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Alumnae Storyboard

Katelyn Stenger 

Class of 2011


STEM melds everyday concepts in unexpected ways, and allows me to make a difference in the world by solving problems that impact people. I love where I am, who I am, and what I do - which is why I want to tell you about my journey from skirt-wearing Notre Damian to problem-solving researcher.

Most days after school at Notre Dame, you could find me in the physics lab. My friends and I would be working on research for our science projects, guided by the-one-and-only Sister Mary Ethel (SME). SME is the ideal mentor – she guides you, but lets you fail on your own. I definitely failed and made every mistake that could be made with my science projects. One time I forgot that I had left an experiment running and left the heat room on for a week! My results were toast. Even though I failed very often, I loved researching – not because I understood what I was doing but exactly the opposite. I had no idea what I was doing or what would happen - and I felt like an explorer.

Have you ever seen an ant roaming around in the dirt looking for a crumb? That’s research. Okay, fine. Research is a little more methodological, but for the large part, most researchers don’t know what’s going to happen until they systematically observer it. Currently, I research problem-solving at the University of Virginia as a PhD student. Studying problem-solving is extremely meta, and sometime I end up analyzing my own thinking (metacognition). I research the very simple idea of subtraction – removing elements from a problematic situation to achieve a goal-state. My team has found that we don’t subtract to solve very often. In contrast, we almost exclusively add to solve our problems. I think back to an NDA post-lunch food coma. Sitting in class with eyes that say “I swear I am trying to keep these lids open” countered with a head nod repeating every 30 seconds. I could’ve addressed this problem in a few ways. I could add to solve my problem – drink something caffeinated. Or, I could subtract from my problem by standing instead of sitting and removing the seat that lets me nod off. If I really want to avoid future post-lunch food comas maybe I don’t eat all of the mashed potatoes (but they are so delicious).

Our differences help us make a difference. Every person perceives the world differently. Our different perspectives - and the way we think about the problem - help us to find the best solutions for our biggest problems like climate change and equality. If you are curious about the science behind differences in problem-solving, I recommend The Difference by Scott Page.

My experiences shaped my perspective – and the following is a sweetened, condensed version. My education at Notre Dame (graduated in 2011) helped me understand STEM as an opportunity to explore. I continued my education at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology in mechanical engineering – because I liked finding out how things worked. After graduation, I designed a few skyscrapers at the Hudson Yards in New York City with an engineering team, and learned how to transform an idea to a creation. While living in Philadelphia at the time, I found out about lead in my neighborhood’s drinking water. I founded a startup that supported legislation for lead-free water. Throughout all of these experiences, other people’s thinking amazed me – and sometimes confused me. That takes us to present day, where I find myself in a lucky situation because I ask questions (and sometimes answer) how people think and solve problems.

I hope you feel empowered to follow your curiosity, and you realize that there are a bunch of ideas to explore in STEM. The way you apply STEM can really help you be a woman making a difference.

I designed the Hudson Yards in New York, NY. 


How could you teach a toddler to ride a bike?  You could solve by adding or subtracting.



Caitlin Shaughnessy Dwyer

Class of 2002


College Attended: University of Notre Dame

College Graduation Year: 2006

Graduate School: Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family

Grad School Graduation Year: 2010

Job/Career: Instructor of Theology at Thomas More University

What/Who has been the biggest influence on your life and choices you have made? 

I know it sounds cliché, but from a young age I wanted to change the world.  I grew up watching my mom and dad live out their vocation to medicine.  They both had worked hard and made many sacrifices to attain their medical degrees, and then as doctors they gave their time (and sleep!) to help heal others.  I was proud of them and I wanted to be like them: I wanted to live a life that made a difference.

How has NDA helped shape you to be where you are today?  Please explain.  

NDA nurtured that desire.  My parents had raised us in the faith, and the witness of the Notre Dame sisters of a Christ-centered life of service deepened my own love for Christ and my desire to serve Him wholly.  By the time I graduated from NDA, I had my heart set on a political science degree from my chosen school, the University of Notre Dame.  The next step would be law school and then a life in politics, championing the rights of the most vulnerable in society: the unborn and the poor. 

Is your current occupation what you have always wanted to do?  Please elaborate on your response. 

When I got to ND I encountered a small problem.  I detested my political sciences classes.  They were so boring.  On the other hand, my first theology class lit me up in a way nothing else ever had.  Studying theology, I felt fully alive.  I gradually discerned that God was calling me to help change the world in a different way.  I felt strongly that the root of many of our cultural ills was a misunderstanding of the dignity of the human person.  I thought if people could see who we really are – children of the almighty Creator, endowed with an inalienable dignity that absolutely nothing can take a way, destined for eternal joy beyond all telling – the cultural ills would start to resolve themselves.  We would treat ourselves and others with love and respect, we would live beautiful lives in accord with the incredible truth of our identity.  And that’s what I wanted to do with my life – share that truth with as many people as I could.  To that end, I co-founded what is now an annual student-run conference at ND, The Edith Stein Project, dedicated to identifying threats to feminine dignity and illuminating women’s vocation in the modern world. 

After graduating from ND in 2006, I got married in 2007.  My husband and I like to laugh at how “countercultural” we were.  While marriage and children are often depicted as the “traditional” choice, the reality is that society tells us to put those things off as long as possible while we achieve success in our careers.  But rebels that we were, Ryan and I took the plunge to get married and a couple of weeks later we packed up a Uhaul and moved to Washington, D.C. where I would attend graduate school to study the thought of St. John Paul II on the human person while my husband worked for a non-profit.  This was a huge step of faith for us to move away from our families to a big city, particularly because we had also decided to be open to new life  early in our marriage (couldn’t get enough rebellion).  We were blessed with two beautiful babies by the time I finished graduate school.  My theoretical studies at the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family were rounded out nicely by the “experiential learning” I had on the same topics within my own home.

After graduate school, we moved to Florida for my husband’s work.  I decided to stay home with our children and did this for several years, taking free lance editing and writing jobs.  I wrote for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and Humanum: Issues in Family, Culture & Science and edited Dr. Michael Hanby’s No God, No Science: Theology, Cosmology, Biology and the K-4 Theology of the Body curriculum for Ruah Woods.   I was so happy to be home with my kids (a luxury not everyone has) and I knew that loving them and affirming their dignity was an important way of living out my desire to instill the truth about the human person in others.  Yet I still hungered to teach to a wider audience, particularly at the collegiate level.  And because of the choices I had made – putting family before career and not launching immediately into further education or an academic position after graduate school – I wondered if I had missed that opportunity.

