Black Domers: Past, Present, and Future

“Recent events in our nation have led to a national reckoning, to soul-searching and a demand for action with regard to racial and social injustice…There is a widespread sense of urgency to come together, to take meaningful action to achieve a more just and equitable society. Accompanying the urgency is a sense of hope that now is the moment for constructive and lasting change.” – Advancing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Notre Dame: A Strategic Framework, June 2021

As our nation continues to face urgent calls for racial justice, many members of the Notre Dame family are seeking safe spaces for honest dialogue that can advance understanding and become a foundation for action. It is in that spirit that the Black Alumni of Notre Dame and ThinkND invite you to join us for the second season of Black Domers. We’ll explore experiences of Black alumni and students, imagine the future of social justice, convene Black entrepreneurial and business trailblazers, nurture Black well-being, and cultivate Black spirituality. All are welcome!

What does it mean to be Black at the University of Notre Dame? Join our panel discussion on Thursday, February 1, 2024 at 7:00 p.m. to hear reflections on the unique lived experiences of Black students and alumni on our campus, followed by Q&A with the speakers.

Join the live Zoom event here, and use password BAofND, or enjoy the live stream below.

To submit a question for the speakers before or during the event, please use this form.

Speakers:

  • Kendra Washington-Bass ’94 (opening), Chair, Black Alumni of Notre Dame Board
  • Richard Ryans ’79 (moderator)
  • Carol D. Anderson ’00 MBA
  • Nneze Ekowa ’26
  • Brandon Hardy ’20
  • Nicole Juntunen ’99
  • Billy Micard ’24
  • Rochelle Valsaint ’95
  • Don Wycliff ’69

The Black Alumni of Notre Dame recently hosted a virtual conversation entitled “Black Domers 2, Part 1: Past, Present, and Future,” featuring a distinguished panel of University of Notre Dame alumni and students, including Kendra Washington-Bass ’94, Richard Ryans ’79, Don Wycliff ’69, Nicole Juntunen ’99, Rochelle Valsaint ’95, Carol D. Anderson ’00 MBA, Brandon Hardy ’20, Billy Micard ’24 and Nneze Ekowa ’26. The discussion focused on the experiences of Black students at Notre Dame, their challenges, and the solutions proposed to create a more inclusive environment. This installment aimed to foster meaningful discourse about past struggles, present initiatives, and future prospects for Black Domers at the university.

A central theme of the conversation was the need for a strong stance against racism, particularly in dorm life. Micard advocated for zero tolerance towards discriminatory behavior, envisioning significant progress symbolized by the potential of having a Black male as a dorm benefactor. Juntunen stressed the importance of enforcing policies to guarantee students’ safety and sense of belonging within their residence halls.

Elaborating on the topic of campus inclusivity, Ekowa and Anderson highlighted the importance of incorporating progressive topics into the educational curriculum. Ekowa called for a more assertive stance on issues affecting minorities and marginalized identities, emphasizing the need for candid discussions from the university’s leadership on these matters. Wycliff and Ryans stressed the importance of initiatives aimed at fostering dialogue and ensuring representation of Black experiences within the academic framework.

Personal narratives provided powerful insights into the individual journeys of the panelists, with Ekowa commenting on the marginalization among those in the STEM field and the strong support found within the Black community at Notre Dame. Anderson shared her experience as an immigrant navigating the corridors of the university and finding support and values that resonated with her life story.

The panelists emphasized the value of an encouraging community and the positive influence of mentorship. The discussion highlighted the importance of networking, with experiences shared by Hardy, Valsaint, and others, revealing the significant role the Notre Dame alumni network has played in their professional lives.

Towards the end of the conversation, panelists delivered empowering messages. They underscored the importance of collective efforts to support Black students’ journeys at Notre Dame. The speakers encouraged students to embrace their uniqueness, reach out without hesitation, and partake confidently in the academic and social environments.

In closing, Washington-Bass reiterated the dedication of the Black Alumni of Notre Dame to elevate African American presence on campus. She urged all Black alumni and students to remain interconnected and involved, not just during Black History Month but throughout their lifetimes. The session wrapped with an assertion of the continuous commitment required to foster a culture of equity and excellence at the University of Notre Dame.


