Improving Patient Care and Safety during COVID-19: A Note from Patrice Callagy

Prepared for Disaster: How Drive-Though Treatment Garages Improved Emergency Care

As the Executive Director of Stanford Health Care (SHC) Emergency Services, I’ve been immersed in making sure SHC continues to provide best-in-class healthcare, preserve public confidence in us, and maintain staff and patient safety throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Fortunately, SHC regularly conducted disaster simulations with both our pediatric and adult Emergency Departments (EDs) which include infectious agents.  Because of our commitment to preparedness, we were poised to deal with the initial surge in patients at the EDs that was associated with an evolving, worldwide pandemic.

Photo of NDNU Alumna Patrice Callagy '83, '91 with staff from Stanford Health Care Emergency Services

NDNU Alumna Patrice Callagy ’83, ’91 with staff from Stanford Health Care Emergency Services

Strong, interdisciplinary working relationships between the various departments is one of our strengths, as is adaptability and innovation. Because these foundations were already deeply ingrained in our core, we were able to quickly meet the many, various demands of the COVID-19 pandemic.  Key to our success was the seamless working relationships between ED nursing.

MD leadership and staff. All of this was put to the test in the early days of the pandemic when, as an example, we needed robust protocols to safely, efficiently and effectively identify and segregate potential COVID-19 patients from non COVID-19 patients seeking emergency care. My role included forming multiple, interdisciplinary committees as we met the workflow and practice challenges caused by COVID-19.

I was pleased that SHC and other healthcare facilities relied on a 2009 publication I co-authored about a drive-through treatment garage, and SHC’s disaster simulation that validated the feasibility of the drive-through treatment garage.  Our 2009 simulation demonstrated that a drive-through treatment garage could be quickly implemented during a pandemic to segregate patients, increase social distancing and increase capacity to meet patient surges.  At the beginning of COVID-19, I fielded numerous calls from other healthcare facilities wanting to implement a drive-through treatment garage or something similar. Lessons learned in that 2009 simulation enabled us to safely implement a COVID-19 garage drive-through care area within just 12 hours of identifying an increase in our ED patients.  Because of our early preparation for the garage drive-through system, patients presenting to our ED remained safely in their cars while a nurse provided the triage, treatment and care, and an ED physician provided a telemedicine video visit.  Our drive-through treatment garage enabled us to reduce the length of stay to an average of 25 minutes for the patients seen through the garage care area, which significantly increased patient throughput at a time when we were experiencing significant patient surges.

I’m most proud of our commitment to our employees to keep them safe. Every hour of every day I saw our employees working tirelessly to help others through this crisis. We demonstrated our commitment to their safety and its success by testing all hospital employees and medical staff for COVID-19 as well as COVID-19 antibodies.

I have complete confidence in the hospitals and emergency rooms around the country and want patients to feel safe to return to them for emergency care.  However, patients should expect that ED visits will be different from previous, pre-COVID visits.  For example, upon arrival at a SHC ED, a patient will be screened and have a temperature check by a nurse prior to entering the ED. All staff, patients and their one ED visitor will be required to wear a surgical mask, and if there is a wait, there will be multiple, segregated waiting areas to promote social distancing.  Also, at the SHC EDs, the majority of patients will receive a COVID test and will have a result within 2 hours.  I expect the same or similar protocols are in place at other EDs. While some of this may sound inconvenient, it will ensure that EDs are safe and uphold public confidence in its healthcare system.

Tips for Online and Remote Learning

Frances Eusebio NDNU student

Frances Eusebio, Notre Dame de Namur University student

Online or distance learning requires heightened time management because of its rigorous and individual nature. Remote learning may also lead to student apathy, which makes it difficult to keep up with work.

It’s not easy to stay focused when you’re learning online

When classes and work are online, it can be difficult to stay focused, especially if you’re caught up in the world of social media and the Internet, and if you’re like me, with a limited attention span. I can lose interest as soon as a video reaches the one-minute mark!

Set alarms to keep on schedule

But do not fear, there is always a solution! To keep productive, set schedules and reminders. Make it a habit to start your day by planning a schedule for the rest of your day. The alarm clock on your phone doesn’t just come in handy when you need a wake-up call. Use your alarm to remind you throughout the day when online classes begin, when you should start doing work, exercise, watch a movie, and even when free time starts! Having an alarm is the perfect way to stay on schedule, especially if you’re having problems keeping motivated.