But when God has a plan for your life, he can make it work against the odds.  When we moved back to Kentucky (now with three sweet babies 4 and under), I landed a position teaching theology as an adjunct at Thomas More University.  And as my children got older and the needs of the university expanded, I worked my into first a part-time position and then to a full-time Instructor of Theology.

I currently have the great privilege of teaching about 120 students every semester.  We discuss the deepest human questions – Who is God? What’s my identity and purpose? What kind of life leads to happiness? – in the context of Catholic theology.  And we of course study together the Church’s understanding of the profound dignity of each and every human person. 

I’ve also had the blessing to work with TMU’s Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson Institute for Religious Liberty and I just received a Presidential Innovation Grant to help the faculty and staff grow in our understanding of what it means to teach within the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (CIT), a key part of our mission at TMU.

Many describe the CIT as a two-thousand year long “conversation” between Christians and the world as Christians have sought to understand the faith and express it through theology, philosophy, literature, scientific endeavors and the arts.  This has led to the production of countless treasures – texts, songs, artwork – and one of the primary tasks of the Catholic university is to pass on these gems from one generation to the next.  However, the CIT is not just a thing of the past.  It is “alive” and developing as scholars and artists continually seek to understand and express the eternal truths of the faith in contemporary terms.  Catholic university scholars can thus grow and expand the tradition with our writing, research, and production of art.

My project, “Mission Minute,” involves seeking out professors to share short profiles of famous figures in the CIT with our faculty and staff.  These audio files will also be available online for the public to enjoy.

I am truly blessed to get to do work that I love and that, I hope, realizes my dream of helping to change the world in some small way.

What advice or wisdom do you have for the current students of NDA?

Don’t be afraid to put family first!  Be a rebel! 

Trust that God has a plan for your life and that He can bring a greater good from even the most profound difficulty or disappointment.  After all he brought the best thing – resurrection, salvation, and eternal life – from the very worst thing – the crucifixion.  He surely can breathe new life into whatever challenge life presents us.  As St. Paul says, “We know that all things work for good for those who love God who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

 

 




Congratulations to the Class of 2019! 

Lauren Abner
Kaitlyn Allen
Elizabeth Arlinghaus
Emmy Ayres
Landrie Barnes
Hannah Baute
Theresa Berling
Grace Bernhard
Mariangel Betancourt
Megan Bezold
Carenna Bhola
Molly Boerger
Aalyah Bowman
Alaina Brauer
Morgan Briede
Marah Brooks
Emmaline Browning
Kara Brunot
Lydia Bruns
Jordan Burwick
Clare Butler
Haley Butler
Jenna Cayze
Isabel Rose Coomes
Christina Elizabeth Cornett
Gabrielle Maria Cottingham
Riley Elizabeth Crawford
Maya Patricia Decker
Anissa Renee Dickerson
Emma Elizabeth Donaghy
Katherine A. Donaghy
Lily Mae Dorning
Katherine Marie Draud
Abigail Claire Dressman
Elizabeth Hope Dunaway
Emily Marlene Egbers
Anna Sophia Enzweiler
Margaret June Faller
Onali Kavindi Fernando
Julia Elizabeth Flesch
Ruth Lenore Franzen
Natalie Renee Gerdes
Lillian Alexandra Gibson
Shannon Elizabeth Gormally
Mina Greis
Ashley Shannon Gribben
Paige Nicole Griffin
Ann Elizabeth Gronotte
Ellen Margaret Grosser
Kayla Michelle Grosser
Madeline-Nicole Santos Harmon
Chloe Elaine Hasenkamp
Megan Marie-Chan Heeb
Paige Marie Heimbrock
Imani Socorro Herring
Nicole Elizabeth Heuker
Gloria-Grace Hill
Kennedy Ann Hill
Claudia Leigh Hillmann
Chloe Marie Hilvers
Anna Macke Holt
Emily Ashton House
Isabella Ann Howard
Julia Mae Hughes
Regina Kaur Hundal
Claire Elizabeth Jacob
Claire Anne James
Carissa Mary Jones
Abbey Leigh Kathman
Katherine Grace Kelly
Allison Lee Krallman
Angela Svetla Kyntchev
Georgia Ann Laird
Grace Emily Lawler
Delaney Marie Lewis
Madison Grace Lockhart
Lauren Elizabeth Magary
Sloane Elizabeth Malloy
Olivia Cosette Marita
Sara Margaret Mathew
Fallon Paige McAllister
Madison Cara McCauley
Lea Landrum McIntosh
Celeste Florence McMurtry
Lauren Meese
Hanna Miller
Kaylee Moore
Isabelle Morgan
Liza Muller
Abigail Neltner
Leah Newsom
Abigail Noll
Eleanor O'Hara
Olivia Ossege
Lucy Pastura
Nina Pauly
Abigail Mary Phelps
Noelle Phillips
Elise Piatt
Allison Piccirillo
Lily Pierson
Haley Catherine Planicka
Lauren Elizabeth Quigley
Laney Elizabeth Raab
Danielle Nicole Rennekamp
Anna Pacey Resing
Olivia Ryan
Jenna Schmahl
Caroline Schuh
Katherine Schuh
Rosemary Schuh
Lauren Schutte
Macy Seiter
Jillian Seither
Cosetta Setters
Emma Sheely
Casey Shelton
Andrea Skubak
Elizabeth Smith
Isabella Smith
Jenna Smith
Riley Smith
Sara Smith
Sydney Sparks
Colleen Spellman
Morgan Spivey
Addyson Stansel
Isabel Steffen
Julia Stegman
Marykathleen Hanna Sullivan
Hanna Sweeney
Claire Talkers
Gabrielle Tate
Emily Thaman
Hope Tuke
Kaelyn Veselsky
Olivia Vonderhaar
Brooke Watts
Morgan Weltzer
Samantha Wichmann
Jenna Wigger
Kathryn Williams
Kennedy Zeis
Brooke Ziegler
Sarah Zimmer
Madelyn Zimmerman
Sarah Zimmerman



Katie Borgmann

Class of 2011


My name is Katie Borgmann, an alumna of Notre Dame Academy Class of 2011. After graduating from NDA, I continued my education at the University of Kentucky.  In the time leading up to my college decision, I was unsure of what to choose as my major. It was my mom who suggested Computer Science. Having majored in the subject herself, she knew how rewarding it could be as a profession, and that I loved doing projects on the computer. I particularly enjoyed my graphic design class taught by Mr. Eckerle. I began freshman year pre-med with a major in Computer Science.

