As a way for students to interact outside of the classroom with professors, Legends of Notre Dame hosted the fourth annual ‘Professors Unplugged’ event Tuesday night. This event gives freshmen a chance to see their professors’ unique talents. ND Ignite, a program in the First Year of Studies, organized this year’s event to increase interaction between professors and freshmen, professor and event coordinator Sean Wernert said. “We planned and worked with them [the students] to make the event something that they can be proud of and informative,” Wernert said. “As we continue the event each year, we work with first-year students to remake and design the event as something that they will find interesting.” “We want students to see the path that professors have taken in their careers – what brought them to their chosen academic field and how they got to Notre Dame,” Wernert said. “We also want students and faculty to interact outside the classroom in an informal environment.” Hugh Page, dean of the First Year of Studies, kicked off the event by reading three personally written poems. The first of those poems, entitled ‘First Book,’ stressed the importance of embracing and examining self. “We are the first book we are ever given, but the one we read last and least attentively,” Page said. Following Dean Page, Abby Palko, professor of gender studies, chronicled her journey to Notre Dame, which included an eight-year stint as an 8th grade teacher. “When I finally went to Notre Dame for my Ph.D after teaching I couldn’t believe I was being paid to read,” Palko said. “It was incredible.” Many of the professors revealed musical talents. Professors Annie Coleman and Josh Kaplan performed a duet together with an ukelele and a trumpet. Sociology professor Eugene Halton impressed with his harmonica playing skills. His music style was varied, ranging from Beethoven on a miniature harmonica to train sounds on a traditional harmonica. Between songs, Halton recalled his time at Princeton as a track and field athlete and the road that led him to Notre Dame. Others, such as Professor Anre Venter, amused the crowd with wit and sarcasm. “My talent is to use ridicule and sarcasm as the basis for good teaching,” Venter said. “It is always done with love and respect.” Students who attended the event said they felt the event was a success. “I’m really glad I went,” freshman Sophie Loftus said. “They were all really talented and had great life stories.” Contact Drew Pangraze at firstname.lastname@example.org
For some undergraduate film students, this weekend’s 24th annual Notre Dame Student Film Festival will be the first time their work is shown to the public. But others, like senior Film, Theater and Television (FTT) student Kathleen Bracke, have displayed their work publicly before. Bracke participated in last year’s Film Festival and said the experience was extremely rewarding. “The film program at Notre Dame is completely unique from bigger, more well-known film programs,” she said. “Unlike at those schools, you can actually put your name on a film [here] and point out exactly what you did. And you get to watch it in a sweet movie theater like Browning [Cinema].” The Film Festival began yesterday. It will continue today and tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. in Browning Cinema inside the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC). Bracke’s film, “Journey of a Pen,” follows a pen as it travels between diverse students and faculty in a high school. “Through the pen, we get to see all these different lives and how they interact,” Bracke said. “We learn some things about each character, but it is always through the pen.” Bracke, who collaborated on the film with 2012 graduates Kelsie Kiley and Brendan Fitzpatrick, said she was attracted to the script because its features the unique perspective of an inanimate object, rather than a person. The group produced “Journey of a Pen” over the course of a semester for an advanced film production class. Bracke said she finished editing the film just this week. “I think that’s one thing a lot of people not familiar with FTT don’t realize about the program, how time consuming it is,” she said. “There were five people in DPAC last night pulling all-nighters, and it’s only the second week of school.” Senior Erin Moffitt is participating in the Student Film Festival for the first time this year. Moffitt partnered with senior Nicole Timmerman and junior Elizabeth Kellogg to create the documentary “Amie’s Image.” The film follows a day in the life of Amie, a handicapped middle-aged woman who lives at a YMCA in Chicago and sells her photography to support herself. “It’s a character piece about her and the struggles in her life, and yet she finds so much happiness through art,” Moffitt said. “It keeps her going, and it’s what she enjoys most even though her life isn’t the best.” Timmerman, who participated in the festival last year with a short narrative piece called “Soles,” said the weekend is an excellent opportunity for students in the FTT department. “It’s really exciting to be a part of it,” she said. “It represents FTT in a very positive light. It’s amazing how many talented filmmakers there are, and it’s really cool to see your peers’ work.” Tickets to the festival are $7 for regular admission, $6 for faculty and staff, $5 for seniors and $4 for students. Tickets are available on the DPAC website or by calling the center’s ticket office.
