Updated on February 14, 2018
An easy way to figure out what a resident assistant (RA) does is to think about your mom. You know how you call your mom when you’ve got a problem you can’t solve yourself, like taking a stain out of your favorite shirt? So, residents call their RA and ask them how to drop a class after the deadline. RAs are also placed in residence halls in order to stop karaoke night running into quiet hours, among other possible sources of mayhem. At Notre Dame de Namur University, where I’m an resident assistant, RAs also build community by organizing “walkovers,” events where we attend a chocolate fest or a lacrosse game as a group; or the RAs host “do nut stress” study breaks, where students drop in for a treat during finals.
I applied for an RA position at the end of my first year in college. I was ready to put on my mom jeans and guide freshmen through their initial year at university. Instead, I was assigned to be in charge of a hall with upperclassmen (third- and fourth-year students). I looked at my list of residents and I was “shook”—everyone was older than me. Being an RA for students who already have gone through their first two or three years of college was intimidating, because they would have experience and wouldn’t need me in the way I expected.
My challenge the first few months of being an RA was earning the respect of all my residents, despite my age. How do you tell someone who’s old enough to be your uncle to turn down the music?
Then one day I was attending Argo Madness, the annual basketball season kickoff in the gym. The event featured a game of knockout with a duffel bag stuffed with gear as the prize. My residents dragged me onto the court, probably thinking I was going to embarrass myself and they would get a good laugh when I was the first eliminated. They didn’t know I had been on the basketball team in high school. As the competition went on and I stayed in the game, my residents started cheering me on from the sidelines. When I eliminated the last player, there was a big cheer and we all danced together to celebrate.
From that day forward, my residents saw that we had something in common—in my case, it was basketball, but any number of things could have built that tie. After creating a connection, I noticed my residents trusted me more, and the respect was building. They began to come to me with issues, which I helped them solve; and with their accomplishments, which I shared their pride in.
As an RA, it’s not easy to be an authority when dealing with your peers. During the day everyone is just a student, but at night my role shifts. It’s difficult when I’m documenting a student violating a policy and then the next day I have to act like nothing happened as we’re in class together discussing the reading.
It’s not my job as an RA to get people in trouble, or as my residents like to say, to be “the feds.” I try to explain to my residents and peers that whatever I do is part of the job that helps me stay enrolled in college. That breaks the tension a little. Besides, it’s more paperwork and less sleep for me to document incidents, so I just ask, please follow the rules.
There are some personal rewards to being an RA. At Notre Dame de Namur University, we have a tradition that parents or other loved ones write a letter to new students when they drop them off at the residence halls at the beginning of the semester. The RA keeps the letters until midterms, a stressful time for all students. I get to be the one who knocks on their door and surprises them with this note of encouragement from their closest loved ones. It’s not unusual for both the student and the RA to shed a tear when they read that letter.
Joscelyn Q. Pardo is a student worker in Marketing and Communications at Notre Dame de Namur University, a sophomore majoring in psychology, and an RA in a residence hall.
For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.
Posted on February 1, 2018
I was talked into joining yearbook my sophomore year of high school after realizing I was not Michael Jordan—my dream of a basketball career was heading out the window. I had never designed a single spreadsheet or photographed a senior portrait in my life, but I was excited to start something new. (Plus someone told me the whole staff gets to travel around the country, and who doesn’t love to travel?) Diving into yearbook taught and surprised me with life skills I still use in college.
I never considered myself a social butterfly. My friends were my teammates and my mom was the one who knew all the chisme, or gossip. Talking on the phone made me as nervous as giving a speech on live television.
Yearbook forced me to overcome all that awkwardness. I had to ask people to come in for face-to-face interviews, I invaded students’ privacy with a camera in their face, and I got over my fear of public speaking. Coming out of my shell took some time. After my adviser appointed me coeditor-in-chief, I learned more skills than just how to talk to people—I learned how to be a leader. I was able to manage a staff to the point of winning first place for the National Scholastic Press Association (NSPA) Best of Show award two years in a row. These skills have helped me land student leader positions my first year of college. I am now a resident assistant, an orientation team leader, and I know nearly everyone who lives on campus.
You didn’t think winning first place was easy, did you? I learned the tips and tricks of Adobe Photoshop and InDesign after two years of sobbing in front of a computer screen because I forgot to save my latest design. Knowing the little things like how many picas are in an inch, or the rule of thirds has helped me get to where I am today.
