Finding My Calling at Notre Dame de Namur University

Notre Dame de Namur University alum Perry Elerts

Perry Elerts, NDNU Graduate

Ever since I was twelve years old, I thought I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I was positive I wanted to go to college and become a psychologist. I’m not sure what instilled in me this strong desire to be a psychologist. Maybe it was all the crime TV I use to watch. I was always fascinated with how the detective would try to get into the mind of the criminal. I followed this desire and went to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) to major in psychology.

At NDNU I loved all my psych and sociology classes and couldn’t get enough of them. During my second year, I started to look for jobs in the field of psychology and found a few, but none of them were calling out to me. So, I instead took a job as a Bonner leader. The Bonner leaders are students who work through the Sister Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement at NDNU to do community service.

Endangered butterly species

Callippe Silverspot butterfly, endangered species on San Bruno Mountain

I worked at San Bruno Mountain Watch, a nonprofit dedicated to restoring one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. San Bruno Mountain sits right at the southern border of San Francisco, California. There I helped remove invasive species and planted native plants. Native plants are needed to support the three endangered butterfly species that live on the mountain. It was through this experience I discovered my passion for environmentalism.

Following my newly kindled passion for environmentalism, I talked to my academic counselor and added a second major in social justice. With a background in psychology and new knowledge about environmental studies, I became fascinated with the intersection of the two fields. I wanted to research the effects of natural environments on the human psyche. Through reading some of the research, it became obvious to me that nature has a deep and, in some ways, unexplained positive effect on the human psyche. I realized that preserving natural places is crucial to human mental and physical health.

It was through this experience at NDNU that I learned the difference between a passion and an interest. Yes, I was interested in psychology, and it’s a great field, but I was passionate about environmental justice. I wanted to do my part to make the world a just and better place.

The next challenge I faced was how was I going to help do this. So, I did some reflecting and read about some of the most influential and impactful world leaders. I knew I wasn’t the first person to want change or to feel strongly about protecting the environment. After some reflection, I noticed an occupational commonality among many of the world’s leaders; they are all lawyers. Some of these lawyers I looked up to included Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, over half the U.S. presidents, and the notorious Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Following my heart I applied and was accepted to University of California Hastings College of the Law. Three years later and I am now a law school graduate. With my degrees in hand, I was hired by the Center for Biological Diversity in their Environmental Health program, working to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the inextricable connection between the health of humans and all other species. I absolutely love my job and can’t imagine doing anything else with my life. I have found my purpose.

Perry Elerts graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame de Namur University in 2016, and a JD from Hastings College of the Law in 2019. He currently works at the Center for Biological Diversity.

For information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.




Working Smart and Working Hard:
The Life of a College Student with a Job

Working Smart and Working Hard: The Life Of a College Student With A Job

Notre Dame de Namur Student
Olivia E. Smith

In the movies, college is all football games and huge parties with lots of red Solo cups full of free beer. But in real life, college can be stressful, crammed with grades, professors, roommates, and the weight of the future to worry about. On top of all of that, many of us also have to deal with a job outside of school. It‘s not always financially possible to focus only on studying and degrees. Juggling the responsibilities of a student and an employee can be super overwhelming, but here’s how it can be done.

For the last four years, I’ve been a nanny for a wonderful family with two boys. I’m lucky with my job, and I get to work for amazing people with really great kids every day. That isn’t to say that it’s always smooth sailing. A lot of my vocabulary test flashcards end up with peanut butter stains on them, and I spend afternoons at a sweaty dojo learning linguistics while the kids do karate.

One night, right before a midterm, I was babysitting the boys, helping them with their homework. One of the boys had lost a critical page of math homework due the next day. Chaos ensued, and I was facing the business end of a temper tantrum when I was already totally stressed about my test. My babysitting charge then decided to line up all the Furbies in the house across the staircase. They all started talking at once, and they won’t turn off until you rock them to sleep. So, I’m standing on the stairs, trying to convince a seven-year-old to come downstairs and finish his homework, while simultaneously trying to get a creepy robot toy to go to sleep. All the while, I’m running through what’s on the linguistics test tomorrow about how to write my name in the phonetic alphabet.

I got through that night and many others like it. It wasn’t all that easy, but it was possible. With the support of my NDNU professors, who I always found very understanding of my overly busy schedule, I have managed to make it through to my final semester. It’s all about finding a balance and finding a community that’s supportive of juggling priorities.