The most innovative members of the Notre Dame community will take center stage Tuesday at TEDxUND, an event coordinated by students and faculty to inspire conversation and examine critical questions through presentations by students, faculty, staff, alumni and local residents. The event will be held in the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center (DPAC).“We really wanted to capture the spirit of innovation and creativity that we all love so much about a lot of stuff that’s going on at Notre Dame in a variety of senses,” junior Max Brown, director of student government’s department of academic affairs said.Senior student body president Alex Coccia said Brown and senior Ben Eichler, department member at the department of academic affairs, successfully joined forces with DPAC, Hesburgh Libraries, the Office of the Provost and University Communications to bring what he called an “inspiring event” to campus.“Nancy and I ran on a platform that stressed the passions of the student body,” Coccia said. “Our vision called for a student government that acts on student passions and advocates for student needs.“We do not have to look far to be inspired by the work of students at our University. … We, the students, have passion that drives us to grow, understand and truly live during our time at Notre Dame.”Paul Van Ness, marketing program manager at the DPAC, said he initially applied last February for a university license from the TED organization. The license allows Notre Dame to host a TEDx event in the style of TED Conferences and use the TEDx logo, but Van Ness said the committee on campus takes full responsibility for planning and sponsoring the event.“I’ve always considered this to be a University-wide event,” Van Ness said. “I mean it is. It has the UND. It’s not TEDxDeBartolo.“That was one of the reasons I was particularly excited to have students and the library and all these other parties involved because it truly is a university-wide event,” he said. “And so it increased the energy and the excitement and the enthusiasm and the capability of the event.”TEDxUND’s 19 speakers underwent a selection process with a committee of students and staff from the DPAC and Hesburgh libraries, Van Ness said.Sophomore and TEDxUND speaker Joel Ostdiek said he completed an initial application and follow-up interview before being selected. He said his talk will focus on the value of the arts and music education. According to the event website, the speakers will address topics ranging from the physics of the universe to foreign aid.“I’m most excited about watching all of the speakers at the event,” Ostdiek said. “I think it’ll be an awesome chance to hear what other members of the ND community are thinking about and hopefully ignite some meaningful discussions.”Van Ness said 100 people won tickets to TEDxUND through a lottery. Additional tickets to an 800-person live-streaming event in the Leighton Concert Hall will be available at the door Tuesday. He said the presentations will be streamed and later posted online, but he hopes viewers will choose to watch the TEDxUND talks with each other instead of alone.Carolyn Hutyra | The Observer “It will be recorded, and we’ll post them on the web, and so it will live on beyond the event,” Van Ness said. “That’s exciting. I really expect there to be energy and ideas and new thoughts that come out of the event and hopefully it will lead to … more connections with people that will lead to new projects, new research, maybe an additional opportunity for a student speaker.”Van Ness said the TED organization stipulated that TEDxUND seat only 100 audience members for the live presentations. He said the more intimate setting would better facilitate discussion and networking, in addition to making logistics easier.Brown said TEDxUND “definitely” has potential to become an annual fixture in the Notre Dame event calendar.“If everything goes well here, we’ll be able to make it a lot larger,” he said. “We wanted to kind of work out all the kinks and find out how the whole process works.”Brown said he hopes the “special connection” between students and their peers and mentors will make TEDxUND even more inspiring to the event’s live and virtual audiences.“There’s a lot of really cool stuff that’s going on at Notre Dame that’s really engaging and new and creative not only for the Notre Dame community but for the world,” he said. “I think this kind of moves to the forefront those ideas which will most permeate the future and help us understand the past.”Contact Lesley Stevenson at email@example.comTags: TED talks, TEDxUND
In its second year, the McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, also known as McWell, is looking to expand the services it offers in order to encourage more students to utilize its resources.Michael Yu | The Observer Kelly Hogan Stewart, director of McWell, said the mission of the Center — located on the second floor of St. Liam’s Hall — was to strive for comprehensive wellness for all those on campus. “Our mission is to cultivate a healthy campus environment where students thrive through the integration of mind, body and spirit,” she said in an email. The Center pursues its goal by offering programs that focus on increasing well-being in all aspects of student life, Stewart said.