Loyola University Chicago

College of Arts & Sciences


Seeking a better future: from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago

Letitia Zwickert Alum article

Alumna Letitia Zwickert is on a mission to improve the lives of students, immigrants, and refugees. Photo credit: Univision Chicago

When political science alumna Letitia Zwickert first moved to the Mississippi Delta nearly 20 years ago, she became hyper-aware of the realities of racism and injustice around her.
“I arrived in the Mississippi Delta at my rental apartment after a long cross-country journey to find it full of rodents,” said Zwickert (MA ’99), who also served as a Fulbright scholar researching social injustice and racism. “When I called the landlord, he said ‘my boy would be ’round in the morning to take care of it.’”
That “boy” was actually a 70-year-old black man. The rawness of such a racist and dehumanizing comment changed Zwickert.
“I knew life could and must be made better by those of us who are in a position to offer access to opportunity, to reinforce a more equitable and a socially just society.”
This experience and other forms of blatant racism prompted Zwickert to focus on social justice issues. Her experience through the K-12 Fulbright-Schuman Scholarship, she researched the best practices in Europe for refugees and disadvantaged high school students during the refugee crisis in 2016, inspired Zwickert created MENTEE. A Chicago-based organization geared to support high school-aged students in gaining skills and knowledge to further their education and lives beyond high school. MENTEE offers students a chance to develop a personalized work/life plans, job shadowing, and personal workshops on confidence and goal setting.
Here Zwickert discusses MENTEE, her inspiration and goals for the nonprofit, as well as her experience at Loyola.

What inspired MENTEE?

As the first K-12 Fulbright-Schuman Scholar, I realized I needed to do more. It left me with more questions than answers. I realized many of the challenges faced there were essentially problems without borders. The same challenges are faced in Chicago and in other communities in the U.S.

Why immigration and refugees, especially with immigration being such a hot button topic now in the U.S.?

When I was developing my proposal to apply for the Fulbright-Schuman Scholar award, I knew immediately I wanted to focus on people who are not treated fairly and equitably by society. So MENTEE focuses on immigrants and refugees, and those who are low-income. We need to support these communities from the ground up. MENTEE can provide students with services and knowledge that help address their challenges and give them a pathway to success.

What do you hope students gain from being involved in MENTEE?

MENTEE is meant to help our students want to stay in high school by giving them the ability to try different jobs on for size through our cross-sector job shadows and other work experiences, while learning more about themselves. We hope the students will look beyond graduation to their post-secondary future with a strong network of supporters surrounding them. My goal is to look at all of the students' needs and see how I can make sure they are looked after either directly or indirectly by my organization and my partnerships. The hope of MENTEE is that, as a result of going through the program, students will be more confident, successful adults with new access and means to contribute to society.

What’s the significance of the MENTEE logo and what does it mean to you?

I am a big believer in supporting the richness of diverse cultures within our community. The adinkra symbol of MENTEE reflects the respect for diversity and the pursuit of knowledge and learning throughout life. MENTEE is made to reinforce that pursuit of knowledge, and to celebrate the richness of the languages and cultures the students come here with. We need to let all new students know they welcome. They can learn English, fit in at their school, and also retain their own cultural identity. The adinkra reflects all this; it's a celebration of culture.

What was your proudest or happiness moment with MENTEE?

As a pilot year program, there have been many ups and downs as I've worked to develop and grow MENTEE. Currently, I work with three Chicago public schools and have teacher liaisons at each school who represent MENTEE and work with students. One of my happiest moments was when one of the liaisons from Mather High School called me and said, “Please Letitia, I have so many students who want to be a part of MENTEE, can we just add a few more to the list?” It made me feel so good about all I was doing.

How has your experience at Loyola influenced you?

Years ago, when I was doing my MA in political science, Claudio Katz, the department chair at the time, was very much a mentor to me. In providing guidance, he often shared his personal stories and thoughts. One of our conversations was about my future choices, and he recommended that I should teach in secondary education. I didn't fully see that for myself, but that conversation stayed with me and I revisited it often. When I finally realized I was searching for ways to make a difference, I knew Professor Katz was right. Not only did I take his advice, I convinced my husband to do the same. He left finance, I left Harvard, and we began our journey into education. So yes, Loyola and Professor Katz left an incredible mark on my life.

CAS celebrates Carla Simonini, the New Italian American Studies Endowed Professor

Rubino story


In front of a crowd of a nearly 100 people, Carla Simonini, PhD, spoke poignantly about being a fifth generation Italian American and how identifying as with her Italian culture, didn’t come easy. She discussed the difficult navigation between being Italian and American, struggling with labels, and conflicts within definitions. She alluded to the multiple Italian American authors and scholars such as Richard Alba, Werner Sollors, Laura Ruberto and Joseph Sciorra, who underwent similar situations.

“Being Italian American in the 21st century encompasses not just where we’ve come from, but what we are capable of becoming,” she said.

Simonini was celebrated at a mass at The Ignatian House Chapel, Information Commons 4th floor and then a reception on Nov. 4. She gave a presentation prior to the reception where Arthur Lurigio, associate dean for faculty affairs and professor of criminal justice and psychology, Candeloro Dominic, adjunct Instructor of history, and Thomas J Regan, S.J., dean of the College were among the guests to celebrate her appointment as the first Paul and Ann Rubino Endowed Professor in Italian American Studies (IAS).

The endowed professorship is meant to build an IAS program among only a select group of programs in the country. Simonini will join the faculty of the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and hopes the program will ensure that students receive a ‘well-rounded’ Italian American educational experience, including Italian language instruction, courses on history and culture, and exposure to the John Felice Rome Center. She also wants to expand the visibility of the Italian American Studies Association (IASA).

“To be an Italian, is not to shirk from internalized negative associations with Italian American culture, nor is it to cling to vapid nostalgia or hollow ethnic pride. To be Italian, Italian American, is to ‘know thyself’ as a descendent of a humble and generally disparaged people. Those who made very difficult choices and endured untold sacrifices in an effort to secure a better life for themselves and their progeny.”

CAS in the media

CAS in the Media

WGN-9 quoted Criminal Justice and Criminology professor and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Art Lurigio in a piece on how social media is creating change in the workplace in the wake of women coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and assault against men in positions of power.

College of Arts and Sciences faculty, staff, students, and alumni are often quoted and featured in local and national publications on a myriad of topics and issues.


January 2019

  • Libération
    Mexican border: 170 years of chimeras
    Benjamin Johnson, History associate professor, shares the recent political and social history of the southern U.S. border in this Libération article. 

December 2018

  • Illinois News Network
    INN investigation: A year of gun violence in Chicago
    David Olson, PhD, professor and graduate program director of criminal Justice and criminology, shares how balancing the scales of swift and righteous justice can be a delicate process when looking at the number of gun-related homicide cases that haven’t been resolved.
  • Washington Post
    What the narrative about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets wrong.
    History alumnus Pedro Regalado published an op-ed on how the midterm elections saw more women of color who have built on the long history of Latinx political activism, and their victories provide a distinct formula for how the Democratic Party can re-energize itself.
  • WGN Radio 720
    The Relevance of Religion in 2018
    Miguel H. Diaz, PhD, the John Courtney Murray University chair in Public Service and professor of Theology, and Omer Mozaffar, Muslim Chaplain and Theology/Modern Languages and Literatures lecturer were featured in this panel discussion about the relevance of religion in 2018.

November 2018

  • Counterpunch 
    Jim Crow Kills a Kid
    History Professor, Elliott Gorn's novel "Let the People See The Emmett Till Story" was mentioned in this article about the Emmett Till's case and white supremacy. 
  • Literary Hub 
    How America Remembers Emmett Till
    History Professor, Elliott Gorn recently wrote an editorial piece about the Emmett Till case and its effect upon America society. 

October 2018

September 2018

  • BOLD - Blog on Learning and Development
    Making museum memories
    Loyola Psychology professor Catherine Haden shares how when children develop long-lasting memories and learn more when they reflect on their experiences, particularly at museums. Haden also runs a Children’s Learning and Memory lab at Loyola.

August 2018

July 2018

  • The Atlantic
    Reopening the Emmett Till Case Is a Cynical Play
    History professor Elliott Gorn book's, "Let the People See: The Story of Emmett Till" is cited in this piece on the Justice Department’sreopening of the case and how this new investigation won't implicate a society full of accomplices.
  • WUOM  (NPR)
    Response to Trevor Noah's World Cup Remarks
    Sociology assistant professor Helena Dagadu, PhD, asks us to be more inclusive in how we identify in response to in response to Trevor Noah's statement regarding France's victory in the World Cup. The story aired on radio stations across the country.

June 2018

  • Sojourners
    When the Government Won't Listen, We Must Refuse to Comply
    Tisha M. Rajendra, associate professor of Christian Ethics, writes an op-ed piece about the need for religious leaders to appeal directly to all those involved to stop participating in the Trump administration policy of family separation.
  • TCPalm
    Expert: Juvenile killer has good prison record
    James Garbarino, PhD, Maude C. Clarke Chair in Humanistic Psychology and professor, psychology, testified for the defense in the resentencing of killer James Morgan. Garbarino offered insight into the development of adolescent brains, as Morgan was convicted and tried when he was a teenager.
  • Fra Noi 
    Loyola launches groundbreaking Italian American studies program
    Chicagoland's Italian American magazine announces Loyola's launch of the Italian American Studies program that will be chaired by Carla Simonini, PhD. Criminal Justice and Criminology and Psyhcology professor Arthur Lurigio, PhD, talks about the new program and its importance. 

May 2018

  • Redbook
    6 Things Doctors Tell Their Friends About Happiness
    Psychology Professor Fred Bryant is discusses how sharing your feelings is part of a practice known as 'savoring,' and leads to higher levels of overall happiness in this story on happiness. Bryant is the co-author of Savoring: A New Model of Positive Experience.
  • Psychology Today
    A Simple Way to Overcome Negativity
    Professor of Psychology Fred Bryant, PhD, researches the importance of savoring-- focusing on the good to combat negativity. His research was recently cited in this Psychology Today article. 
  • The Daily Herald
    How the quest for pain relief led to today's opioid crisis
    How did we get to the opioid crisis? Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio and Sidney Weissman, clinical professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine authored an opinion piece on the origins of the opioid crisis and how the crisis has impacted Chicago’s collar counties of DuPage, Lake, Kane, McHenry, and Will counties.
  • CNN
    Chicago killings and shootings drop for 14thconsecutive month
    Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio, PhD, is quoted in this CNN article about the drop in the number of killings and shootings in Chicago. Lurigio discusses the need for sustainable partnerships between police and residents moving forward.

April 2018

  • The Washington Post
    The right to work really means the right to work for less
    Assistant professor of history Elizabeth Tandy Shermer, PhD, wrote an opinion piece on why business interests have spent 70+ years crusading for right-to-work laws, and how it’s a threat to American democracy.
  • Crain’s Chicago Business
    A 5-part plan to reverse the opioid epidemic
    Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Affairs Art Lurigio, PhD, wrote this opinion piece with clinical professor of psychiatry and behavior sciences at Northwestern University. The piece gives a five-part plan to alleviate the opioid epidemic in the United States.

 March 2018

  • Christianity Today
    Luther: The Musician
    Fine and Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra director Colin Holman, PhD, wrote a piece about the often overlooked musical legacy of Martin Luther.
  • LiveScience.com
    Stephen Hawking Never Answered His 'Most Interesting' Scientific Question
    Associate professor of Physics Robert McNees, PhD, was quoted about Stephen Hawking's lifelong work on the concept of black holes and how many of his questions on the topic remain unanswered by the scientific community. He was also quoted in other BBC coverage about his lifelong admiration for Stephen Hawking and his memories of the time he met the legendary scientist.
  • The Chicago Sun Times
    Just Relations: Making sense of Farrakhan 
    Instructor of Theology and Muslim chaplain Omer M. Mozaffar explored the complicated legacy of Louis Farrakhan and argued that American critics of his beliefs should not overlook the importance of the reforms he promoted.
  • Politico
    We’re All Russian Bots Now
    In this op-ed, English instructor Howard Axelrod explored the deeply polarized nature of current American political culture and the risks this poses for the country as a whole.
  • New York Times
    King Penguins Are Endangered by Warmer Seas
    Jane Younger, a post doctorate research fellow in Biology  was quoted in this article about the negative impact of climate change on king penguin populations.
  • Chicago Catholic
    Local schools review security procedures following shooting
    Maude C. Clarke chair in humanistic psychology, James Garbarino, and author on child killers who’s interviewed many young violent criminals spoke about the characteristics of child killers and how they are not beyond  hope.
  • The Columbia Chronicle
    Chicago students plan gun violence walk-out
    Days before students across the country plan to march against gun-violence, Sociology professor Rhys Williams is quoted about the reasoning behind students are drawn to social movements.

February 2018

  • WTVO
    Crime and Winnebago County's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council's plans
    Loyola University Chicago Department of Criminal Justice & Criminology professor David E. Olson, and co-director, Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy, and Practice talked about the results of his community survey on crime and Winnebago County's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council’s plans to address violent crime and repeat offenders on Eyewitness News recently.
  • ABC 7 Eyewitness News 
    Final stretch before March 20 primary election
    Assistant Professor of Political Science Twyla Blackmond Larnell was interviewed about the race for Illinois governor and the candidates' approaches in the final days before the primary elections.
  • The Hill
    Presidents' Day and America's troubling nationalism
    Political science professor Peter Sanchez recently wrote an op-ed piece discussing America's nationalism and whether or not we want our presidents to speak honestly about problems we face in the U.S. 
  • The Chicago Sun Times
    Just Relations: Rohingya provide a snapshot of immigrant strength, resilience
    Theology and Modern Languages and Literatures Lecturer Omer M. Mozaffar called for a more welcoming stance toward immigrants in this opinion piece. He highlighted the Rohingya refugee community living near Devon Avenue as an example of the generosity and resilience of immigrants in America.
  • National Catholic Reporter
    Loyola's free e-textbook brings environmental ethics to classes worldwide
    Associate professor of theology Michael Schuck and Professor of Biology and founding Dean of Institute of Environmental Sustainability Nancy C. Tuchman were interviewed in this article about their free e-textbook, Healing Earth, and its use in classrooms around the world.