            The number one thing I would tell anyone considering a major in computer science: you do not need any prior programming knowledge to be successful. I walked into my first programming class and initially I was intimated. I noticed right away that I was surrounded mainly by men. Men who had probably been programming from a young age. Individuals who spent their weekends building beginner applications, games, and websites. In my naïve mind, they were all the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates and I had never even seen a programming language before. However, my fear and intimidation did not last long. The class started out with the basics and from the moment I made my computer print out the words “Hello, world!” using code I wrote, I was hooked. It was an addicting satisfaction, and after the first semester I dropped “pre-med” and focused on Computer Science.

            I had only just begun to see how cool Computer Science could be. As much as I enjoyed using logic to piece together lines of code, I didn’t want to ignore my love for designing things and utilizing the creative part of my brain. Upon researching Computer Science careers, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it covered a spectrum of different types of positions. I gravitated towards that of Front-End Developer and User Interface designer. From this position I would get to use creativity to design and create the look of an application, while simultaneously using logic to retrieve information from any user’s action.

            Throughout college, I held to two internships. The first was on campus with the University’s IT department. During this internship, I learned how to create my first wireframe, an image that displays the functional elements of a webpage and used as a plan for a site or application’s structure. I was able to better understand how the human brain reacts to different visuals, also known as user experience. The second internship was through Humana. I was able to spend the summer in Louisville, Kentucky and work with other college students as part of small project team. It was here that I also learned my value as a woman in Computer Science. After the summer internship ended, the company’s desire to keep a woman on the team was so strong that they offered me a part time paid internship position for the remainder of the school year. I  was able to work remotely and schedule time around my classes. I would log in from my laptop, take conference calls from my phone and work in my PJ’s.

            During my second internship I was one of the few female developers, a situation that I have become very familiar with. My senior year, I had a class where I was the only girl, and even at my current job, I am one of two female software developers in my department. I find myself empowered by this fact, but at the same time a little disappointed. I know I contribute to diversity, and that I bring a different kind of thinking to projects. I also feel very valued by my company. I love what I do, and I was to encourage more women to join me in the profession. A big part of this is the negative connotation and barriers that surround Computer Science.

            After my freshman year I participated in a summer STEM program that provided a day camp for girls ages 7 to 10. The goal of the camp was to foster young girls love for science and programming through the use of Lego Mindstorm, or programmable robotic Legos, and remind them that it’s not just for the boys. I realized how lucky I was as a kid. I always enjoyed playing with my brother’s Lego collection and was never told that they were “not for girls.” It was also during this time that I truly began to appreciate my high school experience. Although Notre Dame was not offering a programming class at the time, the idea that women can truly make a difference was not lost. During my time in high school I did not fully comprehend how powerful this message was. It unknowingly gave me the confidence to pursue a career that is dominated by men. I never once felt out of place or like I could not do it because I was a woman, and for that I thank NDA, its teachers and all the positive female role models in my life.

            My choice to pursue a career in Computer Science has given me many opportunities. It is the reason I got the chance to move to Colorado, where I currently spend weekends snowboarding, hiking, camping, going to concerts and exploring. My current job at Flatirons Solutions has given me a very flexible schedule where I can work from home when I need to, which I know will help greatly in the future if I decide to start a family. Like most tech companies it is a casual work environment, so my work clothing consists of jeans, t-shirts and sweatshirts. I also get to bring my one-year-old rescue dog, Avery, into the office and have her sit by my desk during the day. Admittedly, she is a little more popular with my coworkers than me. Not only am I developer for my company, but also after just six months I was promoted to “Director of Fun.” Every month I get a new jigsaw puzzle for all the employees to work on together when they need a break from work. I also get to plan Friday get-togethers where we enjoy drinks, snacks and games. Overall, I feel extremely blessed, and I hope that I can in some way inspire more girls to pursue a career in computer science. It ‘s not only fun, but its rewarding. I would love to see more NDA women in the tech world, and maybe one day, work with them side by side.


                                                  


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Judith Bland 

​Class of 1960

After graduating from Notre Dame Academy, I attended college at Thomas More and received a microbiological fellowship at Indiana University. My degree in Biology allowed for many career options and led me to be a professor at the Hamilton College in Upstate New York in the Biology Department. I was given my first position as “Assistant Professor of Biology.” As a professor, I spent my days teaching, doing research, working with students on their research, advising freshmen and sophomores, and serving on college committees. My teaching career did not stop there. Later, I went on to teach and at multiple universities including the University of Washington in Seattle and Indiana University.

In my many professional careers, I have had opportunities to impact the world in multiple areas. Though I’ve never received any significant awards for my research and experiments, there are many experiments I am very proud of. While working with a program at Rutgers University, I was approached by other professors to collaborate on a lab centered around support for compassionate care studies. In short, we developed an antibiotic that would save many people’s lives. Though the antibiotic was not fully approved, I gave the go-ahead to give the antibiotic to patients and the results were amazing! Patients were cured and many lives were saved. It’s an experiment I hold close to my heart.

Some things that I have enjoyed from my career in microbiology were the many experiments I have done throughout my life. As a child, my sister and I worked countless hours trying to fire clay to preserve our creations. In college, one of my favorite experiments was discovering whether in destroying a ​Volvox​ colony the cells would re-associate. As a real scientist, my favorite experiment was when I spent time finding out more about the complex bacterium ​Thiothrix. ​Through this experiment I was able to successfully develop a quick way to show that the postulated motility of one of the stages of this organism was motile. This allowed my professor and I to publish a paper based off these results which I am still proud of.

My personal life has never had a husband or children. I have nieces and nephews and make sure to support their education financially as best as I can. None of them came from families where there was a lot of extra funds available so I am more than happy to help where I can. For two who went on to professional schools, I continued/continue modest support. I fully believe that education is the very best gift that we can give ourselves. It is the gift that makes many, many other things possible.

As for my extended "family," I give regularly to institutions that educate - NDA, Thomas More, Indiana University, the University of Washington. These are places that gave a lot to me and it is time to pay it forward. Almost all are also included in my will. With the help of the IU Foundation, I was able to build up a fund over a few years that has now turned into a modest Fellowship in the name of this professor for a graduate student each year. I am extremely grateful to this program and this fellowship will be enhanced greatly from my will.

