February 28, 2013
by Rhea Marcelino

No Car, No Problem

Photo: Center for Spirituality, NDNU

I’m not really the type of person to attend school events, but when our school has an event to go to San Francisco, know that I will be there. I’m a girl who enjoys exploring and sometimes my urge to experience new things gets shut down due to simple fact that I don’t have a car. I’d walk, but the farthest my feet will take me will probably be within Belmont and let’s be honest, Belmont itself is not exactly the most interesting place on earth. I’d take the Caltrain, but the cost for tickets just start adding up, therefore leaving my wallet a little depressed. So! If there’s one thing I’ve learned to do (okay, that’s an exaggeration), it is to embrace off campus events! They’re almost always free, and let’s be real, who doesn’t love free?!

This past Saturday, a friend of mine hosted an event to go to the Grace Cathedral. I’ve always been into complex architecture and the fact that my friend was hosting it was good enough reason for me to tag along for this event. Plus, it was on a Saturday. I would be kidding myself if I said I was going to stay back and do homework. On a Saturday, anyway.

So, Saturday morning, bright and early (if you would call this early), we met up in the school quad at 10 a.m. Once we were all there, we all walked to the Caltrain station, which is a good 10-15 walk downhill. Once we arrived to the station, we were all provided with clipper cards so that we didn’t have to pay for transportation. We “clipped on” and took the northbound train to San Francisco and that took us a good 30 minutes. During that time, I felt that the main topic for discussion was movies. Sidenote – if you haven’t seen Safe Haven, A Good Day to Die Hard or Gangster Squad yet, I highly recommend them! Once we arrived, we “clipped off” and made our way to the bus stop.

Buses. While I’ve never been one to hate on buses, this bus experience was just plain crazy. When we got on the first bus, we started off perfectly fine. Although, as we continued through the bus route, the bus became more and more crowded with every stop that we took. We eventually had to give up our seats for the elderly. That wasn’t what bothered me though. It was the fact that I was literally smashed between my friends and a few stangers and all I had to keep me from falling over, was that little pole they have running through the bus. End destination: Stockton and Clay. Once we finally got off the first bus, we would either have to walk up a hill to get to our destination or take another bus, and another bus it was. We walk on over to the bus stop that we needed to be at and by then there were a bunch of older ladies waiting for the same bus. Once the 1 came rolling in, we see that it’s already packed, but we, the smart students that we are, decided that we should try to get in. So, we did. Besides the fact that I was literaly standing next to the bus driver during the ride, we made it to our destination just fine.

Photo: Center for Spirituality, NDNU

The Grace Cathedral. I don’t exaggerate when I say that I felt relief. It really amazed me that a building such as that cathedral existed smack dab in the middle of such a crazy city. We walk into the cathedral, and I’m in awe. One thing on my bucket list is to go to Europe to see great buildings and old architecture. Being at this cathedral, I felt, gave me a just a taste of that. The first thing I noticed was the tall ceilings. My eyes started from the perfectly arranged row of pews and went up to see how tall the buidling was. The cathedral was surrounded with artwork of saints and each of the “windows” were beautiful works of stained glass art. During the time that we were there, the sun would move in such a way that when the light gleamed through the windows, little specks of colors would fill the room.

In the front of the cathedral, there was a labyrinth. I’ve never been through a labyrinth before and so I figured I would give this one a try. Also, the purpose of this event was to get more in touch with your “spiritual being.” Labyrinths are supposed to aide in that aspect. We each started at the opening of the labyrinth and going at our own pace, made our way through it. At the end, or middle I should say, of the labyrinth, we all stood there for a few moments to gather our thoughts and get in touch with our inner peace. Corny, I know. But, it’s one of those things that you shouldn’t knock until you try it! :)

After making our way through the labyrinth, we eventually found someone to give us a mini tour of the cathedral. She showed us interesting details, including a glassed stained window that had an equation hidden on it. We ended at the door where there was a piece of artwork made by an artist who was in a competition and took 20 years (if I remember correctly) to create!

After our time at the cathedral, we ended up venturing out into the city and because we were downtown, we decided to hit up Union Square for some lunch. From there on out, the day went pretty smoothly. My urge for adventure was fulfilled AND let us not forget, I did it, for free!

February 20, 2013
by Rachel Geibig


I can never satiate my hunger. I always want to eat more and more until I can hardly breathe and my belt is about to break. It’s like I’m addicted to food.

