Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Look Inside Keenan Hall

Before arriving as a freshman at ND in '07, I knew very little about the University's dorm tradition. Over the summer, I logged onto the "Home Under the Dome" site through Residence Life & Housing to find out which of 14 male residence halls I would be calling home. This system reminded me of The Sorting Hat in Harry Potter. While Harry was destined to Gryffindor, I soon found that I would be spending much of my time in Keenan Hall.

Keenan Hall was constructed in 1957. Some would say it lacks the history of Alumni, Morrissey and Zahm, while others would argue it's missing the luxuries of Duncan, Keough, and O'Neill. What Keenan lacks in beauty and stories of yesteryear, it makes up for in its incredible dorm spirit.

One of the first things I noticed about Keenan was the unbelievable sense of brotherhood that existed among the Knights. The dorm slogan "Fratres in Christo" ("Brothers in Christ") becomes evident from the minute you arrive on campus and the Frosh-O staff helps assure you, an apprehensive 18-year old, and your worried parents, that Keenan Hall is a place you will be able to forever call home. As you begin to settle into your dorm room, upperclassmen pass by to introduce themselves and other freshmen stop by to discuss the most efficient ways of fitting everything into a 16' x 11' room. You quickly realize that this place is going to become your home for 8 months out of the year, and that when you and your family come back to ND 20 years from now, these are the guys you'll be meeting up with at a tailgate.

Keenan is one of the largest male residence halls on campus, with a capacity of 291 over 4 floors. One of the nicest things about the interior of Keenan is the basement. Here, there are several study locations, a workout room, a big-screen HDTV and a projection HDTV, and Zaland - Keenan's pizza shop.

For the most part, each of Keenan's four floors is configured the same way. Each is divided into two sections, West and North. For the last three years, I've lived in 3West (more information to come about 3W in a later post!). With the exception of a few singles, and senior doubles, most of the rooms are identical. After freshman year, you can set up quads and six-man room configurations. This year, I have a six-man. We build lofts, saving space on the ground and allowing us to efficiently use the three rooms alloted to us. Two of the rooms are for sleeping and studying, with three beds and desks in each, and the third is a common room shared among the six of us. When all is said and done after a few days of building and organizing at the beginning of the year, you've built yourself a place you can call home.

What really makes Keenan special however, is the tradition of events that we host each year.

  • Sine 1976, the Knights have hosted the Keenan Revue, a variety show and the dorm's signature event. Each year, the Revue is held in the O'Laughlin Auditorium on the campus of St. Mary's College. Over the years, the Revue has been the subject of much controversy, due to the often off-color humor. But at the end of the day, the Revue is all in good fun. It's not meant to offend anyone, only to poke fun at pop culture and the lives of Notre Dame students. Revue Week is without question one of the most exciting and enjoyable weeks of the year. The Revue is held for three nights each January, and the weekend culminates with a formal SYR in NDH.
  • Another event that Keenan is known for is Muddy Sunday. Since 2005, Muddy Sunday has been held just before the last week of classes during the spring semester. The mud volleyball tournament draws a huge turnout, and the money raised is donated to Habitat for Humanity.
  • Each fall, the Keenan Hall SYR is held at USA Skate in Mishawaka. The dance is known as Disco Roll, a night featuring eccentric clothing, some old-school tunes (as well as chart-toppers from today) and college kids attempting to rollerskate. The 70's theme gives us a taste of what it was like for our parents growing up.
  • The first weekend back after Thanksgiving, Keenan hosts the Reindeer Roast. For many people, the day after Thanksgiving marks the start of the Christmas season. Nat King Cole and Bing Crosby are added to the iPod, and Home Alone and Christmas Vacation take a spot right next to the DVD player. The Reindeer Roast is another great way to get into the spirit. Highlights of the Reindeer Roast include mass in the Keenan-Stanford Chapel presided by Father Poorman, a cookout, and the lighting of Keenan's Christmas display (The slogan reads "Twas the Knight Before Christmas").
  • Later this week, we will be hosting The Great Pumpkin. For this event, we work with local Boys & Girls Clubs to provide children in the South Bend area with a fun afternoon on ND's campus. We set up a haunted house in the Keenan basement and then take the children trick-or-treating around to many of the other dorms. It's great to see the excitement on the faces of the children as they get to hang around us "cool college kids." Not to mention, I think the haunted house brings us back to our youth.
Though Keenan doesn't have the air conditioning, wide hallways, or super-quads that some of the other dorms are lucky to enjoy, I wouldn't trade it for any other hall on ND's campus. When I graduate from ND in 2011, Keenan is certain to be one of the places I'll miss most, and one of the places I'll always come back to visit whenever I return to campus as an alum.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

