A Letter to My Freshman Self: Go wide, go deep

Author: Scott Morgan '95

Editor’s note: Published in June 2016, A Letter to My Freshman Self is an anthology of 65 personal letters that Notre Dame alumni spanning 60 graduating years up to the Class of 2016 addressed to themselves as freshmen. Edited by Lily Kang ’16 and Ian Tembe ’17, the letters reflect on often complex undergraduate experiences and offer wisdom to help undergraduates make the most of these transformative years of their lives.

Dear Scott,

As I stepped foot on Notre Dame’s campus as a freshman in 1991, I never could have predicted the journey that my life would take over the next 25 years. I found my calling to use my gifts to empower entrepreneurial leaders and underserved students to realize their full potential. I married the love of my life (at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, no less, with friends from ND in attendance), and we are building a life and raising two strong young daughters together. I’m filled with excitement for the upcoming chapters in my life, and believe I’m prepared to grow from the difficult ones that I know will surely come as well.

The road I have traveled was due much more to luck than skill, and to seizing opportunities that privilege and fortune placed on my path along the way. Since many important seeds for this journey were planted during your four years at Notre Dame, I want to highlight them for you so that you can fully recognize and embrace these opportunities.

Above all else, use your precious time at Notre Dame to explore the world and the many possibilities for living a meaningful life. The spirit of adventure that characterized my undergraduate experience had two important dimensions. First, I chose to “go wide” by trying out different classes (including art, resulting in a self-portrait that has not seen the light of day) to see what grabbed my mind and stirred my soul. I also studied in London and travelled throughout Europe, gaining the valuable perspective that comes from seeing the world and experiencing other cultures.

Second, I chose to “go deep” by working on my senior thesis under the guidance of Professor Fred Dallmayr, who pushed my thinking to new levels during a year of deep and disciplined reading, reflection, and writing on the political philosophy of Sir Isaiah Berlin. These and other explorations — involving both breadth and depth — were important hallmarks of my undergraduate experience that shape how I approach life to this day.

As I prepared to graduate from Notre Dame, I was presented with an opportunity to be a part of something bigger than myself when Father Tim Scully invited me to join the second class of Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE) Teaching Fellows. Influenced by the culture of service and the fight for social justice that characterize Notre Dame, I had the good sense to say “yes” to this opportunity.

As a result, instead of heading home to Silicon Valley in California, I spent two years teaching social studies and leadership in Montgomery, Alabama, at a special place — St. Jude High School — that helped change our nation’s history in profound and positive ways through the role its people played in the Civil Rights Movement. During my time there, I made a difference in the lives of my students while learning vital lessons about inclusion, humility, and struggle. This experience fundamentally changed my career trajectory and helped me see the wisdom of following my heart when making key life decisions.

The time you spend as an undergraduate is very brief in the scope of your life. I hope you seize this opportunity to step out of your comfort zone — to learn new subjects, to explore far off continents, to forge new friendships, to leave the familiar. Be open to the amazing opportunities that will cross your path as you live and learn in the shadow of the Golden Dome for the next four years.

Yours truly,

Scott Morgan studied government at Notre Dame. An educator, attorney and entrepreneur, he currently serves as the founder & CEO of Education Pioneers, an organization devoted to identifying, training, connecting and inspiring diverse leaders across the education sector.