Micki Kidder is fresh in her position as vice president for University Enterprises and Events, UEE, a new division with a big job: to enrich the journey of friends and family in their experiences with Notre Dame.
In the role, which she began on March 1, Kidder oversees campus dining and catering; leads the planning and execution of a wide range of University events from Commencement to concerts, including events around football games on and off campus; and leads enterprises such as the Morris Inn, McKenna Hall, the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, Cedar Grove Cemetery, St. Michael’s Laundry and licensing.
She is a high-energy person, even when she’s had little sleep.
At a Monday morning meeting, over the summer, with the academic year’s Opening Mass and Picnic Planning Committee she leads, Kidder shared that she was jet-lagged. Just hours before, she had returned from a trip to Ireland associated with the 2020 Notre Dame vs. Navy game to be held in Dublin.
Kidder seamlessly shifted gears to the reason the group has assembled, to discuss the Opening Mass and Picnic.
“The intimacy of the Mass and picnic doesn’t happen at a state university, and what makes it even more special is it’s the only time during the year the entire University and their families are invited to come together,” she said.
Even Kidder’s vernacular is energetic. She uses terms like connectivity, emotional, activate and collision when speaking about how staff interactions with each other, faculty, students, alumni and visitors is just as much a part of the Notre Dame experience as what happens in the classroom.
While planning UEE content for NDWorks, Kidder told the editor, “I want to see collisions of people, staff members who are living their daily life here, but it’s enriched by members of the Division of University Enterprises and Events.”
She adeptly notes that many interactions students and alumni have with Notre Dame over the course of their lifetime happen outside of education.
“The core mission of the University is teaching, research and learning, always informed by our Catholic character. But that’s not us,” she said of UEE. “We are not teaching in the classrooms. We are not in the residence halls creating this community with students, but we are affecting and hopefully enriching every aspect of student experiences outside those two spaces.”
Her vision for UEE is that every encounter someone has with Notre Dame is positive and meaningful.
“My hope is that every experience people have here lets them know that Notre Dame cares about them — they matter, they are respected — and then those people can take that experience and amplify it by going out and creating good in the world.”
The idea is a variation of University founder Rev. Edward Sorin’s call that Notre Dame be a force for good in the world. Events are powerful opportunities for that kind of exchange.
Kidder is just as enthusiastic about other spaces on campus where UEE staff work or will work. For example, McKenna Hall. The existing building will come down this fall and reopen in September 2021. The new facility will remain home to the Notre Dame Conference Center, which is operated by the Morris Inn and VenueND, and parts of UEE, as well as the new location of the Enrollment Division.
“What I love about McKenna is it’s right in the heart of campus, on Notre Dame Avenue in the shadow of the Dome. In the new facility, so much can be activated as it relates to prospective students coming in. There will be all these faculty from around the world attending conferences and giving lectures. It will be a gathering place for staff members. Again, there’s that collision of students, faculty, staff and visitors. The University’s mission will be enriched and amplified through the people that will gather and walk through those doors.”
Over the summer, her focus was on the Opening Mass and Picnic held in the evening of the first day of classes, Aug. 27.
Since attending her first Opening Mass and Picnic as a new employee 15 years ago, it’s something she looks forward to every year.
“My first memory was meaningful. My husband, Scott, and I were walking from Mass (in the Joyce) across South Quad,” she recalled. “We had just gotten our food and I see Father Jenkins sitting on the grass with a group of students. This man who was just appointed president of the University and in a very casual, very celebratory and extremely human way was engaging with these students. And I realized everybody was there: staff, faculty, students, all coming together.”
Kidder, who earned her bachelor’s degree at IU Bloomington, is a new alumna of Notre Dame, having completed her EMBA in May. The experience of being educated here has enhanced her appreciation of the University.
“It gave me an appreciation for the investment that faculty members make in their students and for the self-discovery that occurs along the way. The way the core mission of Notre Dame comes to life from a student perspective is extremely humbling and inspiring.”