I now live in a retirement community, and have been here a year and three-quarters. I quickly found that a number of residents are just plain lonely. Being personal with a smile, some conversation and some help can mean a lot. And I also find that some residents are reluctant to speak up for themselves. I enjoy being an advocate for all of the residents. I have spoken up in individual situations and am also now serving on our Resident Council. I am using my background in microbiology and science to provide health tips where I can. I have also formed a Fire Safety Committee to address some of those issues for the building. One accomplishment I am proud of so far is the installation of a new automated phone system that will soon be in place to provide further information when the fire alarm goes off or for other news the management want to quickly communicate. My Committee and I are now working on a viable plan for fire drills. These are not simple for old folks that use canes, walkers, etc. I am very excited to make a difference in my community in any way I can.

My advice:

Take your education very seriously because you want it. At some point in the future you will highly value all of the educational experiences of your life. The second message is that at some point in your life, you have decide what you think is important. As an adult, you are not going to have someone there telling you how you should live your life. At some point in time, you have to live your life by one’s own beliefs instead of just living to please others.



Katie Raverty-Evans 

Class of 2003 

I was fifteen years old. A sophomore at Notre Dame Academy, when I had a conversation with my father, which is still powerful and resonates with me today. We had just finished attending Saturday evening Mass at Immaculate Heart of Mary and were walking to the car when my father asked me, “Katie, do you think we take enough risks in life?” Looking at him peculiarly, I answered, “I think so…”not knowing what the correct answer was. On the one hand, we are taught that not taking risks are associated with security, comfort, and lack of failure. However; on the other hand, taking risks can lead to growth, truth, fulfillment, and ultimate passion in one’s life. My father smiled at me and responded, “Remember, we can either choose to sit on the sidelines and watch life pass us by, or get out of our comfort zones and live!”

            I am a graduate of Thomas More College, where I received a BA in Communications and two Associate degrees in Business Administration and Fine Arts. After graduation, my career launched into Cincinnati’s Design Industry where I worked at world-class branding firms where I was reasonable for managing international projects to ensure creative work accomplished business objectives for clients such as Proctor & Gamble, Kroger, Sara Lee, Abbott, & Maker’s Mark. 

After six years within this dazzling “Mad Men” industry, I took a huge career risk; my career was not fulfilling my wants and needs of effecting change, making a difference and feeding my passion for family and community. Often, I was stuck in my cubicle or a conference room, working twelve-hour days, and not able to have a life outside of work. My weekends were often chances for me to rest and recoup for another long week of conference calls, emails, and excel spreadsheets.

Then on a “random” Tuesday, my college sweetheart proposed to me after ten years together. It became evident that my current job/career was not going to fit the life I wanted for my family. On a Monday in December, in 2011, I left my “impressive international job,” and by the end of the week, accepted a position in the wild and wonderful world of the Waste and Recycling Industry for Best Way Disposal. Glamorous …right?

It has been almost seven years, since I started my new career path as the Government Affairs Manager for Best Way Disposal where I am responsible for critical activities associated with achieving the company’s goal of developing and growing Best Way Disposal’s Northern Kentucky Division. Additionally, I am active in the National Waste & Recycling Association by sitting on the NWRA PAC Board of Directors, Women’s Council Professional Development Chair, and the Kentucky NWRA Chapter’s Legislative Committee. Recently, I successful assisted with leading the passage of two significant bills for our industry and the safety of our waste and recycling drivers: HB144, Hauler Displacement Support and HB119, Slow Down to Get Around.

The waste & recycling industry can be very rewarding if you can look pass the stereotypical perception that historically follows it. The most enjoyable aspect of my career is being able to work with other waste & recycling professionals to change the perspective of the waste industry and to solve some of the most significant problems that plague us. This is a tight-knit industry, which in return makes it so much fun!


    My college sweetheart, Steve, and I reside in Burlington, Kentucky. My sweet daughter, Grace Emily (almost two years old) reminds me every day is a new day and that God truly works miracles. Steve is a Detective at the Boone County Sherriff Department. He is an amazing father to our daughter. I am passionately involved in the Greater Cincinnati community by sitting on the Diocese of Covington Catholic Charities Board of Directors, New Day NKY’s Board of Directors, and Youth Chair for the Boone County (KY) Republican Party. In addition, I was honored to be a part of the inaugurated Roebling Society Class for the Metropolitan Club. Finally, I am a member of the Raising Blue family, a non-profit organization that is committed to supporting bereavement families who experience having a stillborn. My husband and I were the first family that received their gifts of being understand, empowered, and loved when our son Michael past in October 2013.

Final Thought
    Recently, I was interviewed for a local magazine article, I was asked, “How do you define success?” Success for me is a state of mind where I feel the exhilaration of knowing that I make a difference, doing what I love to do daily, and having the ability to continue to grow my passion. The most important part of success is confidently knowing when to take risks without fear or anticipating reward. Be open to opportunities. Life is not a guarantee, and sometimes you need to take a step back to move forward, whether it is in position or salary. However, if you believe in the value you can add, YOU create your success. Ladies, please, remember to take RISKS.

 

 



Sister Marla Monahan

Class of 1967

My name is Sister Marla Monahan and I joined the Sisters of Notre Dame (SND) after graduating from Notre Dame Academy in 1967.

I took art lessons from Sister Mary Reina while I was in grade school and she was the reason I decided to attend Notre Dame Academy (I also knew NDA had a reputation for discipline and I knew I needed it).  

I attended Thomas More College and received a degree in Mathematics and Secondary Education. Sister Mary Rachel had been my math teacher at NDA and she inspired me in my love for math.

I taught math and religion at NDA and Bishop Brossart High School and later served as a counselor and campus minister at NDA.  I also taught a Social Concerns class to seniors.  I loved this class because it was an elective, which combined service with issues of social justice.  During this time I went on for further mathematics education and theological studies.

In 2005, the Sisters of Notre Dame appointed me to serve as the Provincial for our Covington province of approximately 100 sisters.  During this time we wanted to expand our ministries in Covington.  In 2009 we established Notre Dame Urban Education Center (NDUEC) on East 8thStreet to serve children and families in after-school education programs because we knew that education was an important way to break the cycle of poverty.  I know many high school students volunteer at NDUEC including NDA girls.  We chose the name on purpose for NDUEC to show our connection with NDA, which also had its beginnings in Covington.

In 1995 our Covington and California provinces started a mission in Uganda, East Africa.  St. Julie elementary school and Notre Dame Academy secondary school are located in a very remote area of Uganda and serve children who often live in extreme economic poverty.  I was able to travel to Uganda each year when I was provincial to support and encourage our missionary sisters and to help with planning for the future.