Take notes

Remember that online Zoom classes still carry the same weight as face-to-face classes. Taking notes is essential. It gives you something to do, all while listening attentively during class. I trust the Notebook app to keep all my notes for classes coordinated and neat.

Stay connected

When almost everything is virtual, it’s difficult to connect with professors and fellow students. A mantra most students would agree on is, “In strong Internet connection and Zoom we trust.” It’s important to stay in touch with your professors, so email them from time to time, either to check in about how you’re doing in the course, or even to know how they’re doing. Your professors would be grateful to hear from you.

Hold online study groups

Hold Zoom virtual study groups and do schoolwork with your classmates. Schedule a time every week to meet with your study group to go over the work assigned for the class. If there’s no homework, you can always use a catch-up session to see how your classmates are doing. We all need somebody to lean on during this time of isolation.

Stay entertained, stay healthy, stay active

Being stuck at home can lead to lethargy, and it’s also difficult to keep yourself entertained. But thanks to the World Wide Web, there are thousands of sites and apps to keep yourself entertained as you confine. To stay healthy, limit junk foods and fill yourself with healthy foods rich in protein, vegetables, and fruits. I know this can be difficult, but quarantine also means you get to channel your inner home cook. Browse the web for sites such as and Epicurious and look up healthy recipes to spice up your meals. Most ingredients can be found at home. Another way to stay healthy is by doing online workouts. Go to YouTube and follow the easy steps of cardio, yoga, or HITT. Get in shape and stay active!

Find options to keep entertained

To entertain yourself, binge your favorite movies and TV shows. I’ve been watching the movie Love Wedding Repeat on Netflix and Gordon Ramsay’s Uncharted documentary on Disney+. Venture out to foreign cinema and research the films of countries around the world. If you want something more audio than visual, go for podcasts! Spotify offers a whole selection of genres. If you like crime, listen to “The Dating Game Killer,” or “WTF with Marc Maron” if you want some comedy. If you want to put the device down, head over to the Kindle app and buy a good book. I’ve been reading Sally Rooney’s romance coming-of-age novel Normal People and have the detective fiction book Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie next on the list. Follow book clubs and blogs to see what everyone’s reading!

The world is experiencing uncertain and challenging times, and everyone should do their part to help heal the world. May this be a time of self-reflection and restoration as we lean on each other for support. Times are difficult, but together we can overcome this. We are stronger than whatever challenge we face, and the true test lies within ourselves.

From Manila to the San Francisco Bay Area: An International Student’s Dream

Notre Dame de Namur University Student Frances Eusebio

Frances Eusebio, NDNU Student

Even at the age of 15, I already knew I wanted to work at the United Nations Department of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs. I come from a politically active family, and I’ve seen the impact of my family’s efforts on the city I’m from in the Philippines. But it’s one thing to have a goal, it’s much harder to pursue it. If only I could tell my 15-year-old self to get ready, because she had no idea of the challenges ahead of her.

I decided to pursue my college education at Notre Dame de Namur University, a place I consider a safe sanctuary where I felt I could be myself. I found comfort in all the new faces and small classes. I chose to major in Political Science and minor in Pre-Law and English, to help pursue my desire for a political future.

It was in my first Political Science class “Introduction to American Governance” that I began to have doubts about the career I had envisioned. Having grown up outside the United States, I had no prior knowledge of concepts relating to American government. The political system I was used to in the Philippines doesn’t have the same two-party structure. I felt a mix of confusion and fear in class.

This puzzlement got even stronger when my professor, Dr. Stephen Cole, tasked us to write a campaign journal every week. The journal entries consisted of 400 words (or more) on the current political scene in the U.S. It is still clear in my memory the first time I sat in front of my dimly lit laptop, ready to write my first entry. There were so many unfamiliar concepts. What was “gerrymandering,” for example? But every time I encountered an unfamiliar or concept, I looked up the definition or researched the idea.

When I attended the class where Professor Cole was handing back the journal entries, I’d never felt so anxious in my life. Professor Cole did make corrections on my journal, but mostly about sentence structure. He praised the research I’d done and my thorough explanations.

I felt proud and competent. It was at that exact moment that the career dream of my 15-year-old self was validated: I remembered how strongly I wanted to pursue the field of politics and governance. I felt a desire to voice my opinions and make myself heard.