USC Weekend

It's finally here. The weekend that Notre Dame students have had marked on their calendars since they saw the 2009 football schedule. Not only does this weekend include a visit from the USC Trojans, but it also marks the beginning of a much needed fall break. The last time we saw the Irish take the field was October 3rd versus Washington - a thrilling game that taught us two things about this year's team. 1) They are resilient and 2) They will never disappoint fans looking for an entertaining game. Many students called the game the most exciting game they've seen during their time at ND (The Class of 2009 had the fortune, or misfortune, of witnessing the infamous "Bush Push" as freshmen in '05).

The Washington game preceded a two-week stretch of midterms that were the most challenging academic days of the year so far. With ND's bye week falling during the middle of this stretch, SYRs (like Keenan Hall's Disco Roll) gave students something to break up the studying last weekend. Now, with most students' exams and papers wrapped up, the campus is buzzing for football again.

So here we are today, less than 48 hours from a matchup with the University of Southern California, or in the words of our beloved former football coach and favorite ESPN analyst, Mr. Lou Holtz, the University of Spoiled Children. Though Notre Dame is known for its compassion and generosity, there is no team that ND students despise more than USC. Maybe it's the Hollywood lifestyle many of their players are known to live, the off-the-field controversies surrounding athletes such as Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo, or even their recent dominance of the historic rivalry. One thing is for sure - There is no other team in the country that Notre Dame students would be happier to see the Irish beat than USC.

Yes. Michigan and BC are big rivals. But those games have not generated the same excitement, at least in my time as a student, that has been generated by the looming arrival of Pete Carroll's crew this Saturday. Between the chalk art outside of DeBartolo and the dining halls, the posters of USC's troubled former running back who also shares the name of a popular breakfast beverage, and the slew of "Go Irish! Beat SC!" Facebook groups, the student body is ready for the "Fall of Troy."

With a "green-out" being planned, a typical ND Football Saturday weather forecast on the horizon, and a QB being mentioned as a potential Heisman frontrunner, things are looking bright for the Irish. These factors have left many students wondering if maybe - just maybe, that this will be the year when Notre Dame returns to glory versus their bitter rival. Winning on Saturday would do wonders for the morale of the team and the Notre Dame family's football spirit - erasing recent years of misery caused by Carson Palmer, Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush, Mark Sanchez and company. Knocking off the Trojans would be the most significant victory in Weis' tenure at his alma mater, and it would put Jimmy Clausen right in the thick of the Heisman race. Only time will tell how the Irish will do against USC on October 17th. Win or lose, one thing is certain. The ND Nation is ready to cheer loud and proud behind the Irish come Saturday.

Go Irish! Beat SC!

Friday, October 9, 2009

My experience so far

It's been a little more than a month since I started working in the ND Alumni Association as the Hannah Storm Journalism Intern. So far, it's been a great experience. Everyone I've come in contact with has been very friendly and helpful. It seems that people are always willing to help a fellow Domer out.

