From the Founding Director

As the inaugural year for our fellows rapidly draws to a close we send you reflections from a couple of faculty members who have been deeply involved with the Inspired Leadership Initiative and a fellow who had a special engagement with a program led by one of those faculty members.

It is individuals like Viva Bartkus and Tom Stapleford, highlighted below, and their many colleagues who have worked closely with our fellows this past year, that cause our fellows to tell us that the ILI experience is far more powerful than they imagined when they came here last August. The relationships that have developed between the Notre Dame faculty - as teachers, mentors, collaborators and ultimately friends - with the fellows is something that only a program like the Inspired Leadership Initiative can create. The luxury of a full academic year on campus allows for engagement well beyond any other opportunity, and the exchange of wisdom between knowledgeable professors with deep understanding and seasoned practitioners has proven invaluable for our fellows and the faculty alike.

We look forward to sharing the missions some of our fellows choose to pursue in our next issue, and welcome your interest as our selection process for the next cohort draws to a close by going to
our website,

With Best Regards,

Prof. Viva Bartkus

Mendoza College of Business
As founder of Business on the Frontlines, a groundbreaking Notre Dame course that harnesses  the dynamism of business to rebuild war-torn societies and serve people in deep poverty, Viva Bartkus knows firsthand how the University can make a difference in the world.

And thanks to people like Tuck Hopkins, Bartkus has seen firsthand how the University’s Inspired Leadership Initiative Fellows can leverage their expertise and life experience to support that mission. 

Over the past year, Bartkus, an associate professor of management in Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, has worked with Hopkins, a retired lawyer and ILI Fellow who served as an advisor to Business on the Frontlines’ Team Guatemala. The group has partnered with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to help the Mayan Q’eqchi’ people in Guatemala’s Polochic Region, an area where a sore lack of infrastructure, government services, and economic opportunities leaves 90 percent of the population to live on less than $1 a day.

Last year, Bartkus says, Team Guatemala identified cacao as a crop the local people could cultivate and sell, and this year, the team has been troubleshooting how to build a sustainable enterprise that will allow farmers to have access to customers and markets. Hopkins has drawn on decades of working with companies that deliver products to offer practical advice to the MBA students on the team. 

“Tuck has certainly added a great deal to this team,” Bartkus says, noting how Hopkins has worked with Kelly Strait, a Business on the Frontlines alumnus who had previously worked on a project in Sierra Leone, to advise the group. “We partnered Tuck with Kelly so that there would be more senior experience and more direct Business on the Frontlines experience together to coach Team Guatemala.” 

As Notre Dame works to serve the poorest of the poor, Bartkus says, it can continue to benefit from the perspectives of ILI Fellows, who draw on their experience to ask crucial questions and provide a broader perspective.

“I really look to the Inspired Leadership Initiative for those folks who have had a little bit more experience with a little bit more of life and like to spend time with young folks to coach, advise, and counsel them through this process of learning how to use their business skills to serve those most in need,” she says. 

And the benefits don’t end there, Bartkus says. By using their skills to give back with Notre Dame, ILI Fellows can continue to explore how they might make a difference in an encore career. 

“We live our life in chapters, and different things become more important in different chapters of our life,” she says. “And Notre Dame is a wonderful place to actually go through the process of discernment of what will be your next chapter in your life."

William (Tuck) Hopkins

ILI Fellows Making a Difference 

Every day during his law career, Tuck Hopkins awoke thinking about how to help his clients sort through a variety of labor and management issues. He spent his days fielding phone calls and solving problems. 

Now when he wakes up, his mind turns to things like photography, Renaissance art, or the Great Books. He thinks about how to help some of the poorest of the poor build a sustainable living by cultivating cacao. And he considers what he might do next to make a difference. 

It’s all part of his experience as a member of Notre Dame’s inaugural class of Inspired Leadership Initiative Fellows. 

