Friday, October 30, 2009

Irish Friday Face

Every Friday, I'm going to feature a different well-known person on campus so you can get to know the "who's who" of Notre Dame.

I'm starting off this week with Jess Shaffer. Jess is editor of the Scene section of The Observer, president of Farley Hall, PLS major, and a wonderful friend. Here is what she has to say.

Your full name: Jessica Lindsay Shaffer

Major: Program of Liberal Studies, Spanish

Dorm: Farley Hall

Hometown: Washington, DC

Job description: Drinking coffee in Waddicks when not on the second floor of O'Shag; writing, editing, holding meetings and making layouts at The Observer, where I'm the Scene Editor; working for the Finest girls on campus in more meetings and campus events for my role as Farley Hall President; giving my opinion as a Student Advisory Committee member for Program of Liberal Studies; research assisting for my favorite professor; spending way too much time on my gmail; enjoying good food, good coffee, and good friends in my free time, and much much more....
What is your favorite place on campus? The world room in Hurley.

What is your dream for your life after college? I'm scared to admit that I might actually have a big plan post graduation, but my dream is to be travel writer, preferably working with Rick Steves or for a travel magazine. Eventually I'd like to have my own travel book, with all my own writing, research, and photographs.
Who is your hero? My mom and my grandparents.

Favorite place to travel? Today...the Mediterranean, particularly Italy. It changes constantly though, and I feel a craving for a croissant coming on so Paris may be next...

What do you think is the world's biggest problem? Close-mindedness.
What is something you struggle with? Having enough time in the day is a huge challenge. More importantly, making good use of that time and living every day to the absolute fullest is on my mind a lot.

What makes you laugh? My friends. Sarcasm and irony. Arrested Development.

Favorite and least favorite thing about being a Notre Dame student? The best part of being at Notre Dame is living with and learning from such amazing people, who are truly passionate. The worst thing is that I can only stay four years, and not having enough time to explore all my academic interests.

One word that describes you? Heliocentric. In the Platonic, environmental, spiritual, metaphysical, and intellectual sense of the word. I guess astronomically too.

Thanks Jess!

Close Encounters of the Notre Dame Kind

I love spontaneously running into Notre Dame people at non-ND events, and over fall break last week, I hit a record number:

5 different groups of Domers in Chicago in two days.

It started at Giordano’s, home to Chicago’s most delicious pizza. If you don’t like Chicago-style pizza… you’ve never tasted Giordano’s. My sister and I were meeting some friends there for lunch and as we walked into the restaurant, a group of college students stood in front of us waiting to be seated. Some of them looked suspiciously familiar.

They looked at us. We looked at them. My sister and one of the girls blurted out, “Do you go to Notre Dame?” Of course, we all did.

Notre Dame encounters of the week: 1.

We had lunch with our friends- a different group of students, bringing our count of Notre Dame encounters up to 2.

Later that week, we went to The Art Institute of Chicago. Did you know that the Art Institute is free from 5 to 8 pm every Thursday? And boy, is it the place to meet people. It seemed like half the city of Chicago was there, including practically every college student.

The Notre Dame encounters came thick and fast:

The line to get in to the Art Institute stretched down the block. I was pleasantly surprised when I ran into my friend Katie and her boyfriend in line. Encounter 3.

In the room with all the Degas paintings, I ran into my music professor, whose parents were visiting from Italy and enjoying the art. Encounter 4.

And in the Ancient European Art wing, I saw my friends Kelly and Octavia. Encounter 5.

Why were there so many Notre Dame students in Chicago and especially at the Art Institute? I’ve run into Domers in some pretty ridiculous places. Once I was at the Princeton Junction train station and the girl sitting next to me recognized my Badin sweatshirt. She had just graduated from Notre Dame in ’09.

In April I was in Rome and I spotted Notre Dame students in the middle of St. Peter’s Square and on the Roman train. Finally, I was in line for Holy Thursday Mass with Pope Benedict and I struck up a conversation with the older woman in front of me. It turned out that she was a graduate of St. Mary’s College.

