Advice for First-Year Students

Welcome to Notre Dame!
I’m glad you are in my class. As of our first class meeting, you have less than four years left to enjoy life in this privileged oasis.  Now it’s time to get back to work.
To give you a sense of my philosophy of teaching, allow me to share four personal biases.  These are partly based upon my role as an educator.  But  they also draw upon what I have learned as a Notre Dame parent.  In other words, I know something about your ways and practices.
First, you are at Notre Dame because you are intelligent and talented smart. Yet as you will soon discover, everybody around you is intelligent and talented, too. The greater challenge is for you to be interesting. This means that you should use your years at Notre Dame to acquire the tools, the wisdom, and the passion to make people care about who you are and what you will become.
Second, I am not really interested in the conventional definitions of what it means to be educated.  It’s possible that much of the education you received before coming to Notre Dame was based upon two pedagogical goals:  description and memorization. In contrast, I emphasize analysis and understanding. If you can’t analyze and understand, you won’t be able to persuade. If you can’t persuade, we will have failed you.
Third, why Notre Dame? There must have been something special about Notre Dame that led you to choose it over other institutions, such as The Ohio State University, the Leland Stanford Junior University, and various East-coast finishing schools.  Did it matter to you that Notre Dame is a Catholic university?  It should matter in some way.
Finally, to quote a prominent contemporary philosopher, “along with great privilege comes great responsibility.”  University education is a privilege which few people in the world experience.  Who knows why both you and I have been given the blessing of leisure time to cultivate our minds?  We are morally obliged to make the most of it. As the Bible says: “No one, when he has lit a lamp, puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, that those who come in may see the light” (Luke 11:33).
My office hours are on Tuesday 2:00 – 4:00; Wednesday 1:00 – 2:00; and by appointment.  My office is in the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, 211 Brownson Hall (right behind the Main Building). My assistant Sharon Konopka can always find me; call 631-5253. You do not need a specific reason to visit me. I’m always curious to know what’s on your mind.  My email:
Again, I am glad you are in my class.
A. James McAdams

NOTE:  Please turn off and do not use your technology during class.  This includes electronic devices of any kind, such as laptops, i-Pads, cell phones, Kindles, video cameras, video games, or other personal digital devices.