University of Notre Dame

The Dean's A-List

This page was last updated on July 18, 2017.

Must-Do Items for your First Year Journey at Notre Dame

How do you make the most of your first-year experience? What activities have the greatest potential to motivate, stretch, and inspire you as a new student? What should first-year students do to: be fully engaged in campus life, discern their unique calling, and prepare themselves to be agents of change in today’s world? The Dean’s A-List is a set of must-do activities designed to help first-year students begin a yearlong process of contemplation and self-discovery guaranteed to result in personal growth and transformation. Those completing these activities will receive special recognition at the end of the academic year.

1. Have a Life-Changing Conversation

Schedule a thirty-minute meeting with a faculty member outside of class to talk about your dreams and future aspirations. Ask her/him to tell you their Notre Dame story.

2. Make Time for Discernment

Share your dreams with your First Year Advisor. Schedule a meeting with a counselor at the Career Center. Share your plans for the future, even if they are not yet fully developed. Talk about opportunities for learning beyond the classroom through internships and other activities. Develop a résumé and place it in your e-Portfolio.

3. Wander the Stacks — Discover a World of Learning

Visit, and wander the stacks in each of our on-campus libraries. Let serendipity fuel your wanderings. Pick up random books and periodicals. Scan them for a few moments. If something catches your eyes or makes you think, make note of it mentally. Keep a record of these discoveries in your e-Portfolio.

4. Immerse Yourself in the Arts

Take a tour of the Snite Museum of Art. Experience each of the following genres through events at the DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts: Cinema — drama, comedy, documentary; plays; concerts — folk, classical, and jazz. Learn to draw, paint, or do sculpture. Cultivate your musical talents.

5. Take an Elective to Help You Think and Explore

Use one of your elective class slots to take a course that helps you think more deeply about something you know or to explore a completely unfamiliar subject. Round out your education by choosing classes that give you a diverse set of skills in the sciences, technology, ethics, and emerging new fields such as sustainability to navigate the world of today and tomorrow.

6. Send Handwritten Thank-You Letters to Three People Who Have Made Your Life Better

Some say with the predominance of online communication — especially texting — that handwriting is fast becoming a lost art form and written correspondence completely passé. While it might be a little old-fashioned, handwritten notes remain an important way to convey information with a uniquely personal touch today. Think about three individuals who have touched you in some special way. Honor them by sending a handwritten thank-you note. Be specific in describing your gratitude for all they have done.

7. Set Aside 30 Minutes Each Week to Dream

Dreams are the real currency of colleges and universities, yet a typical day can become so incredibly full with academic and social activities, that we forget to set aside time to plant and cultivate them. Find a contemplative spot: perhaps a dorm chapel, the basilica, the Grotto, our Lakes, or even the Labyrinth at St. Mary’s College. Give yourself 30 minutes each week there to consider your future aspirations.

8. Attend a Lecture or Public Forum Sponsored by the University

The lectures, colloquia, and forums sponsored on campus throughout the year provide you with an opportunity to learn an incredible amount about the arts, humanities, sciences, and commerce outside of the classroom. Make it a point to explore the University calendar and bulletin boards around campus to identify some of these events. Make it a point to attend several each semester.

9. Begin to Learn a New Language — Really, Really Well

We live in a world of many cultures, peoples, and languages, a world in which communication is more important than ever. Proficiency in multiple languages is fast becoming a necessity for responsible global citizenship. Make it a point to assess your proficiency in languages with which you are already familiar. Enhance this learning through coursework and opportunities to hone your skills through speaking and reading. Utilize the resources of our Center for the Study of Languages and Cultures. Explore study-abroad opportunities that allow you to gain and maintain fluency and to deepen your appreciation of the extraordinary world in which we live.

10. Build the Three “Cs” — Community, Compassion, and Cultural Competence

These three “Cs” are, for a Notre Dame student, as pivotal as what many still refer to as the so-called three “Rs”: reading, writing, and arithmetic. You build community by becoming a good classmate; developing a deep respect and appreciation of others; valuing those differences that make each of unique; developing a deep appreciation for our common humanity; building lasting friendships; reaching out to, assisting, and standing in solidarity with those in need. We even build community by taking good care of ourselves and asking for help when we most need it. We cultivate compassion by opening ourselves to those with whom we live in our community and sharing — at the most basic level — their joys and sorrows. As for cultural competence, it comes through sustained compassionate encounter with others; through learning experiences that expose us to other cultural experiences and foster compassionate engagement with all members of our global community. Make a conscious effort to foster community and compassion in your daily actions. Develop cultural competence through learning opportunities within and beyond the classroom.