“By strategically partnering with units across campus, we create well-being programming and resources that are easy for our students to access,” she said. These programs include leadership training workshops, the McWell Sleep Program, Koru Mindfulness Training and the Annual Wellness Expo. By offering many different options for students to better influence their own well-being, they “strive to make the healthier choice the easier choice for Notre Dame students,” Stewart said. In addition to the many programs offered for the greater health of the University, McWell itself has also undergone significant changes in recent months in order to better serve its function as a place of relaxation and revitalization for students. McWell now houses a student break room, living room — complete with a mini fireplace — and the fort, a small room ideal for reading or meditating. Every room is available for reservation, Stewart said. After studying or lounging in the living room, students can take advantage of the resource hub, where coffee, tea, trail mix and even strawberries are all offered free of charge. The essential oil station provides a wide variety of calming and beneficial topical and air sprays. Stewart said input from student government and Notre Dame faculty experts in the field of environmental psychology was crucial to the planning of the renovations to the Center. She said that the “space was updated to reflect the expanded mission.”“We have become a holistic well-being department, driven by students for students,” she said. Concern for the environment was also a large factor in the creation of the new space. Dana Bakirtjy, sustainability communications project manager for the Office of Sustainability, worked closely with the staff of McWell to ensure that the upgrades to the center were as environmentally friendly as possible.Bakirtjy said the “greener” solutions included reusable containers and bulk dispensers in the resource room, as well as a gooseneck spigot for the water fountain and the introduction of LED lights.“They’re a fairly young office,” Bakirtjy said. “They were brought in to increase wellness through the student body.”“They’re really working on the overall concept of wellness,” Bakirtjy said. “They’re always looking for new opportunities [to increase the sustainability practices of McWell].” Tags: health, McDonald Center for Student Well-Being, McWell, sustainability
Abigail Piper | The Observer Students frequent Waddick’s, a popular cafe in O’Shaughnessy Hall. In response to rumors of potential renovations to the facilities, senior Susan Lefelhocz started a petition to oppose changes.Lefelhocz said she did not anticipate the petition would be very successful, but it soon went viral among students and Notre Dame groups on Facebook, receiving nearly 500 signatures.Junior Lydia Costello shared the link on Facebook, saying, “Some issues are nonpartisan. Saving Waddick’s, the ultimate Arts & Letters retreat, is one of them.”Junior Frank Hagan, a self-dubbed “Waddick’s aficionado,” made a plea in the Class of 2019 Facebook group that garnered plenty of attention.“The administration wants to deface [Waddick’s] pristine beauty and replace it with just another cog in the oppressive corporate machine,” Hagan said in the post.He then appealed to the common values of Notre Dame students, urging, “if you care about liberty and individuality, about small business and croissants, join the fight.”Like many students, Hagan said Waddick’s is a part of his weekly routine.“Waddick’s is a little community, you know, there’s a family spirit here,” he said. “Every Tuesday and Thursday I get an iced coffee and a croissant. The coffee here’s cheaper and the coffee here’s better.”Campus Dining said Waddick’s would not be removed, but did not disclose an exact plan for the coffee shop.“The one thing I can share is that there are no plans to permanently close Waddick’s and it is being considered for renovation,” Luis Alberganti, director of retail dining, said in an email. “There will be an announcement about this coming soon, it is a project that we are very excited about. Some of the details are still being worked out, stay tuned for more information.”Lefelhocz said modifying Waddick’s would be one of many changes, such as the six-semester housing mandate, that represent a bigger trend on campus.“There’s all these changes happening that the school says we wanted, but students didn’t ask for, and now one of them is Waddick’s,” she said.Lefelhocz and Hagan said they both heard from non-student sources that Waddick’s was going to be remodeled.“I was talking about it with a friend in Waddick’s and someone said ‘I see you in here a lot. This change really is happening,’” Lefelhocz said.Both Hagan and Lefelhocz also said they heard food services would be scaled down and it might expand into the art gallery across the hall.“I come here for the food and iced coffee, and both of those things are apparently on the axe,” Hagan said. “I think you could just get more seating but also keep all the food and coffee and stuff.”“I heard it would just be a coffee machine,” Lefelhocz said.Lefelhocz said she was asked to close the petition, which had gained 476 signatures, until she had a discussion with a dean about renovations.“I was told that if we don’t accept the renovations, we can reopen the petition,” Lefehlocz said. “If they need to expand it, then I understand that, but to completely remodel it and do away with the things that people love, I’m not on board with that.”Tags: AAHD. O’Shaughnessy Hall, breakfast sandwiches, Campus DIning, coffee, iced coffee, O’Shag, petition, renovations, Waddick’s In the past couple weeks, students have shown concern over the future of Waddick’s, the campus cafe inside O’Shaughnessy Hall. Rumors about possible renovations to the popular dining and coffee spot sparked major backlash among its frequenters.One such student, senior Susan Lefelhocz, began a petition “to keep the unique and beloved coffee shop Waddick’s unchanged.”“I posted a Facebook status update about them thinking about changing Waddick’s and I got, like, 60 responses of people saying, ‘I love this coffee shop,’ and even alumni saying, ‘I graduated but this used to be my favorite place,’” she said. “I was like, OK, maybe I can make this into a petition.”