January 2018

  • Journal of Bacteriology
    Viruses that infect bacteria abound in bladder
    Associate Professor of Bioinformatics Catherine Putonti, Microbiology Professor Alan Wolfe, and their undergraduate research team authored a report in this week’s Journal of Bacteriology. The report shares how phages—viruses that infect bacteria—are abundant in the bacteria that inhabit the female bladder, which may could be used as alternatives to antibiotics. The American Society for Microbiology that publishes the journals shared the Loyola research team’s findings.
  • The New York Times
    Reviving Old Lies to Unite a New Russia
    History Professor Michael Khodarkovsky recently wrote an op-ed piece analyzing the revival of old lies concerning the murder of Russia’s last czar and their implications in today's political climate. 
  • The New York Times
    Is President Trump a Stealth Postmodernist or Just a Liar?
    Philosophy professor Andrew Cutrofello was quoted in an article about the role of objective truth in the current political climate, and whether or not President Trump can be considered an embodiment of postmodernism.
  • WGN Radio Chicago
    Celebrate the beauty of bacteria
    Biology faculty member Hunter Cole discussed her latest art exhibit, “Living Light: Photographs by Light of Bioluminescent Bacteria,” and talked about the ways in which art and creativity are helpful for scientists. Two different versions of this segment aired on WGN-TV.

December 2017

November 2017

  • WGN-9
    Sexual harassment norms in the workplace are changing
    Criminal Justice and Criminology professor and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Art Lurigio was quoted in a piece how social media is creating change in the workplace in the wake of women coming forward with allegations of sexual abuse, harassment and assault against men in positions of power.

  • The Chicago Tribune
    After Trump's election, more students consider law school, hoping to make a difference
    Two Loyola students, Tiffany Boguslawski and Robert Baurley, who is the co-founder of Loyola's Pre-law Society were interviewed about The Trump Bump—how more students are considering law school, hoping to make a difference after the elections.

October 2017

  • The Washington Post
    The end of the conservative Republicans
    Associate Professor of History Michelle Nickerson and author of "Mothers of Conservatism: Women and the Postwar Right," wrote an opinion piece for the Washington Post about the state of conservatism within the Republican party.
  • The New York Times
    When Soviets Launched Sputnik, CIA Was Not Surprised
    Russian History Professor, Michael Khodarkovsky, PhD, was recently quoted in the New York Times on the importance of the Russian Sputnik satellite as a tool for propaganda during the Cold War.
  • Rome Reports
    Pope Francis greets winners of the "Expanded Reason Awards"
    Theology Professor Michael Schuck, PhD, Founding Dean of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability Nancy Tuchman, PhD, traveled to the Vatican to accept the Expanded Reason Award in the teaching category for their work on the "Healing Earth" textbook. Along with their fellow awardees, they met with Pope Francis. Similar coverage appeared on EWTN.
  • Chicago Tonight
    Criminal Justice and Criminology professor and Senior Associate Dean for Faculty Art Lurigio was featured on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight show about local officials reaction to the Las Vegas mass shootings. Lurigio was also interviewed for a story “This Immigrant Is Fighting Chicago Police Over Alleged Gang List Error” on Newsy about how the system of gang identification is flawed.

September 2017

  • CBS NEWS, Fortune Magazine, and The Atlantic magazine 
    Hugh Hefner, Founder of Playboy empire, dead at 91
    Associate History Professor Elizabeth Fraterrigo was featured in CBS Evening news, Fortune magazine and the Atlantic magazine, and other media outlets.  Fraterrigo wrote Playboy and the Making of the Good Life in Modern America and was interviewed after the passing of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner on Sept. 27.
  • WGBH.org
    Childhood Amnesia
    Psychology Professor Catherine Haden, PhD, was interviewed on WGBH (NPR) about the phenomenon known as "childhood amnesia," where memories formed during early childhood are forgotten.
  • America Magazine
    A Lutheran's love letter to Pope Francis
    Associate Professor of Theology Aana Marie Vigen, PhD, detailed her appreciation and admiration for Pope Francis in this op-ed and letter to the Pope.
  • WBEZ Chicago
    Chicago's Forgotten Civil War Prison Camp
    History Professor and public history graduate director, history Theodore Karamanski, PhD,  was quoted on WBEZ the significance of Camp Douglas, a Civil War era prisoner of war camp that was located in Chicago.
  • Columbia Chronicle
    Chicago monuments at heart of controversy
    History Professor Anthony Cardoza, PhD, was quoted in the Columbia Chronicle on how the current political climate is bolstering a movement for removing monuments such as the potential removal of a monument near Soldier Field memorializing Marshal Italo Balbo, a notorious military leader under former fascist Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini. 
  • Chicago Tribune
    Cook County's Social Worker for the dead helps the unclaimed find final resting places
    Loyola Sociology Alumna Rebecca Perrone is Cook County's first indigent coordinator, a role comparable to a social worker for the dead. Perrone talks about her work in the latest Chicago Tribune. 

August 2017

 July 2017

June 2017

May 2017

April 2017

March 2017

February 2017

January 2017

December 2016

 November 2016

October 2016

  • Chicago Sun-Times
    Study exposes vicious cycle of community violence on youth
    Associate Professor of Psychology Noni K. Gaylord-Harden, Ph.D, was interviewed about a study that found that as black and brown teens are exposed to more community violence, their symptoms of depression subside and violent behaviors increase.

 August 2016

 July 2016

  • Harper’s Magazine
    The Cuban embargo continues
    Ignacio Ellacuria S.J., Chair in Social Ethics in the philosophy department Joy Gordon wrote about Americans’ perception of the Cuban embargo and how support for it has evolved over time.
  • NPR Illinois 
    Illinois Issues: Still Paying For Justice
    Loyola criminologist David Olson spoke about the effectiveness of parole and how probation officers’ time is best used.

September 2015


To your health

Diabetes meal plan 8-13-18

Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience majors Rohini Maddigunta and Maria Merchant came up with healthy recipes to combat diabetes in the South Asian community. One signature dish—a traditional samosa (stuffed pastry) recipe as seen above—they turned into a low-card delicacy. It uses dough made out of cheese and almond flour. Then that dough is stuffed with fresh vegetables and is baked instead of fried which reduces calories and bad fats. From these four simple substitutions, you cut the amount of calories in one serving by half, but still use the same spices and retain the same great taste!

By Tasha Neumeister

Rising sophomores Maria Merchant and Rohini Maddigunta, who identify as South Asian, know all too well about the effects of diabetes. Both have relatives who have long suffered from type 2 diabetes. Worldwide, 246 million people live with the disease. Of that, South Asians have both the largest number of cases and the fastest growing prevalence, according to a recent Diabetes/Metabolism Research and Review article. Because of this statistic and their personal experience, Merchant and Maddigunta spent this summer researching a type 2 diabetes treatment option: diet plans.

What were your key finding in your research on type 2 diabetes this summer?

Maddigunta: We had a chart (in our poster presentation) of different South Asian countries that shows India has the highest percentage of its population with diabetes—9 percent. That’s just India alone. So if you combine that with the rest of South Asia, that’s a high percentage. We found that the reason this population has such a high prevalence of diabetes is because of their diet. The foods they eat are so oily. Also, they don’t have proper information to manage diabetes or diagnose diabetes. Some people go on with their lives and don’t know until they reach the last stages of the disease or when it get really severe. There’s multiple reasons why but it’s mainly diet and lack of education.

Merhant: Lifestyle is also a factor. We found that many didn’t make health a priority, particularly in that region of the world. In America, you think about having a healthy lifestyle and working out every day. Over there, you have to do housework, take care of your kids–other things are a much bigger priority.

And, how did you apply your research findings?

Merchant: Under the guidance of Laurie Jordan, senior lecturer in mathematics and statistics, we tried to figure out a diet plan that also helps with culture and religious standards so they could stick to it. Also to live a better, healthier lifestyle.

Maddigunta: Then, we created a website to get this information out to the public. It’s not live because we still need to collaborate more with a nutritionist, but it was our way to give access to the information. We’re sharing a personalized diet plan that will allow people to formulate their own meal plan based on their personal needs.

You aren’t dieticians, so how did you develop these healthier diet plans?

Merchant: I got the idea for creating a meal plan after my mosque did a program where they invited a dietician to come and discuss healthier eating habits, especially because in our culture we eat a lot of oily, high fat foods. They handed out booklets and showed us substitutes for our foods which helped us—we based our meal plans off those recipes. I gave these a try because I have parents who tried to go on a diet and it didn’t work. They got bored because it’s not their cultural foods. So we tried to create a diet that was more aligned with their culture so they’d stick to it. 

What impact do you think this will have on the South Asian community?

Merchant: I think if we advocate for it in the right way then people we will be able to understand that it’s not as hard as it looks and be able to substitute one ingredient for the other. People will still be able to enjoy all the great Indian, South Asian foods.

Both of you are Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience majors. How has Loyola prepared you for your field?

Merchant: Through the classes in general. The rigorousness and competitiveness of Loyola helps you push forward. I have the freedom of discovery here. For example in Bio 101, you learn about insulin, you learn about other biological factors that contribute to diabetes. I brought that information to my mosque where I worked at a diabetes clinic. I was able to explain to congregants there how diabetes works. You can find so many possibilities at Loyola. This has encouraged me to do something different and be a part of making that change.

How has this experience at Loyola helped shape you as a person?

Maddigunta: It’s made me more aware of my own lifestyle. It’s helped me care more about my health and immerse myself more in my culture. So researching has helped me connect and go back to my roots to discover something new I didn’t have in my life–particularly within Hindu culture, the foods we eat and how we practice.

How does your research fit into Loyola’s mission?

Maddigunta: Part of Loyola’s mission is about helping people and reaching out to people who are in need of aid.  And this research fits into that. I feel like we could easily branch into another community and use this research to help others.

Merchant: With the social justice aspect of Loyola, we’re able to give back. By raising awareness, we can help one person change their diet to live better and have a healthier life. That’s part of Loyola’s mission. 

In the eye of the beholder

Pupil Dilation research

A view into a pupil dilating: Loyola students this summer are researching how this eye movement could be an indication of Parkinson's disease.

Sophomore Valentine Geze spent a big part of her summer staring into someone’s eyes: Geze literally examined videos of pupils, specifically tracking how pupil dilation can be a biomarker of Parkinson’s disease. When Geze started the project, she was the only first year participant in her small research group.  Geze, a biomedical engineering major, explains their research and talks about the possible impact of their work.

Tell me about this research project you worked on this summer.

Our research is related to Parkinson’s disease biomarkers. Our group worked under the advisement of Mark Albert, assistant professor of computer science; Bruce Gaynes, clinical associate professor of ophthalmology; and Ting Xiao, instructor. We were coding a program that can take a video of someone’s pupil dilating and identify the rate at which it changes. The program would then create an easy-to-read graph for doctors to see whether a person is likely to have Parkinson’s. The ultimate goal here is early detection.  

Why is pupil dilation a biomarker?

A biomarker is a trait that indicates whether someone is likely to have a condition or disease. It’s not a sole indicator or 100 percent reliable. If someone’s pupil dilates there could be other reasons. Pupil dilation is a biomarker for Alzheimer's disease as well. Basically, it’s something that your body does that can lead a doctor to think that you have this disease and that doctor may want to run more tests.

How did this research start?

Julia Adamski, Nikola Grjakovik, and Ting Xiao, PhD, are the original researchers who started the project last summer. They created the code and are wanted to make a user interface that was easy for doctors. So this summer myself, Ethan Davidson, and Jae Kim, who are both going into their senior year at Loyola, worked on the backend of it by taking the video frame by frame to measure the radius. We just automated the videos so one person doesn’t have to spend all their time trying to break it into frames.

What impact will your research have on everyday people?

Hopefully this can be implemented nationwide to multiple hospitals to make it a common program. So if someone thinks Parkinson’s runs in their family, they could easily take this test at a young age and have preventive treatment. This would help in making symptoms better in the long-term outlook.

What are plans for the research going forward?

Jae and Ethan will continue working on this in the fall along with some of the other researchers and faculty. They’ll be working out any bugs, making it faster and much more efficient. I won’t have time the time to dedicate myself solely to the project, but I will help out when I can.

How has this experience at Loyola shape you as a person?

I definitely learned a lot. We were coding in a language I had never done before--Python. I had some background in coding, but I really I learned so much from everyone I worked with. That was really exciting for me with my major to learn more about medical technology which a big part of my major biomedical engineering. I was able to see how much potential is within this field and how much is growing out of this field. 

From motherhood to scholar

Sara Khan profile 5-17-18

"I would encourage every student to step out of their comfort zone and work towards achieving their goal, no matter how hard or impossible it might appear to be." - Sara Khan, Biology major and Psychology of Crime and Justice Minor who plans to apply to medical school.

What are your post-graduation plans?

I will be spending quality time with my daughter while applying to medical school. This summer, I will continue working on my research project and hopefully solve the three-dimensional structure of Plasmodium PhLP-3. I will also be applying for a job as an EMT during my free time. Furthermore, I am looking forward to volunteering with the Chicago Park District program for elementary schools. This will allow me to spend time with my daughter who is enrolled in one of the Park District summer programs.

You’ve been very involved with research and various organizations during your time at Loyola. Can you talk about your research and your accomplishments on and off campus?

For the past two years I have been an undergraduate research student in Dr. Kanzok’s malaria lab. My research project seeks to understand the role of phosducin-like protein-3 (PhLP-3) for the malaria parasite Plasmodium. It is my goal to resolve the structure of the PhLP-3 protein. Being a member of Dr. Kanzok’s research team has been a life changing experience. I became fascinated with the molecular mechanisms in living cells and the intricate structure and function of proteins. I also act as co-fundraising chair of the on-campus student-run organization “Homeless not Hopeless.” We aim to raise funds for the underserved community and provide necessities such as food, sanitizers, and hygiene materials. We hope that our work inspires others to join us. I also volunteer as an EMT for Loyola University Chicago Emergency Services (LUCEMS).

How has being a student at Loyola helped you get where you are today?

As a freshman, I never believed I would be able to reach my goal of graduating with high honors and be in a good position to apply for medical school, but deep down I was determined to achieve it. I am grateful to Loyola for giving me so many opportunities to get involved. Without the amazing support from my friends, family and professors, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What is your advice for students graduating next year?
“A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” I was deeply motivated by this thought and would encourage every student to step out of their comfort zone and work towards achieving their goal, no matter how hard or impossible it might appear to be. I believe that no dream is too big as long as you are determined to achieve it. 

Parking woes disrupted

CS student parking app 4-30-18

Computer Science graduate student John O'Sullivan and his teammates used emerging technology to create a parking app. The team recently won a $15,000 grant from IBM to pursue further work and test the product.