During my time in high school I was able to use my new technical skills working at a local photography studio. In college I continue to use my skills for photographing events and adventures, designing Snapchat Geofilters, and being hired in the Marketing and Communications department here at Notre Dame de Namur University.
How to Work Hard
Being apart of the yerd (yearbook nerd) community, I discovered what it means to work hard. I spent countless days in the yearbook room working on designs and editing photos only to go home and study for a final the next day or go to work. Deadlines and events came whether I was ready or not. Finding the time, motivation, and most efficient way to do things was always a struggle.
In college, I’ve also had to deal with time management challenges. Assignment due dates are in the syllabus, but actually reading it is another story. Studying until 3:00 a.m. for an 8:00 a.m. exam is the worst idea, but it always happens. Balancing school, work, club involvement, a social life, and being a resident assistant is hard, but it’s nothing I can’t manage. Becoming a hard worker is something I developed in yearbook with time management and motivation, but it’s something I still continue to work on.
Joscelyn Q. Pardo is a student worker in Marketing and Communications at Notre Dame de Namur University and a sophomore majoring in psychology. In high school, she coedited the yearbook at James C. Enochs High School in Modesto, California.
For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.
Updated on December 4, 2017
I have always identified as an artist, but art therapy was not my original career goal. I planned to follow in my uncle’s footsteps and work in the graphic design industry. As an undergraduate art student, I devoted a significant portion of my time to community service and derived immense fulfillment from serving the homeless population. When I found the field of art therapy, it felt like something clicked into place. Art therapy was a way to connect my lifelong passion for art with my interest in community service. I volunteered as an artist in residence with an art therapy youth violence prevention program, went on to get a master’s degree, and entered the field of art therapy.
My internship and early work experiences were varied: I wanted to explore a range of settings and populations to find the right fit. Looking back on my career trajectory, what remains constant is an emphasis on art therapy as a means to connect where other forms of communication are limited or not available.
Sometimes art was actually the only shared language. I worked in a day program for older adults in Queens, New York. The elder population spoke seven different languages, and we often functioned without a translator.
I also worked with hospitalized children. The art therapy sessions allowed children to connect in new ways; their medical and cognitive needs called out for the creativity and adaptive techniques of art therapy. I worked with a teen who painted using an adaptive brush held in his mouth and a motorized canvas he controlled through head movement sensors.
My most controversial job transition was from working with these children (a population likely to inspire “warm fuzzy” feelings) to working in a forensic state hospital with civilly committed men. I had never before encountered so many “Why are you working with them?” questions. Here too, art therapy provided a means for safe expression. So many of the individuals had had their words used against them in court or had used their words to deceive. The art they created in the therapy and leisure groups was a way for them to work on mental health and interpersonal concerns going back to their own childhoods and often over multiple generations.
I took a leap of faith by leaving that high-paying, stable government job to establish a new role for an art therapist in a nonprofit, elder-care organization. The new job represented a connection between the volunteer work I had done as an undergraduate and the formative experiences I had with older adults as an art therapy intern. My belief in the power of art therapy guided me as I expanded the breadth of my role—first working only in one community with one art class a week, to a full work week of art therapy groups for elders in four levels of care. My role expanded over the years, even during my studies in the Art Therapy Program at NDNU. I facilitated experiences for elders in all of the organization’s residential communities, and for the leadership. I also organized a large community art show around the theme of redefining stereotypes of age.
My experiences in the PhD program at NDNU reaffirmed my commitment to art therapy and art-based research as a viable and important way to understand and operate within the world around us. When I entered the doctoral program, I knew I would be transforming my professional practice and developing as a researcher. What I did not realize was how much I would grow as a human being.
One moment that stands out from my studies at NDNU was the individual practicum process. The class structured time to develop a plan. I created a series of workshops in my art studio geared toward supporting the educational and self-care needs of professionals. The professors and the class process also gave me confidence to imagine and propose a new role for myself at work. They continue to mentor me as I transition into work beyond the traditional clinical setting.
