Student Spotlight

Margaret Preuss

Margaret Preuss

Majoring in Finance with a minor in Philosophy

2014 • McGlinn Hall

Hometown: Granger, Indiana

Margaret is fifth in a family of ten children. Notre Dame has always been a part of her life, including attendance at football games starting at age 10. Her parents both attended Notre Dame and met here. Her second oldest brother graduated from ND in 2008. She chose to attend Notre Dame because of the community she knew she would experience. From Catholic culture to rigorous academics, to the tradition, football and the alumni network, she felt that ND would be a place full of life-giving relationships and activities.

Notre Dame is important to Margaret in many ways. “Notre Dame has challenged my faith, and helped me to grow in my relationship with Christ and the Church. Notre Dame has challenged me to use my gifts and talents to serve the greater world upon graduation. Notre Dame has become my home and given me the opportunity to choose how to spend my time and talents. This University has set me free to pursue what interests me, and has encouraged me to grow in my faith.”

Margaret loves Notre Dame’s Advent celebration. It is clear that this time of anticipation is very special to her and has been made more special by her time spent at the University. She encounters beauty in Notre Dame’s celebration of Advent in preparation for Christmas. Margaret’s attendance at dorm mass on Sunday in Advent is a constant reminder of the splendor of Christ’s coming into the world. It is a time to reflect on the coming of Jesus and His life; to look outside yourself and work to love as Jesus did.

Margaret’s favorite preparation for Advent and Christmas is Handel’s Messiah. The Chorale sings this every year in late fall at the start of Advent. “It is absolutely gorgeous. The Messiah is a powerful celebration of Jesus’ nativity, and his entire life leading up to the Ascension. This performance prepares me most for Christmas. It allows me to pray while I sing. The Messiah gives me a newfound love for Advent, and a love for the waiting period of Christmas.”

Margaret has been involved with many different groups during her time on campus. Her participation has transformed her into the student she is today, and has enabled her to follow her passions: music and business. From singing for Pope Benedict XVI in Rome to presenting a new marketing strategy for Coca-Cola Zero in Cincinnati, her experiences through these clubs have greatly enriched her education at ND. “Most importantly, being involved has given me the wonderful opportunity to meet many different students at Notre Dame. These students, the essence of Notre Dame, teach me, broaden my perspective, and provide deep friendships that I will cherish forever. “

Margaret participated in the Summer Service Learning Program through the Center for Social Concerns. She spent her SSLP in California at the Orange County Catholic Worker—Isaiah House. The Catholic Worker is in Santa Ana, a terribly impoverished area of Orange County. She lived at the Catholic Worker with 70 homeless women, and served meals to about 300 homeless people living on the streets every day. She lived like the homeless, sleeping on a bench each night and eating the same food.

This experience transformed Margaret. “My world moved beyond Notre Dame and South Bend, to understand a larger population in need of my education and service. The work opened my eyes to the need for morally responsible individuals, who have been given a stable family and good education, to give back to those in need. The summer showed me utter poverty – physical, mental, and spiritual. It was by no means an easy experience, yet it was arguably one of the happiest times of my life. The women I lived with had a way of bringing joy into each day – simple, pure joy”.

In the future, Margaret hopes to use finance as a means to work with individual clients and serve their financial needs. Specifically, she would like to work with lower and middle-income families to help them save and invest their money.

Chris Whelan

Chris Whelan


2013 • Zahm House

Hometown: Westfield, MA

Notre Dame has always been part of Chris’ life. He idolized his dad, class of 1981, who, according to Chris, is the greatest Dad in the world. Chris grew up wanting to follow in his father’s footsteps and that meant attending Notre Dame.

“In my mind Notre Dame stands for truth. I was drawn by the Catholic identity and I have never been able to shake my childhood perceptions of the school. I always thought that what made ND special were its alumni. No matter what, they always seem to do the right thing. Not because it is expected or easy, but simply because it is right. Maybe that’s just my opinion of my dad, but I will never be able to separate Notre Dame from integrity. I came to Notre Dame so that one day I’ll be that type of person.”

