Gracie Mikol ’22

Gracie Mikol is a current Junior at the University of Notre Dame, and will graduate in the spring of 2022. She is in the Mendoza College of Business as a management consulting major with an innovation and entrepreneurship minor and a sustainability minor. Gracie is also a member of SCNO (Student Consulting for Non-Profits), Adopt a Family Christmas, and the co-vice president of Transpose Dance Collective. She founded the nonprofit Fueled By Kids in 2016 to provide meals to food-insecure children.

Fueled By Kids is fighting against COVID-19 by helping to assure that students whose families were already food insecure or have become food insecure because of COVID-19 have a guaranteed source of food all week long. Children who live in homes that suffer from food insecurity face a high amount of uncertainty in their everyday lives which can prevent them from focusing on school work. Fueled By Kids attempts to relieve that uncertainty by making sure that these children have a guaranteed source of food all week long. Fueled By Kids works with the Manchester School District to identify and pass out bags at public elementary schools on Friday afternoons, combined with the National School Lunch Program, which provides students from low-income households with free or reduced breakfast and lunch at school, Fueled By Kids’ weekend food bag assures these students have two meals a day every day of the week. When COVID-19 became an issue in the Manchester area, the non-profit worked with the assistant superintendent to assure that its services would continue to be provided. Eight busses follow bus routes every weekday passing out bags of breakfast and lunch, bags go on the busses every Friday to continue to provide weekend food. The non-profit also increased its number of weekly bags provided to 600 from 400 to try to respond to the increased need for our services as a result of COVID-19.

“Notre Dame is focused on teaching us how to be leaders in not only business, but also in our communities. I started Fueled By Kids when I was in high school and what attracted me to Notre Dame was its commitment to giving back. I may not want to have a career in nonprofits, but Notre Dame is showing me how I can always keep giving back in my life. Our professors encourage us to find success in whatever industry interests us but also reminds us that to be truly successful we must use that success to help those less fortunate than us.” -Gracie Mikol

Yenupini Joyce Adams

Yenupini Joyce Adams is a visiting assistant professor of global health in the Keough School of Global Affairs. She also has an affiliation with Notre Dame’s Eck Institute for Global Health. Before coming to Notre Dame, Adams was an assistant professor in the WellStar School of Nursing at Kennesaw State University. She earned her PhD from the College of Nursing at Michigan State University and her bachelor of science in nursing from Calvin University in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Her clinical expertise is in maternal/newborn nursing (RNC-MNN). Adams is passionate about using research and community interventions to improve maternal health, promote safe motherhood, and decrease maternal mortality and morbidity among vulnerable populations in the United States and sub-Saharan Africa, where the burden of maternal mortality is most severe.

Adams’ research aims to address maternal health disparities that lead to mortality. She particularly examines factors, both patient and healthcare facility centered, that influence access to and quality of postpartum care among vulnerable populations. Under these broad research goals, she is currently pursuing two research tracks at the intersection of postpartum complications and maternal mortality: 1) maternity care providers’ knowledge, teaching and management of potential complications, and 2) women’s knowledge of and care-seeking for postpartum complications. Her research is guided by and contributes to the Three Delays Model originally developed by Thaddeus and Maine (1994). Adams’ future work will focus on developing interventions to improve postpartum outcomes. While Adams’ research focuses mainly on access to and quality of postpartum care, she has also done work on women’s preconception reproductive knowledge and other maternal health issues.

Adams has received research grants from national nursing organizations such as the American Nurses Foundation and the Association of Women’s Health, Obstetric and Neonatal Nurses and published in peer-reviewed journals in nursing such as Birth: Issues in Perinatal Care, Journal of Nursing Scholarship, and Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic and Neonatal Nursing . She was the recipient of the 2020 New Investigator Award by the Midwest Nursing Research Society women’s health and transitions in childbearing research interest group. She was also a recipient of the AACN/Johnson & Johnson Minority Nurse Faculty Scholars Award by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (2013).

