My parent ... my classmate???

By Joshua Stowe (ND '01) | Spring 2016

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Traditionally, college is a time when young people leave parents behind and strike out on their own.  But what happens when a parent decides to go to school – the same school – too?


As an entrepreneur who founded her own marketing agency, Maria Bailey (EMBA ’16) has long been learning on the job.

She taught herself the ins and outs of running a business and wrote eight books on marketing without having taken a marketing course. But as her own children approached their college careers, she decided the time was right to invest in her own continuing education.

That’s how she ended up at Notre Dame at the same time as her son, Keenan — but only after she checked with him to make sure he would be OK with the move.

“I’ve always had earning an MBA in the back of my mind,” says Bailey, a resident of Pompano Beach, Fla., who plans to transition from entrepreneur to teaching, sharing her real-world business expertise with college students. “When my kids entered college, I was inspired by all the amazing things they were learning and doing. Once I got accepted, I figured it was meant to be and the timing was right.”

Bailey is now one of several graduate students in the Mendoza College of Business who have children enrolled at Notre Dame. Though they work in different fields, each felt the need to invest in a graduate degree to either advance in their current career or make a transition.

All of them are enjoying the added bonus of attending Notre Dame with their children. While each navigates the arrangement in his or her own way, it’s easier than it might have been even just a few years ago, thanks to changing attitudes among today’s students.

For a generation that feels more comfortable staying in close touch with parents while away at college, having them on campus can be a plus. Now, in addition to calls and texts home during the week, they can visit with their parents a little more often, and Mom or Dad can take advantage of an occasional study break to catch up with their kids.

The Bailey Family

As they considered how best to manage their relationship while at Notre Dame, Maria and Keenan quickly made a few agreements to make sure things went smoothly.

“We made a few rules so that we were both comfortable going to school together,” Maria says. “If I go into a bar and he’s there, I have to leave, and he’s not allowed to bring laundry over.”

Keenan appreciates being able to see his mom more often, although he and she both stay busy with their programs. A senior American Studies major who lives in O’Neill Hall, his main interaction with Mom is during monthly meals at J.W. Chen’s, a popular Chinese restaurant near campus, where she joins him and his friends for a quick bite.

“I am blessed to have my mom around each month, which has allowed her to meet my friends and share in my college experience more than most parents do,” he says. “But Mom and I are each busy with our separate coursework, so it’s not like we have tons of free time to hang out. Her presence here definitely hasn’t hindered my independence, yet by being here each month we get to create memories together, so it’s a win-win.”

Meanwhile, Maria’s experience in graduate school has reaffirmed her commitment to change careers — a big reason she made the investment in her continuing education.

“It’s been years since I had to study,” Maria says. “I think that actually I didn’t know what I was getting into when I started. Now that we’re coming to the end, I can tell you I spent the better part of 12 hours a day on the weekend for two years trying to study and refresh my skills. This is by far the hardest thing I have ever done, and I’ve run 26 marathons. But it’s been so rewarding.”

Maria and Keenan will both graduate this spring, but their family’s connection to Notre Dame will continue. Keenan’s sister, Madison, will enroll as a student in the Master of Science in Global Health program this fall. Maria’s husband — Keenan’s dad — Tim Bailey earned his bachelor’s degree from Notre Dame in the General Program (now the Program of Liberal Studies) in 1976.

“Notre Dame is such a special place. My mom and dad understand it, and I do,” Keenan says. “And my sister will next year. That’s a great bond to have. It’s definitely becoming a family affair.”

The Marcheskie and Fronk Family

Toni Marcheskie (EMBA ’17) already has had one son graduate from Notre Dame, and the other, Mark Fronk, is now a junior. So when the Bangor, Pennsylvania, resident decided she wanted to transition from working as an emergency room doctor to running a hospital, she enrolled in Notre Dame’s EMBA program.

“I see a lot of different problems with health care,” says Toni, who worked as a nurse practitioner and an attorney before going to medical school and more recently working in the ER. “I felt that the way to make a difference was to become a physician, and now I think the way for me to make a difference in the healthcare world is to get into administration.”

Toni likes the EMBA program’s focus on effective and ethical leadership, which she feels will prepare her for the next stage in her career.

“I think it definitely ties in because my profession is 100 percent based with people, and people in the neediest times of their lives,” she says. “I feel that aspect of medicine is lacking. If I can make a difference and instill those values in others providing healthcare, I think I can make a difference in people’s lives.”

Although he first wasn’t sure what to expect, Mark quickly adjusted to seeing his mom more often.

“Having my mom at school with me was a weird thought at first,” he says. “I became more comfortable with it once she started coming here. It’s definitely kept us closer. Normally we talk on the phone and text daily, but now we can spend time together, too. If I didn’t do so well on an exam or had a stressful week in class, it’s wonderful to have her here to just sit and talk to, not on the phone, but in person.”

Being on campus with her son has been special for Toni, who has enjoyed moments such as studying with Mark in Dillon Hall, his dorm; watching him play interhall football; savoring the prime rib Christmas dinner with him at South Dining Hall; and meeting ushers he knows from his work with Notre Dame football, where he helps shoot video of games and practices.