I’ve found the Notre Dame connection literally everywhere I’ve traveled and in the most unlikely places. What crazy Notre Dame encounters have you had?

Monday, October 19, 2009


This was probably the most suspenseful second of my life so far.

How did you feel at the end of the game?

I was happy we put up such a good fight towards the end there. If only we had played like that the whole game, if only we had made that field goal and just one touchdown more... but mostly I'm just proud of how our team played.

My friends and I were really excited for the game. We painted our faces.

I felt like Braveheart.

The student section was going crazy. It was absolutely packed (no one missed this game!) and we cheered ourselves hoarse until the very end.

Yes, the final second was painful. My friend Becky said, only half-joking, "Don't mind me, I've only just had my heart broken." Despite the heartbreaking finish, it was probably one of the most exciting games I've seen.

It was quite an emotional roller-coaster, but I sure enjoyed watching it.

Where did you watch the game? How did you feel afterwards?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Luck of the Irish

One of the first things I heard about Notre Dame social life is, “Notre Dame’s party scene is lame.” This may be one of the most-repeated mantras.
Compared to a lot of state schools and so-called “party schools,” yes, Notre Dame has a “lame” party scene. We don’t have streets of sticky-floored college bars open to anyone over age 19. We don’t have rows of frat houses serving jungle juice and offering free fake IDs to cute girls.
Here’s what we have instead:

Thursday night, a group of PLS majors cooked dinner together at my friend Adam’s house. We made pumpkin soup; a salad of corn, tomato and avocado on lettuce; pork tenderloin; mashed potatoes with herb butter; and apple pie with vanilla ice cream.

I was so proud of our culinary triumph.
After dinner we watched Casablanca, one of my favorite movies. Then we sat around and talked for hours.
Now don’t think that we always act so grown-up. We are college kids, after all, and this is Notre Dame, home to some fun-loving Irish Catholics. Friday night, for example, I’m going to a dorm-party rave. The theme, fittingly, is “Green Out” and everyone is encouraged to wear green for Irish luck. And I hope that the luck of the Irish is indeed with us against USC Saturday.
In the meantime, who cares if our party scene is comparatively “lame?” It’s still a whole lot of fun. Maybe that’s the real luck of the Irish- we’re not a state school, but we still know how to have a very, very good time.
What did you do for fun as a student? What were parties like when you were a student?

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Let's Make Like Odysseus and Destroy Troy

Raise your hand if you’re watching the USC game this weekend. How excited are you?

Campus is in a fervor, in spite of midterms this week. The sidewalks are covered in chalk slogans that say things like “Beat Southern Cal” and “Destroy Troy.” Someone taped dozens of pictures of Pete Carroll on the ground outside South Dining Hall so students can literally “Stomp USC.” Inside O’Shaughnessy Hall, the Classics Department made a giant banner with a picture of a wooden horse and words urging Notre Dame to victory in both English and Greek.

I love it when the Classics Department does stuff like that.

The big theme for this weekend is the Green-Out: all Irish fans are supposed to wear bright Kelly green to the game, creating a “Sea of Green” to intimidate the Trojans and show true Irish pride. As a clever Observer article points out, the Sea of Green will be a welcome change after the ugly sight of The Shirt, which is an odd flesh-like color. Even if you don’t have a Kelly green jacket, wear a green shirt over your coat. predicts 47 degrees and partly cloudy for Saturday. That doesn’t sound too bad for this time of year. Hopefully the chill will be too much for the Southern Cal team and we’ll have an advantage.

I’m not going to say who I think will win, but I will definitely be praying for an Irish Victory.