“It’s very refreshing and it’s very good for me to be thinking and using my brain this way,” Hopkins says. “It’s been very enlightening and very rewarding. This has exceeded my expectations by a long way.” 

For Hopkins, a 1974 Notre Dame graduate who majored in electrical engineering, the ILI experience has allowed him to expand his thinking in so many ways. He has spent hours wrestling with some of humankind’s richest texts in small-group seminars and explored a variety of subjects in the the classroom. He has listened to insights from faculty and guest speakers. He has traveled to Guatemala with Business on the Frontlines, a groundbreaking class that challenges MBA students to help impoverished people through innovative projects. And after moving with his wife from Fort Wayne, Indiana to a home just a short walk from campus, he has spent the past academic year building relationships and community with 14 other ILI Fellows. 

“We have all these different ages and experiences,” Hopkins says, noting that the members of this year’s ILI cohort span three decades—from early 40s to early 80s. “I think the one thing we have in common is that we all want each other to succeed. The experience has just been fabulous—just to get to know people you’d like to be around a lot. We have all become the best of friends, and it all happened very quickly.” 

The conversations he’s been able to share with Notre Dame students, faculty, and fellow members of his cohort have been deeply rewarding and illuminating he says: “And all the while, what keeps coming back is how Notre Dame is a force for good.” 

That thought has stayed with him as he discerns what he might do in his encore career. Right now, Hopkins is considering several options. He may offer leadership consulting for education clients, do legal work in the public sector, or pursue international service work. 

No matter which opportunity he chooses next, Hopkins says, he wouldn’t be where he is today without the experience of the past year. 

“I think the experience of these last few months has done a great job in leading us to a thought process,” he says. “Instead of ‘you ought to do this,’ it’s more, ‘which way is the compass heading?’ It’s more of a compass setting than it is a direction. I think this journey has changed my frame of mind.”

Prof. Tom Stapleford

College of Arts & Letters
Students too often conceive of education simply as an information transfer or a means to burnish credentials, but Tom Stapleford sees a richer model: a life-changing encounter that prompts questioning, reflection, and personal growth.

That’s what Stapleford, associate professor and chair of the University’s Department of Liberal Studies, witnesses each week when he leads a Great Books seminar for Inspired Leadership Initiative Fellows—an experience that allows participants to explore classic texts and grapple with perennial questions. 

“You see the world in a new way, you’ve got new questions that you might not have thought about before, you might have new answers or new ways of responding to questions that you hadn’t even considered,” Stapleford says. “And that, I think, is fundamentally what this program is about. It’s not about information, it’s not about credentialing, it’s about a kind of transformation that occurs through these encounters.These are encounters in the classroom and with the text, but also with the other ILI Fellows.” 

This academic year, ILI Fellows have explored works by Homer and and Virgil, delved into Dante, and navigated writings by W. E. B. Du Bois and C.S. Lewis. For three hours each week, they gather to make sense of the latest text together—and to share the meaning it holds for them as they begin to explore and discern the next chapter of their lives. 

Stapleford says the chosen works help ILI Fellows ponder two critical questions: what they want to do with their lives, and how they can act as a force for good in the world. By tackling texts that stretch them to think differently, and by sharing their insights within the context of a community, they can explore together the answers that make sense for each of them. 

“It’s a very powerful way for the ILI Fellows as a group to go through this experience. And there’s something really important about doing this as a community,” Stapleford says. “Many of them could have just taken a year off and sat at home, read a bunch of works, and gone to plays and the opera. But the difference between doing that and having this experience in a community is quite radical. We have this natural urge not just to experience something, but to talk with someone else who’s shared that experience with us and learn from them at the same time. It’s that communal experience that is really critical for the whole process.”

We invite you to explore further joining

the ILI community. 

 For more information or to apply now to the Inspired Leadership Initiative, we invite you to visit ILI.ND.EDU 

or call 574.631.8070 to speak with a member of ILI Leadership. 

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