Note: This is the 39th profile in a series of 90 stories highlighting individuals who have shaped Notre Dame and/or live the College’s mission of personal, professional and global responsibility.
By Christian Taske ’07
When Jeanne Christian interviewed for a part-time tutoring position at Notre Dame College in 2001, she already had a strong connection to the College. Christian had been an adult student at NDC’s Weekend College in the mid 1980s and had enjoyed every minute of being there. At the same time she had left a lasting impression on her teachers, one of whom was now the vice president for academic affairs, who had bigger plans for Christian. Instead of hiring her as a part-time tutor, she asked Christian to become the director of the Dwyer Learning Center.
Christian has been in charge of the center for over 11 years now. With the help of adjunct English faculty, graduate assistants, peer tutors and study groups, she offers comprehensive tutoring services to Notre Dame students. She has created an environment that “exists to support students to become independent learners as they pursue their professional and career goals,” as the center’s mission statement reads.
“For me as a 30-something-year old coming back to school, this was a wonderful environment. I just had a great experience here,” Christian says about her two years as an adult student at Notre Dame.
During that time she experienced that the College’s faculty made an effort to personally connect with her and other students, especially those who struggled in their classes. As the director of the Dwyer Learning Center, a math tutor and teacher, she works to do the same.
Christian wants her students to embrace the liberal arts experience and aims to take them on a journey to reach their full potential as they approach the world of work.
|Jeanne Christian has been the director of the Dwyer Learning Center for the past 11 years.|
“Our mission means moving students to take ownership of their college experience,” Christian says. “It is helping them see themselves differently than they did in high school, helping them become leaders and helping them take on a career path they might not have thought about before. The students are at a crossroads and they can be anybody they want to be. I think that’s the joy of teaching at the post-secondary level.”
Christian says the excitement of her job is that she mentors students who struggle as well as those who excel in the classroom.
“The joy of my position is that I see both sides of the spectrum,” she says. “I see the students we help to fill in the gaps and I see the very outstanding students that are recommended as peer tutors by the faculty. We provide support on both ends.”
Many of these peer tutors are education majors who are trained in teaching techniques and are familiar with the coursework.
“The Sisters of Notre Dame have always been oriented towards education and teaching future teachers. We show the tutors how to be leaders and how to be good at what they do,” Christian says. “So, our mission is closely tied to that of the College and the Sisters of Notre Dame.”
Christian’s work has been amplified with the launch of Notre Dame’s Student Success Center, which combines academic support, advising and proactive retention efforts into one area. Its goal is to work with all of the College’s constituencies – faculty, student life staff, coaches and administrators – to maximize the number of students who persist from initial enrollment to graduation. The Dwyer Learning Center under Christian’s direction is a key component.
Christian’s work over the past 11 years has made a difference in the lives of countless students, a fact the College has recognized on several occasions. In 2010, Christian received the President’s Outstanding Staff Award for going above and beyond her job expectations. She has also been inducted into the Academic Support Center’s “Wall of Fame,” a distinction that honors faculty members who go above and beyond to work effectively with students with learning differences.
In short, Christian is living the College’s mission the same way her teachers did more than 20 years ago; and she is inspiring future Notre Dame graduates to do the same.
Christian Taske ’07 is the director of print & digital communications at Notre Dame College.