From St. Edward's University to ESTEEM

Author: Gene Stowe

Karl de ZoetenKarl de Zoeten

For Ralph Hayyat and Karl de Zoeten, ESTEEM offered an opportunity to move from their undergraduate education at St. Edward’s University in Austin, Tex., to its sister school – both founded by Father Edward Sorin – for an education focused on providing options for real-world career impact. The science majors say they’re thriving in a rigorous environment of challenge and collaboration.

“I’ve always been willing to explore other learning opportunities,” says Hayyat, a biology major who still plans to attend dental school. “You have to have a distant goal in mind, and that is mine.  “I’m obsessed with technology and innovation, and I’m intrigued by business in the real world. You can only do so much going into undergrad. I feel like there’s a lot I missed out on. When I heard about the ESTEEM program, I thought that sounds really cool.”

The program has kept its promise.

“It really ticked all the boxes and more for me of what I expected,” Hayyat said. “One of our first classes emphasized empathic design, which is considering the end user’s perspective. We were challenged to use some technical software to produce professional-quality work.  The result was exposure to new computer techniques, as well as new strategic approaches to design. I feel like these are skills that can be applied in any work environment. I hope to one day run my own dental practice, and I think ESTEEM will facilitate my transition into the business world.”

“It seemed like a good opportunity until I find out what I want to do,” he said. “I was prepared for it. Initially, it seemed like it was going to be too much, but the professors are very understanding. They know what’s going on in the other classes.”For de Zoeten, the demands of majoring in biochemistry, playing soccer, working a job, and other activities while at St. Edward’s positioned him for ESTEEM’s rigor, while the program helps him find a career focus beyond medical school or Ph.D. research. 

Hayyat is developing his capstone thesis on a new application of the Paper Analytical Device (PAD), developed at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s to field-test pharmaceuticals in developing countries notorious for diluted or counterfeit drugs. The new application would provide law enforcement in the United States with a more reliable field test of potentially illicit drugs.

Hayyat RalphRalph Hayyat

De Zoeten’s project, in an industry partnership with a large financial company’s innovation group, is developing point-of-sale solutions for its customers. “I have zero history in finance or banking or hardware or software because I’m a biochem undergrad, but I’m trying to learn as much as I can,” he says.

Fellow students in the program provide much of the learning. 

“At ESTEEM, we’re all on the same page,” Hayyat says. “We have Innovation Park. Whenever we need time to study, we’ve got this whole building to ourselves. Everyone’s always willing to help each other. We have a lot of group project work. Everyone here has brought their A-game to every assignment, and it’s been so much more motivating than any other way. Maybe it’s also because of the real-world implications of the projects. It’s not just reading from a book. I think I’ve learned a lot from my classmates. Each one has their own way of approaching presentations and assignments. Everyone has something different to bring from their technical background.”

The Notre Dame experience will extend far beyond the campus into their careers.

“I think that’s probably the most valuable thing about ESTEEM – the Notre Dame connection,” de Zoeten says. “The whole Notre Dame network is very valuable if it’s leveraged correctly. People who are at the top of their industry want Notre Dame students for a multitude of reasons. I didn’t get that experience at my undergraduate institution, and I probably wouldn’t get that experience in most other places. At Notre Dame, I know the lady that does our career development. She came to our class and gave 2-3 presentations on how the Notre Dame service works. They make it a lot easier to use the services. They know what they’re doing.”