Summer Reflection Series: Building Confidence at the Rockne Athletics FundBy Jemma Yeadon '20
This summer, I had the privilege and pleasure of working with Kim Borza at Notre Dame’s Rockne Athletics Fund. The mission of the Rockne Athletics Fund is to help amplify the Notre Dame student-athlete experience by providing the best resources. In this role, I helped spread the word to my fellow student-athletes about all of the amazing opportunities that are made possible through the Rockne Athletics Fund. I can attest to the importance of Rockne Athletics Fund members and their donations, because I’ve experienced many of them first-hand! From study abroad opportunities to the top performance and recovery technologies, my student-athlete experience — and the experience of my peers at Notre Dame — has been enhanced, in part thanks to donors of the Rockne Athletics Fund.
This being the first summer I had an internship, I came into this opportunity with few expectations, but I was extremely eager for what was to come (disclaimer: all expectations were surpassed!). From my first day, I felt completely welcome among the Notre Dame annual giving family. I was not looked at as merely an intern, but as an important part of the team. My ideas were sought after and welcomed. Kim made a point to include me in every phone call and meeting, and my input was always factored into every major decision. This sense of inclusivity quickly became one of my favorite aspects of this internship. It boosted my professional confidence, knowing that so many people trusted my opinion and my work.
Throughout the summer I participated in a number of projects. My favorite and central project was creating a unique strategic plan to brand and grow athletics annual giving at Notre Dame. This mainly consisted of talking with student-athletes and informing our athletic programs of the behind-the-scenes work of our team. It became very evident that the majority of student-athletes did not know about the Rockne Athletics Fund and all that it was doing to make their experience so special. This is what made my role so fun — there was an obvious need for it! It was so gratifying to see how big of an impact I was able to have and how grateful my co-workers were for the work I was doing.
Additionally, I partnered with the annual giving director to present and implement strategies to grow our philanthropy. I presented these strategies to senior associate athletics director Mike Harrity, senior director of athletics advancement Sara Liebscher, as well as many other leaders in the Notre Dame athletic department. Although nerve-wracking, this aspect of the internship expanded my public speaking skills and gave me the confidence to stand up in a room of important people and voice my opinions. This is something that I know will serve me for the rest of my life.
Through this internship, I even had the opportunity to assist with the stewardship of and relationships with donors in our top athletics giving societies, the Athletics Director’s Circle and Jesse Harper Council. I also participated in event planning for these groups of benefactors. How many students get to say that?! Getting to know Rockne donors, and just chatting with them in general was one of the most rewarding aspects of this experience. I had the privilege of meeting so many successful people who have done so much for me and all my fellow student-athletes, as well as Notre Dame as a whole. This summer I feel as though I really began to build my own personal network, that was filled with so many amazing people, who believe in and support Notre Dame’s mission as well as my personal growth and success.
Before this internship, my expertise and passions mainly revolved around volleyball and being a Notre Dame student-athlete. Spending this summer devoted to developing different aspects of my identity and investing into my professional development, however, made me realize that I have so much more to offer than just my athletic ability. This internship gave me the confidence that I was lacking. Beyond the professional skills that I gained, I learned the importance of trusting my gut and not being afraid to voice my opinions. I realized that no matter how big or small, everyone has the power to enact positive change. Not only will these new insights serve me tremendously down the road in whatever profession I choose, the skills I learned this summer will make a big difference in my senior year in the classroom and as a team leader.
This internship has opened my eyes to so many future opportunities. Hearing the life stories and passions of everyone I was surrounded by really inspired me. I no longer imagine life after college as a scary oblivion that is to be avoided. Rather, I look forward to the future with excitement and curiosity. I am forever grateful for this internship and the amazing opportunities and endless doors it has opened for me. Even more so, I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing University where people work tirelessly to make the Notre Dame experience a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.