Starting in the fall of 2019, the Mendoza College of Business will be offering students from other colleges at Notre Dame the opportunity to minor in digital marketing.Shankar Ganesan, Mendoza’s marketing chair, said the program was created to help prepare students for the business world’s transition to the digital age.“If you think about it, there are numerous digital technologies that are continuously coming in, and they are fundamentally changing the way the customer is behaving, including their whole customer journey,” Ganesan said. “ … Since customers are behaving very differently, firms also need to adapt to those changing behaviors. So they are also changing their strategies, and more than 40 percent of their spending is now in digital.”Ganesan said he believes all students, regardless of their major of choice, could benefit from studying digital marketing because of its interdisciplinary nature.“In all these different areas, digital marketing is becoming more and more important, which means that more people with very diverse backgrounds have to be trained in digital marketing,” Ganesan said. “So we feel it is an obligation. It’s something we need to provide so Notre Dame students have a competitive advantage in the marketplace. It doesn’t matter if they are from Mendoza, whether they are in engineering or in the social sciences.”Moreover, Ganesan said he believes studying digital media provides students leverage in the job market as demand for individuals with skills in the discipline grows.“The difference in average salary between the digital marketing jobs and the traditional marketing jobs is close to about $10,000, so they are going to get better jobs and get jobs,” Ganesan said. “I also think that for the younger generation, who are used to and have a high degree of confidence in social media, they can do much better in these jobs than someone who doesn’t have the experience or is older.“The minor will consist of 15 credit hours, requiring a Principles of Marketing requirement, either a marketing research or consumer behavior course as well as three digital marketing courses. The goal of the minor is for all students to understand fundamentals of marketing and the best practices to engage consumers both online and on mobile through social media and digital strategies, Ganesan said.To provide students with such knowledge, Mendoza College hired two new professors: Timothy Bohling, Mendoza’s chief marketing officer (CMO), and Christian Hughes, a social media marketing expert who will be joining the faculty in August. Bohling has experience in both the academic world and industry, holding several vice president and C-Suite positions at Georgia State University, IBM, HCL Technologies and Stratasys. He is currently teaching a digital marketing course at both the undergraduate and MBA level and will continue to offer the class next semester to those participating in the program.“The pursuit of a digital marketing career is an exciting one, it is an energizing one,” Bohling said. “It is one that is forward-looking and can make a very positive impact not just on personal growth, but on company growth and greatness. When done right, it is a very powerful way in which firms engage with the customers. So it applies in every industry and business.”In Bohling’s digital marketing class, students have the opportunity to review and analyze marketing frameworks, examine current practices to achieve social media eminence, acquire data-driven digital techniques and become industry certified for social marketing and advanced social advertising. The course will combine both lectures and supplemental materials, Bohling said.The program is looking for students with “a passion for the digital revolution,” he added.“It’s both an art and science, so it’s not 100 percent art or 100 percent science, but that appreciation for both sides of the brain matters,” Bohling said. “In today’s world, the data-driven orientation opportunities are significant, but it’s, again, a combination of the arts and sciences, which makes this minor a cross-campus excitement.”Three information sessions about the minor will be held over the next month. The first two will take place in the Duncan Student Center on March 20 and 28, and the third in Mendoza College’s Jordan Auditorium on April 3. Each will be held from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.“This is a signature moment, an exciting path forward for the interdisciplinary learning that can take place in the University of Notre Dame,” Bohling said. “ … It will definitely make a rich classroom discussion, too, this diversity of thoughts and skills. In the business world, that’s how things are done.”To participate in the program, students must submit an online application due April 7.Tags: Digital Age, digital marketing, mendoza college of business
