Name: Laura Hoffman
Class Year: 2004
Residence Hall: Howard and Lyons
Majors and Minor: Political Science with a theology minor
Student Activities: Notre Dame Liturgical Choir, Notre Dame Best Buddies, Notre Dame Student Diversity Educator, Daily Mass Cantor for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, Student Organizer for Notre Dame Disability Awareness Week
Occupation: Senior Research Fellow, Yale Law School Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy
Local Notre Dame club or affinity groups: I mentor current Notre Dame students that have been recommended to me and that have reached out through IrishCompass
What meaningful connections did you make on campus, whether with roommates, friends, professors or someone else?
In reflecting back on this time as a student with a (visual impairment) disability, one that stands out was Scott Howland who served as Director of Disability Services. Not only was Scott my primary resource for dealing with accommodation issues and challenges at Notre Dame, but he went above and beyond to ensure I could participate in the activities that I sought out to contribute to as a member of the ND community. With his help, I sang with the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir (including touring in Italy my junior year) and as a daily Mass cantor for the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, all of which required my music to be transformed into large print format. Additionally, Scott was a person of calm for me in storms I could not foresee, helping me secure disability accommodations beyond Notre Dame and advocating for what I needed to take the LSAT, the required entrance exam necessary to apply for law school. Throughout all of this, Scott’s kindness, compassion, diligence, and generosity not only helped me in these critical years of formation as a Notre Dame student, but ultimately prepared me to handle the unexpected hurdles that would come in my career as a person with a disability. Thank you, Scott, for your commitment to students with disabilities like myself in the Notre Dame community. Having this experience at Notre Dame, where my human dignity was always respected in the most complete sense, has always reminded me that I should not expect any less from anywhere else — an equal opportunity to flourish and shine.
What accomplishments have you been most proud of in your career?
My entrance into academia as an Assistant Professor of Law at Seton Hall Law School in 2018 was a life-altering moment where I had the opportunity to work on research projects aimed at improving the lives of people with developmental disabilities as well as children in New Jersey. This combination of my passion for advocating for people with disabilities and children was dynamic, and one I will always be grateful for. In 2020, I lost this job due to the pandemic. As devastating as this was, my faith, perseverance, tenacity, and grace — the very characteristics that embody Notre Dame and that were nurtured in me during my time there — led me to a position as a Senior Research Fellow at Yale Law School with the Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy. My work at Yale has been nothing short of extraordinary with the opportunity to be involved in projects that will have a lasting impact on the advancement of health policies. Assisting with the oversight of student-led efforts to educate the Yale community and society on the legal issues concerning aging adults — such as long-term care reform — has also been a hallmark of my experience. Most significantly, I have been able to work with Yale law students on bringing attention to disability law issues both in terms of their personal interests and in becoming an integral part of the Yale Law School community.
How do you spend your time away from the office/work?
Reading has always been a joy of mine and this continues to be the case. My favorite author is romance novelist and fellow Notre Dame alum Nicholas Sparks ’88. It was an absolute delight to meet him in person at a book signing in Michigan while I was in law school. I wore my Notre Dame “Rudy” jacket just to catch his attention, which he absolutely loved! It is always a treat to pick up one of his new novels while also supporting another alum.
College football season is also my favorite time of year. While I did not choose to go to Notre Dame for football, but rather for its academic excellence, my first time visiting campus during junior high was to see a football game against Boston College with my dad, at which point I completely fell in love with the campus. Even today, I miss Notre Dame football games. I still make sure my schedule is blocked every Saturday in the fall to watch those beautiful golden helmets take the field at Notre Dame Stadium. One of my favorite trips returning to campus as an alum was with my dad for the 2012 home opener where we got to meet former head coach Ara Parseghian. I think for many of us, Irish football is and always will be a special bond to Notre Dame that makes us continue to feel connected to our beloved alma mater, no matter how long it has been since we graduated. It is something we can share wherever we are even if we are miles away from campus or each other. I still get teary-eyed hearing the alma mater performed at the end of every home game!