Are you coming in to town for the game? What is your prediction for the final score?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Tell me what you want to hear

The purpose of my blog is to make you feel like you are a student again, back on the Notre Dame campus and having a lot of fun. At the very least, I hope it's a trip down memory lane that brings campus closer to you. To that end, I'd like to know: what would you like to hear about? Any particular game day traditions or campus events? Funny moments in dorm life or academic activities? You tell me your favorite memories from Notre Dame and I'll try to re-create them and of course, share them with you!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Notre Dame Role Models

Every week or so, my friends and I invite a professor or a married couple to have dinner with us and share their insights on life, love, marriage and anything else they want.
Last Thursday night I was lucky enough to hear Bill and Elizabeth Kirk speak on Marital Love and Spiritual Fruitfulness over dinner.
Bill Kirk is the Associate Vice President for Residence Life at Notre Dame and one of my favorite people. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1984 with a degree in accountancy. After several years in the workforce he returned to campus as a law student. He has served as Assistant Rector of Sorin Hall, Rector of Holy Cross Hall and Rector of Stanford Hall. He’s also funny, kind and a really good guy.
Elizabeth Kirk, his wife and also one of my favorite people, was a professor at the Ave Maria law school and worked as a lawyer in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and also graduated from the Notre Dame Law School. She is gracious and lovely, and has such impeccable style that it makes me jealous.
Bill and Elizabeth brought their two adorable boys: Will, a laughing redheaded toddler, and Benedict, a chubby and adorable 8-month-old.
They talked about the ups and downs of marriage and the struggles of infertility (both their boys are adopted). They shared funny stories and serious moments that almost had my friends and me in tears. I had never before heard the heartache of infertility discussed so frankly and so gracefully.
Finally, Bill looked at the two smiling, squirming little boys in his and Elizabeth’s arms and said, “I know these boys were meant to be my sons.”
I thought, “That is love. That is a true Christian family.”
One of my favorite things about Notre Dame is that it is full of incredible role models. I will never forget the day I saw my freshman biology professor, Father Tom Streit, on TV discussing his work to end lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis, a horribly disfiguring disease). The man is almost single-handedly eliminating elephantiasis from Haiti and I had him as a teacher.
There are so many professors and administrators at Notre Dame who the students can look up to as examples of virtue. That will always be one of my favorite things about this university.
Which professors were your role models as an undergraduate? What made you look up to them?
 Thanks for the comments!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Love at first sight

I still remember the very first time I saw the Notre Dame campus. I was 17 and a senior in high school on a college tour with my dad and twin sister. The date was September 29, which I only remember because it was my best friend’s birthday. I was annoyed that my dad was making me miss my friend’s party to visit a college that, at the time, held no special interest for me.

I remember the tour around campus- I was quickly taken with its beauty. We went to 5:15 Mass in the Basilica and the majesty of the old church was arresting. We saw bands of students walking to the pep rally, waving flags and cheering. They looked like they were having so much fun. We snuck inside Howard to see what the dorms looked like and a kind-hearted RA showed us around.

“There’s a chapel and a kitchen in every dorm,” she said. My sister and I perked up at that. We both love to cook. She worked as a chef for two summers, while I throw dinner parties and bake desserts for every possible occasion. Oh, and my puppy chow was the mainstay of every high school bake sale (puppy chow is a peanut-butter-and-chocolate concoction, for those of you who unfamiliar with the most addictive dessert ever made).

"Can we take a quick look?" we asked, scurrying into the kitchen before she could say "no."

In the kitchen we found two girls unloading groceries.

“What are you doing?” we asked.

“Cooking a dinner party for our friends,” they said.

My sister and I looked at each other. Harvard was cool and all, but they didn’t have kitchens in their dorms.

This is the place for us, we thought.

We stopped at the Grotto, which is now my favorite place on campus. I saw it for the first time that day. As I lit a candle, I considered what to pray for and knew immediately what I wanted most.

Please God, let me get in here, I whispered.

Later on, I sat on a bench on South Quad and thought about college. I watched people walk past and I looked up and down the quad. Could I live here for four years? I thought.

I pictured the magnificent Basilica and the cozy dorm kitchen. I remembered the cheering students walking to the pep rally and the warm glow of the Grotto.

Yes, I could.