During my 9 years in leadership I was also blessed to attend several international SND meetings in countries where the SND’s serve including Indonesia, Korea, Germany, Italy, and The Netherlands.

Early in my teaching career at NDA we had a “Run for Fun” Race event during a physical fitness week. There were five relay teams, one for each grade level and one for the faculty.  There were four people on each team in the one-mile relay.  I was the last to run on our team, and the faculty team came in last.  A newspaper reporter was there and took my picture crossing the finish line (at that time I had on a habit and a veil).  The photo was sent out over the AP wires and I got mail from all over the world (because the caption under the photo identified Notre Dame Academy in Covington, KY).  Someone sent me the photo from a German newspaper and it had been translated, “Fastest Nun in the World!”  My students were upset that their picture hadn’t made the paper and I told them to join the convent and see the world.  I didn’t know how true that would be for my future.

Since I was a student at NDA, I realized that I only had one life to live, and I wanted my life to make a difference in the world.  I think the difference I have made has been in very ordinary ways… in the love I have shared with my family, friends, community and all the people I have been privileged to meet and to serve.  I think it mostly happens by the kindness and compassion we are able to share with others, especially those who may be hurting or suffering.

Some final thoughts I would like to share with our NDA students… I hope you continue to discover your true vocation and do it.  The theologian Frederick Buechner has this definition of vocation, “Where our passion meets the world’s need.”  There is a poem by Mary Oliver called The Summer Dayand it ends with the words, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

May you know how blessed you are, may you know God’s unconditional love for you, and when you make mistakes or “miss the mark” may you know you have already been forgiven, learn from the mistakes, and go on.

     



Emily Brunemann Klueh

Class of 2005

Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”  Through my experiences, I learned that life is about a desire to continue learning about yourself, those around you, as well as striving for improvement.  Notre Dame Academy gave me the foundation needed to constantly strive for something better and to put others first.   After graduating from NDA, I was afforded the opportunity to further my education and swim at the University of Michigan on scholarship.  The academics were rigorous, more so than expected, and my career as an athlete was a series of up and downs, obstacles that would have caused many to quite, instead was the source of my strength and enabled my passions to grow deeper.

Swimming had been a part of my life for over 23 years.  Through those 23 years, I became a NCAA champion in the 1650 freestyle, Big Ten Swimmer of the Year, a 5-time NCAA American, and the former Michigan and Big Ten record holder in the 500, 1000, and 1650-yard freestyle events.  I was able to travel the world competing for the United States in 14 different countries, was a member of the US National Team for 10 years and competed at World Championships twice, the Pan Pacific Championships, the Pan American Games, and the World University Games.  Ultimately becoming the first American to win the FINA World Cup Circuit in the 10k event.  

I have incredibly fond memories from each race I was able to compete in, from the relationships formed, to winning, to even swimming with a sea lion.  My swimming career was not all successes.  I missed making the Olympic Team twice in a two-hour race by roughly four seconds.  I had my career almost ended and taken away.  The pressure I endured to constantly perform, the time commitments required to be an elite athlete, and pain mentally and physically I would put myself through were incredible.   Through these adverse situations I was able to learn to pick myself up and continue to push forward, learning that hard work pays off and stumbles are part of the process, that things are not handed on a silver platter, and the relationships forged are the true memories that last.  The lessons will stay with me the rest of my life, friends who will remain by my side from all over the world, and meeting my husband through the sport are things that are irreplaceable. 

After graduating from Michigan with my undergrad degree in Psychology.  I ended up taking four years away from furthering my education to focus on my swimming career.  When I knew my swimming career was coming to an end, I applied and was accepted to the University of Michigan School of Social Work.  My time in the school of social work furthered my passion for helping others.  I was able to work in the Athletic Department at Michigan as part of my internship.  I was driven to support those who felt they couldn’t ask for help due to the nature of athletes, that ‘tough it out mentality’.  

I graduated in December of 2016 and have since been hired full time in the athletic department.   Currently, I am a Clinical Mental Health Athletic Counselor as well as Program Coordinator for Athletes Connected within the Performance Psychology Athletic Counseling unit in the University of Michigan Athletic Department.  Within this dual role, I provide direct clinical care using evidence based practices and meeting student athletes where they are with their mental health.  I have been able to work on projects that have a direct impact in the lives of the student athletes for example the Messages of Hope board.  A board created to promote community and provide positive expressions to those who may be struggling with thoughts of suicide or feeling down.  Athletes Connected is a program created to destigmatize mental health and encourage the students to reaching out for help.  Letting people know they are not alone, we care, we support them, and ultimately to be the best student and athlete you have the be the best you first.  

To the NDA Students:

I am a firm believer in everything happens for a reason.  We do not always know what that reason is at that time.  It may take years before we truly understand but trusting in the process and trusting yourself is key in continuing to pick yourself up and keep pushing.  Also, don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot accomplish something as you are in control of your life, the decisions you make, and the effort you put in.  If I allowed those who did not think I could achieve influence me I would not be where I am today.  I wish you all the best as you continue on your journey.

Forever and Always Go Pandas!

    

  




Anna Marie Evans 

(Sister Mary Charlanne)

Class of 1949


Dear Notre Dame Academy Advancement and Alumni Relations Office and Community,

I find myself today lost in reflection, in prayer, and in memory.  It was only last night when my brother Bob sent me the obituary notice telling me that I had lost my beloved Anna Marie Evans, my dear Sister Mary Charlanne.  I know—and she knows—that if I could have, I would have jumped into the car and driven from Chicago to honor her at her Mass of Remembrance today.  I love her—loved her—that much.  Unfortunately, I am recovering from surgery and am not able to travel.

Her loss comes as a bit of a surprise, for I had just spoken to her the Saturday before New Year’s.  I called to see if she wanted visitors before my husband and I left Cincinnati after my annual post-Christmas family gathering.  She said that she was not feeling well, and could not keep anything down, so was not up for one.  I added that I could not afford to get sick and have to cancel my Tuesday surgery date.  We caught up, but soon ended our call with my saying, “You know I love you” and her saying the same.  Little did I know this would be our last exchange.  Glad am I that I said these very words to her, for these words speak truth.