Judge Rosemarie Aquilina emerged as a fierce advocate for victims of all forms of sexual abuse in 2018, when she sentenced convicted serial child molester and former USA Gymnastics national team doctor and Michigan State University osteopathic physician Larry Nassar to 40 to 175 years in prison for the sexual abuse of minors.Video from within the courtroom shows Aquilina, a streak of magenta visible in her dark hair, delivering her final statements to Nassar following his sentencing. In the clip, Aquilina reads aloud excerpts from a letter written by Nassar, in which he claims to have been a “good doctor” and that the media had “convinced [the victims] that everything I did was wrong and bad.” Aquilina concludes the reading with a measured stare, then tosses Nassar’s written statement to the bench, eliciting gasps from those watching in the court room.Aquilina, as well as Grace French, Louise Harder and Melissa Hudecz, three “sister survivors” of abuse by Nassar, visited Saint Mary’s Sunday night for a screening of the HBO documentary “At the Heart of Gold: Inside the USA Gymnastics Scandal” and a discussion panel.Before the screening, Aquilina, French, Harder and Hudecz sat down with Belles Against Violence Office (BAVO) coordinator Liz Coulston, the BAVO Student Advisory Committee and representatives from the Saint Mary’s Athletic Department to discuss sexual violence prevention, intervention and response.In her introduction of the panelists, Coulston said while the Nassar case received a lot of attention in the media, focus should also be turned towards what the sister survivors have done in the year following the trial.“[The sister survivors] have kind of said that the case was only the beginning, and now they’re really working to educate the public and create advocacy around this issue on how to better protect our children and our athletes,” Coulston said. “We can’t change these issues of sexual violence and relationship violence and stalking without talking about them. So we’re creating these safe spaces for us to talk about them and learn about them in a healthy, safe way.”At the start, only six survivors had agreed to use their name when they testified. As the number of those willing to testify on public record grew and more victims came forward, the group grew to 156.Aquilina said she named those who testified in the trial the “sister survivors” because of the close relationships she watched form and flourish within the courtroom, and witnessed the empowerment the women gave to themselves and each other.“When they came in — and you can see them on the screen — they said, ‘Your honor, may I address the defendant?’,” Aquilina said. “And many of them started out the same way: ‘I am not a number. I am a name.’ I watched them grow and become empowered and then I spoke to them and … I could literally feel them drop their pain and then walk to the back of the room and be joined by others — and I knew that they did not all know each other,” she said. “They were hugging and crying together. I was watching a family be formed. I could feel it. I mean, if you were in that courtroom, you felt this energy of these people with this common crime that was so vile against them joining together, empowering each other and coming together in strength and I started calling them sister survivors, an army of sister survivors. And it just stuck because that’s what they were.”The survivors began to lean on each other for support, Aquilina said, finding strength in a group of strangers who would later become as close as biological sisters.“They started supporting each other, one after the other and aligning themselves together,” she said. “It was magnificent. It was almost biblical. I mean, they joined together as a force against this crime. And I couldn’t help but call them sister survivors, because they became sisters in those moments.”In 2018, sister survivor Grace French, a 22-year-old woman from Ann Arbor, Michigan, founded The Army of Survivors, a nonprofit organization with the mission of bringing “awareness, accountability, [and] transparency to sexual violence against athletes at all levels.”Louise Harder, survivor and board director and strategist for The Army of Survivors, said this sisterhood was born out of a shared understanding and compassion for each other.“There’s some unspoken language between survivors,” she said. “We didn’t have to rehash the story. We didn’t have to say anything at all, yet, the people next to me knew exactly what’s going on and that has continued to be a bond. There are still sister survivors that I am in fairly frequent contact with and still reach out to. They’re lasting bonds, and again, like I said, you don’t have to say anything. It’s just kind of this unspoken, unwritten type of relationship.”Sister survivor Melissa Hudecz, an occupational therapist and the reporting and research chair for The Army of Survivors, said these relationships were built under extreme circumstances, within a short period of time.“The intensity happens so fast,” she said. “People you hardly know, all of a sudden, you realize know all of your deepest secrets, thoughts, and it’s just unspoken support for each other.”Aquilina, who also serves as a board director for The Army of Survivors, said she is traveling the world to discuss the first steps to fixing “a broken legal system” and a “broken medical community,” while giving a voice to those who feel silenced.“We need to go back to basics and that’s really what I’m talking about. Changing the basics, changing the language, doing what we do in the military when there’s a problem: retrain,” Aquilina said. “Making sure that everyone, from the least-ranked soldier to the top, is trained and educated. … And I’m not just saying this about sexual assault. There’s domestic violence, there’s physical violence, there’’s emotional violence, there is child abuse, there is the sex trade industry, sex trafficking, sexual assault, all of these things, and we need to start training people. I’m talking about how you recognize grooming, how you recognize if someone’s being sold, how you converse with people. So I’m trying to use my power to give voice and retrain us.”Athletes are trained to work through the most incredible forms of pain, Aquilina said, fighting through broken bones and torn muscles. The fact that sexual abuse has touched even the strongest of women is a testament to how pervasive the issue has become, she said.