As I’ve pushed deeper into my education, however, I’ve found that it isn’t just food that can’t satisfy me. Nothing can satisfy me now. Not cupcakes, not A’s on my grade reports, not even getting my monthly allowance. Nothing. (I guess that’s what I get for choosing “hungry” as my Senior word for high school graduation.)

I’m not saying that I am a spoiled pessimistic brat, nor that I’m unhappy with the privileges I’ve been given. I’m just saying that I constantly want more.

I don’t just want cupcakes. I want to make them, take pictures of them, open a store and sell them for three bucks a pop. I don’t just want A’s on my grade reports. I want A pluses that I know darn-well had my blood, sweat, and tears poured into. And my monthly allowance? I don’t just want to see that my dad has graciously transferred money into my account. I want to know that I can save that money, invest it, and earn so much interest that I can buy a blimp if I wanted to. There is so much that I want to do and so many questions I have regarding my own success that it drives me crazy.

Now, I could sit around all day and dream about what my future has in store or whether I really will have enough money to buy a blimp, but I don’t. Instead of letting my whimsical aspirations lower my already-low-because-I’m-a-college-student self-esteem, I use them to fuel my thoughts. I have never dreamt bigger than I do as a college student, and it is because I want so much. Not material things, but the things that make me intellectual and independent. Isn’t that what college is supposed to do to you?

And maybe it’s being a broke college student who is tired of having a roommate, or maybe it’s my desire to furnish my own apartment and own a few houseplants, but being hungry and dreaming seem to make everything better.

January 28, 2013
by Dean Kevin Santos

Undocumented and Unafraid at NDNU

I am undocumented and unafraid. That is the motto of the undocumented immigrant youth throughout the nation. By “coming out of the shadows,” undocumented folks like myself empower ourselves by not hiding a central part of our identity. This idea of “coming out” was borrowed from the gay rights movement. I have no papers and I am not afraid to tell people what my realities are, the situation I live through every single second of my life until immigration reform happens. Minniejean Brown-Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine of the Civil Rights Movement, once told me: “Your personal story is your most powerful weapon. You have the power to change minds.”

With such a volatile issue such as immigration reform, undocumented youth like myself have been telling our stories to show the larger population that the policies in place are not working. The immigration laws that we have in place are broken, broken, broken. People ask me, “Why don’t you just legalize yourself?” It’s because I’m a masochist. I like living like a second class citizen who lives in constant fear of deportation. No… I’m just kidding. There is no current way for me to legalize even if I wanted to. My mother brought me here without papers so that I could have a better life and I do not blame her. She just wants the best for her son. And I am grateful for that. Now it is my turn to play my part to make sure that her dream of having me graduate becomes a reality.

When I transferred to NDNU last semester, I was unsure of how I would tackle telling my story to the larger student body. I am flamboyantly out of the shadows. I like to tell people my story of being undocumented when I get a chance. Initially I only told a few friends on this campus about my story in the very beginning. That was until I had a presentation for one of my classes and I picked immigration as my topic. I remember that presentation clearly. I told the story of how the policy of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) came to be. Then I dropped the shocker! I told the class, “I am undocumented.” I saw a few surprised faces, and I don’t blame them. I suppose that was the first time some folks met an undocumented person and I am definitely not a stereotypical undocumented immigrant. I was a student just like the rest of the class.

After that particular coming out, I shared my story with one of my professors and what I do for the immigrant community. I was the Outreach and Advocacy Committee Co-Chair for ASPIRE, Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education and the Educator for Fair Consideration’s (E4FC), which holds educational presentations throughout the Bay Area. She told me to share my story at the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center for Social Justice and Community Engagement. When I did share my story, I felt like I hit a jackpot. With all of the work I do for immigration rights, I felt like I finally found an outlet that will help me develop and grow. Immigration rights is a social justice issue and the Sr. Dorothy Stang Center recognizes that. I talked to Jim McGarry, the interim director of the center, and Amy Jobin, the director of the Center for Spirituality, and they just gave me a whole lot of love. They supported what I do and helped me get more students get involved in immigration rights.

This month, on January 19 last week, I held a presentation at UC Berkeley for E4FC’s Educator Conference. It was a conference aimed towards providing resources to educators and allies on how to support undocumented students on their pursuit towards higher education. There more than 500 attendees from all over the Bay Area and out-of-state institutions. Jim and Amy were able to bring a bunch of students and some NDNU staff to the conference. From what I heard from E4FC’s Outreach Manager, NDNU brought the most people to the conference. I think that’s a testament of how committed Notre Dame de Namur University is to supporting undocumented people like me. I like that. This kind of support is uplifting to the spirit and it dissipates my bouts of self-doubt of being able to finish college.

