It Takes a (University) Village

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By Mary Waggoner

Tucked away on the northwest edge of campus is the University Village Complex, a vibrant residential community for married students and their children.

On the main homepage for University Village, the welcome banner reads, in part: The Village offers residents a wonderful community…that many wish they could take with them when they graduate.

Pedro Pinedo ’09 M.B.A. understands that sentiment; he and his family have lived at University Village twice. They moved to St. Joseph, Michigan, after he finished his degree, but found themselves coming back often to visit friends.

“We enjoyed [it] so much that we returned [after] my wife was accepted to Notre Dame,” he said. “It is without a doubt the place where I and my family have been [happiest].”

Asked what his fondest memories of the complex are, he said “Mass with Father Pat—the kids loved to help him. Also, I loved to play tag with all the kids in the playground, kids from 3 to 13 years old. [What] I loved most was to share a barbeque or an afternoon with friends. “

Nathan Elliot ’99, rector of University Village for the past seven years, pointed out how each building entrance is adorned with small flags, showing the countries from which the students of that particular building hail.

University Village is home to 120 families, representing 29 different countries. Such rich diversity provides residents with many opportunities to learn about and experience different cultures.

“Recently, we [Elliot and his wife] were at a dinner party for residents of our building,” he said, “and we realized that every continent except Australia was represented at table.”

Elliot had the unique experience of living at the complex as a resident prior to becoming rector. He and his wife, Katie Elliot, ’09 M.Div., moved there when she began her studies for her master’s degree and a year later he was appointed rector. They and their two daughters live onsite. Katie is currently in the Theology doctoral program.

In addition to Elliot, the complex is served by two assistant rectors and three community assistants. They coordinate a wide range of activities for the students and their families, and help residents in times of crisis and major life transitions, such as the birth of a baby.

University Village enjoys a rich history. Shortly after World War II, the University recognized the need to accommodate the many veterans with families who returned to campus to complete their degrees. It purchased and placed surplus military barracks on what is now the site of Hesburgh Library.

The community was called “Vetville” and the residents were ministered to by a young Holy Cross priest, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., ’39. Little did the residents or Father Hesburgh know that one day the grounds where he served this chaplaincy would be the site of the library which bears his name.

In the early 1960s, to replace “Vetville,” the University built University Village Apartments, 99 two- and four-bedroom units for married students with children. The privately-built Cripe Street Apartments, 24 one-bedroom units for married students without children, were acquired by the University in the late 1970s. Together, the complexes are referred to as University Village.

In 1997, the University constructed the Beichner Community Center to augment the existing Cripe Street Community Center.

The Beichner Center, named after the late Rev. Paul E. Beichner, C.S.C., ’35, ’41 M.A. who taught English at the University, is the heartbeat of the community. It features a large multipurpose room, children’s play space, dining room, fully-equipped kitchen, TV lounge, music practice room, quiet study room, business center, and a chapel.

The Cripe Street Community Center includes a 24-hour fitness room, laundry facilities, and the apartment of priest-in-residence, Rev. Patrick D. Gaffney, C.S.C., ’69, ’73 M.Th.

Mass is said every Sunday in the Beichner Center multipurpose room, followed by a social. Other major feasts in the liturgical year are also celebrated.

The Beichner Center is also where, at little or no cost to them, residents can take advantage of RecSports classes, story times and play groups, cooking classes, and many multi-cultural holiday gatherings, such as Christmas, Carnivale, Chinese New Year, Eid al Adha, and Holi.

Besides the typical amenities that one finds at apartment complexes, University Village has some unique offerings: a clothing exchange for outgrown children’s clothing, community garden plots, furniture rental, and the popular “Barter Board.” The Board, accessed through the Village’s private online community, gives residents the opportunity to sell, trade, or give away items.

“We don’t require our residents to join the online community, but most do,” said Elliot. “Otherwise, they miss hearing about something they need that is for sale or that someone has tied a bag of surplus produce to their doorknob, free to the first taker.”

Whether it’s rejoicing together at the birth of the Christ Child or a new baby, or sharing outgrown clothing or an overabundance of zucchini, University Village is more than just a collection of families who live near each other—it is a family. As Pinedo said, “It is not about the things that you have. It is about sharing the spirit of a community. That is the magic of University Village.”

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