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Our UD: How we learn

Our UD: How we learn

Staff April 20, 2023

Illustration of a student doing a science experimentEVERY FLYER CAN POINT TO AT LEAST one — one professor, one classmate, one course, one Marianist — that helped set them on an upward path, leading to who they are today. For junior Isabella Abreu, it was an upperclassman who showed her how to get the most out of her business education. 

“He saw that I was not very skilled in finance, but he saw some potential,” said Abreu, who is now an equity research analyst with UD’s Davis Center for Portfolio Management. 

The University of Dayton’s commitment to education in the Marianist tradition adapts to the needs of the students, the expertise of the faculty and the changes in our world. 

  • In fall 1960, the University had 6,796 students who chose from 43 majors. These included home economics and secretarial studies, as well as electrical technology and its course in computer fundamentals. 

  • In 1998, UD established the nation’s first undergraduate human rights studies program. 

  • The new sustainability major program graduated three students in 2019. Within three years, the number of graduates grew to 42. 

  • In recent years, the growth in majors like biology, business and health sciences have outpaced other majors. The number of students majoring in computer science, in the last 10 years, has increased by 135%. 

  • In 2022, students could choose from 75 undergraduate majors and 14 certificates, with master’s and doctoral degree programs numbering near 50. 

It’s not just what Flyers study that’s changed with the times — it’s also how. There are the facilities. In 2022, The Hub opened at the downtown Dayton Arcade with UD as an anchor tenant. More than 400 students travel to The Hub each week for classes in education, entrepreneurship, art and design, and more. Kettering Labs boasts a flight simulator, vision lab and intelligent building virtual learning space, while Fitz Hall features labs integrated into the classrooms, such as in physiology, biomechanics and food science. 

It’s the research. University-sponsored research in fiscal year 2022 topped $221.3 million, with students working beside faculty members and researchers. Organized research and sponsored academic projects bring in more than 35% of the University’s annual revenue. 

It’s the faculty and community partnerships. Hands-on learning extends to every department on campus, from Flyer Consulting to early childhood development. More than 350 courses incorporate experiential learning into their curriculum, and more than 50 community partnerships offer service, entrepreneurial and internship opportunities. 

It’s the resources available to every student. Roesch Library received a $10.7 million modernization in 2019 that created a vibrant collaboration space with the latest technologies to connect students and scholars with the world. Last academic year, the library welcomed 368,474 visitors, provided 137,093 e-books for reading and gave access to more than a half million documents and conference proceedings through the library’s digital service, e-commons. Within its walls, 410 classes are taught in rooms specially equipped to promote dialogue, exploration and connection. 

Since its inception, UD has worked to make a Marianist education affordable and accessible to all students. Requests for student aid continue to grow, especially since the onset of the pandemic. In 1960, just under 2% of total University expenses went toward student aid. In 2022, the University committed $233 million to financial aid plus another $9 million from grants and gifts. Access for all students is essential to the success of UD’s mission. 


Illustrations by Zachary Ghaderi.

How we learn: Then and now



Human rights studies 
Associate teacher 


Steph Zielonko Noakes '09
Steph Zielonko Noakes '09

THE UNIVERSITY OF DAYTON STOOD OUT BECAUSE OF its wonderful international studies program with a focus in human rights. I was seeking a program that was willing to do something about social injustices throughout the world. I remember sitting in Dr. Mark Ensalaco’s office as he told us we were going to develop the first human rights studies degree. 

My capstone project helped law enforcement identify victims of sex trafficking, specifically minors. We assisted in tracking patterns, assessing victim intake processes and sharing of information. During an internship with the Central Ohio Rescue & Restore Coalition, I created a database that identified community resources such as housing, medical and mental health services — because the moment someone was ready to get out, everything had to be in place. 

Several faculty members taught me lessons I carried with me after UD. Barbara John of the economics department showed me the benefits and necessity of multidisciplinary collaboration to execute real change. I can still hear Dr. Theo Majka explaining how all people want to help — until it inconveniences them — so be prepared. Dr. Jason Pierce and Dr. Natalie Hudson taught me about grit, perseverance and the importance of applying all you learn. Dr. Linda Majka highlighted the dignity of victims and that their narratives matter. 

These lessons are so important for the child advocacy work I do today. It wasn’t until my senior year that the human rights major was finalized, and two of us that year were the first — of what has become many — to receive a UD human rights degree. 



Junior entrepreneurship and finance major 
Sabana Seca, Puerto Rico 


Isabella Abreu '24
Isabella Abreu '24

I’VE ALWAYS HAD THE GOAL OF OWNING MY OWN business. In my entrepreneurship experience class during my sophomore year, I was picked to run a microbusiness: a card game I came up with. My team was amazing. We were able to sell the game, and we broke even. I liked the financial aspect of it, going through the numbers and really seeing how to make a profit. That’s what steered me toward a double major in finance. 

I’m involved in multiple organizations. In the School of Business Administration, I’m the co-managing director for Flyer Angels, which is a student-run venture capital fund or angel investment fund, and I am an equity analyst at the Davis Center for Portfolio Management. 

I think experiential learning is possibly the best thing that could have happened to me. I’m really a go-getter. I love to do things hands-on. That’s been so helpful for me because that translation makes everything I learned in the classroom click. It’s also connected to my internships. This upcoming summer I will be living in New Jersey and working in the chief investments office of Prudential. 

I didn’t know much about Dayton when I applied, but they gave me the most financial aid compared to every other school I applied to. I’m the first one from my family to leave home for college, so this is a really big deal for me. I decided that I wanted to have the best four years of my life. I wanted to grow as a professional, as an individual and as a student. I’ve been able to do all of those things. 

How we grow