Notre Dame is important to Chris for many reasons. His professors taught him to expect greater things from himself. He is part of two great communities, Zahm House and ND Vision. He was introduced to Catholic Social Teaching and given a chance to share his gifts with those less fortunate than him. He has been encouraged to pray and grow closer to Christ. He has learned more than he ever thought possible while living his childhood dream.

Chris was introduced to a very special Zahm House Christmas tradition. “Freshman year, I found out that Zahm always gives a gift to our housekeepers. I was awed by the extent of the gratitude they showed all of us; you could see it in their smiles that they were overjoyed to learn how much they are appreciated. Everyone knows the story of Christ’s birth in the Gospel of Luke, but it’s easy to overlook the radical importance of it. Hearing a professor lecture about the less understood details of the narrative and being a part of my dorm’s expression of love and gratitude helped me draw a connection between the religious aspect of Christmas and the cultural aspects of it. It’s all about God’s love.”

Chris participated in the Summer Service Learning Program sponsored by the Center for Social Concerns. This along with other Notre Dame experiences has changed his worldview. “I am no longer the naïve teenager from the suburbs; my service experiences in the inner city and other poverty stricken locations have opened my eyes to a pain and suffering all too common today. The service programs I have been involved with through the Center for Social concerns changed my life. Instead of living for myself, I now feel a responsibility to live in a way that serves others.”

Chris entered Notre Dame with dreams of fame and riches but he has discerned a call to service. He plans to be a youth minister or teacher after graduation so he can serve young people and share his gifts. Chris’ Notre Dame journey has been one of transformation and “It’s been even better in real life than it was in my dreams.”

Phenix Messersmith

Phenix Messersmith

Member of the Notre Dame Fencing Team

2013 • Pasquerilla East Hall

Hometown: Belmont, CA

Unlike many of our students, Phenix did not grow up basking in the Notre Dame glow. She was not a Notre Dame fan by birth. She only became interested in Notre Dame during her junior year of high school when she was contacted by Notre Dame fencing coaches, Gia Kvaratskhelia and Jansuz Bednarski. Phenix wanted to attend a school that would push her to succeed in fencing and academics. She found that, and a National Championship, here at Notre Dame.

Phenix is happy with her choice to attend ND because of the people she has met during her time here. “Being at a school where the students are striving to be their best, in and out of the classroom, is very rare. Notre Dame students are highly competitive but they are also very focused on community building and helping each other. I am surrounded by individuals who want to help you and see you succeed just as much as they want to succeed themselves. Being in this environment has challenged and pushed me to become a higher achieving individual than I ever thought possible.”

Phenix believes that Notre Dame has helped shape her into the person she is today. “With the influence of teachers, rectors, coaches and students here, I was able to explore who I wanted to be and how I wanted to impact the world in a safe and nurturing environment.

As a Notre Dame athlete, Phenix participates in a special celebration, the Pediatric Christmas Party, held in the Monogram Hall every December. This party is given for children suffering from cancer and their families.

“I have attended every year since I was a freshman. The student athletes get really into the festivities. We have girls dressed up as elves and a Santa who gives out gifts. Last year I was in a scooter because I had just undergone foot surgery. My teammates helped me decorate my scooter into a Christmas sleigh. I gave sleigh rides to many of the kids there. There are also lots of different booths and activities such as cookie decorating, face painting, musical chairs and art & crafts. It is such a good feeling to spend time with these kids during the holidays. They really bring a smile to our faces as much as the student athlete volunteers bring to their faces. The Christmas party gives the student athletes a break from training and studying to realize what is truly important in our lives: health and family.”

Phenix has loved her time here and can’t believe how quickly the years have gone. She is grateful for the sense of belonging that Notre Dame provides to all students. “I felt that I belonged in the classroom, the gym and the dorms. I have been able to succeed in what I have put my mind to because of this support and community”