Devin Diggs, a neuroscience and behavior major, has been selected as Notre Dame’s class of 2022 valedictorian. Diggs will deliver the valedictory address during the commencement ceremony Sunday.
Diggs hails from Olathe, Kansas, and lived in Dunne Hall on campus. In addition to his neuroscience major, Diggs completed a minor in education, schooling and society (ESS).
He said the minor helped him to connect education with other subjects and allowed him to concentrate on a subject outside of his primary studies in STEM.
“I knew that with medical school in my future, my undergraduate time at Notre Dame would probably be one of the only opportunities to study something outside of science which is really important to me,” he said. “The ESS minor is awesome in that it's focused on the topic of education but viewed through so many different lenses: literature, English, history, economics, psychology.”
Diggs said he hopes to continue his education by attending medical school with the ultimate goal of working as a psychiatric pediatrician. He plans to take a gap year before going to medical school. His neuroscience background has stimulated his interest in the developing brain, he explained.
“My time at Notre Dame has definitely made me interested in pediatrics. I think one of my favorite topics that I've been able to explore at Notre Dame is developmental neuroscience and how the brain develops,” he said. “I’ve just loved neuroscience so much, I’m having a hard time seeing myself leaving it behind.”
Diggs also participated in the neuroscience senior leadership committee. While on the committee, he said he mentored underclassmen, connected students and professors for research opportunities and started a neuroscience and society fellows program.
Alongside his academic focuses, Diggs was an active participant in many clubs and groups on campus, including serving as a teaching fellow for the popular introductory philosophy course, “God and the Good Life,” serving on class council and volunteering at local elementary schools and hospitals.
His favorite extracurricular activity was contributing to The Shirt project. Beginning in 1990, The Shirt is an annual fundraising tradition for the Notre Dame community. Students spend a year designing, marketing and producing The Shirt, which is then sold at the bookstore with the proceeds going directly toward improving the student experience. Diggs was involved with The Shirt committee all four years and served as the president during the 2020-2021 school year.
“[The Shirt] is just such an awesome cause, and it’s also just a fun creative outlet to be able to throw out crazy ideas about what we could do,” he said. “I just am really grateful I've been able to take part in that tradition these past four years.”
Diggs believes his focus on understanding the material in his classes led to his recognition as valedictorian.
“Every semester, I just tried to set up a really high standard for myself and always trying to do my best. I'm always trying to make sure I really understand the material on my coursework because I think there’s a sharp difference between knowing material versus really understanding,” he said.
Diggs said he always gave himself room for mistakes but never stopped aiming to put his best foot forward. He added that he faced many difficulties in his academic career, especially in finding a school-life balance.
“I think that especially earlier on in my academic career, it was really hard to balance everything that I was a part of and wanted to do,” he said. “I think for me I needed to realize that I may have to consolidate my interests, and it’s okay to say no to opportunities.”
During commencement, Diggs will deliver the valedictory address to his fellow classmates. While reflecting on his speech, Diggs focused on the responsibilities that come with a Notre Dame education.
“With our Notre Dame degree, there comes a responsibility to stand up for what is right and to amplify the voices of others that may not be heard,” he said. “It’s also important to make sure we don't let our relationships slip with each other and with our families because those are what sustain us through the hard times.”
Diggs said the two main lessons he will take away from his time at Notre Dame are the importance of discerning passions and building relationships.
“When you have the luxury of choosing, making sure that you're passionate about what you're doing. I know that that's not always a decision we’re in the position to be making, but when you do have that choice, I feel that it really makes a world of a difference,” he said. “Making sure to recognize people as people is something I really try to make a part of my everyday life.”
Diggs also expressed his gratitude toward the people who helped him reach his highest potential.
“I definitely never would have been here without the support of so many people; my professors for getting me interested in the topics that I want to pursue after graduation, my friends for listening to me externally process everything and just all the different mentors and supervisors [that] I've had through the different student activities,” Diggs said. “I’m just really grateful that there have been so many people here that have helped shape me into who I am now.”