The support from educators and allies here at NDNU validates why we need immigration reform. Undocumented students like me are tired of waiting for politicians to dictate when we can continue on with our lives. What folks like me want is a normal life without fear of deportation and to be able to fully contribute back to our society. Immigration reform is now a priority for the Obama administration and that’s what I’ll be fighting for this year. Comprehensive Immigration Reform will happen and I will be fighting for it with educators and allies from NDNU by my side. I am sure of it.

January 16, 2013
by Karen S
1 Comment

Pay for College With Scholarships

As someone who went back to college later in life, and as a parent who paid for the first child’s private education, and has another one currently in college, I understand the benefits of seeking out scholarship opportunities. It would have been a tremendous help to know that we were most likely eligible for something, even if it was small.

Once I started to work in education, I was shocked to learn how much money goes un-awarded because people just don’t apply. I also discovered that grant and scholarship aid for full-time students continues to increase. According to College Board, 53% of college tuition is paid for through scholarships and grants, but there is still a lot of money that goes un-awarded due to lack of applicants.

Here are some useful tips that I found while searching for scholarships.

  • Do not pay a fee for scholarship searches. If you work independently you can generally find more sources than using a paid service.
  • Resources like high school and college guidance counselors, web searches, information from the Department of Education and other sources are available to help you organize your search.
  • As you search you may notice that often grant or scholarship searches are focused on targeted groups like academics, talent, athletics, diversity, underrepresented groups (example: first generation students) and geographical locations.  If you string together words like scholarships, grants, college, university, adult, graduate student, major of interest, your ethnicity or groups you are involved with, this can also bring up random scholarships that are available.
  • Graduate, credential and adult (non-traditional) students should also do these searches. There are generally less funds available for these groups, but it can be worth the effort.
  • In exchange for use of a web site you might be asked to provide your email. People often create a secondary email from a free service if they are asked to provide their information, especially if they are concerned about the free search sites searching them out as well. That way you also have all of the sites and responses in one place.
  • Listed outside scholarships are additional to what a specific college might offer and do not include other grants or scholarships that a school’s financial aid office can determine your eligibility. Always remember to check with them as well.
  • Search local, you’d be surprised how many local scholarships are available, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley.

With the internet the search process has become much easier. There are many sites available to search from. In our free download, “Outside Scholarship Search Information For College Students,” we’ve included links to most of the key sites, as well as sites for diverse groups. Download it today and get started on your scholarship search!

December 11, 2012
by Alanah Aguilar

Alanah’s Thoughts on Finals Week

It’s finals time! While everyone is stressed out about finals I’m thinking more positive. My theory on finals week is simple: yes finals suck BUT in one week we will be FREE for one month! My cross country coach tells the team that when the race gets hard, when you can’t breathe and when you feel your legs get heavy … push harder.  I put his advice into perspective for every aspect of my life now. I give everything my all because I know that the “coulda-shoulda-woulda” will eat me up. I told my roommates this as well and truthfully finals week has brought the three of us much closer. We keep each other going when we get tired, spring little surprises on one another and keep reminding each other that in one week we will be home and can literally lay in bed with a jumbo bag of chips all day. I do have to admit that I feel a little guilty that finals week hasn’t hit me as hard as other people on campus. There are students on campus that are staying up all night long working on assignments. I personally can’t function without 8-10 hours of sleep so all nighters are pointless for me. I’ve been in college for some time now and with experience I’ve learned to avoid all of that stress by staying on top of my work throughout the year, simple enough right? But for the rest of you who didn’t follow in my footsteps here is some passed-down advice: PUSH HARDER.


November 27, 2012
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Giving Tuesday Is A Way Of Life

A number of charities and businesses across the country have named today “Giving Tuesday,” so perhaps it is fitting that today representatives of NDNU’s Mail Center delivered more than 20 boxes of warm weather clothing to InnVision/Shelter Network. However, community engagement isn’t a one-day process; at NDNU, it’s a way of life.

Even though David Baird doesn’t work in the classroom, he still found a way to incorporate the social justice mission of the university into his work and teach those values to our students. Baird, who runs the university’s Mail Center, organized a coat drive for the second consecutive year not only to help those who needed clothing to keep warm in the winter, but also to demonstrate to his student workers the importance of helping those who are in need. “I like involving the students so we can give them a taste of what community engagement is like, and show them that it doesn’t take much effort to help lots of people,” said Baird. The students who assisted Baird with the coat drive are Alex Aguilar, Sal Arias, Gerardo Rodriguez, Marisela Torres, Cristina Basulto and Jordan Tupfer Cruz. “Marisela went with me to deliver the coats,” said Baird, “and we talked about how the little that we did makes a big difference. She could appreciate that.”

