On the Road with Betsy Woolf – University of Notre Dame

Notre Dame

The temperature in South Bend, Indiana, on February 17th, 2017, was in the mid-60s, and Northern Indiana hadn’t experienced snow all winter. Needless to say, it was a great day for a return visit to the University of Notre Dame.

I am happy to report that Touchdown Jesus is still graciously looking down on the campus, and the Golden Dome atop the main building still glints in the sun. Dorms are undergoing renovation, and the Keough School of Global Affairs is now a reality, as international relations becomes a more and more popular area of study on campus. There is even construction around the football stadium that will house classrooms, offices and a student center.

How difficult is it to get into Notre Dame? Well, it’s not easy. This year approximately 6000 students applied early and the university accepted about 1400 of them. Lots of students on campus hail from Chicago, followed by California and Texas. The university is 80% Catholic. Dorms are single-sex, and since there isn’t Greek Life at Notre Dame, the dorms become communities, with most students staying on campus all four years, even though they are only required to live on campus as freshmen. The atmosphere, noted my tour guide who just happened to be from Westchester County, N.Y., is a friendly one. Although there are chapels in all of the dorms, mass is not required, and students must take two semesters of studies in theology.

There are two lakes on campus and a running trail around them. The yellow bricks for the original campus buildings were created by dredging those lakes, I learned. The famous dome was a gift from the Sisters of St. Mary’s. Students are avid sports fans who come early and stay to the end of football games, win or lose. Aside from NCAA sports, there is plenty to do on campus, and my tour guide noted that students generally stay on campus because there is so much to do. Featured activities include the Fisher Regatta, a one-on-one home-made boat racing tournament on St. Mary’s Lake, and Bookstore Basketball, the largest outdoor 5-on-5 basketball tournament in the world. There are also formals and semi-formals, swimming and kayaking on the lake, and numerous clubs and business on campus from figure skating to Irish Gardens, a student-run flower shop, and from the Studio Art and Design Club to both College Democrats and College Republicans, and even a Competitive Video Gaming Club.

True to the mission of the university, the Fighting Irish care about giving back to the world. In fact, over 80% are involved in community service. More than half study abroad, with Rome and Dublin popular destinations.