When I completed my research and earned my PhD, I moved into a new role at work. My current title is Experiential Researcher-In-Residence. I am continuing my inquiry process with the elders, supporting student researchers, and establishing a community of practice for our staff based on collaboration and creativity. It is so exciting to use my skills in art therapy and research to shape the work we do with older adults. Each day, I wake up excited to go to work, excited to engage in creative practice with my coworkers, the elders, and the community. I am so grateful to have found my perfect match in the field of art therapy.
Updated on November 28, 2017
College students are under a lot of pressure to finish school in a tight four years, maintain enough extracurriculars to build a Johnny Bravo-buff resume, and live the kind of social life only seen in movies.
My first semester at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), I took the course Mindful Meditation with Amy Jobin. I hoped it would help ease me into my heavy workload. I had some vague familiarity with the practice of meditation, but I had never committed to sitting down Yoda-style with any consistency to see if it could help me reduce stress. In articles and on various websites, I kept reading how meditation practices produced the same striking list of results:
- Improvements in concentration and attention
- Improvement in focus under pressure
- Improvements in academic achievement
- Increase in self-awareness and overall emotional well-being
- Improvements in sleep quality
NDNU has been adding mindful meditation events and resources to encourage students to take care of themselves, actively reducing their stress and anxiety using meditation. The university now offers the Mindful Meditation course, Freshman Seminar professors have been incorporating mindful breathing into the curriculum, and the campus’s Virtual Reality (VR) Lab is providing guided meditation.
Mindful Meditation is a one-unit course with Amy Jobin, who teaches students the history of meditation and traditional practices, as well as the application of mindful living. Students learn both seated and walking meditation, and can choose which they prefer to practice throughout the semester. This intimate course is not more than 10 students, making for interesting, open-floor conversations during class meetings. The class provides a good working knowledge of meditation, and helps students form a simple routine to maintain the habit.
Patti Andrews wears many hats at NDNU. She is the Student Success Center program director, Freshman Seminar director, and a history and political science professor. She incorporated more mindful meditation and mindful breathing exercises into the Freshman Seminar after discovering that an assignment to “hang out with a tree” became an unprompted habit for stressed-out students. This encouraged her to start incorporating mindful breathing into the beginning of her evening history courses: “When I see that students need to focus their energy, I might do a two-to-three minute guided meditation. Students really like it and get excited when they know it’s coming.” She watches her students giddily straighten up, folding their hands in their laps to get ready to relax and focus their energy before they dive into class.
The VR Lab offers a mindful meditation program where you can step into a fluorescent-lit room; pull on the squishy, padded visor with audio ear covers; and all of your surroundings disappear. You are dropped into one of five peaceful places of your choosing, like a Toy Story alien being chosen by The Claw to go on to a better place. The program is simple, it takes you to a quiet place and begins to guide your breathing using visual cues. The program is long enough to bring you to a calm state of mind without being so long that you are more stressed about losing valuable work time.
For me, meditation is a short and sweet way to maintain sanity through college and beyond. Notre Dame de Namur University has realized the effectiveness of meditation programs and is increasing access to these offerings for students, using yoga, seed-saving workshops, and guided meditation with live acoustic guitar. Students receive notification of these events through the Student Weekly Update from the Marketing and Communications Department.
As for the list of positive effects of meditation, I do find myself more focused and relaxed under pressure academically and personally. However, my sleep quality is not as high as promised. I thank the mindful meditation course and I blame my nocturnal, energetic cats.
Samantha Rupel is a senior in the Communication Department at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. She is currently an Intern with the Marketing and Communications Department and enjoys writing sassy blogs for her patient and understanding university.
For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), please visit the admissions page.
Updated on November 15, 2017
Teaching styles in the United States are different than in other countries. Your unique thoughts and ideas count in the U.S. Professors here accept a variety of opinions. In other countries, such as Saudi Arabia, for example, where I come from, respecting instructors and their way of teaching is more important than anything else. Here in the U.S., you get to experience learning from another perspective.
Universities in the U.S. appreciate teamwork. In many classes, it is essential for students to get the best out of their program. Teachers and students sometimes work on projects together, discussing and sharing ideas and opinions.
In Saudi Arabia, teamwork was based on dividing students into groups of four to five students. Usually, teamwork is all about getting high grades, and not for the sake of the projects. Instructors would give the students projects that had been already done, so the teachers would not expect much originality.
In the U.S., talking and discussing are a must in seminar classes. Professors welcome and are glad to hear students’ opinions and to learn more about students’ perspectives.
