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Friday, Feb. 23, 2024
The Observer

Salutatorian Miguel Coste reflects on experience as first-gen student

Miguel Coste

Miguel Coste understands that it’s strange advice for a Notre Dame salutatorian to tell students to “focus a lot more on the people around you,” rather than work and academics.

Having spent the past four years learning on and off campus — from James Joyce’s “Ulysses” to readings on the importance of sleep for memory — Coste will offer the invocation at Sunday’s commencement ceremony in Notre Dame Stadium.

Coste, originally from Tampa, Florida, is a neuroscience and behavior student in the College of Arts and Letters who will be working as a technical solutions engineer for Epic Systems, a healthcare software company in Madison, Wisconsin. During his time on campus, Coste has received a number of honors, including being on the dean’s list each semester with a GPA of 3.972. 

“Being salutatorian feels like the ultimate culmination of everything I’ve done up until this point [as well as] everything my parents have sacrificed for me,” he said. 

Coste is a first-generation college student who was named a Notre Dame AnBryce Scholar and QuestBridge Scholar. He’s been president of First Gen Careers, a member of the cheer team and conducted research — including a summer at MIT and work on campus with Mark Barons studying Indiana schools’ response to the pandemic. 

Coste also served as president of 1stG ND and was the head mentor for Notre Dame’s QuestBridge chapter as a sophomore. He was also a University Relations intern involved with the Cavanaugh Council and the President’s Circle and a member of the National Name Exchange since 2020. He studied abroad at Trinity College Dublin.

Coste credits his immigrant parents — a mother who immigrated from Cuba when she was eight, and a father who came from the Dominican Republic — with helping him get this far. He also mentioned the impact of the AnBryce Scholars Program “family.”

“Coming to Notre Dame, AnBryce was a huge help. I don’t think I become salutatorian without AnBryce and all the support I received for first-gen students … It seems like in my experience, the University really stepped up and [did] a ton of good,” Coste said, regarding his involvement in first-generation organizations on campus. 

In the speech he wrote, Coste discussed the University’s melding of heart and mind.

“Through all of the experiences from dorm life, to research, to clubs and sports and all those people [measured] not just [by] intellect and how we operate as productive workers in the world, but how we exist people and how we care for each other,” he said.

He says he applied to the University based on a gut feeling — a binding decision for him as a QuestBridge match finalist — “taking a leap of faith” based on an admissions visit to his high school. 

“The people of Notre Dame is why I attended. We could have — all of us could have — gone anywhere else. But the people are what make this place special,” he said.

Coste says that while graduation will certainly be an emotional experience, the time has come. 

“It feels right. I have a great love and I’m so grateful for all the experiences I’ve had here and all the people I’ve met … but I’m definitely ready to move on to the next step,” he said. “I don’t mean that in a ‘I can’t wait to leave this place’ way … It just feels like it’s time in the best way possible. And I’m gonna miss a lot of people, a lot of things. It’s been wonderful.”