By Tasha Neumeister 

Parking. It’s the one concern that unites most every major metropolitan with an influx of commuters or drivers. Computer science graduate student John O’Sullivan is setting out to ease our parking woes in his work on The Spot Exchange—an app that O’Sullivan and his teammates Aleks Velkoski and Dave Conroy developed. The app promises to disrupt the parking reservation services market by allowing users more autonomy in choosing and offering parking spots. The group, who met while working at the Center for Realtor Technology (CRT) Lab, recently won a $15,000 first place award in the international Unchain the Frame hackathon sponsored by IBM.

As part of the top honor, O’Sullivan and his team went to Las Vegas for the "Think IBM" conference to network with companies around the world and to present their design for an informal product review. Just back from the conference, O’Sullivan talks about how people can use the app, his experience at Loyola, and his plans for the future.

Can you tell us how your app works and how the public can use it?  
The Spot Exchange gives people the ability to have more control over their parking using blockchain technology. It enables people to rent physical locations designated for parking. Parking spaces include garages, lots, alleyways, and driveways, which may be located on private residential and commercial property. As a decentralized marketplace, our service product does not own physical parking spaces, establish asset prices, or set policy. Instead, we serve as the mechanism in which sellers of physical spaces connect with short-term or long-term buyers, and we provide an automated service for executing and enforcing contracts. The overarching idea is that people can their reserve  spots on the network and sell them without having to pay high commissions. But the product is for both people who want to list parking spaces and for those looking for a parking space. We’re hoping to more efficiently connect buyers and sellers and provide real-time price recommendations to sellers.

How did you gain an interest in computer science?
Since my childhood, I have always been playing with technology and taking things apart. I began programming in 6th grade, working with Batch and C mostly. By the time I entered high school, I already had a clear picture of what I wanted to do in life. That picture is the same now as it was during those times: To push current technology to its breaking point to see how it can benefit us.

How has your Loyola experience helped you get to where you are in your work?
My experience at Loyola has been incredibly supportive. The core CS (Computer Science) program exposes students to different technologies and development methods, which is crucial to have in the workforce. The department offers a range of classes that touch on anyone's interests, including server-side, client-side, game development, algorithms, etc. These classes all taught me how to approach similar problems in different ways. It was fun to go back to an old project for one class and redesign it using methods I learned in another to create an even better product.

What are your future plans for this app?
Currently, we don’t have any set plans for the app, but the underlying technology and blockchain community is a very active part of our lives. The blockchain technology is still at a young stage and our mission is to help move the technology along and become a mainstream component of the 21st century marketplace. After graduating this spring, I will be pursuing block chain technology in the private sector.

Let's party! Loyola alumna mixes business with pleasure as a CEO

Britt Whitfield 3-7-18

CAS alumna Britt Whitfield's event management business is booming. The Revel Group has been named one of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies in INC. magazine for the last five years and, most recently, she made Crain’s Chicago Business Top 40 under 40 for 2017.

Celebrations, get-togethers, and parties—all bring people together and can be the framework for building and strengthening communities. Psychology and Social Science alumna Britt Whitfield (BA ’04) knows this and literally embodies the phrase “Life of the party.” But, she is serious and all business when it comes to running The Revel Group, an independent, event-centric marketing and production businesses based in Chicago. Whitfield, who serves as CEO and co-founder, is celebrating the company’s 10th anniversary this year.

Under her leadership, the company’s stellar work has been lauded numerously. For the last five years, Revel has been in INC. magazine as one of the top 5,000 fastest-growing companies. Chicago Business Journal named Whitfield a Women on the Move last year and, most recently, she made Crain’s Chicago Business Top 40 under 40 for 2017.

Here, Whitfield discusses her strong work ethic, planning the Cubs’ World Series celebration, how Revel strives to continue growing, and ultimately, what makes a good party.

Is there an experience you can point to that illustrates how you came into your own as a leader?
I started working out of a deli in Philadelphia when I was 19. I worked in the kitchen, on the line. I had no culinary background. I made sandwiches and I remember thinking I wanted to put so much meat on the sandwich, though they gave you scale to weigh it out. I always doubled it or went over so they ended up putting me on the cash register. I wanted people to open [their sandwich], look at it, and say, “This is the best sandwich I ever got.” That’s all I cared about.

I ended up becoming a manager at Smith & Hawken. I was so opinionated and bossy. I could take charge. I’ve always had that ability to kind of move the car with the group.

What do you attribute the success of your business to?
I think the relationships: From the people who are our clients, the corporations, and also those who make up Revel. I think those bonds are the key to our longevity. Longevity is such a hard thing in business. We are such a different company than when we first started yet we are still the same—our culture, what we care about, the fact that we want to put out something really good. And how we’re able to be creative, particularly in how the company is set up and the different groups. And we aren’t just one company with additional services: We’re separate companies that are vertically integrated and creativity grows from that. That model was not based on a financial component. It was based on how we were going to supply something and what demands we’re going to meet and how well we’d meet them. And I really think that’s what’s done it. We really care about designing an event and when we’re hired to put something on, we know the buck stops with us. With that responsibility, we added these companies because we just wanted to be that sure and that good. And we wanted the events to be what we had promised and what we had wanted.

When did you realize that you had an affinity for event planning?
I started working during my senior year in Loyola at Cullen's Bar and Grill in Wrigleyville. And then Michael Cullen, who has since passed, opened Blue Bayou across the street, which had an event space. I was a manager and I bartended at the time but I wanted to be responsible for booking that space.

While I’m working there, my mother went to a party at Soldier Field for Maggie Daley’s organization, After School Matters. There are 2,000 people and caterers on the field, a big band, a light show. The whole bit. I comment to her on how I liked booking these events much more than I liked the restaurant business. I liked hospitality but I knew I wanted to sell something. She tells me about this party and I said to her, “Wait, there are parties like that?” And I’m 21 years old and I told her that’s exactly what I want to do.

Last year, what was the best party you went to or that your company put on?
You know we throw a lot of good parties. We did 6,000 events last year. We did the Cubs’ World Series party... That was a once in a lifetime event. To be a Chicagoan and to be able to produce a Cubs World Series (party) that is OMG!!

But [we recently had] our 10-year Super Bowl party called Revel Bowl. We usually base the event off of the half-time event but we felt … it should be a Prince party. So, there was a lot of Purple Rain and we had a Prince tribute band. It was incredible. Because the way this Super Bowl tied into Prince the excitement came from the fact that what we ended up choosing something that worked. It was also nice to celebrate. That was actually a pretty big milestone—a decade of a company. That was definitely on top of my list.

Finally, what makes for a good party?
The number one thing for a good party is being comfortable. I think it’s a very challenging thing to achieve. It’s a combination of how you’re greeted, the look, the seating, the attitude of every staff person. All of that trickles down. If you can go into it and everyone is positive about being there, people will be comfortable. Think about when you’re not comfortable at a party, how bad does that feel? When you show up to events and you ask yourself, “Why am I uncomfortable?” You might say to yourself, “No one said hi to me. Who am I meeting here?” People want it to be the lights, the stage—it’s none of that. Overall it’s whether people feel good there and are they comfortable.

Flying High: Crafting a life in performing arts


Audrey Anderson performs with Cordelia Dewdney, Louise Lamson, and Raymond Fox in a rendition of Charles Dickens' Hard Times at the Lookingglass Theatre Company. Photo credit: Liz Lauren.

By: Kaitlin McMurry

For Loyola senior Audrey Anderson, 22, playing Sissy in a rendition of Charles Dickens’ Hard Times at the Lookingglass Theatre Company was a dream come true. Born and raised in Minneapolis, Anderson has been acting and performing aerial acrobatics since the second grade. Anderson decided to pursue acting as a career during her junior year in high school, and has never looked back.

A theatre major, Anderson is used to juggling school work, hours of rehearsals, performances, and other curricular activities. But once she was cast in Hard Times, she took the semester off to dedicate her time to her first professional role in Chicago. She acted in all 114 shows over a span of about three months until the production wrapped up in mid-January. When writing about Anderson’s performance, the Chicago Tribune said, “[Anderson] gives one of the subtlest and most authentic performances” and the Chicago Sun-Times referred to her as an “utterly beguiling actress-aerialist.”

Anderson’s budding acting career has grown at Loyola. She has performed in a school production every semester, including being cast in columbinus, Elephant’s Graveyard, and FML: How Carson McCullers Saved My Life, among others. Now in her last semester, Anderson hopes to perform both on stage and in television and film.

Here, Anderson talks about her first professional theatre experience in Chicago, some of the challenges and triumphs, and how Loyola has influenced her professional career.

You just finished performing as Sissy in the Lookingglass Theatre Company’s version of Hard Times. What was that experience like?

I can’t even express how perfect of a first professional theatre experience in Chicago it was. It was a total whirlwind.

They work very collaboratively at the Lookingglass Theatre Company. Even though I was the youngest and least experienced person in the room, I felt like I had just as much of a say on contributing ideas, on being listened to, on being valued in the room, so it was just a really positive experience.

What’s your background in acrobatics and aerial training?

I started aerials when I was in the second grade. My mom is a professional dancer. She’s had an amazing professional career, and now she’s a dance professor in Minnesota. I grew up going to rehearsals and sitting in theatres and dance studios while she was teaching.

When I was in the second grade, we went to see this theatre piece called Circus of Tales. They specialized in physical spectacle theatre, and in this piece there was circus and aerial arts in it and I can still see the show to this day. After the show, I turned to my mom and said, “that’s what I want to do.” She signed me up for classes the next week, and the rest is history.

What was the training like for Hard Times?

It was really intense because I shattered my wrist at the beginning of the summer. I was cast in the show in February 2017, then that June I fell on my wrist while biking and completely shattered it. I had to have surgery and started physical therapy right away. At the beginning of the summer I didn’t know if I was going to be able to do the show. It was cutting it really close. My wrist was fine, but I hadn’t done aerials for three months so I started below zero in terms of strength and stamina from where I needed to be.

The rehearsal process was three weeks long. We rehearsed six days a week, and we were there all day, every day. It was hard coming into rehearsal every day and not being where I wanted to be strength-wise because you can’t think about performing, or what you’re giving to an audience—you really can’t think about all of these beautiful finessing qualities.

They just kept working me. And by opening night I was able to do it. I did 114 shows and my understudy never had to go on, so it worked out.

Let’s switch gears and talk about your experiences at Loyola. How has Loyola impacted your professional career?

Attending Loyola has really impacted me as a person and my career. If I weren’t in Chicago, I wouldn’t have been connected with Lookingglass Theatre Company. Loyola has really taught me how to be an active member of a rehearsal room and how to be explorative, willing, and giving in a rehearsal space so people will want to work with you. The theatre program wants you to be that active member of the rehearsal room and as a Bachelor of Arts student, we take all these different classes—design, practicum, etc.—so we’re given all of these facets of knowledge, not to mention all the liberal arts classes I have to take. How could learning about all of these different philosophies and historical times, learning about psychology, how is that not going to help me as an actor?

We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about the time period of Hard Times, but I could piece together my own information about it because I’ve taken history classes at Loyola.

How did you decide to take a break from school last semester?

There was no way I was turning down the role. I knew from the second I was cast that I was going to take a break regardless of what that meant. It meant so much for me to get a start on my career—to work with this company and to get out in the world. And it just happened to work out really well that I only had credits for one semester left anyway so I was really lucky.

What was it like returning to campus? Do you see school in a different light now that you’ve been in the professional world?

It feels kind of like Hard Times was a dream, like “did I just do that for three months?” It’s weird that I’m back in the swing of things now.

I think I see the need for school and I now appreciate it more. When you’re in the thick of college and it’s hard, you’re like, “Why am I putting myself through this stress and staying up all night [with] no sleep and living on coffee?” Now I understand why we train so hard. I wouldn’t have been able to keep up in the rehearsal room if I hadn’t had my training here. In acting classes, I’m learning how to do what I want to do, but I don’t think you really understand why you need it until you’re out in the real world.

What is it about acting and performing that you love so much?

Being in a rehearsal room is thrilling in itself. You get to be in a collaborative, artistic, and fun environment that’s sizzling with everything—energy, different minds. I don’t know what other environment could make me feel as energized in all of these different ways as being in a rehearsal room does. It’s a very rewarding field to go into because of this constant self-growth. Coming in to rehearse a scene and having it just be words on a page and then creating this beautiful piece of art that’s hopefully saying something—that’s really satisfying.


I got you something: 5 gift giving rules for ALL of your relationships

Huntsinger Gift Giving Rules 12-18-17

Loyola Psychologist Jeffrey Huntsinger shares some advice on how the gift you give, or receive, can influence your relationships.

By Tasha Neumeister

We’re at the height of gift giving season, and picking out the “right” gift can be easy for some while others find it burdensome. There’s also research that suggests men and women view gifts differently. Men and woman may as differ when it comes to what is a perceived “bad” or “good” gifts as well. Jeff Huntsinger, assistant psychology professor, and colleagues did a nearly decades-old study that is still relevant today on how gifts impact relationships. Here are some of Huntsinger’s insights and rules on how the gift you give, or receive, can influence your relationships:

Rule #1: Give well - A “bad” gift could change your relationship for the worst
The whole reason we give gifts is that we want people to be happy. We often give gifts as a means of showing our closeness to other people or bringing them closer to us. If we give a good gift, it should be a marker of understanding—letting the receiver know that we “get” them in some sense. So good gifts will tend to strengthen relationships and bad gifts—depending on how bad they are—can in the worst case scenario show a complete lack of understanding of another person’s likes and dislikes. This can at least temporarily cause each person to seem less similar or hurt the relationship in some way. In terms of bad gifts, both men and women—in romantic or platonic relationships—will feel a loss of closeness. But women tend to take receiving bad gifts better than men, which our study showed. What seems to be happening is that women will engage in relationship maintenance behavior and will rationalize away a “bad gift.”

Rule #2: If you want to grow closer, give an experience
Experiential gifts—like concert tickets or hiking trips or dance lessons—are unique and can’t easily be replicated. Often these are things you can’t do again. Material gifts, and that warm glow of happiness you get from receiving them, wear off relatively quickly. Material gifts are often not shared with other people, whereas experience gifts are: Let’s get tickets to the Bulls or the Cubs game and we’ll go together and share it with other people. And that experience becomes a part of us and makes us closer to the other person.

