Icons of all kinds have become part of our twenty-first century communication patterns. Whether emojis, signage, photographs, or recognizable graphics, all of these images aim to communicate some meaning -- sometimes in the absence of words and sometimes to summarize the words we might otherwise use. As we prepare for next week's Class of 2020 Baccalaureate Mass, we have been guided by the importance of icons to our Notre Dame spiritual life.
Be it on senior retreat, around the dinner tables of family homes, or even through the various celebrations of our graduates, we inevitably hear the refrains of a Notre Dame graduate through the words she speaks, the values she holds and the choices she makes. As educators, we are keenly aware that this growth happens through the integration of learning experiences that form the whole person within a vibrant community over the course of their Notre Dame education. Even though circumstances may be different in certain respects, students continue to explore new perspectives and broaden their world view.
The qualities that make an effective student leader, such as being a good listener and communicator, encouraging others, and being positive have long been understood. But in these times of distance learning and shelter-in-place, traditional student leadership has had to adapt and change.
In our human experience, we look at various life moments not only for what happened, but perhaps more powerfully, how that moment made us feel and what it meant to us. While the world laments the absence of what we expected, we have the ability to imagine new ways of celebrating the meaningful among us. This is what spiritual seekers do.
Best-selling author Khaled Hosseini joined the freshman class virtually last week to discuss his novel, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and the plight of women in Afghanistan today and in the past. The novel is part of their year-long interdisciplinary studies across humanities courses and helps them formulate answers to important questions. Who am I? What is my home? Who is my community? What is my universe of obligation?
Notre Dame has more than 326 leadership positions available on campus, allowing all students to find their individual opportunity to develop life-long skills in this important area. Students recently viewed promotional videos created by candidates and heard speeches before casting their ballots for next year's elected positions. This year 411 total applicaitons were received from freshmen, sophomores and juniors to fill the 281 selected and elected positions. This year 49% of students applied for a position. Many others will choose to develop their skills through additional co-curricular opportunities. Maddie '21 will serve as ASB Student Council President next year.
At Notre Dame, all sophomores study the Holocaust across English, history, and religious studies as part of an integrated curriculum. Students read several accounts of the Holocaust as part of their studies, but the key cornerstone of that learning experience is hearing the testimony of a survivor. This year’s sophomore class was able to share a virtual session with Leon, who provided a moving account of a childhood of struggle and loss.
Typically at this time of year Notre Dame is preparing for our annual ice cream social and college sweatshirt celebration in Pardini Park. In this time of shelter-in-place, things are different but we still celebrate the accomplishments of our amazing Class of 2020. On the college side of the admissions process, institutions are working hard to help students with financial aid packages, deadlines and virtual visits.