Editor's Letter: MOVING WALLS

By Carol Elliott | Fall 2017

Change is a tricky thing at Notre Dame.

Consider, for example, the $400 million Crossroads Project, the largest construction project in University history. Crossroads added 800,000 square feet of space to Notre Dame Stadium, which is the most mundane description you will ever hear. It’s a “wow” space with diverse uses — classrooms, the new career center, ballrooms, a media center, a climbing wall, research labs...the list goes on.

Yet deep within the massive structures is a very specific stairway left scrupulously untouched: the one that leads from the football locker room toward the tunnel to the playing field. The one bearing the beloved sign, Play Like A Champion Today.

The stairway reminds us that change involves a balancing act between honoring cherished, deeply moored traditions, and bringing in the “new and improved” to meet the needs of the upcoming generations. Moving walls without cracking the foundation, as it were.

When you opened this magazine, you may have noticed that we’ve moved a few walls ourselves.

Mendoza Business, formerly Notre Dame Business, has been in existence for 18 years. During that time, it has undergone change, of course, but not on the order of a comprehensive redesign. We recognize that magazine readership has undergone a drastic change in two decades, given the burgeoning of news and information competing for your attention. Yet as we talked with alums and students, faculty and staff, we came away impressed with the relevancy of our original mission:

To serve as the narrative voice of the College, seeking to provide stakeholders with current news and in-depth features that faithfully present the College’s ongoing, lively and relevant thought leadership and the rich educational experience.

We just needed to move a few walls.

The design is cleaner, brighter, more cohesive. Under the guidance of Skelton Design of Baltimore, we are incorporating images in even more meaningful ways to tell our story. Skelton has also clarified the navigation of the magazine, which is divided into three sections: Vita, Features and Family.

The redesign process started with a broad-ranging conversation with editors from our peer magazines, our faculty, staff and students, and most importantly, our alumni. Through focus groups and an extensive readership survey, we wanted to learn what kind of content Mendoza Business can deliver that’s useful, distinctive and engaging; in short, what topics and stories will inveigle you not only to pick up the magazine, but what will inspire you to share the stories with friends, family, bosses or colleagues.

Here are the two main things we learned:

One, you want stories of people. Stories about fellow alums such as Keri Kei Shibata (EMBA ’16), who merged her early dreams of becoming a pastor with a love of police work to become Notre Dame’s chief of police, or professors including Mitch Olsen, who found a way to plug his class project into the needs of the local community to help with a bike-share program. These personal stories of faith, failure, success, service and discovery form our untouchable stairway.

Fortunately for us, telling great stories about our people is an easy task. Truly one of the great blessings of Mendoza is that people constantly are doing amazing things, or thinking with great boldness about the significant challenges facing humanity, or leaning heavily on their faith to overcome a great tragedy.

We realize that when people tell us their story, whether it’s about their career or something deeply personal, they are placing a great deal of trust in us to get it right, factually and in meaning. Here’s where the design becomes critical. You may not remember the name of the disease Joe McKendree (page 58) suffers from, but you’ll probably remember the image of him in his wheelchair, his 4-year-old granddaughter Giavanna by his side, both wearing T-shirts emblazoned, “Hustle, Hit, Never Quit!”

The second thing we learned, especially from the readership survey, is that more than a few of the respondents had never heard of Mendoza Business. Wow. That’s a downer. (Gotta love the loyalty of our alums, though — even those who had never heard of us continued to fill out the survey.)

So we have work to do, more walls to move, and that’s fine. What is an alumni magazine but a conversation among those of us who love this special place? Let’s keep talking.