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Carrying the Mission Forward

Note: This is the 40th 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

“Given the saving death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, Notre Dame College sees itself as having a mission within the Church to extend Christ’s loving, saving activity in the world.”

These words are printed in the College’s academic catalog each year. Sr. Carol Ziegler, special assistant to the president for mission effectiveness, works to ensure they are more than just words on a page.

Sr. Carol was hired in 2007 to help Notre Dame maintain its mission fidelity. Much earlier in her career she spent a year at NDC as a student and second year novice. She returned to the College from Cambridge, Mass., where she was program director for elementary education at Lesley University and member of the graduate school leadership team. Her decision to return was based on President Dr. Andrew P. Roth’s commitment to preserve a values-based institution, she says.

“You see the mission in the daily life and decisions of the people at Notre Dame,” Sr. Carol says.

The College created her position to guarantee this commitment doesn’t change. As the contact person for all mission-related concerns, Sr. Carol holds a wealth of responsibilities. It is her job to make sure the missions of the College and the Sisters of Notre Dame are in sync.

“Understanding our Catholic identity is important as we move forward,” she says. “We want to constantly make people aware of the meaning of Gospel living today in an ever changing complex world.”

Sr. Carol accomplishes this by assuming various roles at the College. Presently, she is co-chairing the Abrahamic Center, which develops educational programs for the College and the Greater Cleveland community fostering mutual respect among all peoples and celebrating religious, racial and cultural diversity.

She has also chaired the Department of Professional Education and has been a member of the committee that developed the College’s signature ARCH curriculum, which integrates the mission and values of Notre Dame College through specific courses, assignments, readings and service projects. The ARCH curriculum is created around the College’s Abrahamic values, a commitment to personal, professional and global responsibility, Catholic social justice and the humanities.

Sr. Carol Ziegler
Sr. Carol Ziegler makes sure students understand the mission of the College the day they step onto campus.

“Our goal is to nurture that sense of mission so that graduates embrace the challenge to live the mission wherever their sphere of influence extends,” Sr. Carol says.

Sr. Carol received her Bachelor of Science in Education from St. John College of Cleveland, her master’s in language and literacy from Virginia Polytechnic & State University, and her doctorate in curriculum and instruction from Boston College.

Her research and writing has focused on the role of adjunct faculty members in sustaining the quality of course delivery in higher education institutions. As an adjunct faculty mentor at NDC, she ensures that adjunct professors not only understand and appreciate the mission but are also committed to carrying it out in their professional work at the College. Often involved in search committees, Sr. Carol probes potential employees for their understanding of the College’s mission and how they identify with it.

“Mission must be the driving force of the institution,” Sr. Carol says. “What I hope to do is ignite a fire and kindle that deeper commitment in people.”

That fire is meant to spark the faculty’s and students’ commitment to contribute to the common good through various service opportunities.

“The Sisters of Notre Dame have always cultivated a spirit of service among the students and faculty. A look at some of the newspaper articles and early publications at the College confirm that legacy,” Sr. Carol says. “As we move into the future we hope to be even more intentional about that service.”

The College’s strength will always be its diversity, Sr. Carol says.

“Young or old, believer or non-believer, special gifts or specific challenges, no matter what nationality or class, whoever people are – we want to find ways of enticing a more diverse student body to join us in our mission,” she says.

Sr. Carol says her formation as a Sister of Notre Dame has contributed significantly to who she is as a professional.

“There is an educational heritage that was part of my early formation, and a commitment to a thoughtful and ongoing regular prayer life that is important to my development as a woman and then as a religious woman,” she says.

Sr. Carol began her career in education as an elementary teacher at St. Margaret Mary in South Euclid. Over the course of 20 years, she became a specialist in reading and science, teaching first through eighth grade students at diocesan schools in Cleveland, Chardon, Elyria and Canton, Ohio. In 1990, she took a position as principal at St. Agnes School in Arlington, Va.

“That was a rich opportunity to put into practice the vision I had for a Catholic elementary school,” she says. “When I began there, the school was on the verge of closing. I initiated shared leadership with the faculty community and as a result enrollment almost doubled by the time I left. It was very exciting to be a part of a turnaround for an elementary school and to still see that school flourishing today.”

As program director for elementary education at Lesley University, Sr. Carol oversaw program development and administration of the university’s elementary education graduate licensure program. She was also a member of Lesley’s faculty, serving as an associate professor of teaching, learning and leadership, and assistant professor of curriculum and instruction.

Since joining Notre Dame five years ago, Sr. Carol has left her mark on the institution. She assisted the Education Department with coordinating the successful accreditation by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education, developed an adjunct faculty orientation program, took charge of the annual Founders’ Week celebrations, worked with students to create a “Heritage Wall,” and re-developed the introductory class for freshmen carefully aligned with the College’s mission.

“Our mission and who we are as a college rests on the premise that each individual is valuable and that we are called to care for one another,” Sr. Carol says. “The College could not have a better mission. It connects us with Sr. Julie Billiart, Sr. Maria Aloysia, and the educational heritage of the Sisters of Notre Dame. If there is anything these women were about and Jesus was about, it was tending to people one person at a time.”

Christian Taske ’07 is the director of print & digital communications at Notre Dame College.