Being a student with a job hasn’t always been easy, but it has taught me some very valuable skills that are going to come in handy for the rest of my life. Time management is essential. Planners are God’s gift to anyone with more than one thing going on in a day. When a project is assigned, I try to start it that same day. On the work side, I schedule my classes so I have time to get to my job and not arrive late. Also, I set aside one day each week when I do neither work nor school and just bake chocolate cupcakes—my roommates and family wouldn‘t let me make any other flavor.

Olivia E. Smith is a senior at Notre Dame de Namur University majoring in English. She edited the university’s literary/arts magazine The Bohemian. Her blog Roses and Rambles deals with culture and women’s issues.

For information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.

An Executive Director’s Career Path: MPA Graduate Judith Guerrero

Judith Guerrero, Executive Director, Coastside Hope

Judith Guerrero, Master of Public Administration graduate of Notre Dame de Namur University

When she was 11, Judith Guerrero emigrated with her mother from Mexico. Judith she grew up in the town of Half Moon Bay, on the California Coast.

“When I first got to the United States, not speaking English, and my mother working in agriculture, it seemed that attending college and grad school was a far-off dream,” Judith recalls. She was able to enroll in a state university, thanks to her good grades and a partial scholarship from Coastside Hope, a nonprofit that provides safety net services to the working poor, the homeless, low-income seniors, and those in crisis.

“I had to take public transit each day 40 miles to college, rushing to make the first bus out of Half Moon Bay at 6:10 a.m.,” Judith says. “I got home pretty late at night, because I crammed all my classes into two days in order to have a full-time job the other days of the week.”

Judith excelled in college despite the obstacles, and when she graduated she was admitted to the Master of Public Administration program at Notre Dame de Namur University. (The program is offered both in the classroom and in an online format.). “I loved the MPA program,” she says. “The courses related real-life experience in the workplace to what we were studying.”

She also found her community in the program: “It’s a small campus, so we formed close bonds with other students and with the faculty. I developed a strong support network that I still have today.”=

There was one professor, though, whose reputation intimidated Judith: “Professor Jeff Cox was known as a stickler for enforcing all the style guide rules on students’ papers. I put off taking his class till my last semester.” Not only did Judith do well in the class, she also got to know her instructor, who lives not far from her. “He and his wife have become both friends and mentors to me. The faculty in the MPA program are people I call on if I ever have a problem—they always help,” Judith adds.

After earning her MPA degree at Notre Dame de Namur, Judith became the executive director of the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside, a nonprofit that engages underserved youth in afterschool activities. Recently she changed jobs and is now the executive director of Coastside Hope, the same nonprofit that funded the scholarship that enabled her first to attend college.

“I guess you could say that things have come full circle,” Judith remarks. “I find my career very rewarding. One of the most worthwhile things is to see your work impact other people’s lives.”

The Master of Public Administration program at Notre Dame de Namur University is offered both in the classroom and online. To apply to any program at Notre Dame, visit the admissions page.

Speaking Out as a Woman of Color

NDNU 2019 Commencement speaker Jotie Mondair

Jotie Mondair speaking at the 2019 Commencement, Notre Dame de Namur University

Trump’s recent tweets suggesting that women of color in the U.S. Congress should “go back to where they came from” have made me think about how many ways we can be silenced—by perpetuating racist tropes, by insinuating a lack of intelligence, by not giving us the floor to stand up and speak. When I was doing (way too much) research on these tweets I thought of the gut-punching comment that my professor Dr. Sanders left in one of my response journals for her class in the Art Therapy master’s program I recently finished at Notre Dame de Namur University. Dr. Sanders’ responded to my writing that I was frustrated by the group dynamics in the class: “Did you say something?” I read it over and over again—did I say anything? Of course I didn’t! That felt like a call to action. I vowed to no longer take part in the silencing of women of color, particularly since I am also the child of immigrants, and a survivor of sexual assault.

I’m also one of a large number of people who are afraid of public speaking. In high school, I would panic before any presentation in front of my peers. My brain was instantly consumed by thoughts like, “What if I mess up on a really simple word?” or worse, “What if I get so nervous, I pee my pants?”