Rule #3: Don’t sweat it—the thought counts, but not really
We think if we put a lot of thought into a gift, people will like it better. But as far as my research shows, it doesn’t really matter as much as we think it does. We tend to overemphasize the thought we put into a gift, but that thought often isn’t recognized by the person we give it to. Why is that? Well, when you have a gift—a box for instance—in front of you, you’re focused on the gift itself, not so much on the giver and their effort. It’s your gut reaction to the gift: Do you like it or not? You don’t often see the effort right in front of you.

Rule #4: Give of yourself
Think about giving a person something you already have. For example, if I say, “I have this coffeemaker. I love it and so will you,” we’re on the same plane. It’s saying, “I love this and you should experience it too.” It makes you feel connected to the other person. With these companionized gifts, people are seeing that they’re giving a little bit of themselves: This is part of me, I like this, and I’m going to share it with you. This is even true for material gifts, which don’t always make us happy.

Rule #5: Ask for a wish list
We like to get gifts from our wish lists. We know what we want. Sometimes a person may pick the “wrong gift” because maybe it’s not the gift we want in that moment. When we’re trying to find a gift for someone we have to put ourselves in their shoes and think about their likes and dislikes. What do they like to do? It’s not the easiest thing to do. We tend to anchor on our own likes and dislikes and then start thinking about them. It’s a difficult differential puzzle to do that well. So women tend to engage in “perspective taking” by default. But most people will make a lot of mistakes: We think people want a unique gift, but in fact, people would be more satisfied if you went off their Amazon wish list. Because we—the receiver—put the thought into the gift we want better than anyone else could.

Scratching the surface

Rachael Farber Profile - 12-4-17

Rachael Farber, fifth-year doctoral student in the physical chemistry program, discusses surface science with her lab partner in Flanner Hall.

By: Kaitlin McMurry

Inside a laboratory in Flanner Hall, Rachael Farber spends hours poring over images of metal surfaces that show individual atoms. Farber lives for experiments like these, testing how different metals respond to chemicals such as oxygen or hydrogen. Exhibiting all the characteristics of a pioneering scientist, Farber can sometimes spend nearly 50 hours in the lab in pursuit of her goal: finding ways that metal surfaces can improve how we live and work.

Farber, a doctoral student in Loyola's physical chemistry program, has studied surface chemistry for five years at Loyola and was recently honored by several publications and organizations for her research. This fall, she received two major awards at the 64th International Symposium of the American Vacuum Society (AVS)—an interdisciplinary society for professionals in the science and technology industries—where she took home the Morton M. Traum Student Award for her research on Surface Science and the Nellie Yeoh Whetten Award, a top award given at the symposium. Farber, who also studied chemistry at Case Western Reserve University as an undergraduate, attributes this recognition to the supportive, student-focused environment within Loyola’s chemistry department.

Here, Farber talks about her research, some of the challenges she and other women in science have faced, and she reminisces about her time at Loyola as she embarks on her last semester at Loyola.

You do research on heterogeneous catalysis, or how different materials react to each other. Can you explain how your research impacts people's everyday lives?

We’re trying to understand what oxygen is doing to certain metals. How is it affecting their reactivity? And, is what we're seeing something that can be applied later down the road?

Here’s an example of why people need to care about heterogeneous catalysis. Back in the day, smog control was a huge issue, particularly in places like LA, New York City, or Mexico City--anywhere where there's a bit of a restricted airflow or where high population density cars have toxic exhaust fumes that gets trapped in our atmosphere. There was a huge push to figure out a way to properly neutralize those gases so they're not as harmful to people and the environment.

The way scientists figured out how to do that was by combining three different metals to make catalytic converters. Because of a reaction that happens on the metal surface, these different species can react on that metal surface and be neutralized into CO2 and less toxic gases. Once they started using these catalytic converters, the smog levels dropped, people were able to have healthy lungs again, and they could see skylines on clear days.

 You recently received two major awards at the 64th AVS International Symposium.  Tell us about that experience.

It was really it was pretty amazing to get both of those awards. I think we do really nice work in here and I think our research is pretty important. It's really awesome to have it recognized, especially with AVS since that is so applicable to our field.

Loyola was recently ranked 7th in the country for graduating women in STEM. Would you say this reflects your experience at Loyola?

That’s fantastic! I know that when I've been a teacher assistant in undergrad classes, I've never really noticed any sort of male dominance in those classes; it's been fairly split with both male and female representation. I always felt like there was a really good representation of women here at Loyola. When I look at other schools in Chicago, there's maybe one woman in a lab group of five or six people. When you go to conferences a lot of the times there’s like 10 percent women in attendance. In general, there aren't a lot of women in this field.

One of the things I've noticed being at Loyola is that I've been given a lot of opportunities to go to conferences and talk about what we do here. The department has been really supportive of presenting opportunities for women, so there's a lot of networking involved. If you want to be successful in science, you need a really big support system and I think Loyola is doing a really good job of helping women find partners and mentors in the field. I know that I've been really lucky with my advisor, Dan Killelea. He’s been really supportive from day one—making sure it was understood that I needed to do work in a lab.

What are some of the challenges you've faced as a woman in science or concerns women may have navigating the field?  

You want to be judged on your data, not on how you look. I've had a few instances going to conferences where either a female professor has commented on the makeup I’m wearing, or male professors will sort of make comments about how you look like “oh like you look so wonderful and you gave a great presentation but you looked wonderful up there.” There’s still a big issue about being appreciated as a good scientist and being able to represent yourself however you see fit whether you're a more feminine woman or if you prefer to be a bit more laid-back in how you appear. I've also heard a lot of women talk about how to balance having a family when you’re in science. How do you be a mother and work toward getting a tenure-track position?  

And finally, as you look to your post-doctorate opportunity, can you share your favorite Loyola memory and what you will miss the most?   

I think in general one of my favorite memories is just the community here. I'm really going to miss the environment of the department especially, because all the professors are so supportive and the graduate students have a nice community. I know that I've been very fortunate: I have had a lot of really wonderful opportunities at Loyola, like going to various conferences since my first year, and I’ve been able to give talks at international and local chapter meetings of different organizations. Everyone wants you to do the best you can.

A fair shake


Sociology Professor Peter Rosenblatt lectures to his students during his undergraduate sociology course. Rosenblatt conducts research on urban housing and has studied the public housing voucher system in various urban centers across the country. (Photo: Lloyd DeGrane)

By: Tasha Neumeister 

Access and choice are key factors in where Americans live. But race, education, and income have a powerful influence as well. These are issues Peter Rosenblatt, assistant professor of Sociology, considers within his research on housing policy and urban inequality. The sociologist has taught at Loyola since 2012 and is the director of the Urban Studies program. In that time, not only has he taught students about the inequalities in housing and housing policies, he has published and presented numerous papers on the topic along with an op-ed piece about restrictive housing policies in Baltimore neighborhoods.

Recently, Rosenblatt and a team of students completed a review of Milwaukee County’s

Security Deposit Assistance program, a unique incentive in the housing choice voucher program aimed at helping low-income families and children gain access to high-achieving schools and better-off neighborhoods. Here, Rosenblatt talks about this study, the constraints families confront in securing stable housing, and where urban housing is heading.

What are some of the trends you’re finding in affordable housing?

Public housing policy has changed a lot in the last two decades. We’ve moved from having large housing projects to tearing those down in lots of cities, including Chicago, and moving more toward housing vouchers—which is now the biggest rental housing subsidy for low-income people. So we’ve been trying to understand how the voucher program works for families. In studying that, it overlaps with studying the conditions of life for poor people: What shapes how they move? What influences where they move?

One of things about the shift to vouchers is it brings a sort of potential, because the voucher moves with the family. You could have families moving to neighborhoods that are less poor, less segregated, or neighborhoods with strong amenities such as good schools. But in practice, the voucher program doesn’t meet that potential. You have a lot of families that cycle between poor and segregated neighborhoods.

The work we’ve done on housing vouchers starting up in Chicago—and more in depth in Milwaukee, Baltimore, and Alabama—has been to try to understand why that is. Why doesn’t the voucher program do a better job of helping families move against the grain of segregation and poverty?

With your 2015 report on the Milwaukee County’s security deposit program as a basis, can you talk about some of the kinds of issues lower income families face in both getting stable housing and staying in these homes?

One of the things we’ve found in talking to low-income families is how much these moves aren’t planned. The moves are shaped outside of people’s control. Sometimes they live in really poor quality units, and are forced to move when their housing falls apart or fails the housing inspection that is part of the voucher program. In one instance, a woman told us about how the roof over her daughter’s bed would sag when it rained and it was about to collapse. Or people would show us really poor wiring in their houses that landlords hadn’t really attended. There was a lot of this unit failure or instability but there was also neighborhood instability—literally violence at their front door steps.

Another factor is the limited amount of time to search for a new place to live if you have a voucher. The national standard is 60 days from the time you get notice to vacate. So there’s a feeling of a time crunch when you don’t have the time to plan. And because of the different ways the programs are structured, it can make it harder to find what limited affordable housing there is in better-off neighborhoods. All of this doesn’t give families enough time to plan. 

You talked about the factors that influence an affordable housing search. Do you think people are being driven out of cities to the suburbs?

One thing that is driving people “out” is the wide-spread demolition of public housing projects and the movement to vouchers. Often that means not everyone gets to return to their neighborhood of origin. In our study of Milwaukee’s systems, we looked at a new policy—the security deposit assistance—that provides incentives to low-income families to consider a move to suburban jurisdictions. But generally speaking, the moves families make are between poor and segregated neighborhoods, not to the suburbs. For instance, the majority of African American families in Chicago who use the voucher program are living in poor neighborhoods—over 30 percent of the population are below the federal poverty line. So there isn’t a lot of breaking out to live in more affluent neighborhoods. There are many factors that shape this, including discrimination and limits to how much the voucher can pay. But the search process itself also plays a significant role, especially the forced expediency for the search—where can I find a place to live right away?

What, if anything, are cities doing to break down inequality and create more opportunities for fair housing?

There’s a lot of research on the impact of where you live, especially children’s life chances. There’s strong research that says if you were to take a child from a high-poverty neighborhood and put them in a low-poverty neighborhood, that child is more likely to go to college, more likely to have a higher earning as an adult. Despite all of those challenges growing up poor, if you just change the neighborhood, it can really change the lives of kids.

One of the policy pushes is asking how we can assist families in moving to lower poverty neighborhoods. Milwaukee’s security deposit assistance program was a sort of natural experiment to see if families could be incentivized to move to more affluent suburbs. Can we see what kind of influence that this would have? Behavioral economists say nudges like a security deposit can help families make more optimal choices.

We found that there is some suggestion that this nudge does help but in some sense it’s not enough. Folks were swayed to move but it was actually really hard to lease in the suburbs: What we found is that many landlords in Milwaukee suburbs didn’t want to rent to them, and there is no legal protection against this “source of income” discrimination. There’s that tension around incentivizing these mobility efforts and overcoming the constraints to make them happen.

In looking at urban housing, what does the future hold?

At the end of the Obama administration, there were some changes in the voucher program that would have made better-off neighborhoods more accessible to families. This would have increased access to affordable housing and combated segregation in the voucher program. There was also a proposal to change the pay structure to make the voucher go farther—monetarily—in more affluent areas. At the same time, they proposed reducing landlords’ ability in poor neighborhoods to charge more. And both of those things have been rolled back with the current administration. So in the immediate term it feels like we’re taking a step back from the direction we were heading.

Where do you see transformations in urban housing?

What I have seen is efforts to transform those high rise towers into more mixed-income units. There’s a suggestion that this has reduced poverty in neighborhoods but many people have also been forced to move away. With CURL (Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning) we’re partnering with fair housing agencies, local housing authorities, social services agencies, and other organizations to see if providing more counseling support for families can help impact long-term moves to low-poverty neighborhoods and if that makes a differences in children’s educational outcomes, and adults’ job prospects.

Retiring faculty member promotes human rights advocacy through Holocaust remembrance

Elliot Lefkovitz 11-20-17

Elliot Lefkovitz, PhD, speaks at the "Holocaust Remembrance: Overcoming Evil" event commemorating the 79th anniversary of Kristallnacht, Night of Broken Glass.

By: Kaitlin McMurry 

For Elliot Lefkovitz, PhD, sharing the history of the Holocaust involves not just the Jewish victims and survivors but those who intervened and rescued people.

“In every genocide there are rescuers,” Lefkovitz says. “One reason I like to teach about the rescuers and altruism is because there is a human side to everyone—this gives us encouragement and inspiration to keep compassion alive, that hopefully the sun will come out tomorrow.”

Lefkovitz, has taught history at Loyola for 40 years and is widely known for his class on the Holocaust and 20th century genocide. Lefkovitz is an accomplished Jewish educator, who taught Western Civilization classes at Loyola when he first started, and pioneered a class on the Holocaust and 20th century genocide at the University. He is retiring at the end of the semester and was recently honored for his work and dedication throughout his years at Loyola.

Lefkovitz said he has truly enjoyed getting to know the faculty, staff, and students at Loyola and has always felt comfortable at the University because of its values-oriented mission that encourages social justice.

Lefkovitz has seen a lot of change at Loyola throughout the years, but some things have stayed the same: the level of commitment, dedication, and engagement his students have displayed. While he says it would be very difficult to track the exact impact his class had has on students, some of his students have since gone to law school and focused on human rights advocacy.

“Every teacher has to live on hope that what you’re doing somewhere down the line will make a difference,” Lefkovitz says. “I always brought in survivors throughout the course who would say to the students ‘whoever hears a witness becomes a witness’ so that somehow, hopefully, the empathy that they feel for the survivor will translate into some active compassionate acts.”

Not only has Lefkovitz shared his knowledge with students, he has also spread awareness about the Holocaust by recording several oral histories with survivors over the past few decades. It is his mission to record as many survivors as possible to keep their history relevant so it won’t “sink into oblivion.”

Throughout the years, Lefkovitz has also collaborated with Loyola Hillel—a Jewish student group—to bring in survivors from the Holocaust and other genocides to share their stories with the University community. In early November, he helped organize “Holocaust Rescuers: Overcoming Evil,” which recognized Kristallnacht, also known as the Night of Broken Glass, the anti-Jewish attacks by the Nazi government more than 79 years ago. Attendees heard from Holocaust survivor Ida Paluch Kersz, who was rescued by Polish Christians.

