By: Erik Pedersen, Senior Communications Manager
Class of 2023 Spotlights
BALTIMORE – For Gabrielle Taganas ’23, volleyball has always been a huge part of her and her family’s life. She first learned about Notre Dame of Maryland University through her sister, Ricelle, who started on NDMU’s 2018 team which won the its first Colonial States Athletic Conference (CSAC) championship.
When Gabrielle joined the program the following year, she helped the Gators win another title and advance to a second NCAA Division III Tournament. A two-time All-CSAC performer, she will use an extra year of eligibility available due to the COVID-19 pandemic to return next fall and aim for another finish atop the conference standings.
Taganas’ NDMU experience, though, extends well beyond the volleyball court. A business major and political science minor, she served as president of Notre Dame’s Business & Economics Society this semester. That role, along with affiliations with the Elizabeth Morrissy Honors Program and the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, helps Taganas maintain a close connection with campus life while attending Notre Dame as a commuter student.
Learn more about her academic and athletic experiences below:
How did you first hear about Notre Dame, and what led you to apply here?
I originally heard about Notre Dame through my sister. She transferred after getting a two-year associate’s degree at the Community College of Baltimore County, and she was also on the volleyball team. That gave me my first opportunity to meet the coach and athletic director at the time. The fact that they were so welcoming and honest, along with the way they emphasized how family-oriented the department was, played a big part in drawing me to the school.
What has your experience been like as a student-athlete?
I love it so much. I love the athletic department. It’s such a huge family, and the department encourages participation and support for the other sports too. We, as a team, love to support the other programs at their games, because a lot of the athletes on our team are two-sport athletes. Everyone, even those who aren’t athletes, supports the teams because they are one of the main entertainment events on campus. A lot of the professors will come and watch the games also, especially during the postseason.
What are some of your favorite team memories?
I was on the championship team during my freshman year. It was great, because the year before our school had just won the championship for the first time in program history. I was still in high school, but my sister was on that team. Being able to watch them from the sidelines, and then being able to experience that championship feeling as a player the following year was such a surreal experience. It was just so much fun. We went to Atlanta for the NCAA tournament, and that was my first time visiting that city. I loved the food and culture there.
Even the past two years, while we didn’t win the championship, we still placed second overall in the conference. It’s so intense and emotional working towards the playoffs. Everyone works so hard for 2-3 months, and to see that hard work pay off with deep runs in the postseason was very satisfying. I’m so excited that I will be able to come back next fall and have one more opportunity to get a second ring for myself, and a third one for my family.
Did you know from the beginning that you wanted to major in business? What made you want to add on political science as a minor?
I always knew that I wanted to pursue a major in business. I was torn between coming to major in business and play volleyball at Notre Dame or pursuing a career in actuarial science. After speaking with a lot of students and staff here, I was able to see that I could get the best of both worlds at Notre Dame.
While I wanted to major in business, I’ve always been interested in history and political science as well. As I’ve gone through my education, I’ve realized just how much the past connects to both the present and the future. Global politics also has a big impact on business and economics, so there is a lot of overlap between the two.
I loved my political science classes, and I’ve made a lot of friends along the way. I was lucky enough to take a trip to the Model OAS (Model General Assembly of the Organization of American States) in Washington DC with my class this semester, and that was such an amazing experience. I learned a lot about myself. It gave me opportunities to learn how to command a room, guide discussions and think of answers on the fly. I truly love that I’ve been able to mesh my interests in business and political science into one at Notre Dame. A lot of people are either on one side or the other, but I’ve always liked to find that gray area of the Venn diagram.
Talk more about your involvement with the Business and Economics Society at Notre Dame. What is your current role, how has that evolved over time, and what are some of the club’s main goals?
I took over as president for BES this semester. I was treasurer the previous semester, and the year before that I was the marketing, public relations and social media coordinator. The business department at our school is pretty small, but we like to think that we are a club that advocates for all majors here, because financial literacy and wellness are skills that every single person should have, not just business majors.
With that in mind, a lot of our events are catered to a general audience. We will ask potential attendees if they have financial questions that might relate to their career as a nurse/teacher/etc., so that we can help tailor the event in a way that would be relevant to them. We want to help bridge the gap between people with different majors on campus, and we want to give back to the Notre Dame community. We definitely like to advocate for representation throughout our events, especially when we bring in guest speakers. We try to have them represent who we are as students, and who we want to be entering our careers. Women who originally weren’t studying finance, but ended up working in the field. Women who might have also been student-athletes, or who were the minority in their classrooms. Women business people who were surrounded by men early in their career. We love helping to promote empowerment.
Are there any other clubs or organizations that you’ve worked with during your time at NDMU?
I’m one of the voting representatives for the volleyball team on NDMU’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. SAAC definitely helps bring each of the sports teams closer together on campus. It helps you build bonds with other people that you might not have expected to have anything in common with. We organize social events for the athletes that are separate from our athletic events. One of my favorite events is our annual Bingo Night. It raises so much money for a good cause – we donate our funds to charity afterwards. It’s our biggest event, because we get a lot of teachers and people’s families to attend, and it’s just a great time for the entire community.
I’m also in the Morrissy Honors Program – a teacher recommended that I join after my first semester at Notre Dame. I’ve loved being able to take additional classes that might not specifically focus on my major, but can teach me more about other things that I’m interested in. They all generally connect to a larger theme of women’s roles in society.
My first Morrissy class was an English class with Dr. (William) Davis called New Woman Literature, which looked at the role of women in society during the Victorian Era. My final research project in Gaming and Society with professor Ryan Schaaf discussed the evolving role of women in gaming development. I had research papers in my political science courses, taught by Dr. Anne Henderson, which focused on the exploitation of women textile workers. Dr. Jina Fast's Human Flourishing course tackled barriers to flourishing for women in various societal aspects. It’s just fascinating how courses examining so many different aspects of life can all contribute to the same central theme of women in society. Every professor I’ve had that has taught an honors class at this school has been so passionate about what they teach.
How has your involvement with organizations on campus improved your NDMU experience?
I think the major theme for me with everything that I’m involved with is the fact that it brings a sense of community and connectiveness. Especially as a commuter for the last four years – I only live 25 minutes away from campus – it could be very easy to feel distant from what goes on outside of the volleyball season for me. These events held by my clubs, by SAAC, and by the Morrissy program, they give me an opportunity to bond with other students, and that’s been extremely important to me.
Is there any message that you’d like to give to NDMU students who are still working their way through college?
Enjoy the experience. Enjoy the process. I think that we as students can often get caught up in the heat of the moment during stressful periods. We have jobs, we have extracurriculars, we have sports, we have our social life, we have our mental health that we have to take care of, and sometimes we can wish away the academic aspect of it. We can think, ‘Oh, I just want to get through this paper, I just want to get through this semester.’
Wishing away the semester is wishing away your time, and that can mean wishing away a lot of moments available to enjoy. Enjoying the highs and the lows is a part of the college experience. People are not kidding when they say that the college years will go by so quickly. Make the most out of your college experience, and focus on enjoying the things that you can control.
Established in 1895, Notre Dame of Maryland University (NDMU) is a private, Catholic institution in Baltimore, Maryland, with the mission to educate leaders to transform the world. Notre Dame has been named one of the best "Regional Universities North" by U.S. News & World Report.