“I really think that as much as a tragedy as this has been, it’s also been a gift to the world to say this can happen to even the strongest of us,” she said. “And if this can happen to us, it can happen to you, it can happen to your best friend. Let’s keep the conversation going. Let’s eradicate this together.”When asked about the impact of speaking to students at a women’s college such as Saint Mary’s, Aquilina said she was happy to be connecting with young women seeking change.“There’s no corner in the world where we shouldn’t be having this conversation,” Aquilina said, “And what better place than a university where we have young minds who are eager to learn and to go out in multiple different professions, and talk about change, and teach change and work within a system for change as part of eradicating. I think that’s really the goal of the army of sister survivors and of all of the survivors.”Though Aquilina invited Saint Mary’s students and administrators into an important conversation, she said this discussion should ultimately extend beyond the College campus. The sharing of the sister survivors’ stories not be limited to female audiences, she said.“So [Saint Mary’s] is the perfect place,” Aquilina said. “Every university ought to watch this film, every university ought to listen to these survivors. And it’s not just about women. This is an all-women’s university. This is a conversation for men, women, boys and girls. They all ought to be part of the equation. If we say that this is a women’s issue, then we are doing what men have done to us to shut us up and shut us down. We need to be inclusive, not exclusive, and include them in the equation to eradicate this once and for all.”Tags: Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, Larry Nassar, Michigan State University, sexual abuse, sister survivors, The Army of Survivors, USA gymnastics
Courtesy of Carlos Fabrega Valeria, left, and Olivia.Once she got to campus, Valeria and her friends she’d met in the Notre Dame Latino community would hang out every day.“We studied a lot together and [did] basically everything [together],” first-year Augusto Simons said. “We were always together with her. She was very close to all of us. She was a great friend. … She had a lot of friends.”Although her friends said the Latino community at Notre Dame is a very welcoming one, they noted Valeria had a special ability to make friends quicker than anyone else.First-year Nico Lopez counts Valeria as his first friend at Notre Dame.“She was friends with everyone. I mean, it’s kind of impressive,” Lopez said. “I was a little bit jealous because she would become best friends with everybody. … Every single day I would meet another person who would say, ‘Oh, yeah, you’re friends with Valeria.’”According to her friends, Valeria put as much work as she did making friends into school as well.“You can define her, basically, as a work hard, play hard type of person. She was always in every plan she could go to, and she would always seek out to hang out with people and to meet new people and to build new friendships,” Simons said. “But she was also extremely responsible with school. She was always on top of every class, she would help us with our classes we were having trouble with, she was very responsible with all her homework. She was like the perfect student, basically, because she was a very all-around person.”With that seemingly unlimited resource of time, Valeria pushed everyone around her to be better.“She was one of the most well-rounded people I’ve ever known. It was like she had an unlimited resource or resource of time, … like she had so much time, but she had the same time as us. She got so much done in the same time as we did. And she helped us catch that pace and become better versions of ourselves,” Lopez said. First-year Lorena Colon, who became friends with Valeria before they arrived on campus, echoed Lopez’s sentiments.“She just made everyone feel good. And she would never bring anyone down. She really cared about all her friends, and finding that balance between studies and having fun. I think she didn’t want to sacrifice like one for the other,” Colon, her roommate, added. “She would always push you to be a better version of yourself.”One of her friends, first-year Juan Alvaro, remembers when Valeria would go out of her way to remind him to do his work.“Something really special she used to do for me is that I’m very prone to falling behind in classes, especially Moreau. So after she found out [that] I started to fall behind in Moreau for the second time, she would always remind me even though her Moreau wasn’t the same day as mine,” he said. “She would always text me Monday nights and be like, ‘Hey, do your Moreau.’”Valeria met her best friend Olivia prior to arriving at Notre Dame, and by all accounts, they were inseparable.“They were always together,” Simons said. “It was very common to hear in the sentence, ‘Valeria and Olivia.’ They came together, basically. Like they were always together.”“Every single picture, it was Valeria and Olivia. Everything they did, they did together. It was very impressive for us how they became so close through Zoom and how they really made such a strong friendship,” Lopez added.Many of Valeria’s Notre Dame friends were able to meet her friends and family from home in Ecuador through video chats, and Valeria remained extremely close with her parents and three younger brothers while at school.