“People say the Holocaust did not happen and I’m one of the witnesses—maybe one of the last ones because I was one of the youngest,” explains Kersz, who also spoke about her 53-year search for her twin brother, Adam Paluch, who was also in attendance at the event.  “I will tell their stories so people can say ‘I heard a Holocaust survivor, there was a Holocaust.’”

Though he may be retiring, Lefkovitz plans to continue to bring survivors of genocide to Loyola to educate people about the atrocities of the past.

“Teaching has been an interest of mine from the beginning,” Lefkovitz says. “It’s not just transmitting information but really trying to impart values. I focus on genocide education because so much really is about remembrance and the need to remember.”

The future is now: Girls Who Code

Girls Who Code 11-8-17

Loyola University Chicago launched its first chapter of Girls Who Code, a national organization working to close the gender gap in technology though education about the field. Led by Loyola students and volunteers, the club meets once a week on Saturday mornings in the Klarchek Information Commons on Loyola's Lake Shore Campus. From left: Loyola student Kelly Schmidt and Mallory, Girls Who Code participant. (Photo: Dominique Ochoa)

By Amanda Friedlander ('18)

On a Saturday afternoon, a small group of girls, ages 11 to 16, huddle together in a classroom in Loyola’s Information Commons, typing a sort of hieroglyphic language into neat rows on their computers. The room is peppered with volunteers—all graduate and undergraduate students, many of whom have no idea what the language means. But once the project is complete, it will become a fully-functioning website, designed to educate and inspire other young women like themselves.

This website is a semester-long project for Girls Who Code, a coding and tech club for young girls and women. Loyola’s first chapter started this semester and is the brainchild of Neha Goel, a graduate student fellow in the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities (CTSDH). Goel, who has experienced gender bias in coding classes and elsewhere, is deeply aware of the discrepancy between men and women in STEM-related fields.

“My first job after graduation was eliminated because the company only wanted to hire men,” says Goel, a computer science major. “Now, at my current company, it can be really awkward going to team meetings and outings because it’s so male-dominated. There are 10 of us, and I’m the only woman.”

That’s why Loyola’s Girls Who Code chapter aims to provide a space for young women to learn, teach, and explore coding in an inclusive and supportive environment. And the best part? There’s no experience required.

Finding our own code

Girls Who Code began in 2012 as a tiny club of 20 young women in New York City with a goal of closing the gender gap in technology. Within five years, schools around the country have started their own chapters, amounting to over 40,000 girls learning how to code their own sites and games. At Loyola, Goel approached Elizabeth Hopwood, the CTSDH project manager and instructor in digital humanities, about the possibility of starting a chapter. Then international studies and economics major Ezgi Ilhan, a student fellow in the CTSDH and Maria Palacio, recent alumna in digital humanities who has since graduated, worked with Goel and Hopwood to create a budget proposal. Goel and Ilhan, also a research fellow in the CTSDH, agreed the club should nourish students while building up their self-esteem and computer science skill set.

“One of my biggest concerns was making sure the girls got fed,” says Ilhan. “We wanted to tap into the Jesuit values when writing the proposal. We wanted this to be completely free, to provide service for others.”

With the promise of giving back and gaining coding and programming skills, Goel says she received so many requests from Loyola students to participate that she eventually had to turn down inquiries. Fifteen undergraduate and graduate students were chosen along with 11 participants from Chicago-area schools. The goal of the semester: Pick an issue to build a website around. The group landed on “beauty sickness,” a term for the societal pressure on women to look a certain way.

Lucas Coyne, a graduate student in the American History program, is one of two young men who volunteer in the club. Coyne says he hopes to show participants how creativity factors into coding, and that it’s not a purely mathematical, logic-based activity.

“We want to be helpful and provide a space for women to learn,” he says.

Goel envisions an even larger chapter in the near future. She also hopes that over time, they will reach an advanced level that will allow them to participate in international coding competitions.

“Women should not feel alone in the STEM industry,” she says. “They should never feel like they should quit because they’re the only woman in the room. I used to feel that way, but now I’m proud of it. Women should be proud of themselves.”

Loyola’s chapter of Girls Who Code is generously supported by a grant from the Plan2020 Student Innovation Fund and the Center for Textual Studies and Digital Humanities. For more information, go to: https://luc.edu/ctsdh/girlswhocode/


Physics lecturer invents new breast cancer fighting drug

Breast cancer treatment 10-24-17

Physics lecturer Sherita Moses recently had a U.S. patent approved for a compound that treats a highly aggressive form of breast cancer called triple-negative.

For Sherita Moses, PhD, the battle against breast cancer is deeply personal.

“I have a lot of close friends who have or had breast cancer; girls that I went to college with and who have been diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Moses, “I had a friend who was diagnosed with triple- negative breast cancer a year ago and we buried her this summer. She was 41.”

The breast cancer death rate is 42 percent higher in blacks than in whites, according to a 2016 article in the Cancer Journal for Clinicians. And black women are disproportionately diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancers.

This awareness and first-hand experience drove Moses, who is a lecturer in Physics at Loyola, to look for a cure. Just weeks ago, she got one step closer to her wish: She received official patent paperwork for a compound she invented that could potentially save the lives of hundreds of thousands of women who suffer from triple-negative breast cancer—a dangerously aggressive form of cancer.

“I screamed when I got the call. I was in shock that the U.S. Patent Office would approve it,” she said.

This invasive form of breast cancer identifies women whose breast cancer cells don’t contain receptors for estrogen, progesterone, or HER2, and can’t be treated with hormone therapies or medications that work by blocking HER2. It has, however, been treated with other drugs, such as chemotherapy and radiation therapy. These drugs, Moses said, have horrible side effects, and most often do not work on patients afflicted with triple-negative breast cancer.

Something needed to be done, and Moses was determined to find a treatment when she started this research about three years ago while at Alabama A&M University (AAMU). And along the way, AAMU colleagues Vernessa M. Edwards, PhD; Chance M. Glenn, Sr., PhD; and Angela Debro, Esq. lent their support and expertise to Moses’ research. She soon received more than $100,000 in funding from the National Science Foundation and an Alabama Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) research grant and set to work.

Moses had certain compounds tested at the Loma Linda Breast Cancer Laboratory in California and she soon discovered that gold nanoparticles—tiny microscopic particles—combined with plant extracts could destroy cell lines with estrogen, progesterone, and HER-2 receptors. The process, she said, was even more effective in killing triple-negative breast cancer cells without damaging healthy cells.

Her compound is especially remarkable because it holds both analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties which can drastically reduce the pain caused by cancer. Such traits are lacking in most breast cancer drugs, Moses said.

Right now, with the patent in hand, Moses’ goal is to see a pharmaceutical manufacturer buy the compound and conduct clinical trials. Then, hopefully, it will make it to the consumer, patient market so breast cancer patients can be treated. 

“I wanted to help save lives without all of the pain and suffering patients go through,” said Moses. 

Dancing like a saint

9-29-17 Joan of Arc

Student dancers Lydia Jekot, Sharidan Rickmon, and Gina Wrolstad are set to perform different representations of Joan of Arc at LUMA this October.

By: Amanda Friedlander (BA' 18)

Loyola’s dance program will celebrate its 10th anniversary this year. To kick-off the commemoration, student dancers will showcase an original work inspired by Martha Graham’s Seraphic Dialogue at LUMA in October. The series of contemporary dances, featuring senior soloists Gina Wrolstad, Sharidan Rickmon, and Lydia Jekot, will take place in the exhibit housing Susan Aurinko’s Searching for Jehanne – the Joan of Arc Project. Aurinko’s mixed-media interpretation of the iconic feminist theologian will provide a backdrop for the physical representations of the three Joans: the Maiden, the Martyr, and the Warrior.

The project was led by Amy Wilkinson, advance lecturer and interim director of Loyola’s dance program. The Joan of Arc Project is a dance performance based on different artistic interpretations of Joan of Arc as seen in the original Seraphic Dialogue. Select students choreographed Wroslad, Rickmon, and Jekot as each of the three Joans after consulting with Aurinko about her artwork.

The origins of the show began four years ago, when Aurinko traveled to France on a photography expedition and found herself in a chateau that once housed Joan of Arc. She started re-tracing the life of Joan Arc that took her to places where the saint had lived, prayed, fought, and eventually perished. Since there are no known images of Joan of Arc, Aurinko layered photographs and artist renditions to depict what she may have looked like in each of those locations. But each photograph name displays exact quotes from the saint herself.

Dance and statistics double-major Sofia Mazich, who choreographed Wrolstad as Joan the Maiden, felt especially drawn to the project due to her own Catholic background. She dove into Joan of Arc’s history, reading biographies and learning not only about how Joan described her own life, but how others described her from afar. Mazich took inspiration from these depictions and compiled a notebook full of words and phrases from Aurinko’s artwork.

“I got into the studio with my dancer and read all the quotes to her,” Mazich said, who had an abundance of information on the saint. “I felt so overwhelmed by all of the inspiration.” 

Mazich, who has been dancing since she was two years old, said that the choreography process was “a lot of trial and error,” but that the work grew and evolved the more she and Wrolstad practices. Because, Seraphic Dialogues is also an abstract and combines many different art forms, Mazich expects and hopes the experimental dance style will evoke a variety of reactions. 

“I want people to be open to having emotions come from experiencing the project,” she said. “I think that’s what really speaks to an art form: to come and have a reaction, whether it’s happiness or sorrow or confusion. I think that really embodies who and what Joan was, and what she experienced as a person.”

Seraphic Dialogues will premiere on October 3 at 5:30pm at LUMA, Admission is free to the public. For more information, visit http://bit.ly/2k2XTPn

Mentor, scholar, colleague

9-27-17 - Héctor García Chávez

The 2017 Ignatius Loyola Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient is Héctor García Chávez, PhD, who is Program Director of Loyola’s Latin American and Latino Studies and instructor in Women´s Studies and Gender Studies and Interdisciplinary Honours Programs.

For Héctor García Chávez, intersectionality and conversation are at the core of his approach to his life and his teaching at Loyola. He has an open door office policy where his office hours—about six hours a week—extend literally beyond office doors into nearby cafés or campus lounge areas. The student and alumni conversations run the gamut from their current work to future graduate research interests. This is all part of his horizontal, inclusive approach to pedagogy. To García Chávez, it is about bringing students into the academia through one-on-one dialogue.


St. Ignatius encouraged his followers to seek God in all things, to serve those in need, and to become people for others. Learn how his mission can be seen in everything we do at Loyola.

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Loyola alumnus Jacob Batycki said García Chávez empowers his students to tackle the rapidly evolving, nuanced and dynamic sociopolitical, cultural, and economic realities of our world. García Chávez’s mentorship inspired him to pursue a master’s program in public health at University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

“Dr. García Chávez has been of immense support in my professional development, helping me work toward my goal of promoting the human right to health and quality healthcare,” Batycki said.

Indeed as this year’s Ignatius Loyola Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient, García Chávez, truly embodies commitment to education and betterment of future leaders. He holds several leadership roles at Loyola as the program director of Loyola’s Latin American and Latino Studies and Instructor in Women´s Studies and Gender Studies and Interdisciplinary Honours Programs. This summer, he launched the first Women’s Studies and Gender Studies summer program for undergraduate and graduate students in Barcelona, Spain.

At Loyola for 13 years, García Chávez speaks proudly of his past students who still contact him and ask for advice, but he will not immediately share that he is visually impaired due to an eye injury a decade ago that can delay his returning of papers sometimes. Despite his eye condition he has an uncanny ability to recall student names, their current studies, and research projects. This recollection and pride in student work speaks to how his students continue to inspire him and why he continues to advocate for social justice issues and engages with students in and outside the classroom.

Here he shares his teaching philosophy, how he keeps students engaged, and the works and figures that influence his philosophy. 

As this year’s recipient of the Ignatius Loyola Award for Excellence in Teaching, you were chosen for excellence in all aspects of teaching. Would you mind telling me about your teaching philosophy?

It’s a learning process. It’s not easy. It’s something you tweak, you learn pedagogy and methodology. I think being fully bilingual and bicultural (he speaks and reads several languages) helps because we see and think differently in different languages. Being involved in the Faculty Center for Ignatian Pedagogy and working with the director Carol Scheidenhelm and other faculty, especially those who are part of our active WSGS Gender Research Seminar, have helped me develop my approach. It’s critical for me that students feel engaged. It’s important that I speak to them horizontally. They see me as the authority figure but they are part of the conversation as well. I don’t want to be in front of the classroom pointing left and right, speaking above them when they’re sitting down. I like to sit next to them and have them form small circles. This way they will speak to each other. It creates a horizontal conversation and movement in the classroom. This is how to make sure that students pay attention and realize that we ARE there and very much interested in having a conversation.

The award also celebrates faculty work outside of class time including advising/mentoring, teaching to mission, and engaging students in their learning. How do you keep your Loyola students engaged?

Students come to me directly; they know I will ask tough questions, bring in global perspectives, and make them read. There’s one student who just graduated in May who wanted to connect what she learned in the Women’s Studies and Gender Studies program, and in her role as a Gannon Scholar to what I had been teaching her in Spanish on Latin American and Mexican literature and film, which she applied to queer theory creatively outside the US. She applied for a provost fellowship through LUROP (Loyola Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program), earned it, and was able to do some research at universities in Mexico City, and met with faculty to discuss how Mexican history has influenced the construction of Mexican masculinities. But this took a long conversation. Projects such as hers keep me busy. Students want more time with you; they have questions. That’s why I hold lots of office hours both at the Lake Shore and Water Tower campuses. Some students are seeking course approvals for courses taken during study abroad while others want to know about master’s programs in comparative literature, cultural studies, or medical schools taught in Spanish. Others are seeking guidance for Fulbright, Rhodes Scholarships. It’s an honor, really, yet some students come to me feeling very overwhelmed and that’s where I come in: I believe I’m a good listener, I pay attention.

How does the Jesuit mission, Ignatian philosophy inform your teaching?

The social justice aspect of the Jesuit mission here is important. Some don’t realize that the Jesuit presence has been pretty powerful in Latin America since the 16th and 17th centuries. I went to a Jesuit high school and many in my immediate family attended Catholic schools. I and my family know cura personalis and being a person for others. Empathy and compassion come from home. It means we help others. We volunteered at soup kitchens and gave time to others in our community and neighborhood. I transfer that sentimentality, that empathy, into my teaching. I tell my students, “Let’s go out. Let’s make this course one that takes us to different parts of the city.” In the recent past, I’ve taken students to the Museum of Contemporary Art to see a play by Guillermo Calderón on Chile’s struggle for liberty during Pinochet’s dictatorship, visited The Goodman Theatre to experience the creative adaptation of Roberto Bolaño´s epic novel 2666 (NPR interviewed me for this unique play), and this month I will go with my students to The National Museum of Mexican Art to see a play based on the life of Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz—a Mexican XVII philosopher, feminist, and one-of-a-kind poet. These are examples of how young men and women here, our students at Loyola want to see more and apply their studies outside of the classroom.