From October 15 to November 21, the Mail Center collected donations of coats, rain jackets, boots, scarves, hats, sweaters and umbrellas from students, staff and faculty. Anyone wishing to make a donation simply had to notify the Mail Center and someone would come to pick the items up. “I am so thankful for our campus community’s effort in this coat drive,” said Baird. “It is heartwarming to know that everyone cares enough to help our neighbors in need.”

Top photo: David Baird with students Marisela Torres and Jordan Tupfer Cruz before delivering donations to InnVision/Shelter Network.

November 2, 2012
by Kyndall Smith


I’d say last weekend was pretty eventful. Friday I got to hang out with some cool kids from Parca. Parca is an organization that provides support for people with developmental disabilities. The group is open to people of all ages as well as their friends and family members. The Psi Chi honor society at NDNU has been putting together two events a year in conjunction with Parca.

The people that come are always so full of energy and joy. Even playing with something as simple as a balloon brightens their day. I want that same happiness and simplicity in my life. I love those kids; they are so inspirational. I think that from the people at Parca, others can really learn to slow down and appreciate the little things in life.

After the eventful and entertaining Parca social I just fell asleep; the week had really taken a toll on me.

Saturday was the last fall ball game for lacrosse against Sonoma. It was a really close game and went into over time, but unfortunately the Argos lost. Oh well. Nick’s mom was here for the weekend to see him and to watch his game, so I got to catch up with her while we watched. Then we went back to Nick’s apartment and his mother showed me how to make her famous and amazing margaritas! They are amazing! After that she left to go visit her friend in Santa Cruz. Once she left we started setting up for the boys’ big Halloween party. That went really well; so many people came! I left before the night was over, and can only imagine the disaster that was left behind to be found in the morning.

Now, it’s Sunday, relax day. I went to have a late breakfast lunch at Whispers Café with my roomy; it was so delicious. After our meal we  just chilled, and enjoyed some much needed quiet time off campus.

October 17, 2012
by Kyndall Smith

Six Days at Sea!

This post is part of a series about Kyndall’s travels with study abroad program Semester at Sea.

Although this is long overdue, here is the continuation of my blogging from the summer voyage!!

Yay! Six full days of classes from Istanbul to Morocco. In order to get in the full amount of classes, the ship has to move painfully slow through the Mediterranean. Outside there is no wind at all due to the snail pace, and the sun is amplified by the water. Great for tanning, terrible for anything else.

It would have been a great six day break between ports had I not had so much school work!. I had a test the first day, an essay due the next, another test on the third day, and two more essays due the next two days. I was a busy busy girl. But I got everything done with limited amounts of stress, thank goodness. And I even had time one of the days to get a little sun.

During this six day break, the ship held a talent show for anyone brave enough to present themselves in front of the entire ship. Everyone did an amazing job! I was so surprised at how many talented people there were on the ship. The most popular performance type was musical, showcasing the singing and instrumental capabilities of the students. Some people even wrote their own music; very impressive! Others danced, read poetry, and presented a comedy act. It’s hard to say who was the absolute best, because everyone had an amazing talent, but some people definitely stood out with their performances: Rio a guitar player, singer, and song writer; Keenan, a guitar player, who just learned on the voyage that he had an amazing voice; a group of three girls who did an interesting contemporary dance that was very well choreographed; and Willie De, also a singer, songwriter, and guitar player. Willie De actually won the talent show, and as it turns out he has some of his own recorded music on iTunes! He has two CDs out already, and a new one scheduled to hit stores in the fall. He had a few of his new CDs to give to people on the ship, so I got some of his music!

After all of my tests and essays were done, we had just enough time to get a general plan for our first day in Morocco. We figured out what we were doing and who all would be meeting us for breakfast at 7:45, on sixth deck. Our last day was spent relaxing and making plans for our second to last port of the voyage.

October 15, 2012
by Kyndall Smith



I had only been to festivals and never to a real concert, and Pretty Lights was my first!! That in itself is awesome, but then actually going and experiencing the whole thing myself was even better. Now I know why my little sister goes to them all of the time!

There were about fifteen NDNU kids going in our group, so we carpooled to the BART station in Millbrae then rode the train to the venue. That was an interesting ride. Everyone I was with was dressed in unique outfits to say the least; all eyes were on us. Not to mention we were pretty loud in our excitement for the concert.

