Providing service is an important element of student life at the University of Notre Dame. One of the most gratifying and pleasing aspects of my more than 37 years as a faculty member at Notre Dame is the high level of support given and the expectation that service to others should be a fundamental part of the student experience.
The aim both at the University and the Mendoza College is to provide an excellent academic education while displaying a concern for the common good. The Accountancy Department’s statement of its mission and shared values stresses the advancement of knowledge as well as service to the community since student interaction with our community enriches the quality of education.
One of the ways the department does this is through the Vivian Harrington Gray Tax Assistance Program (TAP), which provides free income tax preparation service to area residents. For students, being part of the TAP means spending many hours outside of class in various community centers. Often they face never-ending lines of people whose filing system consists of a shoebox. Every year, many students “go the extra mile and do it with a smile.” In the recently completed tax season, Dana Gates stood out.
Dana, a 2009 Mendoza College of Business Accountancy graduate, took the words from the Accountancy Department’s Mission Statement and Shared Values to heart and turned them into a concrete example of how students in the Mendoza College of Business provide their time and talent to various constituencies. She participated in the TAP as one of four student administrators. She picked up added responsibilities during the first month of the TAP by coordinating the efforts of a group of students who made “house calls” to homebound elderly or disabled taxpayers. We call this our SWAT team—Students Working at Taxes. On April 15, I was faced with a roomful of taxpayers and limited number of preparers. When I put out an e-mail call for help, Dana put aside personal plans to respond and worked with these last-minute filers until every return was completed.
On top of all this, Dana “tooted a horn” as a member of the Notre Dame hockey pep band. But she is not the type to “toot her own horn.” But when the campus and the community needed instrumental and income tax help, Dana responded in a manner that exemplifies the “Ask More of Business” spirit of the Mendoza College of Business.
We live in a time when cynicism is the easy attitude to adopt, especially when it come to the subject of business. We’ve witnessed a lot of moral and ethical failures on the part of our business leaders. But at the Mendoza College, our position is that we need to ask more of business, not less, because it has the power to change lives. And people like Dana Gates – and countless others before her – continue to provide us with examples of that power in action.