When you accepted this award, you quoted Uruguayan journalist and writer Eduardo Galeano who famously said, “Al fin y al cabo, somos lo que hacemos para cambiar lo que somos," which loosely translates to “After all, we are what we do to change, who we are.” How would you interpret his words and how does this inform student awareness of the world and social justice?

It’s about change and resistance. It’s about changing minds, it’s about horizontal dialogue. Not verticality—top and bottom, which means there’s a definitive power structure there. We have to first recognize and then challenge these structures. Coming from a post-colonial perspective, I think Galeano was trying to speak to what’s happened to imperialist powers--those that come in to “save” or have their own agenda while local people are feeling disenfranchised and pushed out. He was self-exiled during Operation Condor—a collaborative effort of right-wing dictatorships in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay in the 70s and 80s with CIA ties---but continued to write passionately. So, yes, muchas gracias Galeanochange, resistance, solidarity, horizontal, Loyola. I love that. Because of the social justice aspect of his words and his activism, this is how I approach the new Barcelona program. It’s also how I teach Queer Theory, Masculinity Studies, and Mexican literature and film. History is not just something that happens once. It’s ongoing. I think young people need to realize there’s historical amnesia now in many places across the globe and certain individuals from above want erasure for some human experiences startled by violence and hate. So we, as faculty and scholars, need to expose students to different and difficult conversations, this is most important now more than ever.



Loyola alumna Kelly LaFramboise shares her journey from cancer survivor to fighting child hunger

9-11-17 Kelly LaFramboise profile

Alumna Kelly LaFramboise sits in her office. LaFramboise is a cancer survivor, trained cultural anthropologist, who is now traveling the world to fight child hunger.

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

By the time Kelly LaFramboise (BA ’11, BS ’11) was almost 30 years old, she was married, taking care of her three young kids, and attending a community college in a small Michigan town. She had barely made it through high school, graduating with a 1.7 GPA, and this was her second attempt at college. Up to this point, school had not been a priority nor an expectation for her.

But a teacher saw something special in LaFramboise’s writings about social justice issues and suggested she’d be a perfect fit for the Jesuit education model of Loyola University Chicago. Getting accepted to a prestigious university and moving to a large city seemed like unattainable goals for LaFramboise. But her teacher pushed her to at least apply.

She was accepted, and at that point, she knew she couldn’t turn down the opportunity. Her newfound passion for social justice had sparked a love of learning and desire to make a difference, and Loyola seemed like just the place to pursue her dreams.

So in 2007, LaFramboise and her husband, Jamie, packed up their lives and kids— then ages 10, 7 and 4—and made the move, setting their family “on a whole different course,” LaFramboise says. At the time, she had no idea that her educational journey would take her to faraway destinations, include a cancer battle, result in multiple advanced degrees, and land her a dream job with an international nonprofit working to end childhood hunger.

LaFramboise ended up graduating from Loyola with not one degree, but two; she earned a BS in anthropology and BA in history. She and her family then relocated to Norman, Oklahoma, where she had been accepted into a University of Oklahoma anthropology graduate program. LaFramboise received her master’s in 2013 and got started on her PhD, recently graduating with a doctorate in sociocultural anthropology.

Finding a passion, discovering a vocation 

Now LaFramboise is delving into her new passion—working as development specialist on the International Operations team of Feed the Children, which provides 263,000 meals around the world every day. She works in the Oklahoma City headquarters but will occasionally travel to areas she manages, including Africa and Central America in December. She’s a liaison between U.S. and field staff and oversees an IT project to improve the platform for child sponsorship enrollment.

After years in academia, LaFramboise had initially planned to become a professor. “But as the world changed, I found myself wanting to help people who needed my skills, not just researching and writing about it,” she says.

She hopes that as a cultural anthropologist, she can bring a unique skill set to Feed the Children, for example by focusing on “cultural apathy” and preserving the dignity of families served.

These themes have been prevalent throughout LaFramboise’s education, including an Auschwitz Memorial fellowship in Poland, where she analyzed “dark tourism” and race issues. She found that people behave in “strange ways” at Auschwitz, many even taking selfies. She has much to say about this and plans to publish a book or paper about it.

Her dissertation, titled “The Wish to be a Red Indian: National Identity, Racial Ideologies, and 'Indianthusiasm' in Germany,” also examined issues of race and social justice. While at Loyola, LaFramboise led service projects at South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation, “the poorest place in America.” This inspired her to write her dissertation about the German fascination with the Lakota people, and she spent several months doing research in Germany.

LaFramboise looks forward to her new journey, especially the opportunity “to hug and meet some of the precious children” who Feed the Children serves.

She says empathy is one of the most important virtues a person can possess, a belief that grew while she was at Loyola. “Everyone seemed mindful about making a positive impact, which changed who I was as a person,” she says. “It wasn’t just about getting a degree, it was about developing a vocation.”

Roadblocks set the foundation for empathy and perseverance

Her Loyola experience also was life changing because of her two-year battle with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma. She found it difficult to be there for her family and stick with her studies, but she persevered thanks to tremendous support from friends and even faculty. “They helped take care of my kids and would sit next to my bed and read text while I was in chemo and so tired,” she says.

LaFramboise beat the cancer in 2010, but it returned in 2012 while she was working on her master’s. She’s now been in remission for four years.

LaFramboise says she couldn’t have made it through the challenges of school, raising a family, cancer, and life in general without her husband’s support. “He’s made sacrifices and has been there to pick up the slack and be a parent when I couldn’t be there.” Today their kids are 20, 17, and 14, and they also have a 21-year-old foster child whom they welcomed into their family four years ago.

LaFramboise developed many enduring connections at Loyola, including professor of anthropology Kathleen Adams, her advisor and “inspiration.”

“Kelly embodies incredible perseverance in terms of her health challenges and in moving toward her goal of using cultural anthropology to make the world a better place,” Adams says. “Since I first met her, she’s been a champion for social justice and has found a way to weave Jesuit values into her career and everyday life. She is phenomenal in that way.”

LaFramboise says she might have taken her Loyola experience for granted at the time. But she now knows it is the “backbone and foundation” for everything she’s done since then. “From the friendships I made to the opportunities I’ve had to everything I am as a person, it’s all because of Loyola,” she says.

She adds that her journey has filled her with gratitude for her life and amplified her desire to make a difference. “I have a calling, and I’ve survived because I have work to do,” she says.

“Now I actually get to touch the world. That’s a dream come true.”


Loyola students spend the summer helping children with spina bifida develop independence

8-4-17 Camp Independence

Camp Independence Counselor Tom Shaw looks at camper Zayne Hoffman’s superhero portrait during an intervention exercise. Loyola Psychology Professor Grayson Holmbeck created the intervention program at the camp with a goal of building independence and social skills within campers who have spina bifida.

By Tasha Neumeister

Inside a log cabin on an especially gray and wet summer morning, Loyola alumna Natalie Lawson (BS ’17) asks a group of school-age campers to imagine that they could be a superhero. Who would they be, she asks, and what superpower would they have? The answers are exacting and varied.

“I would have shoes with wings at the bottom so I could fly,” said one young girl with crutches at her side and braces on both of her legs.

“I would have a poisonous sting,” said another camper.

“I would control lava and make it erupt whenever I wanted to,” said a young girl sitting in a small wheelchair.

At the end of the exercise Lawson asked campers to hold on to the “powers” in case they needed them. This was a key task for Lawson, who is part of a team of Loyola alumni, undergraduates, and graduate students working at Camp Independence. Located just an hour north of Chicago on 300 acres of woodlands, trails, and meadows along Fish Lake, the camp was originally developed by Dr. David McLone, a neurosurgeon from Lurie Children’s Hospital to serve young people with spina bifida. Then, Loyola Psychology Professor Grayson Holmbeck created the independence intervention.

In addition to outdoor summer fun, the camp includes some serious topics on skill-building and self-esteem. Studies by Holmbeck and other pediatric researchers have found that children with spina bifida often have difficulty making friends. That’s why Lawson’s exercise—an intervention—is a vital part of the curriculum for the weeklong sessions tailored to build independence and social skills within campers.

A break from the norm

Spina bifida is a congenital birth defect where the vertebrae don’t form properly around a baby’s spinal cord. It can cause various neurological and physical disabilities, and the effects can range from mild to severe. Some children with spina bifida have limited verbal skills and mobility, and they require significant amounts of care. Others, meanwhile, go on to graduate from college, establish professional careers, and lead ordinary lives. The range of effects is observable at Camp Independence, where some campers walk independently while others need assistance with a wheelchair, crutches, or braces.

Thanks to a grant from the Spastic Paralysis Research Foundation of the Illinois-Eastern Iowa District of Kiwanis International,  the camp, in partnership with YMCA of Metro Chicago, has been running this intervention program for 10 years at this location, with additional funding secured  for another 5 years. Holmbeck said the program lets campers be themselves without having to be confronted with the stigma of their condition.  

“It’s often the first time in their lives that they don’t have anybody judging them or stigmatizing them,” he said. “It’s a very freeing experience for them, and they also get to socialize with other kids who have the same condition.”

The eight weeklong sessions over the summer are open to a range of campers, from children as young as 7 to adults age 20 and up. Participants are grouped by age, though gender balance is also considered.Days start as early as 8 a.m. and end around 8:30 p.m. Campers participate in games, swimming, and outdoor fun along with workshops on social skills and emotional and medical awareness.

Lawson said she is simply a facilitator but is also intentional in her work. She makes sure to sit in between the two tables of girls and boys during the intervention session.

“I hold the discussion but they do all the work,” said Lawson, who graduated this past May. “I know I am able-bodied, so I make sure I’m talking with them, not ‘to’ or ‘at’ them.”

This is 12-year-old Zuzanna Gorgol’s fourth visit to the camp. Gorgol, whose favorite activities are swimming and boating, said she knew she would have fun when she first start coming. But she’s also learned a lot. 

“I’ve learned how to be independent, how to gain self-esteem, and to feel good about myself. Just cause I know I’m different and unique,” she said.

This specialty camp is also unique in that there is a 1:1 camper to counselor ratio, making it a very personal experience. In addition, the camp’s cabin is especially outfitted with a kitchen, several accessible bathrooms, washers/dryers, and two sleeping wings where counselors literally sleep in the same room as campers.

Building traditions and developing new skills    

This closeness and fellowship amongst campers prompts some former attendees to want to return again and again. Some, like Breanna Patten, even become counselors.

Patten, 22, is in her third year as counselor.

“I really enjoy showing the kids what they could do,” she said. “I’m in college. I can drive. I think that it’s nice to find people that you can relate to and know what you’re going through.”

Improving the lives of these campers is one of the reasons Holmbeck’s team study both the campers and their families, who play a vital role in the degree to which the campers develop independence over their life span. After being at the site for a decade, the team knows of numerous returning campers and counselors like Patten, which has become the focus of their current research project: the cumulative or long-term effects of camp participation.

Colleen Driscoll, a graduate student in Loyola’s clinical psychology program, is currently leading the research for this longitudinal project. Driscoll said the preliminary findings show there are benefits to campers attending over multiple years.

“Across the board we see greater improvements in their self-management skills. They are becoming more independent,” she said. “They are taking more responsibility with their medical tasks, but their social skills didn’t change significantly if they came to camp more often.”

She said their research shows campers feel comfortable at camp because they don’t need to explain their condition to anyone. Also, the social environment at camp is drastically different from their everyday lives, where they may be bullied or have round-the-clock care at home and at school. Thus, building social skills and relationships may happen more gradually outside of camp.

Holmbeck and his team want to increase the involvement of parents and families in the intervention program but, as of right now, the program includes a post-camp meeting for parents where they determine the topic of discussion.   

“They’re usually pretty anxious about their kid going to camp for the first time,” said Holmbeck.  “But once the kid gets to camp, this is like a big vacation for them—for both the parent and the child. It’s a break. It’s a stress reducer.”

The campers themselves echo this as well. Zayne Hoffman, 10, raves about swimming and going to the park. He wants to have fun like other kids and he also knows the camp is about learning how to “be independent.”

And, Lawson, the intervention facilitator, said she gains a lot from the experience as well.

“It’s really special. I love watching them socialize—just the joy in their faces, doing what every kid wants to do,” Lawson said. “By Tuesday or Wednesday, they’re saying ‘I never want to leave.’ All kids just want to be kids.” 

Automated discrimination: How data mining became a social justice issue for one Loyola alumna

08-17-17 Kajal Chokshi Fairness Analytics Competition

Kajal Chokshi (BS ‘17) recently participated in Loyola’s Fairness Analytics Competition, a contest where students use analytical tools to prove discrimination within the workplace. The contest solidified her love of numbers and sparked her interest in social justice.

By Gabrielle Barnes

As a recent graduate from Loyola University’s College of Arts and Sciences, Kajal Chokshi is entering the working world with Bachelors of Science in Mathematics and Statistics, along with a passion for social justice and numbers. This past spring, Loyola’s Computer Science and Statistics departments hosted a Fairness Analytics Competition on campus where teams were required to create a model that addressed the potential for discrimination within employment data from FedScope— a federal employment agency. The data included over 2 million employees and with demographic details that included salary, age, gender, location, and education level.

Why did you choose to participate in the competition?

My fellow classmates and I received word about the Fairness Analytics Competition so my friends and I decided to form a team and participate. I knew I needed to enter the competition because it is a great way to network and makes it easier to land a job post-graduation. I was also interested because the grand prize, a research fellowship, would be a great way to further my researching skills.

What do your teammates set out to prove?

Our team was really trying to show the inequality among employees. We wanted to identify whether or not factors such as gender, race, or age plays a role in the salary of each employee. I could enter demographics such as female and 21 years old and receive one salary. But if I changed the gender to male, the salary would increase just based on those few demographics. This made it evident that there is discrimination occurring in the workplace.

How did the competition end up?

My fellow Loyola students, Josephine Wood, Patryck Bargile and I were able to create a predictive model that basically proved that discrimination was occurring within a group of employees, especially within the age category. Because we had the best predictive model, we won the competition. I also received  a $1,000 research fellowship from the Computer Science department because of my demonstrated strong ability in predictive modeling, my plans to attend graduate school soon. All were requirements for candidates.