The Art Therapy master’s program at Notre Dame de Namur required many presentations that helped me overcome those fears. Our instructor Sarah Kremer had us watch videos on how TED Talks follow a formula to make them intriguing and convincing. She then had us do our own mock TED Talk in front of the class. Before my oral qualifying review, a presentation in front of family, friends, and faculty about my experience in the field, Dr. Satterberg gave me a stone to hold during the presentation to help reduce my anxiety while I shared difficult stories about working in a psychiatric hospital. The stone grounded me by bringing my awareness to the present moment. Before most presentations, I also colored mandalas, painted with gouache, or knitted to help ease my anxiety—art therapy is not just for kids. Since I was always preaching the benefits of art therapy for anxiety and stress reduction, I figured it would be a great time for me to practice the skill for myself. (Fun fact: it worked!).

When I received an email that I was nominated to try out to be a student speaker at my university’s Commencement, I thought long and hard about what it would mean to speak before more than a thousand people. So long and hard that I almost forgot to send in a proposal, but thankfully, Linnaea Knisely, the executive assistant to the Office of the Provost, saved the day! I tried out, and to my surprise, I was selected as the speaker to represent the graduate students.

The day of Commencement I spoke to a full crowd on our university’s sports field about my parents’ experience coming to the United States and how their sacrifice and determination played a major part in my success. I found it critical to include them in this moment and highlight my experience as a woman of color from an immigrant family because I decided on election day in November 2016 that I would no longer allow myself to be silenced or misrepresented.

Since 2016, I’ve made it a personal goal to try and speak publicly as much as possible. I’ve given presentations about my thesis research at the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in American Higher Education (NCORE) and will be presenting at the American Art Therapy Association (AATA) 50th Anniversary Conference, as well as sharing my experiences with people who do not look, think, or live like me. For me, the fear of public speaking came and went when I realized someone or something was threatening my ability to speak out.

Don’t get me wrong, I still get nervous before presenting, but I’ve found that creating art, drinking chamomile tea, and eating a lot of dark chocolate helps reduce the pre-presentation anxiety. I speak often with people who support me, and who can offer me guidance and perspective—all that keeps me going.

Jotie Mondair is a recent graduate of the master’s program in Art Therapy at Notre Dame de Namur University. She is currently working as an Associate Marriage and Family Therapist at Fremont Hospital.

For information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.

Three-Sport Athlete Brings Competitive Spirit to Fundraising for Ugandan Youth

Notre Dame de Namur University graduate Arianna Cunha did a public health internship in Uganda

Arianna Cunha, center, with Youth Sport Uganda coworkers Bonita Komug (left) and Lorna Letasi (right)

Arianna Cunha doesn’t do things halfway. When she was being recruited as a student-athlete growing up in Hayward, California, she wanted a college that would allow her to play both basketball and soccer. She chose Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) in Belmont, California.

Arianna not only played her two chosen varsity sports, she joined the track team in her senior year and ran both the 100 and 200 meters. “I’m somebody who likes a taste of everything,” she says. Arianna has always been an avid athlete. “Growing up, my sister and I were involved in every sport you can think of.” Why does Arianna like sports so much? “I love to compete,” she says. “Plus I enjoy the dynamic of a team. It’s like having another family, another set of people you can rely on and trust.”

She majored in Kinesiology at Notre Dame de Namur, where she graduated in May 2019. Arianna is fascinated by the field of public health. Her interest led her to apply for an internship in Africa. Arianna was accepted to a program in the summer of 2018 with Youth Sport Uganda, an African nonprofit that promotes sports, health, and education in a fun setting. She used all the money she got for her 21st birthday to pay the travel expenses. Arianna worked in programs in Kampala, the capital of Uganda, to engage young people in sports while teaching them about healthy lifestyles and disease prevention.

“We realized that to really address health issues in Uganda, we had to get the parents involved as well,” Arianna describes. “I helped create and implement a program to give classes to the parents of the young people in the education program.” Arianna worked alongside Ugandan interns to present information to mothers about preventing disease and providing healthy nutrition.

“It wasn’t easy leaving after three months in Uganda,” Arianna says. “The last week was very emotional. I learned so much from the young people and their moms about hospitality and family bonds.”

When Arianna returned to Notre Dame de Namur University in fall 2018, she decided to incorporate her experience in Uganda into the athletics program. “The student athletes at NDNU raise funds every year for a cause that we decide on,” she explains. “I talked about Youth Sport Uganda, and the students voted to make them the fundraising recipient for the whole athletic program for the 2018–19 academic year.” The funds will have significant impact in Uganda, where an annual student scholarship costs roughly $400. The fundraising drive concluded in spring 2019, netting $1800.

