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Tina Jurcisin: A Lifelong Learner

When Tina DiBacco Jurcisin ’85 was named administrative coordinator in the Notre Dame College Office of Professional Development, she completed a trifecta of sorts at the College.

Already president of the Notre Dame Alumni Board and an adjunct communication instructor, she added full-time staff member to her current list of connections to the College─which actually number many more than three over the course of her lifetime.

Few people can understand Notre Dame from as many perspectives as Jurcisin. She has held positions on campus ranging from commuter student to admissions counselor to dean of students, as well as active alumna, administrator and instructor.

 “I have traveled the gamut, the whole full circle,” Jurcisin said. “I feel that I’ve had the best experience possible at Notre Dame.”

Jurcisin began her Notre Dame story in 1981 as a freshman commuter student. Since she was living off campus, she said she made a concerted effort to connect with her classmates and with faculty and staff to gain a full undergraduate college experience.

She served on the commuter board; student affairs council; student newspaper; and Masquers, the College’s theater organization.

Her participation in extracurricular activities mirrored her expanding academic skills. Her performance in the classroom even earned her a scholarship for outstanding achievement in communication from the Radio & Television Council of Greater Cleveland.

“Tina was always thirsty for ways to improve her considerable communication skills,” said Anthony “Tony” Zupancic, associate professor of communication, English and theatre. “She took direction well and was absolutely dependable.”

Jurcisin credits Zupancic with helping her get involved on campus. Zupancic remembers her as hard-working and driven to master all aspects of her courses and extracurriculars.

Becoming involved in student life not only drew Jurcisin more fully into the mission of the College but also helped her discover the value of becoming a well-rounded individual and inspired her to influence others.

“Developing the whole person to make a difference, whether it’s here at Notre Dame in our little microcosm, in my family or in the faculty and staff on campus, that is what I believe in,” she said.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in communication, Jurcisin worked as an admissions counselor with the College for three years. Soon, she was acting director of admission.

 And while she may have completed her degree at that point, Jurcisin was still hungry to learn.

“I think I’ll be a student the rest of my life. Who doesn’t want to learn things? It makes you better as a person and better in your profession,” Jurcisin said. “So why not learn and expand your knowledge base, then rearrange the skills and talents you have and pour them into the next opportunity?”

Jurcisin’s next option for education took her away from Notre Dame to a graduate program at Indiana University. After earning her master’s degree in student personnel administration/higher education in 1993 and working as a career counselor for a few years in the Hoosier state, she returned to Ohio and to College Road as director of alumni affairs and special events and then dean of students.

But that wasn’t all. In returning to Notre Dame, Jurcisin added a new twist to the original connection she experienced with the College classroom.

“It was Tony who invited me back as an adjunct after I was away for seven years. I said I really missed the daily interaction with students. So when I came back, I changed my profession and my role from admissions to alumni office, but I always knew that I missed the link you have in the classroom,” Jurcisin said.

As an adjunct instructor, Jurcisin said she feels closest to one of the most integral elements of Notre Dame’s history and mission. Through teaching at the College, Jurcisin is able to carry on the tradition of the Sisters of Notre Dame, advance the education mission of the Collegeand relate with studentsin ways she could not do as easily as an administrator.

“When students care about what they are studying, about what they want to learn and about what they want to do, that excites me to want to give them more, to do what I can do,” Jurcisin said. “That’s the feeling of caring, truly and genuinely caring about their success.”

Zupancic considers Jurcisin to be one of the best adjunct professors in communication, teaching classes in elements of speech and interpersonal and intercultural communication.

“She cares. She works hard and really enjoys helping others. She’s a lifelong learner and a gifted teacher,” Zupancic said. “Tina’s joy for life is contagious, and her warm sense of humor cures those around her.”

Jurcisin not only builds community in her classroom but also reaches out to thousands of alumni of Notre Dame, bringing those she calls “wonderful and passionate” graduates of the College back to campus, in her role as Alumni Board president.

Karen Poelking, vice president for trustee and community relations, who knew Jurcisin first as a student and now as a co-worker, said Jurcisin has a passion that seeps into her work, regardless of the job. She described Jurcisin as inspiring, positive and professional.

“Tina is passionate about learning and about the College, and it shows,” Poelking said. “She is a delight to work with, and when you work with her, everything is very directed and very focused. You get things done, and you have fun doing it.”

Jurcisin is particularly spirited about events that help young alumni stay involved with Notre Dame after they graduate.

And it is through a young alumna that Jurcisin has added her most recent connection to the College: Her daughter, Alexa Jurcisin ’13, just graduated from Notre Dame with a Bachelor of Arts degree in psychology.

In her role as president of the Alumni Board in particular, Jurcisin focuses on helping keep veteran, as well as new alumni, from feeling cut off from campus─to share the same gift she discovered as a commuter student and now carries on in her various roles. She said staying engaged with the College community has created the bonds that have made all the difference in her life.

And she has no plans to leave the community she has grown right along with any time soon.

“I will never give this up. They’ll be pushing me to work or class in a wheel chair, and I’ll still have my coffee and my positive attitude. I’ll help keep the learning going,” Jurcisin said. “Notre Dame College is not just a chapter in my life. It’s the book: My Life at Notre Dame.”