Graduate School’s interdisciplinary LASER program garners national recognition

Author: Erin Blasko

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The Leadership Advancing Socially Engaged Research (LASER) program, a values- and ethics-based leadership program run by the Graduate School at the University of Notre Dame, has received the Outstanding Program Awards from the Association of Leadership Educators at its 2021 annual conference.

Noting the clear links between LASER and the Notre Dame mission to be a force for good in the world, Laura Carlson, vice president, associate provost and dean of the Graduate School, described the impact of the award on the students who have participated in the program. “We are deeply honored to receive this recognition,” said Carlson.

“The success of LASER is directly tied to the particular gifts of the graduate student researchers and scholars who bring their minds and their hearts to the program each year. A core component of LASER is a student-driven community engagement project. Our broad message to graduate students at Notre Dame is that ‘Your Research Matters.’ Through the program, each participant charts a clear path between their intellectual efforts and the positive impact they can make as individuals,” continued Carlson.

Examples of recent projects include:

• The creation of a support network for Notre Dame graduate students from diverse backgrounds.

• The creation of a STEM mentorship program for women undergraduates at Notre Dame.

• Expanded computer literacy programming for residents of the South Bend Center for the Homeless.

• The creation of a STEM outreach program for middle school-aged students from low- to middle-income families.

“The primary objective of LASER is for participants to gain a better understanding of themselves, others and the organizations in which they serve, and then to apply their training in a manner informed by the University’s core values of integrity, accountability, teamwork, leadership in mission and leadership in excellence,” explained John Lubker, associate dean for academic affairs in the Graduate School.

Tying the program to Notre Dame’s historical strengths, Lubker observed, “These hybrid classroom and experienced-based opportunities serve as a forum to learn about and gain experience in self-awareness, communication skills and people and project management.”

Initially funded by a National Science Foundation grant in 2015, LASER is a selective year-long co-curricular program offered annually to third- and fourth-year Notre Dame doctoral students and delivered via workshops, guest speakers and mentorship experiences that complement the individual projects. A space for interdisciplinary dialogue and learning — participants have represented 25 Notre Dame doctoral programs of study — these students draw upon multiple perspectives about leadership and the ethical implications of their work.

Originally published by Erin Blasko at on October 05, 2021.