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Notre Dame California Launches Silicon Valley Semester

Nina Welding • DATE: January 17, 2017

Some 175 years after Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C, trekked through the frozen Indiana wilderness to found the University of Notre Dame, 10 Notre Dame juniors majoring in computer science and engineering have begun their own journey to the University’s next frontier: Silicon Valley.

They are the first participants in Notre Dame California’s new Silicon Valley Semester (SVS), through which they will spend the next four months immersed in the heart of innovation while still enjoying an experience that is uniquely Notre Dame.

“Our top priority is to ensure these 10 students get the most out of their semester in the Valley, both in the classroom and out in the marketplace,” said Patrick Flynn, the Duda Family Professor of Engineering and interim director of Notre Dame California. “Beyond that, we plan to use the lessons learned during the inaugural Silicon Valley Semester to expand the program to a broad set of majors in the coming years. Our goal is to increase enrollment in the SVS to 40 or more juniors in 2018, and we hope to launch similar semester-long undergraduate experiences in Los Angeles, San Diego and Orange County in future years.”

SVS students combine a full-time academic course load with a credit-bearing internship. Kaci Kelly, Notre Dame’s talent and employer relations specialist, has worked closely with some of the most dynamic companies in Silicon Valley — companies such as Stryker, a leader in medical technology; Stellar Solutions, a global provider of systems engineering expertise; Kyndi, an intelligent machines technology company; and OpsPanda, a leader in software-as-a-service applications for sales resource planning — to develop the internships.

“We are thrilled to collaborate with Notre Dame,” said Katie Grau, Stryker’s senior university recruiter. “In our program we look for interns who are driven, passionate and want to be on the cutting edge of technology. At Stryker we continue to be impressed with the quality of students from Notre Dame and look forward to strengthening the partnership further.”

Hung Vo, chief technology officer and co-founder of OpsPanda, said, “The Notre Dame internship program is a great opportunity for OpsPanda to engage new talent to help shape the next generation of sales resource planning. The candidates were so strong that we selected multiple interns who will join our artificial intelligence team and work on our toughest problems.”

Courses, which meet on Tuesdays and Thursdays in order to maximize internship and other enrichment opportunities the rest of the week, are using several teaching platforms during the inaugural SVS. Flynn is teaching “Programming Paradigms” in person, while Associate Professor Aaron Striegel and Peter Kogge, the Ted H. McCourtney Professor of Computer Science and Engineering, are delivering “Operating Systems” and “Theory of Computing,” respectively, via two-way live video. David Cieslak, who received his Ph.D. from Notre Dame and is vice president of data science at Aunalytics, is offering “Data Science” through Notre Dame’s Office of Digital Learning; English doctoral student Bryan Santin is doing the same with “Introduction to the First Amendment: Freedom of Speech in the Digital Age.”

Classes are meeting initially at Menlo College, a four-year college in Atherton, California, and will move to Notre Dame’s new Palo Alto facility once construction is complete in February.

This first cohort of SVS students is living on Menlo’s campus thanks to a collaboration with Steven Weiner, the college’s executive vice president. Throughout the semester, SVS students will be exposed to all California has to offer through extracurricular opportunities curated and offered by Notre Dame; these will include cultural events, professional development activities, service to the community, meetings with alumni and friends of Notre Dame, and sporting events.

Established by the Office of the Provost, Notre Dame California promotes academic activity and outreach across the Golden State. In addition to the Silicon Valley Semester, it is facilitating the development of graduate programs, enhancing career and placement services and strengthening research, entrepreneurship, commercialization and alumni engagement.

– Office of Media Relations