How an alum and future industrial engineer went from a devoted figure skater to a mission-centered "extra-extracurricularist."
When you hear 2015 Notre Dame alum Madi Scheessele talk about all of the special volunteer activities she's involved in at Purdue University, you'd think it might have something to do with the Notre Dame mission, which promotes Christian, upright activism. And you'd be right. Partially right, actually, because to be honest, she grew up in a family where devotion to the Catholic faith, getting involved in the community and service to others were always constant themes.
But for Scheessele, it was a serious injury in a favorite sport that set her on an even stronger path to working and serving with others who share her goals and values.
"During my senior year of high school, I had to stop figure skating competitively due to a knee injury, which was devastating as I was involved in the sport for my whole life to that point," said Scheessele, who is on her third year at Purdue University. "So I decided to get more involved in extracurriculars at NDP by auditioning for the musical, joining the technology club and trying out for the bowling team among many others. I was welcomed into these activities with open arms and it was great to gain an extra sense of community with my friends who were involved in these things and to make new friends at an admittedly late point in my high school career."
Scheessele said that besides all the new friends she met, it also was Notre Dame's caring staff who made her time in high school enjoyable and motivated her to uphold the values she held dear.
"I met some of my best friends to this day running cross country for NDP," she said. "Because we were the slowest runners at first, we were determined to improve ourselves and finish what we started. Plus, during my first days in the International Baccalaureate program my junior year, I knew I made the right decision to take IB since my classmates and my teachers shared not only my curiosity about the world, but my goal of actually making it better."
She said that becoming friends with people who shared her goals, values and sense of humor was very important in helping her grow into the student and person she is today.
"I believe that NDP helped me to see how diversity is a real strength, something I feel that many of my university classmates didn't actually learn until college," she said. "From volunteering in the community for service retreats, forming a well-rounded worldview from the IB curriculum or discussing in religion classes how it is important to have empathy for everyone and celebrate their differences, NDP was a great foundation for learning this important aspect of the world."
It's a foundation upon which Scheessele has built an impressive superstructure.
As a mentor for the Women In Engineering program at Purdue, which hosts events for engineering students to learn from industry speakers about possible career paths and the importance of gender and cultural diversity in industry, Scheessele is involved in small group mentoring, which means that instead of mentoring one individual at a time, she gets together a small group of students at all levels (underclassmen, upperclassmen and graduate) who have social and professional networking events.
She also previously served as a captain for the Earthquake Engineering Research Institute's Undergraduate Seismic Design Team, which researched seismic activity and eventually designed a six-foot tall balsa wood tower that they took to compete at an annual competition in Portland, Oregon.
"My favorite part of being involved with that team was that our members came from seven different countries and many states across the U.S.," she said.
Scheessele added that she was able to form friendships with a diverse group of people and learn about other cultures while working toward a common goal.
"To date, however, the most fulfilling thing I’ve done at Purdue, hands down, is to get involved with the Purdue Catholic Students organization, particularly our Boiler Awakening retreat, which hosts over 100 retreatants and has a staff of over 150 students each semester," she said. "It has really kept me busy when I'm not in class."
That is an understatement, to be sure, as she's been appointed as staff head twice for PCS, which means she's one of 18 leaders in charge of planning each retreat and structure of retreat staffs. Last semester, she was kitchen staff head, in charge of a staff of 10 people and planned and then cooked six meals for 250+ people for the weekend.
"This upcoming semester, I will be hospitality staff head, and with my staff of 14 people, will handle retreatant communications before the retreat, check in and welcome them at the start of the weekend and also do logistical tasks such as supply inventory before the retreat and be on-call for other staffers who need help during the retreat," she said.
Scheessele's also a coordinator for PCS "socials," meaning that she plans smaller, more social events (like ice skating and bowling trips) and larger events (like the organization's annual barn dance and formal dance).
"Our objective is to provide an active and fun break from studies that's also an alternative to parties on campus," she said. "My two co-coordinators and I have worked together for the past two years and reshaped the ministry. We merged two less-effective ministries into one and emphasized that all are welcome to our events, which has made our events more successful at reaching a larger group of people."
Scheessele's excitement about giving back and helping others within the Purdue Catholic Students organization is palpable, but she realizes that she's been receiving benefits as well.
"Overall, I feel like my involvement with PCS has made me more successful socially and academically and given me a great sense of community, much like NDP always did," she said. "I feel so blessed to have found this community and to be able to give back to other students as a leader in the group. In addition, surrounding myself with diverse people who share a basic value or goal has made me more successful in many other areas of university life. Whether that be volunteering with friends who share my passion for helping others, being involved in extracurriculars with international students who also want to learn about the future of engineering, or working on group projects with peers that share my academic goals, it is amazing how much I've learned from other people and how much it has motivated me to uphold Christian values and be an upright citizen."
Once Scheessele leaves Purdue — she graduates in 2020 with a degree in industrial engineering — her eyes are set on getting a job that is focused on optimizing the flow of goods or people.
"I am particularly interested in transportation logistics and I would love to work for a government-related entity, such as the U.S. Postal Service or doing safety analysis for an airline," she said. "I am minoring in Spanish for the Professions, which I hope will also prove advantageous for my career."
Scheessele had one more shoutout for her high school and it, too, involved Spanish.
"I also would be remiss if I didn't note how much I enjoyed Spanish classes at NDP," she said. "This was another key factor for me in learning about diversity in high school. I enjoyed that the classes were just as much about culture and literature as they were about the language. Taking classes with Mrs. [Lauren] Raleigh and preparing for my IB assessment with Mrs. [Kimberly] Anderson and seeing their love for the language and culture are what made me interested in it, too. I am so grateful that I get to continue studying it in college and hope to use it in my career."
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About Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy
Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy is a private, Catholic, independent, coeducational day school located in Oakland County. The school's upper division enrolls students in grades nine through twelve and has been named one of the nation's best 50 Catholic high schools (Acton Institute) four times since 2005. Notre Dame's middle and lower divisions enroll students in jr. kindergarten through grade eight. All three divisions are International Baccalaureate "World Schools." NDPMA is conducted by the Marist Fathers and Brothers and is accredited by the Independent Schools Association of the Central States and the North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement. For more on Notre Dame Preparatory School and Marist Academy, visit the school's home page at www.ndpma.org