As the semester progressed and Professor Cole delved deeper into complex topics, I became genuinely interested in his class. I know what you’re thinking: government class? Interesting? But trust me, Professor Cole’s humor, mixed with topics on government, is something I’d rarely experienced. Aside from being a fun professor, he also has a deep belief in his students’ capabilities. He once told me that I would do great things in the world if I continue to have this passion and do hard work. Professor Cole’s words and belief in me gave me the motivation and the assurance that I could do anything if I work for it. This is also what makes my experience at NDNU unique. I’m surrounded by people who make me excel and bring out the best in me, nurturing and preparing me to reach my full potential.

As my first semester in college ended, so did my first ever American Governance class. I completed the course with new knowledge and a newfound love for the field of politics. My experiences in NDNU have taught me that there will always be people present to help me achieve my dream. To the 15-year-old Frances, I can say this: We’re going to make it!


Dr. Stephanie Demaree Named NASA Solar System Ambassador

Stephanie Demaree, Notre Dame de Namur University faculty member

NDNU Professor Stephanie Demaree

Dr. Stephanie Demaree, who heads the Liberal Studies program at Notre Dame de Namur University, was recently named a Solar System Ambassador by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Solar System Ambassadors are highly trained volunteers who share NASA science and discoveries by holding educational events in their communities.

“This is an exciting time to be a Solar System Ambassador—NASA is preparing for the Artemis missions that will send astronauts to inhabit the Moon and then Mars for extended periods,” Dr. Demaree commented. “NASA has also recently developed innovative classroom materials to help educators communicate the excitement of space exploration to school children and to adults.”

Dr. Demaree first became involved with NASA through a program of summer institutes that the space agency held for teaching credential students. For several years, she served as the faculty sponsor for a group of Notre Dame de Namur students who took an intensive five-day summer training at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View. Dr. Demaree attended the sessions with her students and supervised them as they learned about lesson plans that taught cutting-edge science using fun activities.

“One lesson in the NASA curriculum that the students really enjoy is learning about craters,” she describes. “You fill a container with flour, and then coat it with chocolate powder to represent the surface of a planet. Then the students drop objects into the container from different heights and angles to see how meteors form craters, and how even a relatively small object can displace an enormous amount of material. It helps explain how the dinosaurs became extinct, for instance.”

Dr. Demaree hopes to bring lessons like this to local elementary school classrooms and to public events in the San Francisco Bay Area. She intends to hold a NASA-related community event in the near future on the Notre Dame de Namur University campus.

“One aspect of STEM education that NASA is focusing on now is the engineering component,” she elaborates. “How do you build a lasting, human habitat on Mars, for example? The idea is to apply the concepts you learn in science to practical problems, which is what engineers do. If you’re designing a habitation for another planet, you have to think systematically—once you’re on Mars, you can’t just run to the nearest grocery store.”

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

Braving The Bohemian: Editing a College Literary/Arts Magazine

Olivia E. Smith NDNU senior

Notre Dame de Namur University
Student Olivia E. Smith

When I started working on Notre Dame de Namur University’s art and literary magazine, The Bohemian, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. My advisor, Professor Vince Fitzgerald, recommended that I give it a shot, and the idea appealed to me immediately. Why? I’m an English major and I naturally love literature, from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to Edgar Allan Poe short stories. I also like art museums, especially the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. The Bohemian wound up being one of my favorite things I’ve participated in at college thus far.

The group of student editors was very small that first semester. It was just me, two other students, and our faculty advisor. Our first undertaking was to set up the cover art contest and think up ways to get people to submit. It sounded easy enough, but this actually wound up being one of the most difficult tasks. We had to table, make flyers, advertise in the student weekly email, and make announcements in our classes. At first, submissions were coming in as slow as a turtle after a nap. I understood the trepidation. Sharing a creation, whether art or writing, is a daunting decision. Creating can be a deeply personal process, and it takes serious courage to share that in a magazine that might be read by the guy who sits next to you in World History.

Luckily, by the time the spring semester rolled around, our staff had expanded and we had many brave souls willing to submit and trust us with their art and writing. This, however, came along with an intense feeling of responsibility. By this time, our faculty advisor had appointed me editor-in-chief of the 2017–2018 issue of The Bohemian.

