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At Home at Notre Dame

Note: This is the 16th 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 Julie DiBiasio

Like many Notre Dame students before and after her, Jameka Windham ’99 was initially drawn to the College by its athletic program. But like most students, Windham quickly realized that NDC offered much more. It became a “second home” for her, one she wanted to be a part of even after graduation. Today, the College’s registrar is one of dozens of NDC alumni who work at their alma mater. Many of them work in the admissions office. Windham was the first.

Windham arrived at College Road in 1995 as a shy freshman. She says she would have never considered Notre Dame College if it wasn’t for her Shaker Heights High physical education teacher Suzi Brown.

“She happened to be the women’s basketball coach at NDC,” Windham says. “She suggested I set up a tour of the campus and, if I liked it, come play basketball for her in the fall. As the saying goes, the rest is history.”

During her four years as a student, Windham was involved in many extracurricular activities. She was the point guard for the women’s basketball team, played volleyball for a year and worked in the admissions office giving tours to prospective students and their families.

Windham started her academic career as an education major but soon realized that discipline wasn’t for her.

“I enjoyed learning and teaching somewhat, but decided I didn’t want to be in a classroom. Business seemed like a better fit for me,” Windham says.

At first, Windham was apprehensive about switching majors because it was important for her to graduate in four years. She credits Sr. Beth Anne Tercek ’72 for making that possible.

“When I changed my major from education to business, Sr. Beth Anne, my advisor, went above and beyond to help me plan a course of action and stay on track,” she says.

Shortly after graduation, Windham paved the way for future alumni who wanted to work for NDC when she was hired as the first alum to be a part of the small admissions team. She later helped bring in Beth Ford ’00, who is now the dean of admissions and financial aid.

“I was lucky enough to get the job I believe because of the immediate needs and my student experience in the office. I embraced the culture of the institution. They probably thought I was an easy choice,” Windham says.

That “easy choice” was also the right choice for both Windham and Notre Dame College. For a while Windham and Ford were the only two admissions counselors at NDC. They held these positions at a crucial time in the College’s history, as Notre Dame prepared to become co-ed in 2001.

Windham spent three years in the admissions office until she decided to take a year off when her daughter Jaylen was born in 2002. During that time, she kept in touch with Ford, however.

“I get a phone call from Beth one morning,” Windham said. “She excitedly explained that the College had a new president and a new dean of admissions and that their vision was different and revolutionary for the College. She suggested I come in and talk to Dave Armstrong.”

Windham loved what she heard from Armstrong, the dean of admissions at the time, and returned to NDC in 2004. For the next five years, she excelled in the admissions office holding positions in transfer recruitment and becoming the first full-time director of retention. In that position she co-chaired the Enrollment Management Task Force, met with every student who gave an indication of withdrawing, worked with families facing financial difficulties, assisted with student registration, created a communication system with coaches on athletic student registration, and developed a withdrawal survey for retention assessment.

Windham enjoyed her work but felt something was missing. On a whim, she set up a meeting to talk to College President Dr. Andrew P. Roth about her future in academics and at Notre Dame.

“I was thinking about going to grad school and getting my master’s in higher education. I wanted his advice on what I should do and where my career should go,” Windham says. “I realized I wanted to pursue a career that focused more on the academic side of education.”

After obtaining her M.S. in higher education administration from Drexel University in 2008, Windham was offered the job of interim registrar.

“I felt this was the right career path for me,” Windham says. “I was nervous about starting a new career with new management. But Dr. Mary Breckenridge, the vice president for academic affairs, put a lot of trust in me to turn the office around. It was a challenge.”

Windham accepted that challenge and has excelled at it. Her work hasn’t gone unnoticed either. In 2011, she received the President’s Appreciation Award. She credits her achievement to her wonderful staff and her work ethic.

“I’ve noticed if you’re willing to go the extra mile your staff will be more willing to do that as well,” Windham says. “I’ve always believed that whatever I do is a direct reflection on me and my character and I want it to be done in the best way possible.”

Although Windham enjoys her job in the registrar’s office, she misses the daily interactions with the students she had in admissions.

“I miss terribly working directly with the students. My fondest memories here at NDC are of graduation when I would see students I recruited or worked with walk across the graduation stage and reach that milestone in their life. It’s so rewarding.”

To combine the best of both worlds Windham is devising a plan for the coming year to work more closely with the graduating seniors. She will aid them with auditing their work and making sure their graduation requirements are submitted on time.

Windham currently resides in Bedford Heights with her husband and two children. She has already made a Falcon out of her niece Brittany Eaton ’12 who graduated in May and was told by her 9-year-old daughter to continue working at NDC so she can become a Falcon as well.

“It’s not difficult for me to sell something I truly believe in,” Windham says. “The faculty and staff here truly care about our students’ well-being and that is so important during the transition from high school to college. Knowing you have someone who will guide you and who honestly cares about your future is what sets NDC apart from the rest.”

Even though athletics was the driving force for Windham’s decision to attend Notre Dame, she now knows it was the right decision for many other reasons.

“Knowing what I know now,” she says, “if I had to go back and start the process all over again, NDC would be the first and last place I would look at.”

Julie DiBiasio is the college communications assistant at Notre Dame College.