Few universities can integrate community engagement into high-quality academic programs the way Notre Dame de Namur University (NDNU) has for the last 172 years. Since its inception, this WASC accredited, private, Catholic, co-educational master’s university has continuously worked toward fostering an uplifting environment where students can grow intellectually, spiritually, and personally while positively impacting the world around them.
Inspired, students here, who come from all walks of life, learn that differences should be embraced and used as a source of strength rather than division. Hence their commitment to working together towards a brighter future, regardless of their academic paths. NDNU specializes in graduate and degree completion programs in Psychology, Education, Business and Management.
While these subjects are covered by three separate schools, each stands out for its innovative synthesis of liberal arts learning, professionally oriented learning, and core values. The best part? All routes lead to outstanding, meaningful outcomes.
Michelle Lew has always been passionate about psychology. While life may have led her down different paths, she knew she would one day build a career in this field. The right time came when the mother of three young men attended an NDNU Open House. One conversation with Dr. Helen Marlo, Chair of the Clinical Psychology Department, inspired her to finally fulfill her life’s calling with a Master of Science in Clinical Psychology, with an emphasis on Marriage and Family Therapy. “They allowed me the flexibility to continue to fully conduct my role as a mother,” she says.
Neurophysiology and Psychopharmacology, Psychodynamic Psychotherapy, as well as Diagnosis and Treatment of Addictions, were her favorites. These lessons opened Lew’s mind to how the past can impact and alter how our brains work, its effect on our automatic responses and the many ways people cope with painful hardships. By co-facilitating a complimentary group offered through the Mills-Peninsula Medical Center, Lew got to apply the knowledge she gained in class.
“For first-time moms to know and hear that other moms are going through exactly the same challenges has been pivotal in them shifting towards a positive mindset,” she says.
Upon graduating, Lew carried on her internship at a local non-profit supporting 40 of the highest-risk families in San Mateo County — a role she took on as a student. Then, she began working as an associate clinician, bettering the lives of individuals, couples and families in her area. “In the private practice where I currently work, the clinicians are all NDNU graduates,” she explains. “I plan on continuing to work at the private practice until I achieve licensure and thereafter.”
When Robert Harrison first came to NDNU, he wasn’t exactly sure where it would take him. It was a sense of community that brought him here and a suite of dedicated teachers who convinced him to stay — Dr. Don Stannard-Friel, Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology, made it his personal mission to help Harrison come out of academic probation triumphant.
The transformation began once Harrison, an undergraduate student at the time, realized his interest in sociology and criminology. “My favorite classes were all conducted by Dr. Don,” he explains. “The way he explained “Deviant Behavior” — one of my all-time favorite topics — helped me understand why I would, at times, act a certain way or why the individuals around me acted a certain way. The classes I took in criminology and social psychology were incredibly inspiring as well.”
Harrison and Dr. Don explored communities in need within San Francisco. Such on-the-ground work not only humbled Harrison, but taught him how to communicate, manage time and reach out for help.
Today, he’s a graduate student with hopes to earn a PhD one day. “I might become the next Dr. Don!” he enthuses.
Born in Mexico, Judith Guerrero was just 11 years old when her mother and grandparents — all of whom were farmworkers — brought her to the US. “They saw education as a way for me to have a better life,” explains the first-generation graduate. “But we came from a socioeconomically-disadvantaged background, and for me to go to school, I had to work.”
After college, Guerrero began working at a flower shop. It paid the bills but she wanted to use her sociology degree more. She started volunteering and soon, helping others became a lifestyle and Guerrero began exploring the possibility of evolving her newfound passion into a profession. Her former high school teacher directed her to NDNU’s Master of Public Administration (MPA).
With MBA students joining her MPA lessons, each session never lacked passionate discussions or meaningful exchanges. Together, they learned what it meant to collaborate effectively, internalize concepts, unlearn the bad, relearn the good, and truly comprehend the importance of following the rules.
After leaving the flower shop, she joined an insurance company — while juggling housekeeping, dog-watching and house-sitting gigs. Guerrero was willing to do whatever she had to do leave NDNU debt-free.
She did — and with a job offer to become Executive Director for the Boys & Girls Club of the Coastside. Her role revolved around diversifying the organisation and making after-school programs accessible to communities in need. Life really came full circle six years later when Coastside Hope, the organisation that gave Guerrero her first volunteering opportunity before helping her land her undergraduate scholarship, recruited her as their Executive Director.
“I’m proud to say that I was able to step into these roles with supportive mentors,” says the graduate. “All my NDNU professors are just a phone call away.”
Follow Notre Dame de Namur University on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Instagram.