Notre Dame College Launches Student Learning about Vocation with Film Series

Notre Dame College faculty and staff are teaming up across disciplines and outside of class to help students explore in an innovative way what it means to live a life of value and service.

The College’s Professional Learning Community launches its 2017-2018 campus-wide co-curricular programming in support of vocation this fall with a set of Movies With Meaning. The sessions lead students of all ages and majors to discover personal, professional and global insights to spiritual discernment through popular media.

The Movies With Meaning campus viewing parties open with “The Great Debaters,” starring Denzel Washington and Forest Whitaker, 4 p.m. Sunday, September 10, in the Campus Ministry office on the third floor of Regina Hall and again at 7 p.m. Wednesday, September 13, in the Enterprise Development Center of the Connelly Center.

The film festival series continues with the James Stewart classic “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” at 4 p.m. Sunday, October 22, in Campus Ministry and at 7 p.m. Wednesday, October 25, in the Connelly Center.

The sessions are free and open to the public as well as to all Notre Dame students, faculty and staff.

In the College’s spirit of personal attention, Movies With Meaning brings together Notre Dame family and extended community to share refreshments, view feature films and discuss ways in which they are called as individuals to make a difference for others and the world.

Main characters in both "The Great Debaters" and "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" serve as teachers, mentors and leaders for students. Storylines contrast whether they—and those who learn from them—work within established systems or break through them to effect positive change. Current and historical structures highlighted in the films range from gender and racial stereotypes to socioeconomic barriers and geographic norms to legal and legislative practices.

Each movie will be offered twice for viewing and discussion to accommodate participants’ class, work and extracurricular activity schedules. Discussion is expected to vary, so members of the campus and extended community are welcome to attend any or all sessions. Pizza, soda and cookies will be served at each showing.

The series is sponsored by the College’s Office of Community-based Learning in collaboration with its Department of Student Engagement

The Movies

“The Great Debaters,” a 2007 drama produced by Oprah Winfrey’s Harpo Studios with MGM Studios Inc., is based on the true story of a debate team from a historically black college in Texas during the 1930s.

Student members and their mentors of the precursor to today’s moot court competitions face social unrest, from racial segregation to communism; personal demons; and family dynamics, of blood, friendship, profession and wider community. Together, they not only win a national championship but also advance the country and humanity.

“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington,” nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Screenplay, was released in 1939 but addresses political corruption, democratic ideals and even environmental issues that remain relevant today. The film explores idealism and cynicism and touches on actual practices of American government and politics, news media and even youth development organizations.

The comedy-drama is the first of several renowned collaborations between actor James Stewart and director Frank Capra. The two also also teamed up for the timeless holiday classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

The Meaning

Members of Notre Dame’s Professional Learning Community studying the book At This Time and In This Place: Vocation in Higher Education, edited by David S. Cunningham, designed the Movies With Meaning sessions to broaden students’ understanding of values and service. 

The co-curricular educational endeavor models using an established system, in this case, Hollywood feature films, to help students move beyond worldly structures, like technology, to experience greater humanity. It applies elements of the chapter “A Pedagogy of Humanization” by Caryn D. Riswold from the subcommittee’s common reading.

“Discerning how to use these virtual tools to forge connection and maintain threads of real relationship becomes part of the challenge of building a flourishing life. Opting out isn’t always an option,” Riswold writes.

The book At This Time and in This Place is a compilation of essays from scholars who participated in the Council of Independent Colleges’ Network for Vocation in Undergraduate Education (NetVUE). Notre Dame was among the institutions selected to participate in the national NetVUE grant program.

The Mentors

In the Notre Dame tradition of liberal arts education, faculty from all five of the College’s academic divisions—arts and humanities, business, education, nursing and science—are expected to share in Movies With Meaning alongside students. The professors will set up the viewings, join in the meal and lead conversation following each film.

Discussion for the Sunday sessions will be led by Sr. Eileen Quinlan, SND, Ph.D., professor of English and communication and co-facilitator of the College’s Books That Change The World lifelong learning book discussion series. Wednesday meetings will be coordinated by Gregory P. Knapik, Ph.D., DNP, assistant professor of nursing, who holds an M.A. from Ashland Theological Seminary.

Faculty and staff members contributing to the interdisciplinary conversations will be Joyce A. Banjac, Ph.D., interim dean of the Finn Center for Adult, Graduate and Professional Programs and assistant professor in business; Sue E. Corbin, Ph.D., assistant professor of education and education accreditation coordinator; Katherine Hartman, M.Ed., director of student engagement and leadership; R. Eric Matthews Jr., Ph.D., associate dean of academic programs, assistant professor of political science and director of community-based learning; Tracey T. Meilander, Ph.D., Marie Goetz Geier Distinguished Professor of STEM, Choose Ohio First STEMM @ NDC program director and associate professor of biology; and Kenneth Palko, M.A., associate professor of philosophy, Faculty Senate chair and Books That Change The World co-facilitator.

This is the first formal event in the Notre Dame Professional Learning Community’s ongoing efforts to promote vocational discernment campus-wide.

A second Professional Learning Community committee, studying The Purposeful Graduate: Why Colleges Must Talk to Students about Vocation, by Tim Clydesdale, expects to host a series of affinity small-group gatherings later this semester. Details are forthcoming.

August 2017

About Notre Dame College

For almost a century, Notre Dame College has educated a diverse population in the liberal arts for personal, professional and global responsibility. Founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame in 1922, the College has grown strategically to keep pace with the rapidly changing needs of students and the dramatic changes in higher education. But it has never lost sight of its emphasis on teaching students not only how to make a good living but also how to live a good life.

Today, the College offers bachelor’s degrees in 30 disciplines plus a variety of master's degrees, certification programs and continuing and professional development programs for adult learners on campus and online. Notre Dame College offers NCAA Division II intercollegiate athletic programs for men and women and is located in a picturesque residential neighborhood just 25 minutes from the heart of Cleveland. Hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience include stimulating academics, personalized attention of dedicated faculty and staff, and small class sizes.

Notre Dame College is located at 4545 College Road in South Euclid. For further information contact Brian Johnston, chief communications officer, at 216.373.5252 or





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