Visitors to Notre Dame's South Bend (Ind.) campus tend to remember the magnificent Basilica of the Sacred Heart, manicured lawns, and famous "Touchdown Jesus" mosaic. But down the road at a local community center, there's a part of the Notre Dame experience that's less visually engaging but more enduring: local outreach. There, low-income residents file tax returns with help from accounting students; the experience amplifies what the students learned earlier in the classroom component of the tax-assistance program. "It's really nice instead of just doing book work," says Jane Peacock, 21, one of 96 participants in the program this spring. "You get to take what you learn and apply the skills you have to help someone."
Notre Dame's Mendoza College of Business isn't just about getting solid finance, accounting, and marketing skills: It's about what you do with them. The university's 164 years of Catholic tradition influence almost every aspect of the academic experience. Topics such as ethics and leadership that normally get short shrift at B-schools are integral to virtually every class. Students are required to take six hours each of philosophy and theology, plus a business ethics course. And 85% participate in service projects. Those on the entrepreneurship track routinely assist local residents in starting small businesses. Students on internships frequently travel to developing countries to help others.
Mendoza's unique sense of community doesn't end when a student dons a cap and gown. Even alumni get into the act: They have expanded the tax-assistance program to more than 20 locations around the country. This high degree of loyalty is nurtured in part by Mendoza's living arrangements and the camaraderie they foster. Nearly 80% of students reside on campus, and they're encouraged to stay in the same dorm all four years. It's an intense bonding experience. "I think students here are very focused on the success of the group," says senior Brett Brennfleck, 22.
Notre Dame also boasts a vibrant social life that has little to do with religion and everything to do with football and beer. Tailgate parties are legendary, and dorms, both male and female, field football teams against each other in the fall. The finalists do battle in Notre Dame Stadium, which to many rabid fans is as sacred as the Basilica itself.
Notre Dame may not be for everyone. About 85% of undergrads are Catholic. Mendoza Dean Carolyn Y. Woo says all religions are welcome, but students without spiritual leanings might find the program a poor fit. "We expect our people to know how blessed they are and that giving back is an expectation," she says.
Students who come to Mendoza are expected to serve others, but they don't walk away empty-handed. They learn more by doing than they would by learning alone. Ask Jane Peacock.
By Lindsey Gerdes