As we celebrate 50 years of coeducation at Notre Dame, the series Then & Now: Stories of Notre Dame Women looks at some of the women in the Notre Dame Family who’ve demonstrated bravery, perseverance, and commitment throughout Notre Dame’s existence—and who continue to inspire Notre Dame women today.
From the time she was very young, Lauren McLean knew that she wanted to impact the people and places she loved through a career in advocacy and policy.
Since graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1997, she has done just that as the first female mayor of Boise, Idaho. Leading the world in transformational climate conservation, she is now recognized as one of the nation's most promising young political leaders by the Aspen Institute and New Deal Leaders.
As a double major in Liberal Studies and French with a concentration in Public Service, Lauren believes that her education at Notre Dame helped her grow to become the advocate and policy-maker that she is today.
"Now when I think of it almost 30 years later, Notre Dame really did help shape my thinking about the role we have in community and the importance of engagement and democracy,” she said. "It wasn't just my classes; it was the education of the whole person.”
Mayor McLean was sworn into office in 2020, and has since positioned Boise to hit its carbon-neutral goals by 2050 and clean electricity goals for city government about 7 years earlier than planned. In the next year or two, the city will be fully powered by clean energy.
"The opportunity to be afforded this role and to be trusted by my community to help guide the future of this place that I love deeply alongside them is an incredible gift. Every day, it feels as though I have just been handed this wonderful, wonderful opportunity that's very challenging, to work for the community that I love with the people that make this place so special. I'm really lucky,” she said.
Mayor McLean also supports the passage of the CHIPS and Science Act, which provides roughly 280 billion dollars in new funding to boost domestic research and manufacturing of semiconductors in the United States. The first semiconductor built in the United States in over 20 years will be sited in her city.
Her visionary leadership was inspired greatly by her time at Notre Dame, where she was largely involved in the Center for Social Concerns (CSC), an interdisciplinary institute that teaches students to face real-world social concerns through education, research, and hands-on experiences such as urban plunges.
"The opportunities that I had at the Center for Social Concerns expanded my thinking and also taught me how to be involved in the community and to be an organizer, to listen, and from listening, learn how it is that I can contribute,” she said. “It was experience after experience through the CSC that shaped the way that, throughout my career, I have worked in my community.”
Her experiences at Notre Dame also allowed Mayor McLean to see community in new ways. For her, living in Badin Hall served as an example of how people from different backgrounds can share in one community and learn to grow and thrive together.
"Finding a common connection is so important,” she said. “We're in a state of such division nationally, and the only way we can move ahead is to be willing to step back and find those things that unite us. Whether it be experience in the same community, sharing a dorm, sharing values, or even just on one topic, this is the beginning of a relationship, which is the beginning of collaboration for more and better for our communities and this country.”
This spirit of community and growth that she experienced while at Notre Dame through the CSC, her dorm, and studies is something that she brings with her to this day, and especially to Boise.
“From the Center for Social Concerns and the University of Notre Dame, I learned that one has a responsibility to be engaged in our community, and I believe that it's in that engagement that we give people purpose. And then one has the full ability to contribute to their community,” she said. “I want to do that alongside Boiseans as our city grows and we address the biggest issues of the day.”
Four years ago, political science major Jordan Lydon ’23 wrote Notre Dame’s admission team a letter stating that if they were to admit her, she promised to “use every single resource at Notre Dame to do good by others.”
Now only a few months away from graduating, she knows that she has upheld her pledge, especially through her work with low-income communities.
While studying as a full-time student, she has continuously worked to serve others.
Her sophomore year, Jordan started advising high-achieving, low-income high school students through the national organization Matriculate. The three young women she mentored are now students at Notre Dame, Yale, and Emory University.
Through the Raising the Standard Campaign, she supported workers' rights through research and social media management to help raise the minimum wage at Notre Dame to $15 an hour, which is more than double the minimum wage in Indiana.
Jordan also fought for the rights of renters in Indiana. Through the Notre Dame Student Policy Network, she helped research and write a 30-page document, which she presented to about 40 housing advocates and two Indiana state senators.
Jordan helped low-income Pittsburgh residents file abuse protective orders through a summer service learning program with a legal services clinic called Neighborhood Legal Services.
She has also worked with Notre Dame’s Center for Social Concerns since 2019, taken an internship at a non-profit while studying abroad in London to help tackle inequality and racism, and currently works as an RA.
Jordan intends to continue helping low-income families after she graduates. She decided to major in political science in order to advance equity through the reform of governmental frameworks and institutions, particularly the public education system.
"There have been so many people who have led me to become the person that I am today, and I want to continue to do as much as I can to ensure that I can help the next generation of Notre Dame students in any way that I can because I know how much this university has given to me,” Jordan said. “It's an opportunity that I want to make the most of.”
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