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Ready for the World
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Ready for the World

The future is bright for Lisa Durkin. As she leaves Notre Dame College this spring with a double major in biology and biochemistry, the 2007 graduate has a future full of professional and educational opportunities to explore. But Lisa has more than just academic qualifications. Her depth as a person has those who know her best at Notre Dame remembering her as a shining example of a student infused with the College’s mission. She is ready to assume personal, professional and global responsibility for the world she lives in.

Lisa came to Notre Dame after earning a scholarship in an essay competition held at the College in 2003. Her grandmother was especially excited about Lisa’s decision to attend Notre Dame. “When my grandmother was young, she got a scholarship to come here but couldn’t go because her family didn’t have enough money to send her and her brother to college. So she was all for me going to Notre Dame,” she said.

Because of her strong work ethic, Lisa thrived in the College’s small school environment, becoming one of the Science Division’s top chemistry students.

In addition to her studies, she worked as a lab assistant under Sr. Alice Dugar, SND ‘67. Through this arrangement, Sr. Alice had an opportunity to watch Lisa grow as a student. The two developed a strong working relationship. “I have always felt that I could trust Lisa to do a good job and that I could give her responsibility that she would follow through on. These are qualities you really want in a lab assistant.”

This high opinion of Lisa is shared by others in the Science Division. Her academic advisor, Dr. David Orosz, associate professor of biochemistry, says that “Lisa doesn’t try to take short cuts. She is really interested in the material and worked towards understanding it.”

In summer 2006, Lisa had an opportunity to put into practice all she had learned at Notre Dame during a summer internship with Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in Richland, Washington. She worked in an environmental chemistry lab determining how TNT degrades in soil and developing methods of remediation for cleaning up the environment. “I felt very comfortable going there. I had analytical chemistry and quantitative chemistry already so I was confident in my techniques.” Because of her work on this research, Lisa’s name will be included on a scientific paper published regarding her research at PNNL. Meanwhile, she is preparing for another internship experience with PNNL this summer.

As a Notre Dame College student, Lisa experienced more than just a great education. The personal support she received influenced her personal and global outlook. The supportive atmosphere at the College helped Lisa get through a personally difficult period in her life. “My mom passed away in my senior year of high school, right before I came here. When I started at Notre Dame, I really focused on my class work and met a lot of new friends. It was a positive experience. It helped me get through a really hard time helping me realize who I am, what I want to do and what kind of person I want to be.”

Lisa has given back more than she probably realizes to Notre Dame College. Everyone who has come into contact with her speaks highly of the young woman she has become. Sr. Alice said “She’s just a delightful person to be with.”

Her professors and colleagues describe her as trustworthy, hardworking, responsible and accepting of others. According to Dr. Sharon Balchak, ‘84, assistant professor of biology, Lisa acts as role model for other students in the Science Department. “I’ve never seen her not act with integrity.”

Lisa combines her personal qualities and her education together to make a difference in the local and global communities as well. She teaches Scottish dancing and works with youth at her local community center. She has also been involved in the Sisters’ of Notre Dame efforts in the Water for Life Campaign.

The Sisters’ of Notre Dame corporate stance states that “Water is a basic right for life as well as a social and cultural good.” Lisa participated in an awareness building activity with Corporate Accountability International in October 2006. She conducted blind taste tests indicating no real difference between bottled and tap water. The idea was to demonstrate that water has become a commodity for sale rather than a right for all people.

After graduation, Lisa plans to work a pharmacy assistant for one year before applying to pharmacy school. No doubt she will be doing great things with her knowledge, talents, strength and spirit. “I’ve had a really good experience here,” she said. “I feel that I’m very prepared for wherever I go from here.”

Dr. Balchak is also confident that Lisa’s integrity and character, along with her academic training from Notre Dame, will bode well for her in the future. “She will represent this College well because of what she learned and who she has become.”

Hope Latiak is the former director of grants and prospect research for Notre Dame College.