School Profile: Community is Number One at the University of Notre Dame

Number 39 in the Veritas Prep Elite College Rankings is the University of Notre Dame. This private research university is wholeheartedly dedicated to its Catholic roots; it embraces a philosophy that holds religion and science in equal regard, and stands for “values in a world of facts.” The college, founded in 1842, is located on a 1,250-acre beautiful park-like campus outside South Bend, Indiana.

The Gothic architecture on campus conveys the school’s devotion to tradition, and as new facilities are added, they’re blended into the existing architectural design. New construction is guided by sustainability principles with several buildings being LEED certified. The overall campus design includes a number of outdoor sacred spaces for contemplation and communing with nature. In 2011, Travel + Leisure magazine listed it one of the most beautiful campuses in the country.

Notre Dame is academically rigorous and traditionally puts more weight on teaching and learning than research. That said, the college has recently received a $75 million gift dedicated to advanced research in science and technology. There are currently 19 research cores on campus dedicated to everything from chemical synthesis and drug discovery to tree genetics to computer aided molecular design. In keeping with the spirit of The Fighting Irish, research projects are often referenced by desired outcome, and prefaced with the word, “Fighting.” For example, recent research has focused on Fighting: To Cure Prostate Cancer, or Fighting: For Ethical Use of Technology. Notre Dame is one of twelve universities in the world chosen to partner with UNESCO in an effort to conserve World Heritage Sites.

After the groundwork of First Year Studies, students can choose from among schools of Arts and Letters, Business, Science, Engineering, and Architecture. Students can go on to graduate studies in law, architecture, and business at Notre Dame. The college of Arts and Letters has 20 departments and 33 majors, Mendoza College of Business offers four degree programs and earned honors as best undergraduate business school in 2010, the College of Science offers six degrees and its pre-professional program boasts more acceptances to medical schools than any university in the U.S., the College of Engineering has five departments and eight degree programs, and the School of Architecture offers one Bachelor of Science degree, plus all third-year students study abroad in Rome. The most popular majors are finance, political science, and psychology.

There will be no mistaking the influence of Catholicism on campus at Notre Dame. Of the nearly 8,500 undergraduate students, 80% are Catholic. Each of the 29 residence halls have chapels, and most have priests and/or nuns in residence. There are over 100 masses conducted on campus during each school week, and every classroom has a crucifix hanging from the wall. The crown jewel of the campus is the grand Basilica of the Sacred Heart, and behind it the Grotto. There are numerous religious statues and figures adorning campus, including the “Touchdown Jesus” mosaic on the 14-story Hesburgh Library.

Community is central to Notre Dame campus life; students often comment on forums about the welcoming campus atmosphere and close-knit community. Eighty percent of students live on campus, and the campus residences are the hub of social life. There is no Greek life at Notre Dame, but students typically stay in the same dorm for all four years, which contributes to the strong sense of community. Legends, the on campus restaurant and pub, hosts a variety of music and entertainment events including concerts, comedy, karaoke, and more. The four-story LaFortune Student Center, a.k.a. LaFun, is another hub of student activity on campus.

If you’ve never heard of Notre Dame’s Fighting Irish football team, you just aren’t paying attention to college sports. The NCAA Division I athletic program, which is part of the Atlantic Coast Conference, fields 21 men’s and women’s varsity teams in all, but is most famous for the football team. The football team plays some ACC opponents, but they remain part of the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, the top level of college football. Notre Dame has more All-Americans than any other FBS team. They’ve also produced at least seven Heisman Trophy winners, and have more national championships than any other FBS team. They’ve accomplished this level of excellence while consistently having the most Academic All-Americans and one of the highest student-athlete graduation rates. Notre Dame has also had some of the most famous college football coaches—Knute Rockne,  Ara Parseghian, and Lou Holtz, to name a few. The school has amassed a number of ACC titles over the years in other sports. Students are also heavily invested in intramural sports on campus.

Most Notre Dame traditions revolve around the football program. Traditions include the cheers of the Irish Leprechaun mascot and the cheerleaders, Friday Tunnel, The Irish Guard march into the stadium, the cheers and songs from the Alma Mater student section of the stadium, and the tunnel entrance of the team before the game. If you’re looking for a school where community is number one, values are as important as knowledge, and partying is a low priority, Notre Dame could be your school.

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By Colleen Hill