Anna Marie was the one who championed my nomination for NDA’s Women Making a Difference.  (And whenever Anna Marie set her mind to something, she never let go!)  While certainly honored, I note that there is great irony in my selection, because outside my family, Anna Marie Evans was the woman who made the most difference in my life.  It is no exaggeration to say that she singlehandedly changed the entire direction of my young self and my future.  It was she who first called on this terribly backward and shy young girl in English class.  Sister was trying to recruit in her freshman classes for a speech tournament for junior high students.  After explaining all of the various events, she boldly stated, “If no one volunteers, I will have to draft people…Are there any questions?”  I actually raised my hand—my first time ever doing so up to that point.  Oh, I never spoke in class unless the nuns called on me.  She looked surprised and said, “Yes, Pat?”  (I did not even have the courage let the nuns know that this “Patricia” went by “Patty” and not by “Pat” when they first called my name from their class rosters.)  I then timidly whispered, “Sister, if we get drafted and do not want to go, can we burn our draft cards?”  Keep in mind:  this was in the fall of 1967, the height of the Vietnam War protests.  She stood there shocked—oh, not at what I had said, but that I said anything at all.  She soon burst out in her hearty laughter, repeated my words for the entire class to hear, who also laughed out loud.  She told me years later, “I did not know that you could even speak, let alone have a sense of humor.”  That very moment marked my turning point.  Sister recruited me for the humorous interpretation competition for the National Forensic League team, which led to dramatic interpretation, and eventually to our founding of NDA’s chapter of the International Thespian Society.  (Its existence today at NDA gives me such quiet joy and satisfaction.) None of this would have happened without Sister Mary Charlanne.  

She was my second mother—and more.  She was my gateway to a wider world beyond the comforts of home.  At times I think I saw her more than I did my own mother, and spent more time in her classroom after school than I did in my own bedroom.  The hours of driving across the state to speech tournaments were great and joyful adventures, with her and with other marvelous women on this team.  

Those adventures took Sister and me all the way to Stanford University for the NFL’s National Tournament.  It was the first trip to California either of us had made.  And it was the first time this convent-bred woman, housed on the campus in a men’s dormitory for the tournament, had ever seen some rather, how shall I say, mundane sights.  When asked how she enjoyed her dorm room, she announced to the Kentucky delegation’s competitors and coaches at breakfast that she had to rise before dawn to shower before others got up and saw her, and that she found “the footbaths in the lavatories interesting.”  After all the polite silence and awkward looks around us at the table, I was the one that had to tell her what these “footbaths” really were.  It was a spectacular, magical trip, including a drive to the solemn majesty of Muir Woods and its cathedral of the great redwoods.  I also remember how the flower vendors in San Francisco would come up to her on the street and hand her fresh bouquets, a thank-you gesture I learned from one for what the nuns had done in the recovery during the great earthquake there.  They were honoring the sacrifice and gift that these women who chose this life of service were to the world.

My four years of high school were a time of great change, in myself, at NDA and in the world.  I was not the only one who changed then, for Sister did too.  At the start of my freshman year she was dressed in full habit—a wimple that tightly surrounded her face with starched white ruffles, a floor-length black dress, and a loud, clicking, gigantic rosary that hung over her roped belt.  One day out of the blue she and the rest of the nuns showed up for school in brand new garb, leaving us girls all thunderstruck.  Our Sisters actually had hair, a wide band of which showed now at the front of a simple wimple, and legs that now appeared beneath their modest below-the-knees skirts.  They were the living embodiment of the whole post-Vatican II era that our evolving Catholic Church was undertaking at that pivotal time in history.  

Sister and I kept in touch after my graduation, and I remember around the time of my college graduation in 1975 when she told me that she too was graduating of sorts.  She was leaving the convent, the only life she had known since she was a teenager, for she was no longer content to have her choices directed by someone else rather than herself—an echo of what my own generation of women were experiencing in the nascent women’s movement.  She may have left the convent, but she neither left her faith nor the faithful sisterhood forged with kindred spirits at NDA.  They were more than sisters, and devoted to each other until the end of their days.  

She never had children, but she gave birth to me, and undoubtedly many others. She was a midwife for ours minds, confidence and creativity.  Her unbroken devotion to my success and growth over almost 50 years of knowing her was unparalleled.  Her belief in my potential never waned.  She was the one who first uttered the words, “Patty, you need to study theater in college, and you need to do that at Northwestern University.”  It was Sister who quelled my nervous parents about this college that they had never heard of, located in a big city they did not know.  Their fears were that if I went to this college I would never come back home. 

I guess they were right, for I never moved back to Greater Cincinnati, but Sister was right that I needed to be in this great, diverse city where I have made my personal, spiritual and professional home ever since.  It was here that I met my husband, a Jew, and it was at our wedding that Anna Marie embraced me, and said how proud she was of my Hebrew when I said The Sh’ma in our ceremony.  Then she added, “Did you ever know that my father was Jewish?”  We cried together in that moment, and she hugged my new husband with an affection and acceptance that welcomed him into her expansive heart, and vice versa.  She cheered us on with maternal pride when we started our Catholic-Jewish Sunday School almost 25 years ago, and smiled at this interfaith couple’s Christmas plays for children written for Old St Patrick’s Church over the past two decades. 

And in so many ways, my adult life echoed hers and built on the seeds she planted in my soul:  I taught high school English and Theater, yet left that for a few years to become the professional actor she hoped I would be, but then returned to teaching at an art high school to support my acting.  There I found that I could also guide high schoolers onto college and became a school counselor, encouraging others to take their flights like she did for me.  Last December, I took my two children and their significant others to meet her at home at St. Charles, a visit we will long hold in our hearts.  My daughter, Kelly Anna—yes, named after her—knowing that she would not have been born without my move to Chicago, asked, “What made you send my mother to Northwestern?”  Anna Marie replied, “I just saw something special in her.”  May we all find that person in our lives and never let them down.

So at this end of her earthly days, I not only replay the many funny and happy memories of her, but I also contemplate the word “contribution.”  Yes, we will make a financial one to Notre Dame in her name, as she has requested, but I believe that there is more contribution that she would want me to do in her honor: to teach and to leave something behind.  I recall that she would ask us in English class to look at the Latin roots of words.  So I reflected on “contribuere”—“to bring together, to add.”  What can I do—can we do—that will bring things, ideas, and people together, thus adding to a better life and building a better world?  What lessons did she leave behind with me, those lessons that I wish I could have passed on to that shy “Pat” back in 1968 or would today to any high school freshman?  Here are my modest thoughts:

First, find your voice.  Even when you think it has no power, no resonance, it is there. People actually do want to hear what you have to say.  And it really does have strength to move people toward change.  Listen to and for that still, small voice within you, for there you can find God, the ultimate source of creation and love.