I took this role very seriously. The way I saw it, people had trusted me and the other editors with their creations, and oftentimes with their deeply personal stories. We had people write about death, suicide, and rape; as well as school, friendship, and love. So much of the work we received that year was incredibly touching and very heartfelt. Our contributors really put their all into their work, and it showed:

“She’s going to drop into your world out of nowhere and a small spark, like a firefly, is going to buzz around your rib cage.”
This is a line from one of my personal favorite pieces we included, “The Five Steps to Falling in Love with Kaitlyn,” by Rowan Jack.

The staff of The Bohemian was now tasked with choosing which pieces would be included, and how they would be edited and placed. We didn’t make any major editorial changes, but we did have to comb carefully through each piece for spelling and grammar mistakes. Far more difficult was making the choices of whose work would be included, and for people who submitted multiple pieces, which ones to choose. The submitters had clearly put so much soul into their artwork and writing, and we didn’t want anyone to feel left out. Everyone on The Bohemian team had a vote on which pieces should be chosen. Remarkably, for the most part, we were in agreement, but there were definitely some pieces that I would have liked to see included that didn’t end up in the journal and vice versa. In the end, we wound up with a publication we all could be very proud of, but the work didn’t stop there.

The Release Party was the most daunting task for my secretly very introverted self. My outer confidence in social situations is entirely on a “fake it till you make it” basis, and this was going to require a great deal of social interaction. I was nervous, but I knew how important this party was for the success and sales of the journal. The first portion of the release party was readings from our contributors, but we still had to get up in front of everyone and introduce each reader. Next was the open mic, which can be very awkward if no one is willing to get up and read. Luckily, after some persuading, a few courageous souls volunteered and got everyone into the swing of things. We had some readers who made everyone laugh, and some who made everyone cry (okay, not everyone cried, but no one was left unmoved!).

Again, there was a sense of responsibility to provide an event and a space that made people comfortable enough to share their work in front of an audience. Maybe it’s the overall kindness of the Notre Dame de Namur community that made that possible, maybe it was the affirmation of their being published. We ended up with a successful release party and a finished journal that I, for one, am so incredibly proud of. I am so glad we were able to convince the community that The Bohemian was (and still is!) a powerful and moving project, just like any work of art or collection of writing.

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.

From Pickle Sandwiches to Open Mics: Confessions of a Commuter Student

NDNU Undergraduate Blogger

Notre Dame de Namur University
student Olivia E. Smith

When I first started at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), I was not particularly interested in the traditional college experience. I’ve never liked being in crowds. I wanted a small and personal environment, and I didn’t want to live on campus. I was more interested in the school part of college than in dorm life.

Lots of people told me this was nuts, and I should take advantage of this time to live with my peers and truly experience everything that the traditional college life has to offer. I was worried I had made the wrong decision when I chose not to live in the dorms. It took me a while to adjust to being a commuter student and really figure out the tips and tricks to making the most out of college life while living elsewhere.

Now, in my last semester, I feel as though I’ve finally got a good system down. I’ve learned to always leave time for the unexpected delights of the morning commute. I’ve learned that the commuter lounge is a much nicer place than my car to take a break and eat my cheese and pickles sandwich (I alternate sweet and sour depending on my mood). I’ve learned that just because dorm life isn’t for me doesn’t mean I’ve wasted my college years. I found the right environment that allowed me to flourish as a student, and for me, that’s what the undergraduate experience is all about.

Most of my friends, at NDNU and other colleges, made the choice to live on campus, and I don’t know anyone who regrets that decision. Living on campus is a great way to have built-in friends in your roommates, and be more involved in college life. Being a commuter, I struggled with that aspect of college. It took me several semesters at NDNU before I participated in anything besides scrambling to find parking, attending classes, and going home.

That all changed when my advisor suggested I sign up to work on The Bohemian, Notre Dame’s art and literature magazine. I was nervous because this was the first time I would be participating in campus life in any capacity, but I fell in love with The Bohemian immediately. Before I knew it I was tabling to get people to contribute work to the magazine, and attending the open mic night and the publication party. From there, I went on to be a tutor in the Writing Center and that allowed me to expand my social circle even further. These little ways of getting involved with the community have made my time as a commuter student much easier and much less isolated.

As a commuter student, I didn’t want to spend the rest of my college education feeling like I was missing out on something. As the semesters went by, however, I fell into a very comfortable routine. I learned how to be a commuter student and still enjoy all the fun that campus life has to offer. There have definitely been challenges to being a commuter student, and it might not be the right choice for everyone, but it was the right choice for me.

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.

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 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.