THRIVE! continues to thrive in spite of coronavirus and working remotely

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When you work at an institution as big as Notre Dame, you have a number of opportunities to meet a lot of people — but do you get a chance to get to know them? THRIVE! Inspiring ND Women is one organization that gives you that chance. 

Thrive! is an employee resource group focused on increasing opportunities for women to be recruited, retained and advanced as leaders at the University. Open to all faculty, staff and administrators, the group offers Lunch Pairings, open to men and women, that have led people to new friends, mentors and opportunities for work advancement.

For me, as a new employee, it is a way to meet people outside my work area. Most recently I was paired with Ten Gray, Human Resources consultant. (All pairings are random.)  Interestingly enough, we had met at my new employee orientation, and we’ve run into each other a time or two since we both work in the same building. But the pairing gave us an excuse to really talk. For example, what’s the story behind the name Ten? Our “lunch” gave me the opportunity to get an answer to that, and to find out more about him. 

Meeting people outside of her work circle was also the impetus for THRIVE! President Kate Garry to participate in lunch pairings. And even though in-person lunch meetings have gone online since most staff and faculty are working remotely, the sentiment remains true. “Getting a chance to interact with someone new is refreshing right now, whether you are isolating at home alone and craving connection or just need a break from juggling remote work and homeschooling duties. It’s not quite the same as sharing a meal together in person, but it is still rewarding,” says Garry.

Over the past couple of years, Garry has made connections to people in ROTC, Building Services, Campus Dining, Development, OIT and others. “That’s not something that would happen organically,” says Garry. “I have learned something valuable from every person I have met through this program, and I hope that I’ve been a helpful resource for them as well.” 

Garry was featured in an NDWorks article about her first lunch pairing with Capt. Cody Brockelmeyer, Marine officer instructor for the NROTC. “He taught me so much about time management, and I was able to offer him some advice on promoting events on campus.” 

The lunch pairings work because the program is “low-risk, low-pressure and low-cost,” according to Garry. “The time commitment is minimal and there is a lot of flexibility in scheduling — you just have to meet one time during the quarter.”

Patti Reinhardt, director of student engagement, competitions and events at the IDEA Center, found “significant synergies” with colleagues across campus, which may not have otherwise happened were it not for the random pairing for lunch. “On more than one occasion, the insights from these meetings turned into collaboration with others for programmatic initiatives.” 

And for Reinhardt, this same synergy continues even when working remotely. “The virtual nature has not been a hindrance to meeting, and has actually been a nice break to engage with a new person and share things we are learning in this new normal we are experiencing,” says Reinhardt. 

THRIVE! also organizes other events such as its year-long Champions for Change program. Most recently, more than 200 people participated in a Zoom session titled “Charting Your Roadmap in Times of Uncertainty,” presented by Micki Kidder, vice president for University enterprises and events. A follow-up discussion is planned for Friday, May 29, with breakout rooms on various topics of interest, according to Garry. And like other programs, the MentorND project continues with remote meetings. Finally, just last week, another Let’s Do Lunch program took place with visitors dropping in via Zoom. “For the foreseeable future, all of our events will be virtual,” says Garry. “But we hope to get back to in-person gatherings when it is safe to do so.”

New lunch pairings are coming soon. To find out how you can participate, contact Jessica Schiller at And if you’d like to know how Ten Gray got his name, and much more, read about it here.