Father John Donato, C.S.C.

John DonatoCurrent Position: Vice President of Student Affairs

Alma Mater: University of Notre Dame

Major/Undergraduate field of study: Theology/Philosophy

What was it like being among the first in your family to go to college? Tell us about your story and what you think helped you succeed.

On one hand, the experience was so exciting since I was the first one to go to college.  My parents and I had many dreams about what I might do with a college degree.  On the other hand, my father was quite ill and unable to work.  So, my parents dropped me off the first day and wished me luck.  I was so lonely and scared.  Then by the end of the first night, I had at least one friend.  Knowing that he and I would meet up the next day for breakfast was a God-sent miracle!  And that is how it all happens: one friend, one event, one day at a time and then one class, one test, one paper...and then suddenly I had my first college degree!

Are there any unique challenges you faced as a first gen student? How did you overcome these?

Since I had absolutely no idea about what to expect, I asked a lot of questions.  I visited with my professors after class to let them know about the ideas I heard them present that intrigued me or pushed me to think deeper.  They were so patient.  I would certainly take the time to get to know your professors.

Did a mentor play a role in your experience? Why or how?

I had a friend who was a junior and he proofread my papers and indulged so many of my questions.  I am so grateful for his guidance and I learned not to make the same mistakes over and over, if I wanted to keep helping me correct my papers!

How do you feel your experience prepared you for your personal and professional life after college?

My first years in college prepared me for my studies abroad in Italy and then gave me confidence as I entered the workforce.   There is nothing like facing the unknown to give you a sense that you CAN do it! 

What is your advice to first gen students at UP who are facing challenges?

Ask questions since you will be surprised how grateful your classmates are that you did!  Be a friends to make a friend.  Don't worry about being home-sick...everyone gets that feeling.  Go for a walk or hang-out with friends and you'll start to feel better soon.

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