Next, pay attention.  It is the meaning of first word of that Hebrew prayer that I said at my wedding—Sh’ma.  Listen!  Hear!  Pay attention!  Turn down all the noise and the distractions.  Look around you—no, really look around you, even if just for a while.  Do not be content with some quick surface glance, but take concerted time to dig deeper for the truths and gems that lie beneath.  

Reach out beyond yourself.  Staying alone and locked in a cave, like Elijah, is not the way to be a prophet, to make a contribution, to add something of meaning, or to bring people together.  Look about you: in your classes at NDA, at your peers, at neighbors, at family and friends, and seek companionship and community, for they are the oxygen for the soul.  But do not overlook your teachers or elders, and dismiss them as separate, beyond you, and somehow not worthy of your time, for they are.  They are neither invisible nor irrelevant.  They can shape your life.  Tap into their wisdom, for in that wealth you will learn how to grow.

Find community–at least one, but hopefully many— and then get engaged. Remain loyal to it.  Forge connections.  You will need these people to sustain you in bad times, to celebrate in good times, and mark your passage over the years.  Give back to those who are younger, and uphold those who journey before you and beside you.  That is what “church” at its essential roots is all about.

Become like Mary, a simple woman who simply said, “Yes,” and then in doing so give birth to something new, unknown and life changing in this world.  Get started now.  Your time is short.  Make this time on earth worth it and well-spent.

Lastly, tell your story, and listen well to other stories that come from all across this beautiful wide world.  Anna Marie Evans loved telling stories, in class, on the stage and in her life.  We all should love stories too.  They are the pearls of truths and keys into the human spirit. Stories also bring us together to listen and to share, and as such are the keys to the Kingdom on Earth.

Anna Marie Evans, you were one grand woman!  I will miss you, but you will never be far from my mind or my prayers.  May the memories of the righteous be a blessing.  Amen.

Sincerely,

Patty Rust Kovacs

 NDA Class of 1971


Karly Schmidt

Class of 2012

On the morning of June 6, 2017 I got to save a life. I’m studying to be a nurse, so I hope I’ll be able to save many more lives, but this one was special.

That’s because this particular life I was able to save was a little boy named Logan.

Logan is a 7-year-old boy who was diagnosed with PKD (polycystic kidney disease) when he was only 2. There’s currently no cure for PKD, but Logan was able to manage his disease with a lot of medications until this past year when his kidney function dropped significantly and it became obvious he needed a kidney transplant.

When I first heard Logan needed a transplant I didn’t immediately volunteer to be his donor. My parents are friends with his parents, so I knew of Logan but I had never actually met him. I thought surely there must be a better candidate for him, a family member or a close friend. But as potential donors kept being marked off the list, I thought, “Why not get tested?” My dad had previously donated a kidney to one of his friends, so I had a vague idea of what a transplant entails. I had my parents reach out to his and told them to add me to the list; the least I could do would be to see if I was a match. As it turned out, I was.

With each round of donor tests I passed, and the more I hung out with Logan, the more I knew I was doing what I was being called to do. I prayed every night that Logan would find a donor, but also, “Pretty please, I would like for it to be me.” Just as I was getting to know Logan, I knew that this was my way of truly being a woman making a difference. And to Logan and his parents, I know I’ve made the world of a difference. Now, only 3 months after his transplant, Logan is thriving with 100% kidney function, something he hasn’t had in 3 years, and is excited to start 2nd grade.

When I was a student at NDA, I never imagined I would be featured as a woman making a difference. I saw all of these women who had such high aspirations, who were doing bigger and better things in Uganda and Central America. Women who could use their special talents to make a difference. I didn’t think I had any special talent or big ideas to help people, I was just a normal high school girl who wanted to help others but just didn’t know how. Now I know that each and every high school girl can make a difference. It doesn’t matter if that difference is big or small, every one of you has the ability to change lives.

Whether that’s in your future profession, mission work, or just the willingness to put a little boy’s needs ahead of your own.  

                           

Adrienne Boschert Vannarsdall

Class of 2000

After graduating from NDA in 2000, I went on to Northern Kentucky University. I graduated with a Bachelors in Accounting in 2004, and with a Masters of Accountancy in 2005. During that time I was crowned Miss Kentucky Hawaiian Tropic, and went on to compete in the national pageant in Hawaii.

After graduating I moved to Indianapolis to work for Ernst & Young, a Big Four accounting firm, where I served as a Senior Auditor.  A few years later I moved back to Northern KY and began working with River Cities Capital Funds.  River Cities is a Venture Capital firm and a leading investor in Cincinnati.  I have now been with River Cities for almost 10 years, and serve as their CFO. I oversees their Accounting and Finance departments, I am the head of HR and sit on the Investment Committee.  

I am very active in the community and serve on the Executive Board of Directors for I Have Wings, and on the Junior Board of the Children’s Home of Northern Kentucky.  I was selected for the Cincinnati Business Courier’s Forty Under 40 Class of 2017.

I  currently reside in Northern KY with my husband Colt and our three beautiful boys, ages 5, 3 and two months.

My advice:

Ladies, as you take on this world, remember to DREAM BIG!  You’d be amazed at what you can accomplish when you step outside of your comfort zone.  You are stronger than you know!  Surround yourself with individuals who are smarter and more experienced than you, they will help you grow.  Always be willing to turn around and help the next person succeed.



Lori Mai Eifert

Class of 1981

My name is Lori Eifert, and I graduated from NDA in June 1981.  I was a co-op my senior year at South Gate Federal Savings & Loan, where I continued to work until several months after I graduated from high school.  Then I was a legal secretary for Deters, Benzinger & LaVelle for several years, before I went to work in Cincinnati at Bartlett & Co., an Investment Advisory Firm.

During this time, I met the love of my life, Clay Eifert.  We married in June 1986 at Holy Cross Church in Latonia.  We both love children, and attempted to try to start a family.  After several years of trying, we decided to look into adoption.  We adopted our daughter, Ashley, in July 1992.  Later in November 1997, we adopted our son, Robert.  We were fortunate to adopt them both at birth.  We waited so long to have our family that we decided I would quit my job at the advisory firm to be a stay-at-home mom.  

