ND Journey: Nicole Campbell ’23 Combines Her Passions Through Neuroscience and Education

Author: Shannon Rooney

Nicole Campbell’ 23 picked up a supplementary major in education, schooling, and society minor at the end of her first year at Notre Dame. She chose it because of a fascinating USEM experience. 

The USEM, which stands for University Seminar, is a required course for all first-year students. These small, writing-intensive classes fall under many different topics and Campbell’s happened to be the course Contemporary Educational Issues taught by Professor Mark Berends. 

“He is an absolutely incredible professor and I loved the course,” says Campbell. “It helped me realize that I could work with kids in a really specific setting, where you could see an environment and the way it’s impacting the brains of kids.”  

Since Campbell is also a neuroscience and behavior major, the subject fell right in her wheelhouse. She now wants to work in the field of educational psychology, helping to understand students’ school experiences and make them better. 

After graduation in May, Campbell will join the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Program, through which she will teach while earning her master’s degree in education.

“Pursuing my master’s has been a goal for me for a really long time, and eventually I want to pursue a Ph.D. So this is really an amazing first step. I’m excited to be in the classroom, applying what I’ve learned in working with kids and giving them the best experience possible in the classroom,” says Campbell. 

Nicole Campbell '23 (right) and friends at the "Cavaret" event they planned at Cavanaugh Hall.

Campbell loves the flexibility offered by her majors through the College of Arts and Letters. She finds that whatever class she is taking, there are always common threads that tie together the concepts she is learning about. 

Campbell took her favorite class at Notre Dame in her junior year. 

Called Educational Law and Policy, the course “introduced me to the field of law,” says Campbell. “We got a lot of case studies and a lot of different court cases and looked at the ways that the court cases shaped the rules of education and how the educational landscape in America looks today—whether it's the types of schools we have, segregation at schools, students rights, teachers rights—a whole myriad of different issues embedded within schools.”   

Campbell was one of the only STEM majors in the class and she found it inspiring to engage with students from other majors, like political science and economics. Class discussions were always lively and the class formed a small community. 

Campbell says that kind of experience is indicative of the kind of camaraderie and collaboration she has found at Notre Dame. 

“There’s just a level of support here which is so incredible,” she says. “You can say ‘oh the Notre Dame community really loves each other,’ but to see it in action is really powerful. It’s something I appreciate every day.” 

That sense of community extends to her experience in her former residence hall, Cavanaugh Hall (Campbell now lives off campus). And she has also found community through her work with the Student Union Board (SUB), for which she serves as the concerts committee chair. She and a group of other students are responsible for planning and executing a music festival this spring. 

Campbell has always loved music and this is the perfect SUB position for her. “It's purely been a creative outlet for me in terms of getting to do art for them and design and learning about marketing and event programming,” she says. 

Campbell is also involved with the Cognition Learning and Development Lab on campus. She is studying the relationship between analytical thinking and conceptual understanding in middle school math. 

“A year ago, I probably wouldn’t have known what you meant if you said that,” laughs Campbell. “Essentially, I think it’s really cool that we can find a mechanism to look at individual differences in students and how that manifests in the way they understand concepts in school.” The goal is to understand how educators can make use of students’ strengths to their benefit. 

The research will become part of Campbell’s senior thesis project for her education, schooling, and society supplemental major.  

Campbell appreciates her research experience and says she’s learned a lot. It is one of the common threads tying together all she has learned at Notre Dame. 

Learn more: Watch the video above to learn more about Campbell’s Notre Dame experience.


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