Milkshake Mass at Dillon Hall and home games at the House that Rockne Built make the University of Notre Dame special, but Denise Murphy had no idea she’d spend most of her career in South Bend, Indiana, when she stepped onto the campus in 1997. She joined the university to be part of another important Notre Dame institution: the office of human resources. Today, she’s senior director of compensation and benefits.
While most people know Notre Dame for its Catholic traditions, its athletic teams (which have won thirty-four national championships), its teaching and research (including the Mendoza College of Business and Keough School of Global Affairs), and its notable graduates (including Condoleezza Rice, Nicholas Sparks, and Joe Montana), Murphy says the HR department also stands out. “Our team really cares about making a difference for people, and we have evolved from a traditional to an innovative mindset,” she says.
Murphy has had a front-row seat to that evolution. When she joined as manager of benefits, Notre Dame offered faculty and staff just basic HR programs. Over the last twenty-five years the university has grown in size, quality, and prestige by adding hundreds of professors and taking steps to increase research funding, endowment funds, operating budgets, and campus diversity.
The office of human resources had to grow in step with the university. “We could no longer be satisfied to provide a few basic programs,” Murphy explains. “We had to think more strategically and offer holistic solutions.” The nuanced shift made the office more mission driven, which fits with Notre Dame’s overall goals.
As Murphy progressed in her career at Notre Dame, she found several opportunities to work with others in her office to make a significant impact on the lives of staff, faculty, and their families. In 2010, her team started researching what those groups really needed to address needs related to child care, elder care, mental health, and wellness, among other areas.
Informal conversations and formal surveys helped the team gather information and ultimately led to a noteworthy project that Murphy says represents a major shift in the HR program—the Notre Dame Wellness Center.
The on-site medical center and pharmacy opened in 2012 to give faculty, staff, and their families access to quality healthcare services. Expert care providers at the clinic serve patients seeking primary care, lab services, physical therapy, wellness coaching, emotional well-being assistance, and other services.
While these clinics are common today, the idea was unusual ten years ago. Murphy and her team worked hard behind the scenes to build confidence and get buy-in. First, they did outreach events to show the local medical community how the wellness center would complement—and not replace—established physicians. They also reassured users that all care records would be kept private and confidential from their employer. Premise Health, a third-party vendor, currently manages the Notre Dame Wellness Center.
In 2021, Murphy was named senior director of compensation and benefits and continued to guide the full strategy for current and retired Notre Dame faculty and staff. Along the way, she’s contributed to other important projects like the establishment of a new, market-based compensation structure for staff and key initiatives related to diversity, equity, and inclusion. She’s also helping the university grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Notre Dame has created its own testing center and contact tracing teams, among other measures. The university is also creating greater access to mental health and other services.
As policies and educational delivery methods change, Notre Dame’s HR teams are pivoting too. Murphy knows it’s more important than ever before to rethink effective communication strategies. “We are adopting best practices that we learned from our COVID communication website and constantly seeking new ways to reach our staff and faculty to ensure they are educated about the benefits and can utilize what they need.”
Even in these uncertain times, Murphy is optimistic about the future in South Bend. She and her teams are building the programs, services, and structures that help attract and retain the best staff and faculty members. “Students come here for the environment, the experience, and a quality education, and it’s rewarding to have a part in creating a positive culture for the faculty and staff that serve the students,” she says.
The wellness center is one way her team has invested in the future. It took millions of dollars to build what is essentially an extension of Notre Dame’s medical plan, but the center is providing a strong return on investment as patients receive high-quality care at a lower cost than they’d find in the community.
In fact, the center now serves more than ten thousand patients per year and is so successful that an expansion is in the works. In late 2021, Notre Dame’s leaders announced a construction project for the expansion of the center that will enable the university to add more space for behavioral health providers and increase physical therapy, pharmacy, and occupational health services. Over the next ten years, Murphy is confident that she and her team will continue to find innovative ways to support the faculty and staff of the university.
At Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield we understand our health connects us to each other. What we all do impacts those around us. Anthem is dedicated to delivering better care to our members, providing greater value to our customers, and helping improve the health of our communities.
“Working alongside Denise Murphy over the years has been an inspiration. Her passion and vision for Health & Wellbeing at the University of Notre Dame is second-to-none, as she truly embodies Premise Health’s mission of helping people get, stay, and be well.” –Derek Ingle, Director of Client Operations