Otakuye Conroy-Ben ‘98

Otakuye Conroy-Ben is the first Lakota woman to earn a doctorate degree in environmental engineering. She has three degrees including a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Notre Dame, where she graduated in 1998. She serves as an assistant professor at Arizona State University and received the 2019 Technical Excellence Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

She was working with tribal communities to examine evidence of substance abuse in their wastewater when that public health concern was eclipsed by another: the coronavirus. It soon became clear that Conroy-Ben could apply her research to the emerging crisis and the federal calls for funding proposals to investigate the virus’ impacts. While there are many researchers who are interested in working with tribal communities, not many will not take the time to develop a relationship with them. Otakuye did take the time, and she is now leading two federal grants, one from the National Science Foundation and one from the National Institutes of Health. One project is aimed at analyzing wastewater infrastructure on reservations, while the other uses wastewater epidemiology to measure coronavirus levels in tribal communities where the pandemic has taken an outsized toll. Otakuye and her team look at those wastewater samples in order to determine how prevalent the virus is within a tribal community. They then pass that information on to tribal health administrators, who can use that information in a beneficial way by implementing public health measures such as mask mandates and gathering limits.

This research will not be limited to just this current pandemic. Otakuye’s methods of analyzing wastewater will be used to monitor a variety of different health metrics such as levels of substance abuse, the flu, and biomarkers for diabetes, a matter of particular concern for tribal communities.

Cathy David – Inspired Leadership Initiative

Originally publish in the ILI Newsletter March 2020

Cathy David moved to South Bend (for the second time) about six months ago. She had some friends in the area but has made plenty more and also met with plenty of students. She has visited local museums, taken in theatre, hiked state parks, and could give a restaurant suggestion for whatever your taste. All this, while tackling the University of Notre Dame’s Inspired Leadership Initiative (ILI) coursework and programming.

It’s David’s enchantment with the world around her—wherever she might be—that has buoyed her successful career and fulfilling life.

“I love trying to understand how people live and think and what their lives look like as a whole, she says, “So I have worked mostly in consumer products and the home industry. I am fascinated by people and ideas and possibilities.”

Surrounded by accounting professionals in her family, David says she was “born a business major.” She serendipitously wound up at Notre Dame after a high school boyfriend introduced her to the school, and she discovered its prestige in this field. She was also born a leader, and while she earned a marketing degree from ND, she served as president of her residence hall and student body vice president.

Graduating with three job offers, she spent the summer in Japan teaching children English and then started her career in California with Gallo Winery.

“My goal from early in my career has been to be happy, to be challenged, and to make a difference,” she says, and while she was at Gallo and later at Target, she continued to serve Notre Dame as the young alumni member of the Mendoza College of Business Advisory Council and Board of Trustees.

Since then, she has lived in eight different states—some multiple times—packing up “for school, for work, and for love.”

One move for school came after her time at Gallo. Planning to pivot her career toward international brand management and eventually move overseas, David enrolled in Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She earned an MBA focused on international relations and added organizational behavior because it interested her.

She also took her next job because it interested her—a lesson in following your instincts.

“I went to work for a really small company that had 300 stores based in the Midwest called Target,” she says, recognizing the irony. “There was something about the company. I thought it was fascinating.”

Believing that the more you know about a business from end to end, the more effective you can be, David was a buyer and asked for a field assignment. She worked in a store and then returned to HQ and the Merchandising team. As part of her role, she participated in campus recruiting and established the relationship between Notre Dame and Target. And when the Internet came along, and Target had not yet committed to the technology, she planned to find a new company where she could work in the e-commerce space. Instead, they asked her to stay and help launch the new venture. She became one of the first employees of, ultimately rising to vice-president and general manager.

Thirsty for new adventures, David moved to new businesses and new corners of the country. She was president of a frame company in Austin, Texas, then she went to the Great Indoors, then Kirkland’s, and then she moved to small-town Tennessee, bought a restaurant, and raced and raised thoroughbred horses (her husband’s passion).

Most recently, she retired from Pier One as chief merchant—a perfect fit role that took her around the world studying people and seeking out interesting products. She still makes her home in the company’s home of Fort Worth. It was during this last phase, and in a brief period of time, that David became both a widow and a breast cancer “overcomer” (her word, which suits her better than “survivor”). These hardships weigh on David, but they do not weigh her down. She has kept her wide-eyed captivation with the world and the people in it. She is cheerful and hopeful and grateful. She would tell you that other people have faced far worse.

It was with this mindset, she decided to take a break when she left Pier One.

“I was new to not-employed, and I wanted to take a gap year. I spent a lot of time traveling and visiting family and friends—being present and with people I hadn’t been able to connect with due to the busyness of life. I was able to do some hands-on work with charities I have supported financially, such as sorting donations at the food pantry and delivering Meals on Wheels to clients.”

But in time, this amazing freedom felt less and less so.

“When everything’s possible,” David says, “It’s almost paralyzing. It’s hard to focus on what matters most. At the time I was 55, and I am going to live to be 104, and I felt like I should have a little more purpose in terms of what was important to me.”

