First-Year Journey: Olivia Althoff '23 Wants to Be an Architect for the Greater Good

Author: Shannon Rooney



Olivia Althoff '23 wanted to be an architect from a young age. 

"I've had my heart set on it since I was in eighth grade," she says. 

That was the year Althoff took a trip with her family to New York City from her home in Sioux Falls, South Dakota to attend her uncle's wedding. The city's incredible architecture inspired her. 

Olivia Althoff '23 with her uncle at a Notre Dame home football game. The family often visited campus while she was growing up.

Althoff's parents are both Notre Dame alumni and she comes from "a big Notre Dame family" to boot. Six of her aunts and uncles are also alumni. They are role models in her life and she grew up knowing that "the Notre Dame family" people hear about is very real. She wanted to be part of it.

Having just completed her first year at Notre Dame, Althoff knows she made the right choice. 

The first year of the architecture program has indulged her knack for spatial thinking and her desire for creative expression. 

Like other first-year "arkies," as the architecture majors are affectionately referred to, Althoff took four foundational courses: Graphics I: Drawing, Graphics II: Drafting, Math in Architecture, and Analysis of Architectural Writings.

To dive deeper, she joined two active student groups: the Student Association for Women in Architecture and the American Institute of Architecture Students. 

Student life was as much a draw as academics for Althoff. 

She lives Cavanaugh Hall on campus and says she met her closest friends on Welcome Weekend, the first weekend of the academic year. 

She also feels like her Catholic values are supported here.

"Notre Dame is filled with good people who work hard. My faith life has definitely grown here," says Althoff.

In addition to attending hall Masses, she goes to Campus Ministry events and even traveled to the Washington, D.C. March for Life with a group of Cavanaugh friends. 

Driven by her values and a desire to serve, Althoff is also planning to apply to the Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP) through Notre Dame's Center for Social Concerns, which is the center for Catholic Social Teaching on campus.

Through that program students are placed with one of 160 nonprofit organizations across the country. In addition to completing coursework, they are immersed for eight weeks in the daily activities of nonprofits related to healthcare, homelessness, immigration, education, and many other issues.

Althoff is familiar with the program because back home her family sometimes hosted students who were placed with organizations in their city. Learning about the students' work made her want to follow in their footsteps. 

Althoff (left) with her architecture studio group in the Walsh Family Hall of Architecture

She's also considering a minor in poverty studies. Althoff is deeply concerned about the problem of homelessness and eventually wants to build housing for underserved populations. This passion gives a greater sense of purpose to her studies.

Althoff is a person with a sense of her own purpose. She is driven in her studies and her extracurricular activities. She even worked three jobs on campus to earn extra money.

To decompress, Althoff enjoyed hitting the gym or running around the lakes. She makes time for prayer and reflection and she values the opportunities for solitude as much as the opportunities for community at Notre Dame.

For her, Notre Dame provides the right balance of all the things she loves. 

Check out Althoff's video above to see what else she has to say about her Notre Dame journey. She talks briefly about the Notre Dame family, her favorite class, and her favorite Notre Dame memory so far.

See the previous First-Year Journey

Learn More 

See what Notre Dame architecture students learn year by year and check out our student work gallery where you can view student projects by class year.

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