The two chat about subjects including accounting and statistics, and spent a marathon session cramming together until 4 a.m. during fall semester finals. Both are looking forward to graduating together in spring 2017.

“I think the graduation ceremony itself is going to be surreal,” Mark says. “It’s definitely going to be weird when you’re getting your pictures taken and it’s going to be both of us in our caps and gowns.”

The Torralbas Family

Tom Torralbas (MSBA ’16) discovered his graduate program a couple of years ago while helping his daughter, Rachel (MSM ’16) shift gears professionally. After graduating from the University of Florida with a biology degree, Rachel initially began working as a sales rep before deciding to pursue a business career. She wanted a specialized graduate business degree to gain the knowledge needed to make that transition.

Over phone calls, the two discussed options, and Rachel decided to pursue Mendoza’s Master of Science in Management. The program is designed for recent graduates with a non-business degree and aims to help students build fundamental business knowledge and skills.

When he helped Rachel review Notre Dame’s graduate business programs, Tom, an Aurora, Ill. resident, noticed the Master of Science in Business Analytics and realized it could provide the training he’d been looking for.

“I decided to pursue my graduate degree after seeing the dramatic impact that data storage, processing speed and analytics is having on all business, especially in consumer packaged goods,” says Tom, who recently left his position as director of category strategy at ConAgra Food to pursue a new career with a focus on business analytics. “I feel having an advanced degree can help position me for a career shift, at a time when companies are scaling back on traditional sales and sales support roles.”

Meanwhile, Rachel has benefited from her investment in the MSM program, learning finance and tackling hands-on work with international management case studies. She has accepted a leadership development position with General Mills in Minneapolis starting this summer.

When they’re not studying, Rachel and Tom have enjoyed connecting over tailgates and Notre Dame football, with Tom and his MSBA friends sometimes crashing on couches and air mattresses at Rachel’s place the night before a game. They attend Mass at the Basilica when Tom is in town and enjoy the occasional Grotto visit or walk around the lakes.

For Rachel, who experienced the typical clashes with parents during her teenage years, it’s been nice to reconnect with her dad now that she’s matured and is working to carve out her own career path.

“Now, as an adult, I welcomed the idea of sharing an alma mater with my dad and enjoyed spending more time with him as we grew in our education and even spirituality through Notre Dame,” she says. “I like being able to experience all the school has to offer and cherish the moments we have together.”

The two will share a special moment this spring, when they receive their diplomas during the same commencement ceremony.

“It’ll be emotional,” Tom says. “I don’t know who gets to walk first, but either way, for me, it’s been this journey and I feel like I’ve had a chance to experience the love and culture of the University, and to see what it can offer me for my career going forward. And for me as a Dad, to see my daughter get a graduate degree from Notre Dame, and to see the potential it has for her career and her life is great.”

The Greeley Family

Notre Dame has always been a family affair for Drew Greeley (EMBA ’17). He graduated in 1988 with an electrical engineering degree and went on to pursue a career as a cardiac surgeon. Then, about a year ago, he underwent two cervical spine surgeries, which meant he could no longer perform surgery himself, and he began to consider what he might do next. At the same time, his daughter, Julia, who grew up as a Fighting Irish football fan, was considering Notre Dame.

Everything came together when the father-daughter pair gained admission — he as an EMBA student, and she as a first-year student.

“I was 48, almost 49, at the time and decided that it was not too late to start over,” says Drew, a resident of Avon-by-the-Sea, N.J. “I was looking for a new start, a new mission, a new mountain to climb.

“I wanted to go back to Notre Dame solely on the intrinsic value of education and the hope of opportunity. I didn’t have a concrete plan, and I believe sometimes you have to leave yourself open to opportunity for good things to happen.”

Although he doesn’t know what the future holds, Drew is open to a number of possibilities, including a job in administration, maybe even at the hospital where he has worked as a surgeon.

Meanwhile, Julia loves being a student at Notre Dame with her dad.

“Honestly, it’s one of the best things about being here,” she says. “It’s really the best thing in the entire world. When everyone else was freaking out about going to a new place, it was already like home for me.”

During their first semester as students together, Julia recalls, they had two of the same courses, albeit with different professors and in different buildings: “During finals week we went out and got dinner and compared notes on our micro-economics classes.”

Both enjoy their time on campus. Julia lives in Lewis, which was Drew’s sister dorm when he was an undergraduate in Keenan Hall, where many of Julia’s friends live now.

“I definitely feel that being at college with my dad has been an entirely positive experience,” Julia says.” I have always had a great relationship with my dad and I don’t feel that him being here has made me feel any less independent. On the contrary, it’s great to have him here and share the experience with him.”

These days, lunches and dinner together are staples whenever he visits, Drew says, recalling one evening when he took Julia and several of her girlfriends out to dinner: “I told my wife, ‘I had more dates tonight than I did in all four years at Notre Dame!’”

Looking back, Drew is glad he took the opportunity to come back to Notre Dame as a student at the same time as Julia.

“For me, at a different time in my life, it was like coming home,” he says.
“And the opportunity to go to college with your daughter? Priceless.”