Still connected to her alma mater through various roles, including Hesburgh Women of Impact and the Undergraduate Experience Advisory Council, David heard about the ILI program and was invited to attend a Discovery Weekend. But she wasn’t convinced.

“Then three friends each sent me notes about the program, and said this is for you,” she recalls. “These were people who knew me, and had a good sense for me, and were people I really respected.”

Feeling like this might be a “God wink,” David was compelled to at least attend an ILI Discovery Weekend. She did so—with a list of reasons why enrolling wasn’t a good idea—but she left committed to applying.

“It was one of those things where suddenly I really thought it was the next right thing,” she says.

And halfway through her time in the program, she can confirm it was.

“I love asking questions, exploring options, being part of the University, being in classes, and having relationships with students and professors,” she says. “And I am fortunate to have some great friends outside of the program and inside the program.”

As such, David may already be playing a role in “God winks” for future fellows.

“When people find out about the program, they see the incredible value in the experience and want to be a part of the program when the time is right for them,” she says.

David believes the ILI will flourish and more and more people will be continuing their education or retiring to college communities, like her current hometowns of South Bend and Fort Worth.

They would be lucky to know David. She could offer unparalleled advice on any activity and invaluable friendship on any adventure.

Tricia Curtin ’23

Tricia Curtin ‘23 is currently a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame. As a pre-med track student, she is pursuing a degree in Neuroscience with a supplemental major in Spanish. Tricia’s passion for promoting a holistic vision of health inspired her to start her Instagram account, @curtinkitchen, where she posts photos and videos of delicious, healthy meals. Her colorful, artfully-plated eats and simple to follow recipes have garnered her account over 4,000 followers.

She began the project in the original March 2020 quarantine after her mother caught COVID and she began cooking much more frequently. What started as a creative outlet to share with her friends became a small business endeavor, garnering sponsorships and free products from small companies! Her favorite part of making food is sharing it with her friends, family members, and classmates.

Tricia is originally from Westchester, New York. Prior to attending Notre Dame, she was a National Merit Scholar at Kennedy Catholic High School. When she is not cooking up new creations, she is spending time with friends, studying, or at the gym!

Erin Clarke ’08

Erin Clarke ’08 learned to bake in her Grammy’s kitchen on summer afternoons. Today, Clarke is the creator of the blog Well Plated and author of The Well Plated Cookbook, both of which are dedicated to making healthy eating affordable, accessible, and delicious. Inspired by the comfort foods of her childhood, Clarke set out to make some of those classic recipes healthier, or put a new twist on them. She started the blog in 2012 as a hobby, sharing the budget-friendly recipes she created while her husband, Ben Clarke ’08, was in law school. Now the site has grown to include more than 1,300 recipes and receives millions of visitors every month, along with the cookbook and an Instagram account with nearly 140,000 followers.

Clarke, who lives in Milwaukee, has cooked live on Good Morning America from her home kitchen, and been featured in People magazine and on Wisconsin Public Radio. As her blog following has grown and publicity rolled in from the cookbook, Clarke says she keeps the focus on being of service to her readers and that, “at the end of the day, it’s all about relationships and community.”

And so many readers are making her recipes because Clarke makes every effort to remove barriers to cooking healthy recipes at home. Her blog posts include step-by-step videos and suggestions for substitutions if you don’t have certain ingredients on hand, as well as options to adapt a recipe for certain dietary needs, like for gluten free or paleo diets. And she ends the posts with tips for storing, reheating, and freezing the dish. Clarke, who was a marketing major at Notre Dame, started Well Plated in 2012.

Sinai Vespie

Sinai Vespie has served as Executive Pastry Chef for Campus Dining since 2017. In her role, Vespie oversees operations of the pastry and bake shops located in the Center for Culinary Excellence and serves as a member of the Campus Dining Culinary Council.

Vespie brought with her a wealth of experience. She began her career as a junior sous chef at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in Orlando, Florida. She then moved to the Sweet Treats Cakery in Tampa where she honed her cake decorating skills and wowed customers with her custom cupcake and cake designs. Vespie worked as pastry chef at the the Tampa Marriott Waterside, managing a complete pastry program and staff, collaborating with catering and wedding clients, and creating menus utilizing seasonal ingredients from the area’s local farms.