“Now that I’ve graduated, I’m leaving college with a direction for my career,” she says. “The internship in Uganda, as well as the past four years as a student leader and athlete, have helped me become a problem solver. With those skills, I’ve chosen to pursue a graduate degree in public health.” Arianna has been accepted into a master’s program in public health, and will be a summer intern at the San Francisco Department of Public Health.

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.

The Bohemian: Notre Dame de Namur University’s Literary/Arts Magazine

Notre Dame de Namur University's literary arts magazine

The Bohemian’s editorial board, at a lighter moment

Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) has a long tradition of publishing literary/arts magazines, edited by students. The current magazine, The Bohemian, started in 1991, and the latest issue was just published this past spring.

The new issue, with full-color printing and almost 100 pages of content, includes fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and artwork by Notre Dame de Namur students and faculty, as well as writers outside the university.

A new feature in this issue is work by students at San Mateo County’s Juvenile Hall, where NDNU students have been tutoring young people and working with them on their writing. The incarcerated youth tell unforgettable stories about the obstacles they have faced at an early age: earning a living at age nine, dealing with a parent’s deportation, struggling with untreated ADHD and mental health issues.

Notre Dame de Namur University students can work on The Bohemian magazine through a course where they receive credit, or they can participate in editing and production through a campus club. The editorial meetings often include 15 to 20 participants, a great opportunity to hone teamwork skills. According to Diana Molina, a senior who worked on this year’s issue, that number did not produce contention: “We managed to work together well, despite the size of the editorial board. The editors tried to stay open-minded, taking into account that everyone has a different writing style.”

Diana also feels that her social media skills improved as a result of working on The Bohemian. “I was the social media manager, and we expanded the magazine’s reach on Instagram and other platforms this year,” she says.

Faculty advisor Professor Pearl Chaozon Bauer feels that working on The Bohemian is instructive for students in many ways: “In producing the magazine, the students learn to be better critical readers as well as expand their appreciation of different modalities of art. But what I like best about The Bohemian is that the students can really feel that they are part of an effort that produces something of value.  It’s an experience they will always remember, and having a copy of the volume reminds them of their hard work and teamwork.”

The spring launch event for latest issue of The Bohemian had a great turnout of 60 participants. Students took part in an open mike, reading their contributions to the journal.

“Not that many colleges still have a print magazine with the high-quality production values of The Bohemian,” Diana says. “It’s something you can feel really proud of.”

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.

Notre Dame de Namur University Kinesiology Majors Going on to Careers in Physical Therapy

Kinesiology students and faculty at Notre Dame de Namur University

Left to right: Robby Keith, Megan Kravec, Prof. Jennifer Kinder, Madeleine Orellana, Nathan Iruegas

Kinesiology—the study of the mechanics of body movements—is one of the top five majors at Notre Dame de Namur University. Recent graduates of the major are planning careers as physical therapists with exciting specializations. The students have been accepted to leading graduate programs in the field.

Nathan Arturo Iruegas will be attending University of Southern California (USC) in fall 2019. U.S. News & World Report ranks USC as the #1 doctoral program in physical therapy in the United States. Nathan has a very specific population he hopes to work with: “I would like to grow my knowledge of chronic neuromuscular conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and build on current methods of treatment to provide patients with an improved quality of life,” he says. “I’ve been through physical therapy myself, and I want to give that feeling of independence back to people.”

Madeleine Orellana will also be enrolling at USC in fall 2019. “After my doctoral program I’m eager to specialize in sports and orthopedic physical therapy,” she says. “I aspire to become a sports physical therapist for a professional team.” Madeleine has been involved in athletics her entire life and played varsity volleyball at Notre Dame.

Megan Kravec was admitted to several graduate schools, including New York University. She opted to study closer to home and will be attending the doctorate of physical therapy program at California State University, Fresno, which also has a program in hippotherapy. “My goal is to treat children with special needs, and veterans, using hippotherapy,” she explains. Hippotherapy is the use of horseback riding for rehabilitative treatment to improve coordination and strength. “Coming from a military family, I would like to give back to our veterans.”