“I think we could all agree that she brought up part of Ecuador with her, and we all got to live a little bit of it through her,” Alvaro said.After Valeria’s death, friends from Ecuador wrote and sang an original song for her called “Little Miss Perfect” that now has over 8,000 views in an Instagram post. The song professes Valeria “always cared for everyone else,” and she “never let life bring [her] down, those were the things she lived by.”According to the song, Valeria was called “little miss perfect” growing up.Although she only was enrolled at Notre Dame for a short time, Valeria made it clear to her friends that she loved Notre Dame.“I remember that she talked to me about her decision making, and she was accepted into a large number of selective institutions. But she never flinched about choosing Notre Dame because she felt like it was going to be the place where she will not only become a better student, which she already was, but she would become a better person,” Lopez said. “I think that she was striving more to become a better person more than a better student because she was already an amazing student. She was pushing her academics even farther. But Notre Dame does a very good job of forming you as a person. And I think that she really felt connected to that.”Her friends remember her as always taking advantage of every opportunity in life and for her quirks, some of the things that made Valeria, Valeria — an obsession with tuna, her baking business she began in quarantine and being a self-admitted easy crier are just a few. But above all, they remember Valeria as being so happy with the life she’d made for herself in the Notre Dame community.“She was the happiest here that she’s been in her life. She was constantly telling us that she was very happy here and that Notre Dame was everything that she ever wanted and more. And her parents knew that, her friends knew that,” Lopez said. “I think that we all thank the Notre Dame community as a whole for having given Valeria such an amazing place to be, even if it was not for the longest of times.”Following Valeria’s death, her friends found agreement in one specific thing about her life, something they want to emulate going forward in their own lives.“When I was talking about this with our friends,” Colon said. “The one thing we agreed on is that she definitely enjoyed her time here and lived as fully as she could, even though it was a very short amount of time. That’s what we were talking about. We were like, ‘We should try to live as fully as she did.’ Because she really did make the most out of her time here.”Tags: obituary, Olivia Laura Rojas, Valeria Espinel Courtesy of Lorena Colon Valeria Espinel celebrated her birthday on campus with a gathering planned by her best friend Olivia Laura Rojas.But somehow it seemed as if Valeria found the time to “meet everyone” in the Latino community within just two months of starting college, get ahead in school and plan for internships as just a freshman. Her friends say she made more friends than they ever thought possible in two months.A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador, Valeria lived in Badin Hall until she was killed in a car accident in October, along with her best friend Olivia Laura Rojas.According to Badin Hall rector Sr. Susan Sisko, Valeria always “bounced down the hallways.”Valeria’s Badin Hall resident assistant, Grace Kaiser, said she “had an effortless confidence and liveliness” that anyone could sense after meeting her.“Val used to give me and everyone in our section these sweets called Dulces de Leche that she brought for us from Ecuador. She would leave a whole stack of them in the candy bowl outside of my room for all to share. Before the campus-wide prayer service, we as a Badin community had a short service for Valeria at the Grotto. Pretty much our entire dorm community and even some off-campus Bullfrogs showed up, which I think is a testament to how loved Valeria is and how much she will be missed,” Kaiser said in an email.Through Zoom calls, GroupMe messages and Facebook groups, Valeria made friends with fellow first years as soon as she could. Many of her friends she hung out with every day throughout the semester she made before stepping foot onto Notre Dame’s campus in the fall. To Valeria Espinel’s friends, it seemed like she had an unlimited amount of time. That she could do everything productive for school and more and still have time to be there for her friends. Almost like she was working with an extra few hours more than anyone else.People say freshman year of college is hard. That it’s hard to find a balance between meeting new friends, doing school work and adjusting to a new environment — adding in a pandemic can’t make it any easier.
“Sonny” is survived by his mother, Ola Nobles of Port Neches; sister, Marilyn Johnson of Port Neches; brothers, Mickey Nobles of Port Neches; Rick Nobles and wife, Julie of Overland Park, KS; nieces and nephews, Marcos Johnson, Ashlie Edwards, Adam Nobles, Robin Wahlquist, Todd Nobles. He was preceded in death by his father.A gathering of family and friends will be Wednesday, April 13, 2016 from 4 to 6 p.m. with a memorial service to follow at 6 p.m. at Melancon’s Funeral Home in Nederland with Rev. Rob Jones officiating.In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions may be made to First Baptist Church of Port Neches in “Sonny’s” honor.Details and registry available at Melancons.org Murry H. “Sonny” Nobles, Jr., 71, of Port Neches, TX, passed away April 9, 2016. He was born May 8, 1944 to the late Murry Hammond Nobles, Sr and Ola B. Metcalf Nobles.
