The Rover sits down with the administrative assistant for the Center for Social Concerns seminars
We all have one. That worn, leather calendar we claim to frequently consult but only break out when occasion arises, namely, once a year. But Greg White, the administrative assistant for the Center for Social Concerns (CSC) seminars, actually spends quite a bit of time consulting his planner, unlike the rest of us.
This week, I had the pleasure of seeing Greg’s frequently-used schedule up close and personal in his Geddes office. No leather was involved in the making of his calendar. Instead, the eastern wall of Greg’s office was a giant whiteboard divided with painters’ tape into smaller, congruent boxes. Each box contained a number of notes, color-coded based on a pattern yet unbeknownst to me. When I asked how on earth he keeps all his daily activities organized, Greg laughed and said, “That schedule keeps me sane.”
After exchanging informalities, I asked Greg, “What brought you to Notre Dame?”
He responded, “About 15 years ago, when the digital industry was getting started, I helped distribute projectors into classrooms. I was employed in a media department group doing audio and visual work.” This practice involved supervising a group of 150 students at a time. “When my wife got a job in the area, I started looking for a new job, and Notre Dame was an obvious place to be.”
Greg began his career at Notre Dame in the Human Resources Department. After spending some time in HR, he realized he was being called elsewhere.
“A position opened up at the Center for Social Concerns, so I filled out an application, had an interview, and was offered a job.” He added, “I am extremely lucky to be doing the work that I do here.”
Curious, I inquired as to what this work entails.
Greg said it involves organizing the Social Concerns seminars offered each semester for undergraduate students, including Appalachia, Urban Plunge, and others. He disclosed, “Most of the time, I’m emailing and communicating with student leaders. I inform the leaders what they need to know about their respective teams, and the participants the steps they need to take before departure to their sites.”
During the particular Friday afternoon that I interviewed Greg, his work entailed conducting driver instruction video sessions every half hour. He was also on two hiring committees.
Even though that day seemed particularly busy, I dared probe whether any other day stood up against it in terms of challenge level. Before I finished asking, I could tell Greg had an answer at the tip of his tongue. He said, “Can it be more than a day?” I nodded. “November. It’s when we start wrapping up the Appalachia Seminars and begin Urban Plunge. We also have to start marketing for all the spring seminars.”
When asked what he enjoys doing when he has free time—when it’s not November—Greg said, “A year and a half ago, I finished my masters degree in English, with a focus on creative writing. So I write short stories for fun; fiction is my favorite.”
After hearing about the ways Greg’s ministry makes it possible for Notre Dame students to go out and do service work and experience the world, I wanted to know why Greg does it all. I asked, “What’s your most rewarding experience?”
“It’s nice sending you guys out, but what makes it worth it is to hear your stories when you come back. Everyone’s always very happy,” Greg said. In particular, he says “debriefing the softer stuff”—like what makes leaders and their team members happy during the course of the seminar at school and immersion at the site—makes his job all the more holistic and worthwhile.
Greg says he is particularly excited about sending students to the Appalachia Seminar site of Big Creek. “The feedback I’ve heard over the last couple of years has been abundantly positive from students engaging at Big Creek. The town there has a very interesting history. It seems the most rewarding and culturally rich experience because there are a lot of social problems in that area.”
Reflecting on where his life has taken him, Greg said in his final remarks, “Notre Dame is a complex place, but within that complexity it has a variety of things to offer. And so even if a student or a staff member like me is not satisfied with where or how they fit into the web there is something here for that person, a niche where that person can immerse himself or herself.”
It appears Greg White has found his niche, at home inside his color-coded office and within the CSC.
Tierney Vrdolyak is a sophomore studying the Program of Liberal Studies and theology and, in her free-spirited time, she enjoys playing a multitude of sports, singing, wearing patterned socks, and organizing competitive Just Dance tournaments in her humble abode, Breen-Phillips Hall. If you enjoy playing pick-up of any kind or chatting about the benefits of joining a local sock of the month club, contact Tierney at firstname.lastname@example.org.