Robert Lee Keith III is attending the doctoral program at The Ohio State University with a full scholarship and a stipend. “My goal is to become a pediatric physical therapist and help underserved populations,” Robby says. He grew up in Eastside San Jose, and he’s personally seen the need for children to have greater access to healthcare.

“We’re extremely proud of the accomplishments of these Notre Dame graduates,” remarks Jennifer Kinder, program director of the Kinesiology major. “We’re excited for their contributions to society and to the fields of kinesiology and physical therapy.”

For more information about Notre Dame de Namur University’s undergraduate program in Kinesiology, visit the webpage. For information on how to apply, see the Admissions page.

Career Change to Teaching: Traci Yerby Shifts from Biotech to the Classroom

Notre Dame de Namur University Alumna Traci Yerby

Dr. Traci Yerby, NDNU Alumna and High School Teacher

Traci Yerby worked in the biotech industry in Silicon Valley after earning a PhD in microbiology at University of California, Davis. She had a successful career in stem cell research, corporate development, product management, and marketing. After she and her husband started a family, she took time off, and the principal at her children’s elementary school asked her if she would teach science to the kids on a part-time basis.

“At first I taught just as a lark, without a credential,” said Traci. “It was the most fun I’d had in a long time.” The principal and some of the teachers encouraged her to think about teaching as a career. She had some experience both as a teaching assistant in grad school, and as an adjunct faculty member at state universities.

Traci researched various graduate programs and decided to attend Notre Dame de Namur University. “I discovered that NDNU offered the most streamlined path to a credential,” she recalls. “When I started the program I felt, ‘This is where I belong.’ I was getting the right information at the right time in my life. At Notre Dame, I learned that each student has a unique story and you have to tap into those stories to reach them.”

She did her student teaching at Half Moon Bay High School on the California coast, near her home. “A biology teacher transferred out of the school right when I finished my credential, and I was lucky enough to land the job,” she says. “I love getting to know the students, watching them grow from freshmen to seniors. Just to have a little part in shaping their futures is a privilege.”

Traci was particularly gratified to help a high-achieving student in her AP Biology class who was having problems with anxiety and depression, falling behind in his classes. “He was able to open up to me and discuss his difficulties,” she recounts. “We’d chat after school and I worked with him to develop a timeline for finishing the missing assignments in all his classes. He said, ‘You‘re my person, Ms. Yerby.‘ With medicine and therapy, he was able to get back on track and earned high marks on his AP tests. I’m so proud of how far he has come, and he still visits with me.”

She tells her students about the range of ways that biology can be applied in careers. “There are medical uses for biology, of course, but now there are also ways to apply biology in engineering, informatics, law—I try to give them a sense of the opportunities.” Traci also hopes to serve as an example for girls who are interested in science. “As a female student, I didn’t have a lot of role models in science when I was in school. I tell all my students that they can be anything they want.”

Traci feels fortunate that she’s been able to make the transition to education. “Teaching is a great way to give back to the community,” she remarks. “Becoming a teacher is the best decision I ever made.”

For information on teaching credential programs at Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit our website.

“Where Do You Want to Be in Five Years?”: A Profile of Professor Judy Buller

Professor Judy Buller

The first time I had Dr. Judy Buller as a professor was during my freshman year in Introduction to Communications at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU). As I took a seat, the first thing she said was, “Let’s take a moment and close our eyes and think of where we want to be in five years.” I was so confused, because I was barely making it through the day as it was. Four years later, and four classes with Dr. Buller later, the answer to her question feels so much more attainable than it was back then.

Dr. Buller herself also took a while to discover her career goals. Right out of college, she thought she wanted to work in broadcast news, and she did go into that field. As she entered her early 30s, she understood that she wanted to do something different than work in TV. She went back to school to earn her PhD in Journalism at the University of Texas, Austin. Teaching came soon afterwards, as she realized that she wanted a career that would benefit others.

Dr. Buller came across NDNU when she moved back to the Bay Area. She knew she wanted to steer away from auditorium-sized classrooms. She explains, “You don’t really have a connection with professors at traditional big colleges. I knew that I would want a connection with my students and my colleagues as a professor.” At NDNU, she makes sure that she knows every student in the Communication Department that she chairs. She checks in to see where their plans shift and progress during their years at our university.

Dr. Buller has many memories of her years at NDNU, but one of the most treasured ones was when she was given the George M. Keller Teaching Excellence Award in 2012. Students nominate a professor who motivates students, succeeds as an academic advisor, and has made an overall outstanding contribution to NDNU.