When I first started classes here, I was very quiet. I was a listener more than a talker. The teachers were so open. I remember the first time I spoke after weeks of being silent: the professor was very happy and supportive of my point of view. She made me feel that my opinion is important.
Share your opinion/your opinion matters
If a thought comes to mind, you can say it out loud in a U.S. class. Where I come from, you ask permission to talk and you have to give an opinion that is considered correct. Here at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), I share my opinion freely, which has also helped me in gaining confidence outside of class.
Learning more than memorizing
U.S. universities focus on the learning experience rather than memorizing a lecture. Professors here are trained to show you the way to blossom. They focus on you as an individual and on how much you understand; the teachers evaluate themselves based on the students’ understanding.
Adding variety to the classroom
In the United States, you are a new color added to the rainbow in the class. For the most part, U.S. universities welcome international students with open hearts. U.S. students are often thrilled to learn about your culture, knowledge, and perspectives. If you land in the right place, you will feel that you are living in your second home.
Use the library
I come from a country where libraries are only for men. Coming here and being able to have access to libraries whenever I wanted was overwhelming! I can use a variety of materials, from research papers, to books, to encyclopedias, and more. I can go to the library for my classes or for pleasure.
Study groups are a gathering of students who meet regularly to work together and explore a topic or class. They are usually classmates or they share the same major. Sometimes the study group is based on the students’ interest. Study groups can help students understand and explore lectures. It’s a way to keep students on track and help them do their homework successfully.
Professors’ office hours
Office hours are a time when a student can have a one-to-one meeting with a professor. They are a useful way for students to ask questions about a lecture or a reading assignment, brainstorm about topics for a paper or a project, or just to pose questions that arise during a course.
Though it may seem intimidating at first to meet with a professor one-on-one, office hours are an important chance to benefit from an instructor’s knowledge and to network about educational and professional opportunities that the professor may suggest.
Samah Damanhoori is a second-year master’s student in the English Department at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. Samah is working on various writing projects, and a short story she wrote is being made into an animated short movie.
Posted on October 25, 2017
When I got into Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU), I was so happy I ugly cried on the phone with my transfer counselor. He was talking me through the details of transferring, but everything he said was muffled by my joy, like Charlie Brown listening to his teacher. NDNU had the Communication program I wanted most, with the student services I have grown to value so highly.
The application process alone with other schools was traumatizing, I could never get ahold of anyone for help with my paperwork or arrange a meeting longer than five minutes to discuss the details of my transfer application. When I applied to NDNU, I got a call from my admissions counselor letting me know when my application was being reviewed, and again at each step moving forward. My hand was held all the way through the transfer process, and I always had a quick response whenever I got nervous.
This experience convinced me that a small university was the right choice for me in finishing the last two years of my education. I signed my commitment forms on Argo Day (NDNU’s welcome day for admitted students), got my Polaroid picture taken with the NDNU Argonaut mascot, received my first NDNU T-shirt, and spoke with some students who would soon be my peers in the Communication Department.
When I got through the bureaucracy and into the school, I was assigned a guidance counselor, Leah Ferrari, to help lay out my two-year plan for graduation. She is incredibly attentive and careful with the details to ensure there is plenty of time and wiggle room for each of her students. This makes me feel looked after and comfortable to enjoy my top-of-the-line education, while trusting her to make sure I’m taking all the classes I need.
Brooke Becton’s transfer experience led her to be a transfer ambassador for NDNU’s Office of Admissions. “If you’re thinking about transferring, then take the next steps,” she says. “Also, if there are ever any doubts or questions during the transfer process, don’t be afraid to reach out to the counselors because they are great resources.”
NDNU promises to look at the applicant as a whole, and not just as a set of statistics, and they keep their promise. I transferred in with a 2.6 GPA, thinking I didn’t have a chance anywhere because no school would look beyond my below-average number. The people in the Admissions Office listened to me, they read what I wrote, and they took a leap of faith that would lead to my current 4.0 GPA.
Samantha Rupel is a senior in the Communication Department at Notre Dame de Namur University in Belmont, California. She is currently an intern with the Marketing and Communications Department and enjoys writing sassy blogs for her patient and understanding university.
For information on transfering to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Transfer Admission page.
