The 14th installment in the Ambassador’s series about great universities in the United States features the University of Notre Dame, an excellent private Catholic school in Indiana with a long history of academic excellence, community service, and tradition. Our guest author today is the Embassy’s Educational Adviser, Drew Dumas.
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by Drew Dumas
Notre Dame is a private university with a feature unlike any other Ambassador Huebner has yet written about. In addition to high rankings in many subjects, a magnificent sport culture, and a vivid student life experience, Notre Dame was founded as and remains a religious school.
Located North of South Bend Indiana, Notre Dame’s campus consists of land gifted by Catholic Bishop Vincennes to Father Edward Sorin on the condition that he build a university of the Catholic faith on its soil. Sorin and 8 brothers of the Congregation of the Holy Cross took up the challenge, and founded the University of Notre Dame du Lac, French for the University of Our Lady of the Lake.
Today, Notre Dame is still committed to offering students plenty of opportunity to participate in Christian practices. Many organizations, such as the Knights of Columbus, are extremely active on campus. In addition to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, each residence hall contains its own chapel, thus Catholic Mass is celebrated more than 100 times per week. Religious affiliation, however, is not required for admission to the university, and students do not have to practice a faith while enrolled. Applicants from outside the Christian faith are eagerly sought after, as they provide diversity of thought and difference of opinion to the student body, qualities greatly sought after at ND.
The campus has grown from its meager beginnings to encompass 1,250 acres (5 km sq) of land containing 138 buildings crafted in an exquisite gothic architectural style. The basilica and golden-domed main building populate the center of campus, on the student-nicknamed ‘God Quad’, and are surrounded by historic buildings such as Washington Hall and LaFortune Student Center. Notre Dame is committed not only to expanding and updating its buildings, but also to remaining environmentally conscious. The school’s 5 most recent buildings have been awarded LEED certification, a mark of honor for sustainably constructed buildings.
Attending courses in these buildings are 12,000 students representing some of the brightest minds in the world. The Princeton Review rates ND as the fifth highest ‘dream school’ for parents to send their children to. The school took 94th in the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, 17th in the U.S. News and World Report’s best national universities in America and 12th in Forbes’ ranking of American universities. Notre Dame also made Newsweek’s list of the 25 new ivies in 2007. The school was further commended by Hispanic Magazine and the Journal of Blacks in Higher Education as an excellent location to study for Latino and African American students.
I could spend pages discussing every stand-out program available at Notre Dame, but I will limit myself to 3 of the best and most interesting colleges for international students. First on my list is the school of architecture. Established in 1899, the school is now ranked 12th nationally by ARCHITECT Magazine. Students spend 5 years studying theory and practical application, one year of which must be spent in Rome. 20 years ago, the school refocused its approach to specialize in classical architecture themes and urbanization, allowing students to gain an understanding of both of the best traditions of cultures past and how to incorporate a theme to a neighborhood or region in the present.
ND’s undergraduate and graduate business programs are both highly regarded internationally. The Mendoza College of Business’ undergrad degree is rated by BusinessWeek as #1 in the country, while their MBA attains the 20th slot on their list of graduate programs. U.S. News and World Report lists the undergraduate degree as 11th in the nation, and the MBA as number 25. Financial Times placed the MBA highly in many regards, but gave the school a ranking of 1st for Corporate Social Responsibility. While many business schools participate in case competitions (when teams of students compete to form the best solution to a business case study), the practice has become a highly competitive sport at Notre Dame, and great effort is expended by, and prestige allotted for, for the winners.
Established in 1869, Notre Dame was the first Catholic university in the world to offer a law degree. U.S. News and World Report rates the program at 22nd among the best 100 U.S. law schools, and ranked a higher 18th in their reputational ranking of law schools by hiring partners of top law firms in America. The program is also 13th in the ability of its graduates to attain Supreme Court clerkships. Interestingly, Notre Dame’s is the only U.S. law school with a year-long study-abroad program approved by the American Bar Association, which takes place in London.
No matter your intended degree, all incoming freshmen students are enrolled in the College of the First Year of Studies. Established in 1962, students are encouraged to take an extremely broad range of classes in their first two semesters, and to think critically about what their talents are, and where their passions lie. This first year of discernment allows students who have never experienced many of the subjects on offer an opportunity to discover what they will be most successful in before they enroll in a college during their second year.
Notre Dame is a university with a focus on faith, and a champion of academic diversity and rigor, but it is also widely respected as one of the best research institutions in the States. Forbes ranks the school 8th among all universities in America. One of ND’s research figureheads, Father John Zahm, wrote Evolution and Dogma, arguing that certain parts of evolution could and should tie in with Catholic thought. He managed to get out of the classroom as well, accompanying President Roosevelt on his expedition through the Amazon. A few other ND research feats include the first wireless message sent by an American and early work in nuclear physics, including the construction of a nuclear accelerator in 1936.
All of the facets of Notre Dame combined have created an extensive alumni network that spans the globe, counting nearly 120,000 living members. Famous names that belong to the Notre Dame circle include former Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, 2 Nobel Prize winners in James Muller and Eric Wieschaus … media personalities Regis Philbin, Phil Donahue, and ESPN’s Mike Golic and Hannah Storm … sport superstars Joe Theisman, Joe Montana, Mariel Zagunis, Knute Rockne, Austin Carr … Diane Gulyas, VP of DuPont and named one of the 50 Most Powerful Women in Business by Fortune, Jim Wetherbee, the only American to have commanded 5 spaceflight missions and Charles Pell.