Vespie is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, Florida with an Associate Degree in Applied Science from their Patisserie and Baking Program. She has competed in various pastry and decorating competitions, receiving multiple first and second place awards for wedding cake decorating and assorted chocolate confections. In 2020, Vespie competed against 9 other chefs in the Halloween Baking Championship on the Food Network and took home the top prize.

HWOI Fall 2020 Virtual Sessions

Unprecedented: Leadership for a World in Need
Marie Lynn Miranda – Charles and Jill Fischer Provost
Anne Thompson – HWOI Co-Founder and Board of Trustee Member
Cindy Parseghian – HWOI Co-Founder and Board of Trustee Member

Watch Here

Hesburgh Women of Impact Presents: “You Are Home: Caring for Our Students of Color”
Angie Torain – Senior Associate Athletics Director for Culture, Diversity and Engagement
Pamela Nolan Young – Director for Academic Diversity and Inclusion
Megan Brown – Director, McDonald Center for Student Well-Being
Arnel Bulaoro – Director, Office of Multicultural Student Programs and Services

Watch Here

Hesburgh Women of Impact Presents: “A Fighting Chance: Coronavirus, Catholic Schools, and Notre Dame’s Alliance for Catholic Education”
John Schoenig – Senior Director, Teacher Formation and Education Policy
Sr. Gail Mayotte SASV – Academic Director, ACE M.Ed.

Watch Here

Hesburgh Women of Impact Presents: “The Coronavirus and Navigating Financial Uncertainty”
Jessica McManus Warnell – Associate Teaching Professor of Management & Organization
Jessica Brice – Gift Planning Program Director

Watch Here

Emma Hayes MS ’21

Emma Hayes is currently pursuing her masters degree through the University of Notre Dame’s ESTEEM program. Prior to joining the University, she completed her undergraduate degree in Chemistry from Saint Anselm College.

Emma is working with the GEO Group on their Continuum of Care Program aimed at reducing the recidivism rate in the United States. GEO focuses on providing in-custody rehabilitation programs which include prosocial classes, one on one counseling, and General Education Development (GED) classes. Despite these current programs offered by GEO as well as other more traditional programs, research has shown that post incarceration, individuals need 200 hours of prosocial programming, which can include counseling, group meetings, and parole meetings, in order to not reoffend. Offenders of more violent crimes need 300 hours of prosocial engagements. The traditional United States system only provides for approximately 120 hours of prosocial interactions in a six month period, falling far under the recommended 200 hours and even farther under the 300 hours for those higher-risk individuals. As it stands, the system is not providing even close to the recommended hours of prosocial programming let alone the minimum 200 hours.

GEO’s goal is to fill this gap with a prosocial game called “Course Correction” to supplement counseling hours, reinforce positive behaviors, and more properly risk assess individuals. “Course Correction” will be an avatar-based video game in which individuals will be able to practice prosocial behaviors in a low-risk environment. Emma will be assessing the opportunities for this type of game in order to better understand the impact that it will make on the community at large. Emma will also be analyzing existing research on gaming in community corrections. By the end of this academic year, Emma will have a business plan for how best to bring virtual reality and gaming into the U.S. Criminal Justice system so that recidivism can be reduced.

Gale Bowman ’05

Gale Bowman, the Managing Director of the IrishAngels investors group, shares her expertise with ESTEEM students in a class on early stage financing. Students hear a series of five lectures and also complete final projects based on real-life companies that they select at the beginning of their time in the ESTEEM program.

Bowman earned a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing at Notre Dame in 2005 and an MBA in entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago in 2012, the year in which IrishAngels was formed and she became the founding director. The Chicago-based group, which has grown to over 150 investors in size, invests in high-potential startups in which a founder, board member, or active investor is a Notre Dame graduate, student, parent, or faculty member. IrishAngels has already invested more than $10 million across 22 portfolio companies. “They learn about different forms of financing for a startup and how to pitch to investors for funding,” she says. “We talk about bootstrapping, crowdfunding, debt, and equity options that startups have when they need to find capital to grow.”

“We make investments in early-stage businesses across a variety of sectors that are raising $1 million to $3 million in seed and Series A capital,” she says. Bowman, who also developed and teaches an Intro to Early State Investing course to MBA students in the Mendoza College of Business, says the ESTEEM students often raise excellent, questions regarding their thesis projects and business plans that they work on throughout the year as part of the ESTEEM curriculum.

“I think the ESTEEM students are a very entrepreneurial group,” she says. “It was a pleasure teaching them this year, and I look forward to the day when IrishAngels will be able to invest in a business founded by an ESTEEM student.”