When Robert was 3 years old we sent him to preschool at James E. Biggs Early Childhood in Covington.  I absolutely fell in love with the place.  I began to volunteer so much that they offered me a job.  I began employment with Covington Independent Public Schools in December 2004 in the Family Resource Center as an advocate.  It was the perfect job!  I was able to help families with food, clothing, shelter, and employment.  It became a passion for me to work with these families, and making a small difference in their lives.  In 2008, I was promoted to the Project Home/McKinney-Vento Homeless Education Coordinator position.  I was doing some of the same work that I did on a smaller scale at the preschool program; however, now I was doing it for all of our schools.  My office is located at the Board of Education.  My job is to ensure that the children and youth, ages 3 – 24, who are experiencing homelessness get to school so they can be academically stable.  I remove any barriers that can keep them from attending and succeeding.  Last year I worked with 684 students that fell within the guidelines of this program.  Many are living doubled up with family and friends, living in shelters, uninhabitable places such as cars and parks, and unaccompanied or undocumented youth couch surfing.  This last year the District asked me to start working with our foster care students, so now I am also the Foster Care Point of Contact.

After working with the students who are living in transition, I knew that education would be their only way out of their circumstances.  I began to encourage all my students to further their education, but when they asked where I went to college I fell silent.  How could I preach something that I did not do myself?  I only had a high school diploma, so how could I expect them to make education a priority?   I knew I had to make a change.  In May 2012, I decided to enroll in Thomas More College’s Accelerated Program.  I graduated in December 2015 cum laude with a Bachelor of Business Administration, and a concentration in Business Management and Human Resources Management.  

My final thoughts for students of NDA would be this: Faith, Family and Education

Live the Gospel empowered by Mary, and serve the less fortunate.  We have been blessed to receive an education from Notre Dame Academy.  You may not realize it now, but it speaks volumes when you are out in the community talking to people or sharing it on a resume.  Be proud to be an NDA student, and give back to your community.  

My husband has been battling cancer for seven years, and is now in his last year with Stage IV Melanoma cancer.  It puts life in perspective when you do now how long you have with a love one.  If it was not for my faith, I am unsure I would be strong enough to be before you today.  Cherish your family and your friends.  Be aware of their kindness and thank them for being there for you.  Recognize the little things around you, and be kind to others.  It could be as simple as sitting next to someone different at lunch that looked alone.  You never know when it will be the last time you get this opportunity.

Lastly, I often tell my students, “You can lose your car, your home, and all your belongings, but no one can ever take away your education.”  School is what you make of it, and education opens so many doors for you.  Every time you pass up an opportunity to learn, you are closing a door on your future.  


God bless.






Kristen Collett-Schmitt

Class of 1999

Welcome to the 2017-2018 academic year, Pandas! It is exciting to think about all that is in store for you this year at NDA!

I left Northern Kentucky in 1999, when I graduated from Notre Dame Academy to start my college career at Bellarmine University in Louisville, Kentucky. I studied economics and sociology, and planned to attend law school for most of my four years at Bellarmine. I was a member of and captain for our nationally-ranked mock trial team (where I put my Speech and Drama Team skills from NDA into action!) and the founder of our Pre-Law Society. But as my senior year approached, I realized there was something unfulfilling about the law career I envisioned. With just one year of classes left at Bellarmine, I quickly declared a math minor and then spent my entire Christmas break applying to PhD programs in economics. On graduation day, I still hadn’t received an acceptance letter to a program because I had applied so late. But a few months later, I finally found myself on solid footing and even farther away from home - enrolled on full scholarship with a teaching assistantship at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, North Carolina.

In my first year of graduate school, I was assigned to teach an undergraduate course in principles of microeconomics. I got lost on the giant campus on my very first day and was late for the class, not to mention I had first-day jitters and zero teaching experience. When I finally reached the classroom with only 15 minutes left to spare, I felt so overwhelmed I threw up in the grass right outside the building. The fact that I survived that day, and kept coming back for more, meant I had found my passion. Five years later, with a Masters of Economics and PhD in economics in hand, I began my academic career at another Notre Dame – the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana. I am now entering my 10th academic year as a teaching professor in the #2 business school in the nation. I teach microeconomics to undergraduate and graduate students – I even taught a fellow Panda in 2010! I also conduct research in law and economics and economics education. My current work applies how adults learn and remember to the field of economics, where teaching well generally isn’t a focus. I experiment with how to maintain attention span in the classroom, develop new and innovative teaching and assessment methods, and explore real-world applications of economics. I believe that better experiences inside the classroom will encourage students to use more economics outside the classroom. I have also deepened my passion for economics as a volunteer for Junior Achievement of Northern Indiana and as the faculty advisor for the Notre Dame student organization, Moneythink. Moneythink sends college students into local high schools to teach financial literacy, using knowledge and education to boost the economic prosperity of our nation.

With so many mentors and significant support along the way, I’ve been largely successful as an educator. While at Notre Dame, I’ve earned 7 outstanding teaching awards, was recently named to the Poets & Quants list of Top 40 Undergraduate Business Professors, and am a member of Michiana’s 2017 Class of Forty Under 40.  But the joy of my life is definitely my family. In 2006, I married my high school sweetheart, who graduated from Covington Catholic in 1999. We were blessed with twin daughters in 2010. While 33 weeks pregnant with Harper and Mackenzie, we sadly found out that Mackenzie had passed away in utero and that Harper would be born prematurely. Losing a daughter and watching her identical twin slowly grow from a tiny four-pounder was the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure in my life.

Over time, I found that giving back to others was the best way to ease my pain and grief. My family started by volunteering with the March of Dimes, and then ultimately founded our own nonprofit organization, “Wishes for Preemies.” Our mission is to provide necessities to preemies and their families, but we specifically focus on preemie clothes. My husband and I vividly remember the day when we were told by NICU nurses that our daughter was finally able to wear real clothing. The clothing had to both accommodate her wires and hospital monitors and fit her tiny body. It wasn’t an easy task. “Wishes for Preemies” works to guarantee that families never feel that type of inadequacy while in the NICU. I also write openly about the experience of losing a child to help other families, with stories appearing in publications of the University of Notre Dame and the New York Times. Along the way, we have been incredibly fortunate to have the support of other NICU families in Northern Indiana, my colleagues at the University of Notre Dame, and family and friends in Northern Kentucky – and I am honored that many of them are Pandas!

My advice to you in this new academic year is to remember that your success in life is not predetermined. Henry Ford once said, “If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right.” This life is what you make of it. As my story shows, learning and progress will be and should be hard. Failure is a natural part of the process. But if you surround yourself with the right people, let both intuition and passion be your guide, and always think “you can,” you will be just fine.

I hope to see more Pandas in my classroom at the “other Notre Dame” in the future!

Have a great year!