By Gwen O’Brien, Internal Communications
Laurie McFadden is a staff member at Notre Dame, but to 19 first-year students, she is faculty. McFadden is one of 125 University faculty and staff who teach the two-semester course sequence known as the Moreau First Year Experience.
“We don’t just talk about ‘What are you studying? What’s your major? What are you going to be when you get out of here?’ It’s like, ‘What’s your responsibility as a human being? What do we expect of you as a Notre Dame student? How can you take care of yourself? How can you explore your faith and spirituality here?’ The whole person,” says McFadden.
Laurie McFadden has been a Moreau instructor for three years. Her “day job” is as the broadcast media specialist for WVFI, WSND-FM and NDTV.
If this doesn’t sound like a typical course at the University, you’re right. Yet, the Moreau First Year Experience is quintessentially Notre Dame … and Holy Cross.
Until his beatification in 2007, Blessed Basil Anthony Moreau — founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross — was not a name most Notre Dame students would have known. They would have graduated with an awareness of the University’s founder Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., but not the French priest who dispatched Father Sorin to America.
Now the brilliance of Blessed Moreau is front and center for first-year students.
Since the 2015-16 academic year, freshmen have enrolled in the required Moreau First Year Experience. Co-sponsored by First Year of Studies and the Division of Student Affairs, the program puts into practice Blessed Moreau’s holistic approach to education: “the art of helping young people to completeness.”
In the mid-1800s, Blessed Moreau wrote about what are now called the five pillars of Holy Cross education: the mind, heart, family, zeal and hope.
The idea is that a young adult entering Notre Dame will not just expand his or her mind through studies; he or she will live in community with strangers from different backgrounds in a new environment where each will reflect on his or her future vocation.
In other words, college represents a major life shift, which the Moreau curriculum takes into account. Topics include orientation to University life; strategies for health and well-being; community standards and cultural competency; strategies for academic success; career development; and cultivation of spiritual life.
McFadden’s full-time job is broadcast media specialist, overseeing the operation of the student-run WVFI and WSND-FM radio stations, as well as NDTV. Serving on the Moreau faculty, she says, has enhanced her work experience here.
“This is my third year teaching it, so those students who I first taught are now juniors and I see them on campus everywhere. They know me. They come and ask me to write a letter of recommendation for them. You learn so much about the University and how what we do, as faculty and staff, affects the students every day.”
All Moreau instructors have “day jobs.” The teaching cohort represents professionals from across the University.
Consuela Wilson recently attended a training session for Moreau instructors. It’s her third year teaching. Her full time job is as assistant director of the Office of Student Enrichment.
“Faculty within First Year of Studies, arts and letters, the libraries, science, engineering, business, and the law school as well as professionals in admissions, student affairs, athletics, development, and human resources — it’s this broad cross section of folks who meet on a weekly basis with students, guide them in discussions, facilitate experiential learning, and really walk with the students as they get settled at Notre Dame,” says Maureen Gillespie Dawson. She co-directs the Moreau First Year with Paul Manrique, program director for New Student Engagement.
Moreau faculty receive training before the start of the fall and spring semesters, as was the case in mid-January when NDWorks caught up with Consuela Wilson. As assistant director of the Office of Student Enrichment, Wilson works with first-generation college students.
Serving on the Moreau faculty, I’m able to hear more about their experiences beyond what they may be asking me for when they come into my office. I think it allows me to add breadth to my work, and it gives me new ideas,” says Wilson, who, like McFadden, is in her third year of teaching.
“The administration is an ambiguous concept to the students. … They want to know ‘Why are you here? What do you do? How do you contribute to the University?’ And, when it’s appropriate I try to give them some insight into that,” says Akatu, another Moreau instructor since the program’s start. As an alumnus, he also finds himself relating to where the students are in their lives.On the flip side, students benefit from their exposure to the many professions and departments that the Moreau faculty represent, notes Bernard Akatu, senior advisor to the Executive Vice President.
Bernard Akatu, senior advisor to the Executive Vice President, is also in his third year as a Moreau instructor.
The Moreau First Year Experience is getting noticed outside of the University. Dawson and Manrique presented at the annual conference of the National Resource Center for First-Year Experience and Students in Transition last month. Aspects of the program could also serve as a model for other schools with Holy Cross roots.
Faculty and exempt professional staff interested in serving on the Moreau Faculty beginning in the fall may contact Maureen GIllespie Dawson at email@example.com. Applications will be accepted March 1-30.