In her first semester at Notre Dame, Laura Gruszka, a freshman residing in Cavanaugh Hall, found it difficult to sufficiently articulate the wonder and beauty of the Notre Dame community to her family and friends. “I found I was trying to explain Notre Dame to even my family or friends at other schools and people just wouldn’t get it,” she explains.
So instead of trying to perfect her personal definition of Notre Dame, Gruszka turned to the Notre Dame community to speak for itself. “I just wanted a way to show people and put them in a place where I could show them what Notre Dame is about because I can only describe it so much but if they could hear what other people could say,” Gruszka continues placing importance on the voice of the community.
And thus, the blog “I Am Notre Dame” began.
“I Am Notre Dame,” (IAND) allows for a more robust representation of Notre Dame to both its internal and external communities. Instead of sharing one perspective it aims to share a new person’s perspective or story every day.
Gruszka’s English major complements her interest in photography, as her photos provide visual representations of the characters she meets and the stories they share with her. “I’m a writer and English major so I write stories so looking at the interviews of people is really exciting for me to kind of see new stories that I wouldn’t be able to see just being me in Indiana, I can see characters and expand my perspective, so I really liked having that opportunity,” Gruszka reveals how IAND continues to positively affect her life.
Gruszka recalls many have compared her blog to “Humans of New York,” colloquially known as HONY. However, while Gruszka appreciates the comparison, IAND has a tighter, more directed focus. “HONY is more about a global community…and most people who follow it aren’t even in New York,” Gruszka says. On the contrary, IAND always stays tied to relationship with Notre Dame. However, it doesn’t mean the daily photographs and stories are limited only faculty, staff, and students. IAND recognizes any connection to Notre Dame as relevant to be shared with the blog’s followers. So if Gruszka spots someone wearing Notre Dame apparel or simply on Notre Dame’s campus, she believes they are worthy of being featured on the blog.
Stephen Chbosky, author of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, after his lecture at Notre Dame on April 2nd.
“Although I want to keep an element of it being random I also want to make sure that because I have this opportunity to help myself and others learn about cool things on campus,” Gruszka shares. IAND maintains a more purposeful approach in sharing people’s stories. The blog welcomes submissions and recommendations for people to interview.
“Sometimes if I know I’m going to be sitting down you I’ll interview you,” Gruszka admits, “or some people have put in requests so I will ask them to schedule an interview to talk to specific people.” IAND’s practice of moderating random and scheduled interviews ensures a more thorough representation of the Notre Dame community. “Although I want to keep an element of it being random, I also want to make sure that, because I have this opportunity to help myself and others learn about cool things on campus, … I can raise awareness about things [on campus],” Gruszka shares. For example, Gruszka hoped to publicize the “Wednesday Lunch Fast,” in which she currently participates, on IAND so that more people might sign up before its deadline in the early semester.
IAND is a wonderful opportunity for a reader to gain insight into the richness of the Notre Dame community. Each post shares another person’s perspective on Notre Dame, life, vocation, friendship, et cetera. IAND doesn’t usually write name of the photo’s subject in its caption, but followers might tag their friends on the IAND Facebook page. However, this omission is what’s so great about IAND. You don’t have to know these people personally – or even who the people are – to learn from them, or gain something from seeing through their perspectives.
An insightful perspective about the relationship between Notre Dame and the South Bend community.
Gruszka always has her camera on hand because, as she explains, “I just learned that as soon as I didn’t take it somewhere I would regret it.” Her habit allows for the blog to feature a diverse array of people. This preparedness helps IAND maintain an element of spontaneity, as Gruszka’s always ready to feature someone with whom she’s had a conversation.
Although Gruszka is always prepared with her camera on hand, she doesn’t want IAND to rely solely on prepared interview questions. Gruszka reports, “I’ve learned that I have a preconception of what I want people to say and then I don’t really get anything out of that question because instead they’ll have something else awesome to say that they brought up themselves.” Instead, IAND provides an open platform for people to share their stories, and to specifically share what’s important to them.
IAND open platform allows for the featuring of a variety of perspectives and experiences. Although Gruszka enjoys having conversations with the people she interviews, she stresses the focus is on their perspective. “I’ve found its better to let them guide the conversation and if I pick up on something that’s interesting or that they seem to really mention or care about it then I will lead it that way but they always surprise me,” she shares. IAND’s genuine interest in sharing unique stories helps promote this diversity of perspectives in creating a more robust representation of the Notre Dame community.
Overall Gruszka’s primary goal for IAND is that it shares aspects and people of Notre Dame previously unknown to the greater community. She explains, “I hope with my blog that when people learn about it, the ND family never dies to you. Even if you’ve only been there once, it always impacts you. A lot of the people on the blog are on campus, so if you learn something cool about them or something that they say sparks your interest, then they’re most likely going to be available to you to learn more about them. It’s not just like you read a story and that’s just a snapshot into someone you’ll never meet again.” While IAND’s open platform promotes awareness of all the unique aspects of campus, it also aims to foster connections between people of similar interests. In a way, IAND participate in uniting the campus and creating an online forum of support and respect for the varied gifts of the Notre Dame community.
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