Students reflect on Moreau
On Notre Dame’s campus, the Moreau First Year Experience has a mixed reputation. While some first year students appreciate the class as instrumental in adjusting to college life, other students believe it is unnecessary and a waste of time.
Centered around the Holy Cross education inspired by Blessed Basil Moreau, the course is a one-credit class that all Notre Dame first year students are required to take. Once a week, first year students gather to discuss such topics as cultural competence, mental wellbeing, and vocational discernment. The course syllabus states: “the Moreau First Year Experience helps you as a student to integrate academic, co-curricular, and residential experiences of new students.”
One difference between Moreau and other courses at Notre Dame is the immediate “comfortable environment” established by the professors and class members. Freshman Paige DeJong, a Gateway student, said, “We have a nice familiarity with those in our class, so it makes us more apt to share and open up right away.”
Fall 2018 was the first semester that Gateway students were required to participate in Moreau, along with all other Notre Dame regularly-admitted freshmen. Alex Murg, a freshman in the Gateway Program, said that Moreau was useful in feeling more integrated into the Notre Dame community. Murg said, “It’s a common denominator between all ND freshman, so it does make us [Gateway students] feel more immersed in the community.” She jokingly added, “We all vent about Moreau.”
Other first year students agree that Moreau helps them feel more included in the Notre Dame community. Freshman Katie Coury, a resident of Ryan Hall, told the Rover, “I definitely feel more like a Notre Dame freshman, since this course provides camaraderie and a conversation starter among all First Years. I also [feel] more immersed in the Notre Dame community by learning of all the opportunities Notre Dame offers.”
Murg shared that most homework assignments for Moreau (weekly prompts and twice a semester “Integration” assignments) seem tedious and unnecessary. However, some topics do stimulate great conversation in her class. She said, “Moreau acts as a gateway to further discussion—in class we may not go as in depth into the topics as I’d like, but Moreau does bring up topics and issues that are very real on campus and spurs outside conversation about topics like diversity and inclusion.” In this way, Murg said that although aspects of the class are not stimulating, she would take the course as an elective even if it was not required for Gateway students.
There are five specified course goals in the syllabus: 1) understand complexity and expectations of ND community, 2) take advantage of crucial academic and university resources, 3) cultivate and maintain a healthy lifestyle, 4) engage with diverse communities, and 5) reflect on intellectual, professional and spiritual lives. By combining these five goals into one class, Moreau strives to present first year students with campus resources and a holistic mentality in order to help them succeed in future professional and casual interactions and feel integrated into the Notre Dame community.
Each week, the class discusses a new topic that usually stems from previous discussions. The discussions also take the Moreau classes to different spots across campus. Popular attractions for Moreau field-trips include the McWell Center in St. Liam, Duncan Student Center, the Career Development Center, and even the Snite Museum. Coury stated that the campus trips are some of the most concrete tools she will take away from the Moreau course: “By visiting McWell, it helped me have first-hand experience of the numerous beneficial services it offers.”
In addition to practical tips for student well-being, the Moreau course offers intellectual resources like how to have civil discourse and how to network for a potential career opportunity. DeJong said the most impactful topic for her has been the content in a week focused on “Defining your normal” for health and well-being. DeJong thought this was the most meaningful because “it made us self-reflect more than most topics we’ve done in Moreau. To see other values we share with classmates and our friend groups was cool to compare; we had some really interesting conversations.”
Murg said her favorite topic has been discussing cultural competencies, and she stated that talking about the “different ways ND is a diverse community, without being the most culturally diverse” is one of the major discussion points in Moreau. Students learn to look beyond the film of cultural diversity and recognize diversities in religion, geography, and varying interests.
Aside from the monotony of Moreau, most freshmen agree that it is impactful on their first year experience. Murg explained that her knowledge from Moreau results in conversations that take place outside of the classroom, saying she has had “conversations outside of the classroom about Moreau topics.” DeJong agreed, saying, “Moreau gives us tools and a generic outline for conversation, but after this it is up to us to develop the skills we will use that we learned in Moreau.”
This is arguably the main goal of the Moreau First Year Experience course: to provide students with tools they can utilize to have culturally, intellectually, and consciously competent conversation in daily interactions.
Coury shared that her biggest takeaway from Moreau is “the overarching message that we are not alone. There is an incredibly caring and generous community here among the Notre Dame family to help us in whatever outlet we need.”
Sydney is a freshman in the Holy Cross College-Notre Dame Gateway Program and is hoping to double major in Economics and Spanish. Native to the warm climate of Arizona, Sydney was not-so-warmly welcomed to the frigid South Bend winter by the legendary Polar Vortex. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.