Program aims to build connections

Author: Gene Stowe

Kevin Dugan with Bol Agwick at Irish Experience Camp

Kevin Dugan ’01, a New Jersey native who played lacrosse at Notre Dame while earning a degree in finance, left the investment banking job he landed at Merrill Lynch after less than a year, and developed a successful lacrosse coaching career at Gordon College, Yale University and the University of Scranton.

But after Rev. Scott Pilarz, now president of Marquette University, sent him to chaperone students on an international service trip to El Salvador in 2007, a new vocation began to emerge. Dugan returned from the trip with a new calling.

“The trip changed my worldview and gave me a new perspective on how sport can be used to advance the common good,” Dugan recalls. “The trip and many others to follow led me out of coaching and into what I’m doing now. I like to describe my job as leveraging the Notre Dame athletic department into positive social impact.”

He came to Notre Dame in 2010 to work for his former coach, Kevin Corrigan, as director of lacrosse operations.

“Coach had me doing some really unique things to bring value to the program and the community,” said Dugan. “All things that ultimately led me into my new position as manager of youth and community programs.”

The initiative, he says, is part of athletic director Jack Swarbrick’s vision to make the department the “front porch of the University to the community,” says Dugan. In addition to Dugan, Swarbrick recently hired Mike Harrity for the new position of associate athletic director for student-athlete development and community programs.

Harrity’s staff also includes Keith Embray, director of student-athlete development; Sarah Smith, program coordinator for student-athlete development and community programs; Kathryn Coneys, summer camps coordinator; Dawn Mays, administrative assistant; and Matt Weldy, intern for youth sports and community.

“My job is really infused with the ethos of the institution, it is mission-driven work that makes me excited about coming to work every day,” says Dugan.

Wide receiver Michael Floyd dodges a sack in the Irish Experience League

Dugan’s primary efforts are centered around the Irish Experience Programs, which aim to build community between student-athletes and other students on campus while reaching out to South Bend area youth and their families with a coherent program that maximizes the impact of volunteers’ hours. Dugan has been shaping the initiative around the athletic department’s pillars of excellence, education, faith, tradition and community.

“The holistic nature of the five pillars is what creates a special Notre Dame experience for our student-athletes. That is what we want to share with the children we serve,” Dugan says.

“We’re making an intentional effort to build sustained relationships in the community. We’re trying to get away from the isolated, random act of volunteerism. We want to develop more thoughtful programming and think we are on the right track.”

The Irish Experience Programs include the Irish Experience League, which includes Sunday afternoons filled with youth sports activities at the Martin Luther King Center and the newly built Kroc Center; the Irish Experience Camp, a summer camp for children in the area; and Irish Experience Data, special campus visits that touch upon the Notre Dame commitment to excellence, education, faith, tradition and community.

The program is not restricted to varsity student-athletes, Dugan adds. Student-athletes will have the opportunity to serve alongside fellow students, professors and staff from around campus.

“In everything we do, our goal is to build community—both internal and external,” he says.