Zero Tolerance for Racism [00:43:48] : The persistent emphasis on enforcing zero tolerance for racism, especially in shared living spaces like dorms, translates to the broader idea that all environments, whether work, social, or educational, should be free from discrimination and prejudice.

Diversity in Leadership [00:42:23]: The call for more Black professors and leadership representation at Notre Dame reminds us of the importance of diversity in decision-making roles, affecting how we could push for inclusion in our communities or organizations.

Power of Mentorship [00:36:05]: Billy Micard stressed mentorship for Black students in finance, underscoring the universal value of having mentors and showing us the importance of both seeking mentorship and offering it to others in our fields of interest or expertise.

Proactive Cultural Integration [00:47:20]: Nneze Ekowa’s desire for more firm stances on diversity and progressive topics in the curriculum illustrates the need to actively integrate cultural literacy and social justice in our educational pursuits or corporate trainings.

Alumni Network Utilization [00:53:51]: The various testimonials about the efficacy of the Notre Dame alumni network advocate for the active engagement with alumni groups, which can be an invaluable resource for personal growth and career development.

Speak Up and Seek Help [01:10:57]: Richard Ryans’ encouragement to marginalized individuals to seek help and not be afraid to speak up resonates with the need to advocate for oneself and use available resources to overcome challenges.

Encouraging Early Education and Preparation [01:00:28]: Kendra Washington-Bass’s discussion on engaging Black students before high school highlights how early exposure and developing skills from a young age can be key to future success.

Building Your Personal Brand [01:08:48]: Carol D. Anderson’s insistence on showing up unapologetically and requiring respect can motivate us to build and maintain a strong personal brand that reflects our true self.

Recognition of Inherent Worth [01:05:25]: Rochelle Valsaint’s reaffirmation of the inherent brilliance and beauty of black students encourages everyone to recognize and assert their own inherent value in any environment they find themselves in.Continuous Dialogue on Biases [00:42:45]: Brandon Hardy’s call for ongoing dialogue on racial biases, beyond just events like MLK weekend, inspires us to maintain consistent conversations around difficult topics to promote continuous growth and understanding.


  • Leveraging the Notre Dame Experience: “You’re a unicorn, right? As Richard said, wear the ring. Put the crest on your LinkedIn page, on your Facebook, on everything, and let it open doors for you because you’ve earned the right for that. The access and the opportunity that comes with going to Notre Dame, and you need to leverage that. Take full advantage.”
    Nicole Juntunen ’99 [01:06:46 → 01:07:04]

 

  • Campus Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives: “I feel like it was a great idea, but I think it missed the mark. I feel like definitely when I was on campus, those are things that we should be talking about, that everybody should be talking about. and it shouldn’t just happen on MLK weekend, right? It should be happening all the time.”
    Brandon Hardy ’20 [00:43:02 → 00:43:16]

 

  • Self-Driven Learning in Education: “I think I’m a big believer in that people have to also play a part in their own learning. You can’t always hold people’s hands through things.”
    Billy Micard ’24 [00:49:56 → 00:50:14]

 

  • Empowerment and Confidence: “It’s because we are beautiful, it’s because we are strong, it’s because we are capable, it’s because we are accomplished, it’s because everything we touch expands. This is your legacy. This is who you come from. So you have to be it. Otherwise, they miss the gift that you are. So you have to be it.”
    Carol D. Anderson ’00 MBA [01:08:52 → 01:09:12]

  • Adjusting to University Life: “when you’re top of your class in high school and you think you’re all that and a bag of chips and then you get to a place where everybody was top of their class and they think that they’re all at and a bag of chips. Well, guess what? Not everybody can be number one at the top of their class and the bag of chips anymore.”
    Richard Ryans ’79 [00:26:04 → 00:26:21]

  • The Value of Persistence in Education: “Don’t be discouraged in your first or second year. The payoff is enormous. In both, certainly financially, you’re getting one of the best educations possible in America but also in terms of just life satisfaction and connections, friendships, all of those things. They’re enormous.”

Don Wycliff ’69 [01:07:07 → 01:07:37]


Health and SocietyLeadershipBlack Alumni of Notre DameUniversity of Notre Dame

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