campus encounters

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Holy Cross College (IN)

Holy Cross College, IN (visited 11/21/19)

Holy Cross stained glass

Stained glass and some of the pews in the Holy Cross chapel (formerly a foundry for Notre Dam).

Fun fact: the Holy Cross Chapel used to be the foundry that made the bricks for Notre Dame’s iconic yellow buildings. Started as a 2-year all-male “feeder” school, this is now a full 4-year coed school in its own right, but it still feels a bit like Notre Dame’s forgotten younger brother. The people we met (an admissions rep/alum and a current senior) were incredibly helpful and so happy to show off their school. They said that they feel like the younger-brother feel has definitely dwindled in recent years, but it’s hard to shake that. However, for students looking for a much smaller academic environment but with easy access to the large rah-rah feel of Notre Dame (they’re literally across the street), this could be a good alternative – and for students who might like to transfer later, they have a specific articulation agreement with Notre Dame in which a select group of students can transfer as long as they’ve met the minimum requirements.

Holy Cross archAs an out-of-state counselor, it was hard to find what would bring students to Holy Cross from a distance other than as a stepping-stone into Notre Dame. This is a very small school of only about 600 students but may eventually grow up to 1000. This allows for personal attention and remaining true to the mission of the Brothers of the Holy Cross, the same group that started Notre Dame. “The motto is that the mind will not be cultivated at the expense of the heart,” said the rep. Their mission is education, holistically developing people, and giving back. They want to develop active global citizens; “students should engage with the people they’ll be serving.”

About 1/3 of the students do not identify as Catholic. Attendance at Mass is not required, but students must take 2 academically based theology classes. “They teach what the Brothers believe and what they do with that belief. It’s not to indoctrinate people,” said the rep.

Holy Cross quad 3

The quad (which had been a parking lot not too long ago) and some dorms

Only about half of those students live on campus; they draw a lot of local students, and Juniors and Seniors may move off campus. They are located directly across the street from Notre Dame which helps alleviate some of the small feeling; St. Mary’s is only a couple blocks to the north. Student can get involved in clubs and activities, to the football games (it costs $330 for the season; it sounds like it’s an all or nothing deal “unless you can find someone selling an individual ticket,” said the tour guide), and take classes (1 per term) on the other campuses. Freshman can take classes at St. Mary’s right away; only sophomores with a 3.0 or higher can take classes at ND.

Holy Cross view of ND

Some of the iconic Notre Dame buildings as seen from the Holy Cross campus. They really are right across the street from each other.

Very briefly (a couple years), Holy Cross was single-gender (male) when it served as a seminary (and the student body is still about 60% male); it remained a 2-year school until the early 2000s. They still offer a few AA degrees and some students take advantage of that, but mostly local students who will transfer or those who are Notre Dame hopefuls. They offer a Gateway Program which provides a direct transfer to ND; there are maybe 75 per cohort can transfer to ND after a year as long as they maintain a 3.5 GPA and are in good disciplinary standing. Students are selected from the Notre Dame applicant pool; they cannot self-select or indicate that they are interested in this program. There’s also a self-selected Driscoll Scholars program, a 2+3 engineering degree with ND; students major in a STEM field at HC for 2 years, then go to ND for 3 years for an engineering degree.

Holy Cross library 2

Some of the reading areas in the library

Because of the range of students coming to Holy Cross, there’s also a huge SAT spread (which we know isn’t the end-all of ability, but it can be an indicator of the range of students at the college); their middle 50% ranges from about 1010-1380. The other counselor with me saw that in one of their brochures and asked if it was correct. It is. “From a professor’s standpoint, sometimes it can be challenging to find that sweet spot to challenge people without swamping others,” said the rep. I asked about an Honors College or another way they could keep the high-fliers engaged. He said that they will offer Honors sections – but it’s up to the students to tell their advisors that they want the extra challenge. These aren’t advertised as well as they should be which is a bit concerning.

Holy Cross psych sym 2

A symposium of Psychology 101 research was going on in the atrium on the day we visited

As part of the educational mission, Holy Cross helps DACA recipients. About ¼ of students at HC are First Gen, and they’ve brought on a coordinator to help them while on campus. They’ve started First Gen and Latinx clubs to help people feel more connected. “A lot of us felt like outsiders,” said our tour guide who is a DACA recipient from Chicago. “We felt like having a club would make it feel more at home instead of just a place to go. A lot went home every weekend. We host traditional events. It’s not even exclusive to Latinos. We’ve caught the attention of Notre Dame and the community. I feel like the impact is getting greater every year.” They also now have a Retention coordinator who meets with students who don’t aren’t settling in or who are academically struggling. Currently, their freshman-sophomore retention rate is in the low 60s. While still above the national average, this isn’t great. However, they do lose students in the Notre Dame cohort programs which disproportionately hits their retention and graduation rates.

The rep (an alum) said that he’s seen lots of good changes around campus since he came as a freshman. The quad used to be a parking lot but is now a great green space and gathering spot. “Holy Cross is also becoming it’s own thing rather than Notre Dame’s little brother.” They now have a Tri-campus sustainability class: students go through all campuses, looking what they’re doing to promote sustainability such as the farm t St. Mary’s, Geothermal units at ND, and getting rid of trays at HC. He’d like to see more articulation for Master’s degrees. There’s currently a 4+1 in Data Science and Autism Studies with St. Mary’s.

There are only 11 majors offered at Holy Cross Business, Psych, Theology, and Liberal Studies (with or without a pre-law track) remain the most popular majors on campus. The tour guide’s favorite class was Research Methods in Psych; he got to go to a conference: “it was interesting to present my own study on athletes and bullying.” The rep’s favorite class was Logic; “I liked talking about moral ethics.” Internships are required, as are seminars in Global perspectives. They offer Long Global Trips to Uganda, India, and Peru among other places. These are not tourism trips but try to be as immersive as possible, often staying with priests or brothers at a retreat center. Trips include service components. It’s highly subsidized; most only cost $1-2000. I asked if there was help for students for whom even that would be out of reach; there isn’t much help available.

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