We finally got there; thankfully, the venue was a stone’s throw from the train station. There was one person left to open for Pretty Lights when we walked in. We also fit in more as far as attire goes. The other crazed fans and crazier outfits only hyped us up more for the main show. Then the famous Pretty Lights countdown began and we went wild!

He played all of his new stuff, and some songs none of us had ever heard before. The way he blends the sounds together is really creative. He played for what seemed like hours; we were all lost in the music and in our own selves as we danced along. The finale seemed to come far too soon. It was! Pretty Lights came back and played all of the old favorites! I thought the crowd was crazy before, but man, everyone went berserk!!!!

Such a great experience! I’m very glad that I finally saw my first concert; I couldn’t have asked for a better performance. I also can’t wait for my next concert!!! I am officially addicted.


October 8, 2012
by Notre Dame de Namur University

Science Stars or Scientific Illiterates: The Choice Is Ours!

The following is an article by Melissa Book McAlexander, Ph.D. and Isabelle G. Haithcox, Ph.D. that will appear in the premiere issue of NDNU Today, the magazine of Notre Dame de Namur University. The entire magazine will be available online Wednesday, October 10 at ndnu.edu/magazine.

NDNU is about to embark on one of the most exciting endeavors in its history. Thanks to over $6 million in grants from the federal government that we were eligible to receive as a Hispanic-Serving Institution (HSI), NDNU is instituting exciting new programs to help Hispanic and low-income students succeed in college. Some of the grant funds are earmarked especially to help more Hispanic and low-income students pursue careers in what are called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) professions. Yet for all our good intentions, programs like ours will fail miserably if we don’t take science education at the high and middle school level more seriously.

Case in point: California, a state known for its progressive environmental policies and leading-edge technology, ironically stood on the cusp of setting science education back by decades during the state budget negotiations earlier this year. At a time when the rest of the world is becoming increasingly competitive in science and technology, a little-known provision of Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed 2013-14 budget would have eliminated the requirement that high school students take two years of laboratory science and instead require one.

Thankfully, the approved budget salvaged the funding for a second year of science, although Gov. Brown promises massive cuts to education in November if voters don’t approve a tax increase. But the fact that California’s leadership, overseeing the ninth largest economy in the world, so devalues science education that it’s willing to risk producing a generation of science illiterates is alarming. Our focus needs to be on better preparing our students. As it is, students in California and across the country all too frequently arrive in high school with limited science experience from elementary or middle school. The intense focus on testing in math and reading in early grades, increasing class sizes, and ever-smaller budgets leaves little room for serious science education. Even two years of mandatory laboratory science in high school can’t completely close that gap. The effect of these years of limited experience in science is that many students arrive in college uninterested in science and at a disadvantage in developing critical thinking skills. One of my colleagues, who has taught middle and high school science, says science is critical for “figuring stuff out.” Science experiences help students gain the skills they need to solve challenges and make decisions in all areas of their lives, not just in chemistry. Additionally, students who may be interested in science degrees often lack proper foundations for scientific observation or measurement when they begin college-level work.

Meanwhile, colleges and universities struggle to fill gaping holes in STEM education. How can students from low-performing and under-funded schools eventually pursue the high-paying jobs available in STEM fields, when they arrive at college ill-prepared for even the introductory coursework in these majors? To adequately support these students, we’ll need more tutoring and academic support; otherwise, these students are at risk of earning low grades or changing majors before they’ve gotten through the gateway courses.

Why does all of this matter? Well, for one thing, the federal government has been emphasizing the importance of strengthening science, technology, engineering and math education to keep the U.S. workforce competitive in a global economy. President Obama has called for training 100,000 new STEM teachers by 2020 and generating a million new STEM graduates in order to keep the United States’ edge as a leading technological innovator. The country needs graduates proficient in STEM fields to fill jobs in fields ranging from computer science to environmental engineering to renewable energy. We also need knowledgeable teachers at all levels, from kindergarten to university, to prepare
our students to pursue these careers.

High school science classes are vital for exposing students to STEM fields; for some, it will be the last science instruction they ever have, and for others it will lay the groundwork for a college major and perhaps a science-related career. Either way, we’ll only harm ourselves by failing to provide comprehensive science education in high school. By generating high school graduates uninterested and ill prepared for STEM majors and careers, we’ll be creating a knowledge deficit from which we might never rebound.

While programs like those now offered at NDNU are invaluable, they’re no substitute for good educational policy and investment in science education. St. Julie Billiart, co-foundress of the Sisters of Notre Dame said, “Teach them what they need to know for life.” In providing support for students pursuing STEM fields at NDNU, we are doing just that.