On my second day working with the alumni association, Angela Sienko, the Senior Editor in Alumni Communications, and the person I work most closely with, gave me a stack of assignments for ND Today. At first, it was a little intimidating. With Scholastic, I usually work on one, maybe two stories at a time, but now I had the responsibility of covering five. After doing some research and contacting several of my sources, I soon realized that it was going to be easier than I had anticipated. Here are a few highlights from my first round of contributions to ND Today:

  • The first story I began working on was a profile of Professor Tracy Kijewski-Correa, associate chair in the College of Engineering. Professor Kijewski-Correa is a Triple Domer ('97 B.S., 2000 M.S., 2003 Ph.D.) and soon after earning her Ph.D. she was hired to begin teaching at the university. Like myself, she is a huge sports fan, and served as a guest coach for the Irish men's basketball team during their 2005 upset win over #4 BC.
  • On Halloween, the Irish will take on Washington State at the Alamodome in San Antonio. Another story I covered for this issue of ND Today discussed the alumni association's service project with the Healy-Murphy Center. By covering this trip, I also learned that those joining the team in San Antonio will be treated to many of the festivities of a South Bend gameday experience, including a pep rally, tailgate and pre-game concert. It is sure to be a fun weekend.
  • Since 2005, the College of Engineering's Peer Mentor progam has served freshmen transitioning to the college environment. One of the things I enjoyed about writing this article was seeing how the Peer Mentors almost serve as a "Frosh-O" staff, for the college. Last year, I was part of Keenan's staff and I thought it was a great way to get the freshmen involved and help develop camaraderie within the dorm. With all the long hours that engineers spend in the Learning Center, I understand why building community is a top priority.
Another great thing about working in the alumni association is the people I have met. Everyone working here shares a love for the university. Home Football Fridays are great. With campus and town both being very hectic, a different department orders lunch to be delivered each week and we all share a meal (Nothing against NDH, but it's a nice change!). It's been a lot of fun so far. I've met some great people and been fortunate to write some interesting articles to share with the ND community.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Big news from Father Jenkins

In an e-mail to the student body yesterday, Father Jenkins announced that beginning in May 2010, future Notre Dame Commencement ceremonies will be held in Notre Dame Stadium rather than the Joyce Center. Not only does this change mean that ND students will make their final memory as undergrads in the historic stadium, but it also means that students will no longer be forced to choose which family members can attend the ceremony.

While I think the JACC has been a great place to see Irish basketball, I was excited when I heard about the changes coming with the Purcell Pavilion. The JACC provided an outstanding home court advantage for ND, but it will be exciting to see how the changes improve the great basketball environment. One of the things I questioned however, was the impact that this change would have on graduation. The new configuration will seat approximately 2,000 less spectators, essentially meaning that each graduate would be allowed two tickets instead of three. While two or three tickets allow parents and one other lucky guest to attend, it often means choosing between family members, which simply seems unfair. One of my first memories of college was flying to Chapel Hill when I was five, to see my cousin graduate from UNC. His graduation was held in the football stadium and I've often wondered why ND couldn't do the same (even if the weather is nicer in NC than Indiana - It's May! It can't be that bad).

Apparently the Commencement Committee read my mind. To the joy of many ND students, yesterday's announcement solved this ticket problem. Unless Taylor Swift comes back to campus with an entourage of thousands, students will be free to have as many guests attend the ceremony as they would like (The country/pop star was on campus with her family yesterday because her brother was visiting as a prospective student. From what I've heard though, Taylor's far too humble to sport such an extensive crew, so we shouldn't have to worry, even if he does end up attending ND).

I'm excited by this change of venue. Not only does it mean my parents and brothers will be able to attend, but it also provides the opportunity for some of my aunts, uncles, cousins, and friends to possibly make the trip to South Bend. With my classmates, I'll be able to enjoy one last time together in the stadium where we've witnessed so many thrilling football games.

I'm looking forward to it. For now though, I want time to slow down. Thinking about graduation is a scary thought. I want to enjoy these next two years first.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Welcome to my blog!

Hello, I'm Josh, a junior at Notre Dame and this year's Hannah Storm Journalism Intern in the ND Alumni Association. Over the next several months, I hope to provide readers with a glimpse of what life is like for an ND student in 2009, and what my experiences have been like through my work with the alumni association. Being able to work with the alumni association as the Hannah Storm Journalism Intern has been a great experience. In this position, I typically write articles for ND Today and Onward to Victory, as well as other alumni publications. The ND Alumni Association is arguably the best in the country, and it's an honor to work with them. Please feel free to e-mail me or leave comments. I would love to hear stories of your life as a Domer!