What did you learn from the Fairness Analytics Competition?

The Fairness Analytics Competition really sparked my interest in the social justice aspect of data. Within the statistics field, people typically don’t consider social justice as a part of the job because typically you’re just trying to prove something. The competition gave me the opportunity to see that I can use my skills to prove something is unfair.

What are your plans for the future?

I just finished up a research and development internship within Quinlan School of Business’ CME Group Foundation Business Analytics Lab. Now I am starting my new job as a data science analyst at Blue Cross Blue Shield. In the coming years, I plan to earn my doctorate in statistics from a Chicago-area university. 

Loyola students talk policy in the heart of Cuba

8-30-18 Cuba Story

Political Science Professor Peter Sanchez sits in the John Lennon park in Havana, Cuba with his students. Sanchez took his class on a trip to Cuba this past summer to learn about Cuban culture, society, and politics.

By Gabrielle Barnes

When most students think about taking a political science course, they expect it to be inside a  classroom, and they certainly don’t expect to be completely immersed in a different culture. While that may be true for some political sciences classes, Professor Peter Sanchez felt with the recent changes to U.S.- Cuba policy that his class would be taught best in the actual place of discussion—Cuba.   

Sanchez’s class, Contemporary Political Issues: Comparative Politics, focused on the Cuba we know today from a political and societal perspective. Although Sanchez hasn’t taken his class to Cuba since 2004, he knew that now was the prime time to learn about Cuban culture.

“When I began researching programs, I discovered the Loyola faculty-led program to Havana and immediately saw it as an exciting, once in a lifetime opportunity,” said International Studies and Spanish double major Elena Vera.

Sanchez and a dozen students listened to Cuban lectures, visited museums and organizations such as the Federation of Cuban Women, ventured to the small Cuban town of Viñales, enjoyed traditional Cuban cuisine, and more during their more than 2 week-long trip.

The highlight of the trip for Vera was the trip to Viñales. “Dealing with the extremely hot sun and dusty red soil was worth it because the green landscape of mountains, hills, and trees was absolutely beautiful,” she said.

Even Sanchez was surprised at what changes had occurred since the last time he visited the country. Compared to his trip 13 years ago, he said, Havana and Viñales have more economic activity and have many physical transformations.  

The students enjoyed interacting with the citizens of Cuba and many were pleasantly surprised by the hospitability of the country's people. According to junior Isabel Caruso, getting to know Cuba’s people was a highlight of the trip and she greatly admired the pride Cubans have in their nation.

“Everybody we met was so genuinely sweet and really appreciated us being in their country. They wanted us to see what the authentic Cuban life was really like,” said Political Science and International Studies double major Bailey Ferguson.

Luckily for future political science students, Sanchez has committed to teaching the course in Cuba again this upcoming May and June. To students considering attending the trip, student participant Vera, who believes visitors to Cuba need to travel there with an open mind, says “go for it, you won’t be disappointed.”

Learn more about Professor Sanchez here: http://bit.ly/2itZwEL 



Loyola students examine how maternal eating habits impact their offspring's health

7-31-17 Maternal Effects

Sophomore Samir El Idrissi spent this summer doing research in Biology Chair James Cheverud's laboratory in the Quinlan Life Sciences Center. El Idrissi along with other student research assistants examined how a mother’s diet can influence her children’s health.

By Amanda Friedlander

Fluorescent lights and the muted hum of music from a portable radio fill this Biology laboratory on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus. Within the white-walled room, are eight undergraduate students who are spending their summer studying the maternal effects of genetic conditions on offspring. More or less, does your mother’s eating habits make you prone to genetic diseases, illnesses, or conditions?

A group of students led by James Cheverud, PhD, chair of the Department of Biology, is trying to determine whether offspring growth and adult metabolic traits are affected by a mother’s diet, as well as other environmental factors. These studies, which began in the fall, will help determine whether the way offspring turn out is solely dependent on their mother, or if it is a product of their genetic makeup as well as their environment. 

While some may be intimidated by the physically demanding tasks taking place in the basement of the Quinlan Life Sciences Center, but research assistant Samir El Idrissi couldn’t be more excited.

“It’s a very supportive environment,” El Idrissi, who is a sophomore majoring in biology, said. “Once you get it down, it’s as easy as breathing. And it’s fun because you see these things in your textbooks but it’s nothing like the real thing.”

One of the youngest assistants in the lab, he has been preparing for an opportunity like this since childhood; he describes himself as “one of those dinosaur kids,” who knows all the names of every prehistoric creature from Apatosaurus to Zuniceratops. In high school, he created an ultraviolet germicidal radiation treatment that eliminated an entire population of bacteria using UV lights that he bought online. But, as soon as he came to Loyola, he was ready for a new project.

In the right place

Each research assistant in Cheverud’s lab was especially chosen for this research study. With so few spots for student research, Cheverud said prospects have to do their own research on faculty first to see if there are openings. Once students go through the interview process, faculty. determine whether the students are a good fit for the lab. And if chosen, students must then undergo ethics and safety training before they can even step foot in the lab. 

Junior Rachel Schneck says, sometimes it comes down to simply being in the right place at the right time.

“If you have connections, use them,” she said. “If you’re like me and you had no clue who to talk to, just start applying. Someone will want you.”

In addition to assisting with the experiments and recording data, students are also given the opportunity to work with post doctorates in other areas of the lab. Each week, several assistants bring in a study for discussion such as the effects of genetic variation on obesity in mice, and present it to a panel of fellow assistants, lab technicians, and professors.

Putting theory to practice 

This research team opportunity has helped the students like El Idrissi grow far beyond what they could have imagined; within only a few months of joining Cheverud’s team, El Idrissi was extracting DNA and replicating it for analysis, something he describes as difficult but satisfying at the same time. 

“It’s all a challenge at first. But once you get down to it and practice, it all becomes secondhand. Once that happens, you can move to the next thing until you reach a higher level of understanding,” he said. 

But the learning never really ends. The student research team will work on this experiment for several more months before they’ve gathered enough data to draw any conclusions. In return for their hard work, Cheverud allows students to use the labs to do their own research projects independently. El Idrissi hopes to publish something of his own using the knowledge and experience he gained from this study. 

And if students are lucky enough to land a spot in one of Cheverud’s labs, El Idrissi has some advice: “Work hard and make sure you put a lot of effort into it. Everything you put in you’ll gain equally, if not more, back in life experience.”

Loyola alumnus produces musical while crushing gender barriers

7-18-17 Number Nerds musical

Maisie Rose stars as Melissa, who dreams of being a math wizard like Einstein, in Numbers Nerds, a musical produced by Loyola alumnus Larry Little.

By Gabrielle Barnes

“Do it with passion or not at all.” That inspirational quote is what came to the mind of Loyola alumnus Larry Little (BA ’85) while he talked about his latest musical production. Since Little received his degree, he has been discovering and rediscovering his passion for both the arts and sciences ever since. 

Coming from a performing arts high school, Little had more interest and experience in the arts than some of his peers at Loyola. He was invited to audition for a theatre scholarship, which he later received, allowing him to attend the University. 

“I came from a working-class family, so there was never any money and we weren’t Catholic,” he said. “During my time at Loyola, the world of education opened up to me. Catholicism opened up to me. And as a 17-year-old, it was a big deal.” 

While at Loyola, Little was required to take courses outside of theatre in order to receive his degree. He credits the diverse course offerings for making him a more well-rounded individual, as well as sparking an interest in a different subject: math.

After graduating from Loyola, Little performed in several plays both inside and outside of Chicago. During this time, he applied the theatre and math skills he learned at Loyola while he was working as a bookkeeper and a producer. 

It was through these contrasting experiences that he truly found his calling. 

While Little was passionate about the theatre circuit, he thought it best to put his bookkeeping skills to real use. He decided to return to Loyola as an adult student and became a certified public accountant. After working as an auditor at a mid-size accounting firm for several years, Little opened his own accounting firm, which focused on small businesses. He owned and operated that firm for 18 years before coming to an important realization.  

Although he was passionate about producing plays, something was missing: the plays weren’t his.

A musical is born 

After visiting numerous small-and large-scale theatre groups, Little noticed a lack of roles for women in the Chicago theatre scene. So he decided to fill that void and produced an original story with mostly female actors on center stage—Numbers Nerds.  

 “There’s sports and there’s theatre. If we can get our young women to do either of those, it builds self-confidence that follows them through their adulthood. Theatre builds their self-esteem, and they absolutely need it,” he said.

Once the original story was complete, Little immediately thought of Loyola and contacted the University for assistance. The University agreed to let him use the Mundelein Center for Performing Arts to stage his original play—making his dream a reality. Numbers Nerds focuses on an all-girls high school math team that is preparing to compete in the fictional National Math Competition: SUM-IT. When the girls’ school merges with an all-boys institution, the girls fear their team will be dominated by their new classmates. In order to win the math competition and overcome teenage drama, both groups need to unite. Numbers Nerds tells the story of girls becoming women while shaking up the traditional STEM field ideals and conquering societal pressures put on women. 

The musical production piloted a large-cast version of the production in early July 2017 and was chosen to run in the New York Musical Festival from Wednesday, July 19 through Sunday, July 23. Tickets for the NYMF show can be purchased here: http://bit.ly/2rUNjsX

Biology Professor Sushma Reddy discovers new bird species

6-6-17 Sushma Reddy profile

Loyola Associate Professor of Biology Sushma Reddy, PhD, gathers birds from Madagascar to showcase during Members' Nights at the Field Museum in May. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

By Daniel P. Smith

Armed with a curious spirit and inquisitive nature, Sushma Reddy, PhD, ventured to India five years ago, planting the seeds for work that would lead to a rare scientific discovery. 

Encouraged by an academic sabbatical from her role as an associate professor in Loyola University’s Department of Biology, Reddy spent five months in the Asian nation in 2012, establishing collaborative partnerships with scientists and investigating potential research projects related to the evolutionary history of birds, a diverse group of organisms that has long captivated scientists and nonscientists alike.

Over the subsequent years, Reddy, one of the globe’s most prominent evolutionary scientists studying birds, endured late-night Skype sessions with her Indian partners, analyzed data in a lab alongside a team of Loyola students, and slowly detailed the diversification of endemic birds in the Western Ghats, an isolated mountain range in southwest India. 

The effort, retraced earlier this year in a seminal paper published in the journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, produced groundbreaking results—a new species and two new genera. Reddy’s evidence-based research showed that two songbird lineages endemic to the Western Ghats had diversified into multiple distinct kinds of birds.

“I love the excitement of solving a puzzle, asking questions about how a bird that looks the way it does came to be and how and why it changed,” says Reddy, who recently received the College of Arts and Sciences’ prestigious Sujack Family Faculty Research Excellence Award, an annual honor recognizing ambitious faculty scholarship.

Breaking ground, uncovering new species 

Reddy’s leading role in the groundbreaking discovery of two new bird genera and one new bird species represents a truly unique accomplishment in the field of evolutionary biology. Discoveries of new bird species, in fact, have only trickled in over recent decades, adding prominence to Reddy’s work.

“You have to know enough about what does exist to know you have something that hasn’t been described before,” says Loyola Department of Biology chair and fellow evolutionary biologist James Cheverud. “That comes from a lot of careful work and knowledge, and is what truly impresses about Dr. Reddy’s research.” 

Reddy’s findings underscore the still-existing dearth of knowledge about the biogeography of the Asian tropics, while also spotlighting the need for a more rigorous and systematic analysis to inform biodiversity studies and the conservation efforts critical to driving a deeper understanding of the Earth.

“Biology plays a key role in helping us all understand the Earth’s evolution,” Reddy says, reminding that the earliest evidence for continental drift came from biology, not geology.

It is Reddy’s ambitious questioning and devout curiosity that guides the work inside her Loyola-based lab, where a team of undergraduate and post-graduate researchers has helped propel Reddy’s scientific efforts while gaining valuable, hands-on experience in the process.

First as an undergraduate studying biology and now as a grad student, Matt Bonfitto has worked in Reddy’s lab for three years. Most recently, he began 3D scanning of bird bills, a practice on the cutting edge of biometrics and encouraged by Reddy.

“She stresses progressive lab techniques and is interested in finding new ways to test old questions,” Bonfitto says. “That’s what makes good research and it’s a model I’d like to follow as I head into the field.” 

Cheverud calls Reddy’s work with undergraduates particularly admirable, as she involves them in treks to different U.S. museums and in taking lab measurements that then play into her research. 

“That’s not something that happens everywhere,” Cheverud says. “These experiences are important to a student’s future and she mentors them so they can fulfill their dreams and desires.”

Now, Reddy and her cadre of lab students have turned their attention from India to the diversification of birds in Madagascar, an island nation off the southeastern coast of Africa. 

Supported by a $690,000, three-year grant from the National Science Foundation, Reddy’s team continues collecting samples and data from thousands of individual birds representing hundreds of bird species. They are currently in the early stages of using that data to determine the morphological variation, plumage patterns, and geographic ranges of these species and their evolutionary relationships, specifically addressing why and how birds diversified in this isolated region.

“It’s work I love and it’s the real scientific questions that drive me,” Reddy says.

After all, she knows where that curiosity can lead.

The fight against fentanyl abuse

4-19-17 DeFrancesco fentanyl abuse

Senior Lecturer James DeFrancesco works with students conducting research during a lab section in Flanner Hall. DeFrancesco played an advisory role in getting international regulations for fentanyl recently. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

By Tasha Neumeister 

If you pop your head into one of the newly renovated laboratories in the basement of Flanner Hall, you might see a coffee grinder sitting next to a bottle of aspirin. And next to that, you might find a container of black pepper or even poppy seeds. What, you might ask, are these doing in a science lab? 

They’re all everyday materials that senior lecturer James DeFrancesco and his undergraduate students examine to reveal the underlying legal drugs found within them that are often similar to illegal drugs. This is the root of DeFrancesco’s research: to understand and analyze the chemicals we consume. 

DeFrancesco has been at Loyola for less than two years, but he’s already made his mark on campus, across the nation, and worldwide. For nearly two decades, he served as a forensics scientist for the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) laboratory in Chicago. There, he analyzed more than 4,500 drug exhibits (illegal drug evidence obtained by the agency) and participated in more than a dozen clandestine drug lab raids. 