As you might expect from such a storied university with a very close-knit network of alumni and current students, Notre Dame is very proud of its traditions. And it has many. ND’s official school colors are gold and blue, but the colors of the football team’s home jersey have alternated between blue and green for 50 years. Upon the school’s founding in 1842, the colors yellow and blue were chosen to represent the school (yellow for light, blue for truth), but yellow turned to gold after the installation of the golden dome above the main building.
The official nickname for Notre Dame fans and sports teams is the ‘Fighting Irish’, but the school’s mascot since 1965 has been a leprechaun. Every year a student is chosen from extensive tryouts to serve as the Leprechaun for that year. The student dresses in a cutaway green suit and Irish country hat, complete with shillelagh, a sort of cudgel taken into battle by the Irish. He leads the Friday pep rallies, riles the fans up at sports games and can be sighted all around campus before and during major events.
Each of Notre Dame’s 29 residence halls provides an extremely close community for the students. Every hall has a mascot, nickname, color scheme, favorite charity and major event. These events include skits, dances, pep rallies … regattas, bob sledding, intramural sports, polar bear plunges … highlander games, picnics, chariot races … charity runs, beauty pageants, intra-hall Olympics … snow sledding, cheering sections, secondary school tutoring and bonfires.
A more solemn tradition, the school’s Army, Navy and Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps hold a 24-hour silent vigil around Clarke Memorial Fountain each year to commemorate Veteran’s Day. Veterans from around the area are invited to come and stand vigil.
Sports at Notre Dame are beyond tradition; they are a fact of life. Before I even discuss the NCAA Div I teams, it’s worth mentioning that 6,000 students participate in intramural sports (sporting leagues within the university that are open to any enrolled students) every year, prompting Sports Illustrated to name Notre Dame the country’s best sporting school. The annual Bookstore Basketball Tournament brings over 700 teams to play, and is the largest 5-on-5 outdoor basketball tournament in the world.
The Fighting Irish athletic teams compete primarily in the Atlantic Coast Conference, though their football team is an independent, meaning it has no conference. The football team has a rich history of competition, and has won 13 national championships. They also have the most players in the College Football Hall of Fame, and are tied with Ohio State for the most Heisman Trophy winners. Most recently, they played Alabama for the 2013 National Championship. The team has several rivals, but their fiercest rivalry game is with the University of Southern California, in its annual competition for the Jeweled Shillelagh.
The Notre Dame basketball team is one of 12 schools in history to reach 1,600 wins. Though consistently a threat to win the NCAA tournament, which it has played in 28 times, they have never taken home the trophy. They are, however, a dangerous team, beating 9 number one teams in their history, second only to UCLA’s 10. The Fighting Irish also hold 14 national titles in other sports, including 7 in fencing.
The last major tradition at the school I’ll talk about is the Fighting Irish Band. The oldest university band in existence, they played at the first graduation ceremony in 1846. Their importance instigated the creation of the Music Hall, the third building to be constructed on campus after the main building burned down, and was declared a Landmark of American Music by the National Music Council in 1976. The band has never missed a home football game, and appears at a multitude of events on and around campus.
The Oldest Band in the Land actually has an interesting link with Lindisfarne College in New Zealand; the two institutions maintain an exchange program with senior music students. 21 band members of the Fighting Irish have visited the college in Hastings, and 9 band members from Lindisfarne have travelled to Notre Dame to witness Game Day.
It is a common misconception that the University of Notre Dame resides in South Bend, Indiana. In fact, the university is north of the city limits, in the ‘unincorporated community’ of Notre Dame. South Bend itself has a population slightly larger than 100,000, making it the 4th largest city in Indiana. It is located in the far north of the state, less than 20 miles (32 km) from the border to Michigan.
Though small, the city has many festivals and traditions that it celebrates annually. Because of a large Catholic Polish population, Fat Tuesday and Dingus Day (the day after Easter) hold special prominence in the city’s attractions. In addition, every summer the city holds the South Bend Reggae Festival and the Annual All Day Country Concert. Fans of Christian music also come to South Bend to attend the World Pulse Festival, an annual contemporary Christian music festival outside the city.
Other attractions in South Bend include the Museum of Art, the Northern Indiana Center for History, Copshaholm, a 38-room mansion on the National Register of Historic Places … the Studebaker National Museum, The Museums at Washington and Chapin, the Morris Performing Arts Center … the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association, the Potawatomi Zoo and the Botanical Conservatories.
I’ll wrap this article up by circling back to the beginnings of Notre Dame, and an event that would define the University and its approach to education and faith. In 1879, the main building of the university (at the time essentially the entire school) caught fire and burned to the ground. It was a blow that would have left many institutions in complete ruin, finished before they ever started.
Father Sorin chose that moment to mark Notre Dame with the spirit of determination and unyielding persistence it exhibits today. He is famously quoted saying, “I came here as a young man with dreams of building a great university in honor of Our Lady. But I built it too small, and she burned it to the ground to make the point. So, tomorrow, as soon as the bricks cool, we will rebuild it, bigger and better than ever.” Because of his commitment, Notre Dame now proudly stands as one of the most elite universities in America and one of the most well respected Catholic institutions in the world.
For more information about the small-town traditions, Midwestern culture and unique personality of South Bend Indiana, visit their website.
To learn more about Notre Dame, its colleges and degrees and how to apply, visit the school’s main website. Please feel free to email our Educational Adviser, Drew Dumas, at DumasAG@state.gov if you would like additional information or have specific questions.
Next up in the series is Walla Walla Community College, winner of the 2013 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Ambassador Huebner is always open to visiting a location of the readers’ choice, so please let us know where you’d like to read about after Walla Walla and we’ll make that happen.