Updated on October 11, 2017
Jon Black is both the associate director of admissions and the head coach of the lacrosse team at Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU). This year he also finished a master’s in business administration degree at NDNU and was selected as the annual NDNU graduate to receive the City of Belmont Community Service and Leadership Award. Mayor Charles Stone of Belmont presented Jon Black with a plaque at the NDNU Commencement on May 6, 2017, and then issued a proclamation honoring Jon at the City Council meeting on May 9.
During Jon Black’s four-year tenure as associate coach and then head coach, he has personally volunteered for many causes. He has also inspired the entire lacrosse team to perform many thousands of hours of community service. Under Jon’s leadership, the team has raised close to $20,000 for a variety of charities. Lacrosse athletes have collected funds to fight childhood cancer through the Vs. Cancer Foundation. With the cross-country team and the Office of Spirituality, they have organized a 5K “NicaArgo” race on campus to help fund services to children with special needs and their families in Matagalpa, Nicaragua. The project is directed by Sister Rebecca Trujillo of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.
The lacrosse team’s community engagement work is often done in a playful spirit. They played a game in pink uniforms to promote breast cancer awareness. The team helped stage Halloween in the Tenderloin for kids in one of San Francisco’s most troubled neighborhoods. At one lacrosse game, Jon challenged the team to make shots from half-court at halftime and offered to donate $100 to the American Cancer Society for each goal. “They made a lot of shots!” he remembers.
In addition to completing an MBA at NDNU, Jon Black earned his undergraduate degree at the university. “I didn’t know I was going to NDNU until two weeks before freshman year started, when a coach from the university saw me playing lacrosse in a club game,” he recalls. “As associate director of admissions I have a soft spot for students who end up registering close to the beginning of their first semester.”
Since 2004, Jon has spent much of his time at NDNU, either as a student, a staff member, or coach. “I really love the mission of the university. NDNU emphasizes being a global citizen and helping the local community. That speaks to me.”
Jon also likes the challenge of working in admissions: “I enjoy being able to make an impact in a prospective student’s life. In the Admissions Office, we develop a relationship with prospective students, and we like seeing them around NDNU once they get here. There’s a feeling of community that radiates throughout campus.”
For more information on applying to Notre Dame de Namur University, please visit the Admissions page.
Updated on October 11, 2017
NDNU Alum Wais Abdiani Manages Finances for the Design and Construction of the New Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford
Wais Abdiani, who earned his MBA from Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) in 2009, is the program finance manager for the new state-of-the art Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, scheduled to open in December 2017.
More than doubling the facility’s original size, the new building for Packard Children’s Hospital will be the most technologically advanced, family-friendly, and environmentally sustainable hospital for children and expectant mothers in the nation.
“I’m excited to go to work every day to help with the construction of a hospital that will break new ground in many ways,” says Wais. The hospital is technologically advanced in its use of hybrid operating rooms equipped to take x-rays while a patient is in surgery, and it’s family friendly in providing homey private suites with accommodations for up to two relatives, as well as showers and kitchens. The design is a work of art, filled with nature-themed play spaces, gardens, and artwork, and a cafeteria with a wood-burning pizza oven and local organic food.
The hospital offers activities for both patients and their siblings, from a video broadcast studio to a digital interactive wall where children use their body movements to engage with an educational nature story on the screen.
“To outfit the new hospital involved the purchase of over 15,000 pieces of medical equipment and 4,700 pieces of furniture, among many other items,” Wais recounts. “What motivates me to do this work is knowing that children with the greatest medical challenges will come here and receive the best possible treatment.” The hospital is also environmentally friendly, including a wind turbine, and a cistern to collect rainwater for the gardens. “We used recycled wood and steel for many of the building components,” Wais describes.
Wais was born in a refugee camp and emigrated to the United States with his family at a young age. After earning a bachelor’s degree, Wais was able to enter the MBA program at NDNU with the help of financial aid. “Attending the MBA at NDNU was one of the best things that ever happened to me,“ he recalls. “The professors took an interest and encouraged me. At NDNU I took classes that offered project management skills I immediately applied to my work. The university also provided an atmosphere of compassion and harmony.”
Wais laments the current stigma that is often attached to refugees: “Refugees come to the United States to seek a safe haven from war, embrace Western values, raise families, and work hard to give back to this great country.”