A conversation with Chuck Hurley

Chuck Headshot

Chuck Hurley has been the University registrar since 2011, a title and position that is fitting for a person with multiple degrees from Notre Dame. After a brief stint at a local financial institution, Hurley returned to Notre Dame in 1996 to pursue a graduate degree and to work full-time. It just so happened that an IT position opened up; a person was needed to construct a degree audit system. With a background in information technology, Hurley found the position that would eventually lead him to the top spot in the Office of the Registrar.

What has changed from when you first started working in the registrar’s office? 

For one, I have much more gray hair. And two, the continual evolution of information technology has created greater opportunities to serve students and faculty. 

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Pictured here are the members of the Office of the Registrar Staff. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

What else did you do in this office before becoming the registrar?

Over the years, I’ve held a variety of positions and responsibilities in the office including curriculum management, access control and training, developer, IT project management, diploma coordination, summer session director, academic reporting, data integrity and archiving coordination. 

As an ND graduate, how does that student experience inform who you are in your current position?

I loved my Notre Dame experience! I earned my bachelor’s degree in 1993 and master’s degrees in 2001 and 2007. The No. 1 item I took away from my academic career was how much faculty care about our students. I continue to have strong relationships with many faculty I had as a student over 30 years ago. Our ND faculty are very compassionate and committed to students’ personal and professional success. We have tried to instill the same principles in our office. 

We are having two Commencement Ceremonies this year, 2020 and 2022. How did that come about?

The class of 2022 is participating in the University’s traditional Commencement weekend, May 13-15. As many are aware, due to the pandemic the class of 2020 did not have an in-person commencement. President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., conferred the degrees in an online ceremony in May 2020. The decision was made to offer an opportunity for the class of 2020 to return over the long Memorial Day weekend to attend an in-person ceremony. The class of 2020 will be on campus May 27-30. In addition to the academic events the registrar’s team is working on, there will be a number of social events for graduates to participate in, coordinated by our wonderful colleagues in Event Management led by Lee Sicinski

How will your office handle two Commencement Ceremonies so close together? 

Our office will work diligently to execute both Commencement Ceremonies. We have restricted time off for our staff, as these events are an all-hands-on-deck team effort. Folks on the registrar’s team are limiting the time spent on their own children’s commencements and forgoing family reunions and vacations to make these weekends happen. The registrar’s team is happy and honored to perform the work of Commencement for the University community. 

How many people are in your office? Are they all involved with Commencement?

There are 23 staff members in our office, all working to coordinate 28 major academic commencement events. And there are many smaller academic events on Friday through Sunday. While all members of the team are involved in Commencement, there is a planning group of five folks who start in January with logistics. As we move deeper into the spring, other staff members continue to play a larger role. These duties are handled along with our existing responsibilities managing registration, transcripts, course scheduling and academic records. 

Will the ceremonies be similar or different? If so, how?

The weekends will have unique schedules to accommodate the needs of each class. The class of 2022 weekend follows a traditional schedule with Mass on Saturday evening and the University Commencement Ceremony on Sunday morning. The class of 2020 weekend contains a mixture of collegiate academic celebrations and social events that students missed near the end of senior year or during senior week. The Mass and University Commencement Ceremony will be celebrated back-to-back on Sunday morning, May 29. 

During the ceremony, what will the class of 2020 receive? 

On a traditional commencement weekend, students receive their diploma at ceremonies within each college or school. The class of 2020 has the unique situation of having already received their diplomas in the mail back in May 2020. As a result, each college or school will hold an event to celebrate their 2020 graduates. The Law School and Graduate School have opted for a traditional ceremony format. The other colleges and schools are having celebration events. These celebrations will provide the students the opportunity to take official photos using an empty diploma cover with the dean, faculty, family and fellow students.

Do you know of any other colleges doing this?

A number of universities around the nation have invited students for commencement celebrations. Notre Dame also invited the class of 2020 members back to campus last fall, with tickets for the Notre Dame vs. Cincinnati football game. 

Do you have any way of knowing if many from the class of 2020 will return for their Commencement?

There has been robust confirmation of attendance among the class of 2020. Presently, the RSVP data show about 1,800 students and 6,700 guests attending. It is wonderful so many graduates are returning for the weekend celebrations. 

The virtual Commencement of 2020 had to be unreal. Could you remind us how your office handled that?

The virtual Commencement Ceremony for May 2020 was an interesting experience. Even during the pandemic, the University community still wanted to celebrate the achievements of this class. Moreover, Father Jenkins needed to confer the degrees upon our graduates alongside Provost Tom Burish and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Jack Brennan. The registrar’s team was fortunate enough to partner with colleagues in Notre Dame Studios led by Dan Skendzel

The ND Studios team did a fantastic job at providing the livestreamed ceremony under such challenging circumstances. Because of remote work and physical distancing requirements, we were limited in the number of folks who could be in a room. As a result, Senior Assistant Registrar Liz Rosencrantz and Commencement Specialist Stephanie Maenhout worked astronomical hours to pull off the ceremony. I recall being on a Zoom call with Stephanie at 3 a.m. the day before the virtual graduation and commenting, “Nobody knows how much you and Liz are doing for these students, but the whole University is grateful.” I think Stephanie, Liz and I were zombies by the end of that week from a lack of sleep, but the result was a fantastic online ceremony to celebrate our graduates in the best way possible under pandemic circumstances. 

What would you like people to know about your staff and the work you put into Commencement?

Our team takes a great deal of pride in putting on a wonderful Commencement Ceremony for our students and families. The dedication of our staff is nearly boundless. It is not unusual on Commencement weekend for the registrar’s team to work 16 hours on Friday, and on Saturday to work 7 a.m. until midnight, and then return on Sunday morning at 4 a.m. The examples of the staff’s dedication to the University are too numerous to list out. These folks love Notre Dame, love our students and faculty, and will do anything to promote the greater good of our community.