Last Saturday, I stopped at the Grotto with a friend late at night. I knelt quietly and prayed for a little while. It was almost three years to the day since my first visit to the Grotto, the day I decided to apply here. Saturday night I lit a candle and thought, Thank you, God, that I go to this school.

When did you first fall in love with Notre Dame? Did you have a "love at first sight" moment?

Friday, October 2, 2009

It's a GAME Weekend

There’s just something about football weekends.

Maybe it’s the redheaded little kid throwing a football to his dad on South Quad, both of them wearing Notre Dame sweatshirts.

It might be waking up to the sound of the Band playing on the steps of Bond Hall, or the smell of Knights of Columbus steak sandwiches wafting down the quad and making everyone hungry.

It could be that the Grotto is packed with visitors, and every candle is lit- hundreds of prayers burning bright before Mary.

It might just be that at breakfast Friday morning, I already saw alumni lining up for a meal at South Dining Hall.

Whatever sparks it, I love living in Catholic Disneyland.

“There’s a magic in the sound of their name… HERE COME THE IRISH of Notre Dame.”

Best of luck to our boys out on the field tomorrow! I, for one, will be shamelessly praying for an Irish win. Our Lady of Victory, pray for us!

Are you coming in to town for the game? What is your favorite part of football weekends?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Being "the face of Notre Dame"

Last night, my rector held an interest meeting for any juniors who are thinking about applying to be RAs. I’m still not sure if I’m going to apply, but it was interesting to hear the opinions of my hall staff on the work they do. They had plenty of stories about the fun times they had during hall staff training, going to the pool and out to dinner. They promised us that being on duty isn’t so bad.

“Just think of duty night as a chance to socialize within the dorm, and get to know all your fellow Badin residents,” one RA said. “You’ll get to be friends with all the freshmen- and our freshmen are awesome.”

Being an RA isn’t always a party, though. At one point my rector talked about the important responsibility RAs have as representatives of Notre Dame.

“As an RA, you are the face of Notre Dame,” she said. “You have a responsibility to always act in keeping with that.”

I thought about what she said, and I realized that the RAs aren’t the only ones who have a responsibility to represent Notre Dame.

Maybe you’ve heard the old joke: “How do you know if someone in the room went to Notre Dame?” “Because they told you.”

We laugh about our Domer pride that leads us to tell everyone where we went for undergrad, but the joke has some truth to it. When people know that you’re a Notre Dame student or alum, they look at you differently. You become the face of Notre Dame to countless people who may not have any other contact with the university. As students or graduates of the world’s premier Catholic university, we’re part of a community much bigger than ourselves- and maybe we have a duty to be good ambassadors for it.

What does it mean for you to be “the face of Notre Dame?”

On faith and reason

It’s been a busy week!

Tuesday night I had the privilege of attending a lecture in the Catholic Culture Lecture Series, sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Culture. The series of four weekly lectures is titled “Close to Catholic: A Celebration of Kindred Spirits,” and this week Professor Ann Astell of the theology department lectured on Simone Weil, a French mystic. The other authors highlighted in the series are T.S. Eliot, C.S. Lewis, and Fyodor Dostoevsky.

I love the series and hope to attend every one of the lectures. I also ended up writing an article about the lecture for The Observer, which made my evening a little more hectic as I frantically pounded out a story at 10 pm in the Coleman-Morse computer cluster! It was worth it, though, to spread word about these wonderful lectures.

The Center for Ethics and Culture is one of my favorite things at Notre Dame. As a literature fanatic, I love that they celebrate brilliant Catholic authors like Evelyn Waugh, Flannery O’Connor, and G.K. Chesterton. I love the way the center merges our intellectual heritage with our Catholic belief, showing how compatible they truly are. That’s the gift of Notre Dame; unlike at any other premier university, at Notre Dame faith and intellect not only co-exist but actually enrich each other.

How has your Notre Dame education enriched your faith? How have your beliefs contributed to your intellectual interests?

Post-edit: I wrote an article for The Observer about the Catholic Culture Lecture series if you'd like to check it out here.