Building Bridges | Breaking Through Barriers | msps sCHOLARS | Recognition ceremonies


You have career goals and aspirations—and we have the academic programs to make them a reality.

  • Explore a possible academic major through the Building Bridges Program—which matches historically underrepresented first-year students with faculty mentors in their desired fields. The achievements of a recent graduating class of Building Bridges participants were impressive: 89% of STEM majors conducted research before the end of their sophomore year and 91% of business majors interned with a company before they were seniors.
  • In the Breaking Through Barriers program, you’ll participate in professional development workshops, etiquette dinners, and panel discussions to equip you to embark on your career. Last year, presenters ranged from Google and Target to General Mills and the IU School of Medicine.

Interested in attending graduate school?

Join the MSPS Scholars Program and complete research under the guidance of a faculty member. Of the last 29 MSPS Scholars who applied to graduate school, 100% received offers.

Building Bridges

The Building Bridges Mentoring Program assists the University’s underrepresented student population to succeed academically as young scholars in one of the nation’s premier educational institutions by matching them with faculty from the departments that the students wish to explore as possible majors, e.g. chemical engineering, biological sciences, political science. 

The foundation of the program is built upon research that suggests that “freshmen benefit from mentoring programs which involve faculty and upper-class students interacting with freshmen outside of the formal classroom” (Tinto, 1987).

The primary goals of the program include: helping students develop skills to communicate effectively with faculty, assisting students with the selection of a major, as well as an academic and career advising. To meet these goals, students schedule monthly meetings with their faculty mentors. Through these meetings faculty and students work in tandem to explore opportunities designed to give students experiences that will help them with their discernment.

Students are selected in their first year to participate in the program. For additional information access our archives page or contact Arnel Bulaoro at

“Make good use of today. In fact, make the best use of it. Time will not wait, and this day — as all of life — will pass.”
Blessed Basil Moreau, CSC.

For psychology major Lauren Crawford, undergraduate research was once unexplored territory. Prof. Jeanne Day, her faculty mentor from the department of psychology, changed all that. “[She] introduced me to the world of research and helped me develop the skills required for conducting educational and psychological research in school settings.” Lauren and 93 other Building Bridges students, in a cohort of 159, participated in undergraduate research before graduation. That’s a remarkable 59% participation rate in undergraduate research.

“I first meet Lauren in the first semester of her first year when we talked about her interests in educational psychology,” Prof. Day reamrked. “She joined our lab group in the second semester of her sophomore year and she remained a member until she graduated. Throughout this time, Lauren contributed in critically important ways to the research we conducted.  For example, Lauren helped design fun activities targeted to teaching math to 4-5-year-old children and she worked to refine those activities after trying them out with children attending Head Start.  Lauren’s resourcefulness, thoughtfulness, and reliability were essential to the success of our research.  I was fortunate to work with her.”

Lauren enjoyed research so much that after graduating she joined the McNeil lab at the University of Notre Dame where she currently works as the full-time lab manager. In the fall of 2017 Lauren will begin her PhD work at Boston College. She credits Prof. Day who, "has helped guide me in the process of making decisions for my academic future.” 

Breaking through barriers

Breaking Through Barriers (BTB) 

Breaking Through Barriers (BTB) aims to elevate the level of confidence of underrepresented students so they can compete for high-level and high-salaried positions, to equip underrepresented students with vital job survival skills, to create a diverse pool of qualified employment applicants, and to meet the critical need for employers seeking to diversify their employment candidate pool.


Participation in the program is designed for all students. Graduate students are also welcome to join and take advantage of the opportunities the program has to offer. In the 2014- 2015 school year some of the events included:

  • Workshops on personal brand, and internship applications presented by Google. 
  • Workshops on preparing for the Notre Dame career fair presented by Target and General mills
  • Workshops on professional use of social media and resume writing presented by the Notre Dame career center
  • Workshop on medical school applications presented by IU school of medicine
  • Participation in the Association of Medical colleges' Minority career fair (for students interested in medical school)
  • Participation in the Chicago Auto show (for engineering students)
  • Ruth's Chris Etiquette Dinner.
  • Service opportunities panel featuring Teach for America, City Year, Peace Corps, Alliance for Catholic education.
  • and more.....

BTB also works with Kaplan to provide students with resources to study for graduate admissions tests such as the GRE, MCAT, and LSAT. 

The program coordinator Ashley Lunford is also a resource for students. Individual meetings can be arranged by sending her an email. These meetings can be used to discuss professional development concerns such as:

  • Getting your GPA above 3.0
  • Finding the right time and place to study abroad
  • Volunteering more in your community
  • Preparing yourself for exams like the LSAT, MCAT, GRE and GMAT
  • Performing well in mock interviews
  • Resume and cover letter reviews
  • Questions about professional development
  • Internship or job search tips
  • Connections to recruiters from specific companies
  • Career discernment
  • and more......

If you would like to schedule a meeting for any of those reasons or if you just want more information on Breaking Through Barriers simply email Ashley Lunford.   BTB does not cost anything besides your time and energy. BTB is here to help you, so take advantage of all the opportunities that are available.

MSPS Scholars

Victoria Deneke-Santana, Chemical Engineering '13, Former Cowden-Dahl Lab Researcher

Victoria Deneke-Santana, Chemical Engineering '13, Former Cowden-Dahl Lab Researcher

The MSPS Scholars Program at the University of Notre Dame prepares underrepresented sophomores, juniors, and seniors for graduate school programs. During their time in the program, students maintain a highly competitive academic record and complete research under the guidance of Notre Dame faculty or through summer external research fellowships. Since 2009, thirty-four students from the program entered PhD programs. During that same time period fifty-six external fellowships were offered to students in the program. The MSPS Scholars Program is cosponsored by the Office of the Provost

Pictured above: As a chemical engineering major, Victoria Deneke-Santana '13, was an undergraduate researcher in the Cowden-Dahl lab, received a fellowship from the Summer Medical and Research Training (SMART) Program at Baylor College of Medicine, and published a paper. She is now completing her PhD at Duke University.


Alumni Charles Xu's research is highlighted in this BBC Radio 5 Live interview. As an undergraduate he was part of the Lodge and Feder labs. He participated in Harvard's Eden Program during the summer of 2011. After his graduation from Notre Dame, Charles entered the Erasmus Mundus Master Programme (MS)


MSPS partners with the Flatley Center for Undergraduate Scholarly Engagement, the Graduate School, and other departments to provide additional opportunities for historically underrepresented students to study abroad.

MSPS secures funding from the Target Campus Grant Program and other private donations to establish study abroad research initiatives to assist minority students at the University of Notre Dame. Students must submit an application and ask a faculty member to complete a Research Advisor Recommendation Form in order to be considered for one of these scholarships.

Addition, Procter & Gamble, Inc. donates to MSPS to assist with study abroad leadership development initiatives specifically for Black and Latino students at Notre Dame. 

All scholarship winners are asked to write a reflection about their experiences.

Application eligibility requirements and deadlines are emailed to qualifying students usually in October (for the following Spring semester) and in February (for Summer & Fall). Please contact Iris Outlaw for more information about these fantastic study abroad opportunities.

Check out a list of past MSPS Study Abroad Scholarship Winners and some of their reflections here.

Recognition Ceremony

During commencement weekend, graduating students along with their families and friends share in their success by attending the MSPS graduation recognition ceremonies for the Africana, Latino/a, Asian and Pacific Islander, and Native American communities at Notre Dame.