Notre Dame is engaged in and committed to things that make a community prosperous and healthy — like preK-12 education, community development, civic leadership, and government and nonprofit relations.
“As a Catholic institution, we believe human beings are responsible for the well-being of one another. The University supports and creates opportunities that serve the common good,” explains Associate Vice President for Public Affairs Timothy Sexton.
Not a ‘town and gown’ relationship
The expression “town and gown” often refers to the divided relationship some universities have with their neighboring towns. “Gown” alludes to academic gowns. Sexton believes the opposite exists between the University and the neighboring communities. Perhaps nothing demonstrates the lack of “town and gown” issues better than the now-seamless transition from campus to city known as Eddy Street Commons.
The revitalization of the Northeast Neighborhood is just one of the many projects and initiatives for which Sexton led community relations on behalf of the University. In his role, he also focuses on state and local government relations.
Leading the public affairs arm of the Office of Public Affairs and Communications, Sexton has been involved with the Regional Cities Initiative, serves as president of the Northeast Neighborhood Revitalization Organization and is the past chair of the board for the Community Foundation of St. Joseph County. He also serves as an executive committee member for the Chamber of Commerce.
“When the University of Notre Dame partners with an organization or governing body, we truly mean partner. Many of us sit on the community boards and committees,” Sexton says of the leadership team at the University.
Connecting campus offices and community partners
Faculty and staff interested in service-learning, volunteer, donation or other opportunities in the community do not have to go far to get started. Public affairs is also in the networking business.
Jessica Brookshire, associate director of public affairs, is very familiar with the missions of area nonprofits and the services they provide. She connects needs with those who can provide the help, and it’s a two-way street.
“Sometimes a Notre Dame office needs help that a nonprofit can provide. Other times faculty or staff have a concept but they don’t have an agency in mind,” notes Brookshire.
For example, when in 2017 Notre Dame Athletics Community Commitment staff members were asked to find an agency that would rescue unserved food from the stadium following home football games, they turned to public affairs and found a partner in Cultivate Culinary.
In another case, The Office of Public Affairs is helping campus partners recruit potential employees to join the Notre Dame service family. Brookshire and Lisa Yates, director of hospitality, training and development in Campus Dining, co-lead the project.
“We have developed three pilot programs to assist Building Services, Campus Dining and the Morris Inn with community recruitment and engagement. These pilots include community partners the city of South Bend, Goodwill and Ivy Tech,” Brookshire explains.
The pilots vary in scope.
• Through a transportation grant, The University is partnering with the city of South Bend to offer Uber rides to Campus Dining and Morris Inn staff to get them to and from work, often during times when public transportation is not available.
• The Goodwill success coach pilot program offers new staff in Building Services individual support and connections to community resources, which has engaged employees and improved attendance.
• As part of a Student-Friendly Employer pilot between Ivy Tech and Notre Dame, the University offers Ivy Tech culinary students a flexible work schedule that allows them to complete their education while providing the University with a pipeline of culinary talent.
Community means we’re in this together
Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., has said the region and the University are interdependent: “Here at Notre Dame, we have been blessed with great successes and exciting new projects. Many of these would not have been possible without collaboration from the community, and they benefit not only Notre Dame, but the entire community.”
And as Father Jenkins has noted, what benefits Notre Dame benefits the region, and what benefits the region benefits Notre Dame.
No town and gown issues here.
Public Affairs programs and initiatives:
Robinson Community Learning Center
RCLC is an off-campus educational initiative between Notre Dame and the Northeast Neighborhood. About 500 participants come to RCLC each week for regular programming, which includes after-school tutoring, “Talk to Your Baby” classes, a Shakespeare program for teens and Take Ten, which teaches conflict resolution and bullying prevention. About 500 college student volunteers implement RCLC programs on-site and in the community. The center also maintains a high-quality technology center, offering adults classes in basic computing and financial literacy. A new RCLC facility is planned as part of Phase II of the Eddy Street Complex project. The new space will be 13,000 square feet, while the current building is 8,000 square feet. A planned fenced-in yard will let children play.
Center for Arts and Culture
The Notre Dame Center for Arts and Culture provides unique educational programs for children that combine one-on-one relationships,arts experiences and lifelong learning. Programs include literacy tutoring, art enrichment, drama and conflict resolution activities. There are also rotating art exhibits in the galleries and in-studio classes with visiting artists. In the summer, camp activities include visual arts, printmaking, photography, creative writing and field trips. The center is located within the West Washington Historic District in a building constructed in 1925. The building underwent a $2.5 million renovation project in 2012 through a partnership that included the University.
Teachers as Scholars
TAS provides regional K-12 teachers and administrators the opportunity to become students again as they convene to study, discuss and reflect upon scholarly issues with Notre Dame professors. The two-day seminar takes place on campus twice a year, in the spring and fall semesters. Applications for 2019 are available online until Nov. 18. There is no cost to participate, but applicants must work with a member district or diocesan school.
Nonprofit Breakfast Series
Held on campus during the spring semester, leaders and volunteers from the region’s nonprofit organizations are invited to participate in a four-part series. Every year campus experts share their knowledge on relevant topics for nonprofit administrators.
The annual United Way Campaign is administered through the Office of Public Affairs. The University’s United Way Campaign generates 15 percent of the donations received by United Way of
St. Joseph County each year.
For more information, please visit publicaffairs.nd.edu.