First-Year Journey: Matthew Ruff '25 Finds Community, Explores Global Affairs at Notre Dame

Author: Shannon Rooney


Matthew Ruff has only been at Notre Dame for a semester, but he has still had time to make memories. His favorite from last semester isn’t your typical first-game-day memory—not that there’s anything wrong with those. Ruff had fun at football games too. But it is the memory of an impromptu birthday party at a friend’s residence hall the night before students left for Fall Break that Ruff cherishes most. Ruff had just finished an essay and an exam and was feeling accomplished. The night was celebratory. 

“It was really nice just being at that halfway point through the first semester and seeing all the friends I’d made. And it just cemented how lucky I feel to be here,” says Ruff. 

Ruff chose to be here in the first place because of the world-class academics, but also because Notre Dame just felt right. He was lucky enough to be able to visit his brother Connor, now a senior, on campus a couple of times during high school. During his second visit, while his brother was at a football game, Ruff found himself at the Grotto with some time to pray and reflect over his college decision. In that quiet space, he realized that Notre Dame “felt like home” and if admitted, he would attend. 

Matthew Ruff '25 (far right) with friends on campus

Just over a year later, Ruff is settled at Notre Dame. He is an intended political science major in the College of Arts and Letters and has added a supplementary major in global affairs with a concentration in civil and human rights. 

His favorite class happens to be his Introduction to Philosophy seminar with Associate Professor Sara Bernstein. “It’s just really engaging and impressive. Some of the readings for that class have been her published papers and it’s seminar style. So it’s a smaller group and discussion-based, which I really enjoy,” says Ruff.   

Outside of class, Ruff is part of the Glynn Family Honors Program. He’ll participate in the program’s seminar-style honors classes and will complete a research-based senior thesis project. He is still deciding on his topic of research but looks forward to using the resources Notre Dame offers in this area.    

Ruff has also gotten involved in extracurricular activities that support his interests. He is part of a branch of Student Government called University Policy, a department that focuses on student safety, student finances, and administrative efficacy.

He also sings in Notre Dame’s Folk Choir, which performs at Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart each Sunday. He looks forward to taking a couple of touring trips with the choir this year. 

Throughout his experience thus far, it’s the Notre Dame community that has continued to impress Ruff. From faculty who go the extra mile to help him with difficult work to students who offer to help him out with opportunities related to his majors, Ruff appreciates the people who have made his transition to Notre Dame both fun and interesting. 

When asked what surprised him most about Notre Dame when he got here, Ruff again says “the community…Everyone is kind of in it together and just wants to collaborate and help you.”


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