By Alex SamuelsThe Texas Tribunetexastribune.org For conservative Texas lawmakers and their allies in the business community, the fight over paid sick leave seemed like a slam dunk at the start of this year.Left-leaning cities Austin and San Antonio were in Republicans’ crosshairs after adopting ordinances that required private businesses to offer their employees a certain number of paid sick days. While the city council members spearheading those proposals touted them as beneficial to workers, lawmakers on the other side of the ideological spectrum took issue with cities taking a new role in private companies’ employment policies — and creating patchwork regulations that only applied in certain parts of the state and might differ within a matter of miles.Legislation blocking those ordinances was hailed as a priority in the Texas Senate, blessed by Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and lobbied for by wealthy business groups. But as the session winds down, the bills that would achieve those goals missed the deadline to be considered on the House floor — meaning they’re effectively dead.There are a few procedural ploys lawmakers could utilize to revive the bills at the last minute — like attempting to tack on the bill’s language to other pieces of legislation still in play. But many business groups, fed up with what some called petty politics and the monthslong staring contest between the House and Senate over whether language explicitly protecting nondiscrimination ordinances should be included in the bills, have largely given up on lawmakers’ ability to resuscitate the legislation.And with little faith in the ability of House and Senate leaders to reconcile their differences regarding that language, business advocates have set their sights elsewhere to kill the ordinances: the courts.“That’s our only alternative since the Legislature failed to act,” said Annie Spilman, the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business. “This really was not a good session for the business community. “The legislation is dead, and we have no hope that anybody has any sort of concern for the business community.”Meanwhile, supporters of the sick-leave policies say they’re glad that the Legislature seems to have moved on to other issues.“I’ve heard that the Legislature is trying to wrap up its big important business, like school finance and the budget, and I think that’s where the focus should be,” said Austin City Council member Greg Casar, who authored Austin’s sick-leave ordinance.As originally filed, Senate Bill 15 by Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, would’ve created a statewide framework for employment laws in the state. It included provisions saying cities couldn’t regulate certain benefits practices or enact rules on how businesses schedule their employees’ shifts.But Creighton overhauled the measure in an upper chamber committee and stripped out a provision in the bill agreed upon by business groups and other stakeholders that explicitly protected city ordinances that ban workforce discrimination.The bill then became ensnared in a fight over protections for LGBTQ workers and stalled in the Texas House. Creighton later filed four narrower bills, each aimed at accomplishing a slice of the original measure’s goals. But after those bills passed the Senate, a House committee reinserted the language explicitly protecting the nondiscrimination ordinances, and none of the four bills made it onto the House calendar in time for a debate by the full body.“We sat there in [the] State Affairs [Committee] and said that’s not the fight we’re having this session,” said state Rep. Drew Springer, R-Muenster, during an onstage conversation Wednesday with Texas Tribune CEO Evan Smith.To be clear, members of the business community say they harbor no animosity toward Creighton or Texas House members. But frustration persists, especially with leaders who vocalized support for the issue.“They had all session to get this done,” said Pamela Bratton, the vice president of contract administration and compliance with Meador Staffing Services. “People taking a stand on their high ground isn’t what we hire and elect politicians to do.”Now, all eyes are on the courts.Last year, the state joined a number of business-aligned groups and small businesses in obtaining a temporary injunction against Austin’s sick-leave ordinance — which was put on hold after an appeals court said it was unconstitutional.But duking it out through the legal system comes with its own set of pitfalls: It’s expensive and can be slow.Austin, for example, is appealing the lower court’s ruling and asked the Texas Supreme Court for a second opinion. Rob Henneke, general counsel for the Texas Public Policy Foundation, said the court likely won’t decide until this summer, at the earliest, whether it wants to take the case. If it does, a ruling might not come down until the end of this year. And since the capital city’s ordinance was put in place, San Antonio and Dallas have adopted similar sick leave policies that the business community is also hoping to overturn. No lawsuits have been filed yet to upend these ordinances.“If the Legislature came in with a broader preemption … then that could make the need for further litigation less important,” Henneke said. “But that’s all hypothetical at this point.”Still, he said he’s confident that the opponents of the ordinances will ultimately prevail in court.“Our case has been successful,” Henneke said of the Austin ordinance, “and we would expect the same for the other jurisdictions if that’s the direction the business community chooses to take.”Creighton, for his part, said he’s also pinning his hopes on the legal system.“The failure to act on a package of the most pro-business bills this session will undoubtedly hurt Texas small businesses,” he said in a statement to The Texas Tribune. “The only hope now is that the courts reverse these costly and burdensome regulations, and restore the predictability and common-sense policies Texas business needs to thrive.”But while she’s confident the courts will land on her side, Spilman said the National Federation of Independent Business is also considering asking the governor to call a special session to take up the preemption bills if they don’t make it across the finish line. A spokesman for Abbott didn’t respond to a request for comment on whether he’d consider calling a special session for such purposes.“Hopefully its important enough that we can potentially come back and address this sort of local overreach,” Spilman said. “I feel like it’s that much of a state emergency.”Some, like Bratton, are hoping for a last minute Hail Mary — “I still believe in Santa Claus. Miracles could happen,” she joked — but most agree that they now have to take matters into their own hands.“This legislation should’ve been an easy pass for the business community, but unfortunately it was hijacked and we had no say in the game,” Spilman said.Disclosure: The Texas Public Policy Foundation has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune’s journalism. 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