by my own experiences in community, which have all given me a deep appreciation for the distinct way we think about education at Notre Dame. Here, we believe deeply in the formation of the mind and the heart, a formation that happens best within a community dedicated to the intellectual, moral, and spiritual development of each individual. Inspired and continuously animated by the University’s Catholic and Holy Cross mission, we are committed to creating a community of hope where you can encounter God’s love and in turn share that love with one another in order to be a force for good in the world.
For our first-year students and others who will live on campus, we hope you experience this community in your residence hall, which in many cases will be the first place you visit when you arrive. As you may know, we intentionally organize our halls to bring people together from all backgrounds, areas of study, and class years, creating meaningful opportunities to learn from one another, celebrate our differences, and grow as active participants in Christian community.
Our residence halls create an important context for lifelong growth, and a unique opportunity to encounter others who bring experiences, backgrounds, and perspectives different from your own. Now that many of you have received your housing assignments, please reach out to say hello and simply ask to learn the story of your new roommate(s). As you do so, I encourage you to appreciate the ways your roommate or roommates might differ from you. The community we are a part of is a vibrant and exciting one as our students come from a multitude of racial backgrounds, socioeconomic statuses, religions, sexual orientations, immigration statuses, and political views. You are all immensely talented, created in the image and likeness of God, and treasured members of our community. Despite good intentions, our students have told us roommate and residence hall introductions can sometimes create anxiety or plant doubt about a student’s sense of belonging at Notre Dame. Resist the urge to make assumptions, especially based on identity, and be open to the possibility of learning something new. This relationship is an important one to you and to us, and I hope this initial introduction will set a foundation for a wonderful year together. May your hall become a true home, and know that your rector and hall staff are resources to help you navigate this new environment.
I also encourage those of you living on campus to spend as much time as possible immersing yourself in your new hall community; make time to get to know your rector and hall staff and invest in the relationships with your roommate(s), but also those members of your section, floor, and hall. Meet the priest (or priests)-in-residence who provide an additional layer of care and support for you. Some of you may even have faculty members living in your halls who are also available to accompany and mentor you. These relationships are invaluable as you navigate your time as a Notre Dame student.
Welcome Weekend will begin for all transfer students on Thursday, Aug. 18, and for all first-year students on Friday, Aug. 19. Programming for parents and families will conclude on the evening of Saturday, Aug. 20, with additional student-only opportunities and events continuing on Sunday and Monday, Aug. 21 and 22 and throughout the first weeks of classes. Classes are scheduled to begin on Tuesday, Aug. 23.
Throughout the weekend, our Welcome program will provide you with opportunities to meet academic leaders, introduce yourself to other students, learn more about University support services, and explore our beautiful campus. For more information about Welcome Weekend, I invite you to visit the Welcome Weekend website.
We are delighted you chose to come to Notre Dame, and cannot wait to see how your presence impacts our community. As you begin this year, please remember to be open, be patient, and have hope. Finding your way, making friends, and building community in a new place happens at a different pace for every student, and we are all here to help you with this transition. If I can offer a piece of personal advice that I’ve learned over the years, it is to not be afraid to slow down once in a while, and to create space in your schedule, mind, and heart for reflection, prayer, and discernment. Even amidst the many exciting academic and co-curricular offerings and resources at Notre Dame, your time as a student can offer a unique opportunity and space for this kind of reflection to take place. Above all else, take time to pause and connect in a meaningful and authentic way with God and with one another, and know there are many here willing to help you do so.
Please know of my best wishes and prayers as you prepare for Welcome Weekend and prepare to join the Notre Dame community.
In Notre Dame,
Fr. Gerry Olinger, C.S.C.
Vice President for Student Affairs