I can see why she received the award. I remember moments where Dr. Buller would come up to me and check up on how I was doing, including when I did not have any classes with her. Even before my senior year, she always reminded me that I needed to really think about what I want my career to be. She encouraged me to apply for internships before I was required to. Although it was stressful to apply for internships with no experience, I believe that her check-ins and motivation have given me higher confidence as I leave the university.

If there is anything that I have learned from Dr. Buller, it’s to aim as high as I can possibly go— apply for the job, travel to that country, or try out that new interest! Trying is better than not knowing. Everyone in college deserves a professor who helps them believe that they can achieve anything—Dr. Buller is that professor to me.

Jerileen Rae Ho, Notre Dame de Namur University Senior

Jerileen Rae Ho is a senior Communication major at Notre Dame de Namur University.

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.

NDNU, My Home Away from Home

Sophia Apolinario, NDNU Undergraduate

I’ve been a tour guide for the Notre Dame de Namur University Office of Admissions for the past three years and one question I always get is “Why NDNU?”

Of the many reasons why I chose NDNU, I keep circling back to, “because NDNU is home.” Moving halfway across the world from Manila in the Philippines to the San Francisco Bay Area was no easy task. While homesickness still kicks in every now and then, I’ve come to realize (as cliché as it sounds), that home is not a place but a feeling. And that’s the feeling I get when I’m at NDNU. Here’s why:

NDNU’s Commitment to Diversity

I immediately felt like I belonged at this campus. Growing up with just Filipinos, it was refreshing coming to a school with such a varied student population. Even at freshman orientation, I immediately hit it off with a diverse group of friends and felt a deep connection with them. It’s not surprising to me that our campus was recently listed among the top 10 most diverse universities in the U.S. and that diversity is one of the university’s Hallmarks. The campus welcomed me, the Filipina “fresh off the boat,” with open arms, and I’ve met so many people from different backgrounds who have become my lifelong friends. I’m more aware of the world around me and have learned to celebrate different cultures. My friends took me to Dolores Park in San Francisco and to see the redwoods in Muir Woods. This broadened knowledge and curiosity about diversity is what pushed me to minor in sociology and become a Bonner Leader, where I helped homeless families find shelter and took part in vigils with loved ones of immigrants facing possible deportation.

Growth outside the Classroom

NDNU is committed to learning, and this doesn’t always mean in the classroom. Every year, we have Call to Action Day where students are encouraged to volunteer in various charities and communities around the San Francisco Peninsula—a way of living out our Hallmarks of community service. When I was a freshman I felt an urge to be more involved in social justice work and ended up at the Sister Dorothy Stang Center. They connected me with a local childcare center where I volunteered for almost two years. The resources needed for students to grow academically, professionally, and spiritually are easily accessible at NDNU.

Professors and Faculty

I’ve once been in a class with only eight students, and let me tell you, I was beyond nervous. Oh gosh, I can never miss a class or say the wrong thing, I thought. But as the semester went by I started to appreciate NDNU’s class size and student-teacher ratio. Why? Because the professors take the time to hear the students’ opinions. Our voices matter. For example, I was in a sociology class where we toured the Tenderloin neighborhood of San Francisco at night, an area where many homeless people live. My professor mentioned my written reflection in class because I had discussed the people we encountered, including homeless people we spoke to that night, and I had talked about their humanity and dignity.

Moreover, being in such a small school enabled me to know my classmates and professors on a personal level. At NDNU, you’re not just a face in a classroom of 100 people but a student who the professors know and want to see succeed. The school has given me a hands-on educational experience where I’m easily able to approach my professors when I feel like I’m not understanding the topics well enough. The professors not only care about your in-class performance, but your overall well-being. I’ll never forget the time my sociology professor came up to me after class and asked, “Are you okay, Sophia? I noticed that you seemed a little stressed. I’m always here if you need anything or someone to talk to.”

I never thought that nearly four years after arriving, NDNU would be the place I’d call my second home. In such a short span of time, I went from being completely homesick to completely in love with the community at NDNU, a place that I’ll really miss once this chapter of my life is over.

Sophia Apolinario is a senior Communication major at Notre Dame de Namur University who grew up in Manila in the Philippines. She plans to work in communications after graduation.

For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.