Here are five things you should know about me:

5. I am a marketing and English major. When I tell people this, I often get the same reaction, "Hmm...that's an interesting combo." Well, they may be right, but I do have reasons behind these choices. After graduation, I would love to pursue a career in sports, whether it be sports journalism, marketing, management, etc. For as long as I can remember, sports have been a big part of my life. In high school, I made a lot of my best friends and most vivid memories on my athletic teams, and although my career is over (except for a few section football and interhall basketball games), I haven't lost my love for playing, watching and talking about sports. Hopefully, studying marketing and English will provide me with opportunities to pursue a sports-related career after leaving ND.

4. I'm from Upstate New York. When people ask me where I'm from, I always precede "New York" with "Upstate." It seems like the common assumption is that if you're from New York, you are from NYC. Sometimes, even by saying, "Upstate," I get questions like, "Oh, so how close to The City are you?" or "Are you near Buffalo?" It's alright though. Sometimes I think it's funny. I'm from the Albany area, specifically from Ballston Spa. I guess you could say our claim to fame is that Abner Doubleday, the credited inventor of baseball and Civil War general, was born in Ballston Spa. More people have probably heard of nearby Saratoga, famous as a summer tourist spot, especially during "track season," when thousands rush to the Saratoga Race Track. I love living in Upstate NY with my parents and two younger brothers.

3. I live in Keenan Hall. Dorm life at ND has been unlike anything I've ever experienced. For many of my friends at home, the whole dorm system is difficult to understand. At many of their schools, it's typically a year in the dorms, then moving into an apartment or joining a fraternity/sorority. What has been awesome about Notre Dame and Keenan, is that when you're welcomed onto campus for Frosh-O, you immediately become part of a community. From the time the Frosh-O staff helps you unload your car to the time they wake you up at 6 a.m. on the first Football Saturday, you really get a sense that you're part of something special. Now, I'm sure living in Duncan or Keough provides a more luxurious lifestyle, but I wouldn't trade it for The Great Pumpkin, Reindeer Roast, the Keenan Revue and the other great events our dorm hosts each year.

2. I work with NBC at Notre Dame's home football games. In addition to working in the alumni office, I also work in the TV truck at ND's home games this season. It has been an interesting and unique experience. The Irish have certainly kept the games entertaining, and it's great to see them winning here at home. I miss cheering in the student section, but the atmosphere of live TV is exciting because you are right in the thick of things with the broadcast. I operate a program called QBStat, which NBC uses in connection with other software to display graphics throughout the game. I see the game from many different angles and I get to see just how Tom Hammond, Pat Haden and Alex Flanagan shape the broadcast and the stories they bring to fans' living rooms along with the action of the game.

1. There's no place I'd rather be a student than Notre Dame.Though none of my family attended ND, from an early age, I was an ND fan. I guess that's part of being from an Irish Catholic family. It wasn't really until after my junior year of high school that I considered applying to Notre Dame. I visited ND during the summer before my senior year and loved it. When I got my acceptance letter, I knew this was the place I wanted to spend my next four years. Fast forward to today, and it's hard to believe that I'm in my junior year already. The time has flown by, and from talking to friends, I've heard that the last two move even quicker than the first two. As a student at ND, I've had opportunities that I never would have imagined. It's been an unbelievable experience. In the midst of the busy college schedule, it's easy to forget how lucky I am to attend ND. I've found that it's not until you are away from school, that you truly appreciate how blessed you are. Over the last couple of years, I've attended many events hosted by my local alumni club, the ND Club of Northeastern NY, and it's truly amazing to see how ND can bring people together. I always enjoy going to these events beacuse when you meet another Domer, it seems like you can talk for hours because of that love you both share for the university. I'm proud to be a student at Notre Dame and a member of the ND family.

Thanks for reading! What are some of your favorite memories of Notre Dame?