Recently, he has played a critical role in the fight against the opioid epidemic. He gave key insights into the underground synthesis of fentanyl—a synthetic opioid that is 100 times more powerful than morphine—to the UN’s Commission on Narcotic Drugs. His counsel to the group led to the recent passage of stricter international regulations on the chemicals used to synthesize fentanyl, making it harder for the drug to be produced, sold, and exported. Here, DeFrancesco talks about what people should know about fentanyl, his role in securing international controls on the drug, and his other research interests.  

What is fentanyl? 

It’s a Schedule II controlled substance at the federal level in the United States. It’s a legitimate pharmaceutical that was developed over 50 years ago when Janssen Pharmaceuticals was actively looking for new, more effective opioids. Over the last 30 years, it’s popped up on the street, particularly in street heroin. 

What do people need to know about fentanyl?

There’s no threat to the general public other than if you know anybody who has an opioid addiction and they can’t get their prescriptions anymore, they may turn to using heroin and the heroin on the street is far more powerful than they could ever handle. That’s how people overdose and die because the bad guys are replacing the heroin with fentanyl since it’s so much easier to produce. And, a lot of the news you see nowadays about opioid overdoses may involve drugs like fentanyl, or a something with new chemical structure—a lot of which aren’t even controlled. 

What was your role in the UN commission placing fentanyl ingredients on a control list? 

At the DEA, I analyzed a lot of heroin samples over the years. In late 2005, we noticed a rise in heroin and fentanyl overdoses and I noticed that the fentanyl I was seeing started to look like it was from a clandestine source (made on the street) based on the chemical markers present. So, that’s when CPD (Chicago Police Department) and the DEA started a multi-agency investigation. By mid-2006, we identified a clandestine lab in Mexico.  I went in there and processed the lab, collected the evidence, and witnessed firsthand how it operated. Then recently, the CNC (Commission on Narcotic Drugs) contacted me and said it wanted to know from people who had been in lab raids to get some information about what I saw and what materials I saw them making the fentanyl from. That information was used to seek out international controls. 

What are the implications of this new regulation? 

It’s important at the international level because the sourcing of these new opioids, especially in the last five years, has been international. So, if at the international level we’re able to agree that not only the finished product is banned but these precursors are as well, that should give countries the necessary law enforcement controls to put a stop to this. 

And finally, what other research are you working on? 

I’m working with analytical chemistry professor Paul Chiarelli on several projects involving the analysis of drug metabolites in wastewater and the breakdown of antimicrobial agent like triclosan (found in soaps and similar products) in treated waters like pools and hot tubs. Lastly, the interaction of PCBs—typically chemical/industrial products—with microplastics in fresh water bodies. 

Reducing Illinois' prison population

4-19-17 Dave Olson Safety Act

Criminology Professor David Olson teaches his senior capstone course on Loyola's Lake Shore Campus. Professor Olson is involved with the passing of a senate bill into law. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

David Olson, PhD, is no stranger to the criminal justice system. For the past twenty-nine years, Olson has spent his career evaluating programs and policies on state and local levels while taking his experience to the front of Loyola’s classrooms. Recently, Olson was given the opportunity to serve on the Illinois Governor’s Commission on Criminal Justice and Sentencing Reform— the outcome of this body could potentially change the lives of both people in prison or jail and those working in the criminology field. Olson’s participation in the commission and his dedication to reforming the criminal justice system resulted in the passage of the Neighborhood Safety Act in March 2017.

Can you tell me about the Neighborhood Safety Act?

The goal of the commission was to come up with recommendations on how the criminal justice system could be improved, to not only reduce the level of incarceration but to also increase public safety. Out of the twenty-five recommendations given by the commission, there was one in particular that will go a long way towards reducing incarceration and improving public safety: Inmate credit on their sentence in return for completing rehabilitation programs while incarcerated.

How will this law impact people in prison or jail?

The law will motivate inmates to not only receive treatment, but continue and complete the treatment to receive time off of their sentence and ultimately become a productive member of society post-incarceration. My research has shown that inmates receiving this credit are more likely to complete treatment, as opposed to dropping out of voluntary programs. It lessens the likelihood that someone released from prison is going to continue their involvement in crime and end up back in prison. The commission’s goal was to develop recommendations that could potentially reduce the prison population by 25% by the year 2025, and this specific recommendation will help achieve that by reducing the lengths of stay in prison and greater access to rehabilitation.

What are the implications of this law for those in the criminology field?

The passing of this Illinois Senate bill into law shows that criminologists are able to bridge the gap between the scholarly world and the real world. It crosses the divide of academia and practice. It’s a perfect example of how research done by a university has direct, tangible benefits for policy makers. One of the lessons for criminologists is that we can have a direct impact on criminal justice policy without being political. My former graduate student, Erin Sneed, and I were both able to present our research to the commission, which was very rewarding as a criminologist. After completing my course on offender rehabilitation, Erin Sneed was so compelled by the topic that she decided to do her thesis on treatment of offenders. Unlike my research, her research directly measured whether or not inmates would be more likely to access treatment in exchange for sentence credit.

How does this law align with Loyola’s Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy and Practice?

As Loyola professors, we engage in empirical research that is both objective and rigorous to answer the questions that face the criminal justice system. All of the faculty and departments are engaged in research across different areas of the criminal justice system and with that research, our goal is to always shape and inform people’s understandings of different problems. One of Loyola’s missions is to provide support and service to the larger community, and my role on the commission was part of my service. Our discipline is very much focused on application, and the passing of this bill into law is proof that as criminologists, we can make positive changes in our community. 

Loyola students step up to give hope to former inmates

4-4-17 SummitofHope

Loyola student Aliya Syed works with a participant at the Summit of Hope, an annual event that provides community services and support to encourage parolees and probationers who are re-entering society to remain crime-free.

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

Inside the gym at Willye B. White Park hangs a colorful banner that reads, “A dream without a plan is only a wish.” Outside, a line of parolees wait to gain entrance into what they hope is a fresh start. The Summit of Hope provides community services and support to those re-entering into society in order to become responsible, crime-free citizens. When asked for volunteers to assist the Summit of Hope event, Loyola students took action. 

“I volunteered because I think the criminal justice system is warped and stigmatizes people who are re-entering society too much,” said sophomore journalism and environmental science double major Maggie Yarnold, who was among the over 125 Loyola undergraduates who volunteered for the Summit of Hope event.

Whether their time was spent handing out T-shirts with emblazoned with the Summit of Hope logo or pairing up with a parolee to guide them through the vendors, students had the chance to interact with the parolees and probationers.  

Making a difference

Junior political science and economics double major, Kyle Chan, decided to participate after his experience volunteering with a youth program to keep children of prison inmates on a good path. After hearing that the majority of the children he mentored ended up following in the steps of their parents, he wanted to see if the Summit of Hope event could give these parolees the push they needed to stay on the straight and narrow. 

The Summit of Hope’s vendors provided numerous resources available such as healthcare center information, educational support, and family service support. Participants were also given essentials items like prepaid cell phones, secondhand dress shirts, toothbrushes, and even free passes to the Brookfield Zoo for those with families. 

Adam Glueckert, a senior majoring in environmental policy, said he enjoyed listening to the unique, personal stories from attendees but he also recognized the programs communal benefits. 

 “The Summit of Hope provided a positive outlet for community restorative justice, giving formerly incarcerated individuals the opportunity to find a life beyond the criminal justice system. It also gave the community the opportunity to interact with individuals that have experienced these direct impacts of the criminal justice system.” 

Department of Criminal Justice and Criminology professor Brandi Vigil, served as the university liaison and the Illinois Department of Corrections. She said that the Summit of Hope aligns with Loyola’s mission because it “focuses on the human as a whole and because the university campus is so close to a lot of folks attempting to re-enter society—it’s a natural connection to the community and Loyola.” 

The program attracted students across disciplines but the teaching within the Jesuit tradition connected many who volunteered, including Senior Jessica Nosalsk.

“My Jesuit education has preached compassion for all members of society,” said Nosalsk, a criminal justice major. “The conversations with my assigned parolee were memorable, and when we were finished, we wished each other well. It was authentic.”

Mulcahy Scholar examines how reptiles reveal the effects of climate change on humans

3-28-17 Mulchay-Reptiles-Climate Change

Judy Kyrkos, an anthropology and biology major, studies in the Donovan Reading Room in the Cudahy Library. Kyrkos' research explores how heat stress on lizards can reveal the effects of climate change on humans. (photo by Natalie Battaglia)

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

Senior Judy Kyrkos is at home in a laboratory and passionate about dead reptiles in jars. The reptiles are part of her research on climate change and its effect on lizards. Kyrkos, an anthropology major and biology minor, recently researched whether heat stress led to more defects in lizard embryos. She found that her hypothesis was correct and is now evaluating the results. Kyrkos, who is also a Mulcahy Scholar, had the honor of presenting this research at the annual Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting, an opportunity most undergraduate students can only dream about.

What was it like presenting your research at the Society of Integrative and Comparative Biology meeting? 
The experience was interesting and I definitely learned a lot. There were over 2,000 people there and it was interesting to see how the meetings work in an academic setting and how people from diverse backgrounds come together for a common interest. I was assigned to a two-hour poster session where I explained my research to a wide range of people. I discussed my research with some fellow undergraduates but also experts with PhDs in the field. So, I had to be prepared to field different questions. It was a great way to collaborate with people doing similar work. 

How has your experience as a student at Loyola inspired your research? 
I think the research project presence is really strong here, with incentives given by LUROP and other research opportunities. When I entered as a pre-med student, the school suggested I get involved in research because medical schools look for students with research experience. After I decided not to pursue medical school, I knew that the research-track would be my way of entering the spectrum. There are a lot of professors here doing really cool projects. It’s a totally different experience being able to work with them outside of the classroom. 

Why do you think your specific research is important?
With climate change being such a real thing, looking at how thermal stress affects this one specific species of lizards is necessary because affecting one species can cause a spiraling cascade on others. For me, I’m always trying to connect it back to humans because I’m passionate about social justice issues. I like the overlap between science and figuring out how humans work on a biological level. I wonder, “If these embryos are sensitive to heat stress, how will human embryos react to heat stress in the future?” These are the bigger questions, but they cannot be neglected.

What are your plans for the future? 
I am applying to the John Felice Rome Center as a student life assistant and to Teach for America to teach S.T.E.M. to high schoolers in underserved populations. However, these are temporary paths--I’m not done learning, I want to narrow down my passions and ultimately enroll in a graduate program in the future.  

Addressing climate change through a dancer's lens

3-13-17-CAS -In/Motion advance

Climate change is the most significant environmental challenge of the 21st century. It has enormous impacts on the global economy, poverty, climate refugees, access to clean water and food security. Dancers perform at last year's In/Motion dance film festival and the Climate Change conference.

By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

“Art, as a universal language, is an increasingly important and relevant vehicle for delivering the message of our planet’s peril,” said Nancy Tuchman, Founding Dean of the Institute of Environmental Sustainability (IES).

This is the reasoning behind the In/Motion performance on Friday, March 17 at 11am in Mundelein Auditorium. IES and the Department of Fine and Performing Arts (DFPA) are bringing the message of climate change to audiences through art and movement. This performance is one the events included in In/Motion—the only dance film festival in Chicago that cultivates innovation, encourages interdisciplinary collaboration, and celebrates dance through multiple digital media platforms.

Amy Wilkinson, Senior Lecturer of Dance in DFPA, said the dance festival stands out because there’s specific emphasis on social inequities in society and the use of interactive media.

“There’s no other dance film festival that focuses on social justice,” said Wilkinson.

The festival will take place over the course of four days, March 16 to March 19. The festival will include dance performances, film screenings, lectures and an awards ceremony on Friday, March 17 at 7:00 p.m. in Damen Cinema, followed by an after party in Ireland’s.

All are welcome to participate in a community dance session, view a short dance documentary, and watch a live dance performance on Saturday, March 18 beginning at 10:00 a.m. Attendees will also have the pleasure of witnessing the premiere of “All,” a dance film involving diverse populations, including dancers with Parkinson’s Disease.

The festival concludes on Sunday, March 19 at 10:00 a.m., with a discussion on politics, social media, and social justice led by breakthrough filmmaker Celia Rowlson-Hall. Participants will have the opportunity to workshop social justice concepts and other ideas that come out from the discussion.

Visit In/Motion for ticket details and go to Institute of Environmental Sustainability to learn more about their sustainability efforts and the Climate Change conference. 

Training mentors, changing lives


Loyola senior and math major Michael Anjorin helps lead the Saving Lives, Inspiring Youth (SLIY) program at Jackie Robinson Elementary School. The program helps train high schoolers to be mentors for middle school students. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

By Tasha Neumeister

In a brightly colored classroom on the South Side of Chicago, several laminated signs hang on the walls: Be A Champ. Collaboration. Meeting Place. This is a befitting backdrop for the cluster of students in the room. On one side, a handful of high school students sits looking on. On the other side, three times as many middle school students are getting restless as they are handed puzzle pieces with names written on them.   

Under the Meeting Place sign in the center of the room, Loyola senior Mike Anjorin directs the group: “Mentees, go find your match.” The pre-teens run across the room in a flurry looking for a mentor holding a matching piece.

This is just one of several activities that Anjorin and other Loyola students will lead to connect high school mentors with middle school students in the Saving Lives, Inspiring Youth (SLIY) program at Jackie Robinson Elementary School, where participants are mainly African-American and Latino.

Anjorin said the once-a-week mentoring sessions have an influence on all the students involved. 

“It’s having a positive impact on the kids themselves—both the mentors and mentees. A lot of the mentees are listening to their mentors better than at the beginning of the program,” said Anjorin, who serves as the intervention coordinator and leads the group activities at Robinson. “Things the mentees wouldn’t share before, they’re now sharing with their mentors.”

A positive approach

Loyola faculty members Maryse Richards, PhD, professor of clinical psychology, and Katherine Tyson McCrea, PhD, professor of social work, developed SLIY after Richards obtained a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program. The four-year $1 million grant allows the researchers to work with students in the Chicago neighborhoods of Bronzeville, Englewood, South Lawndale, and North Lawndale.

Richards created Loyola’s Risk and Resilience Lab, and Tyson McCrea leads the University’s Empowering Counseling Program. Together they run the SLIY program to counter the negativity often associated with marginalized communities. Richards said their approach—positive psychology aimed on building resilience—is relatively new.

“So much of the face of [these neighborhoods] is about the violence. We need to understand better that kids are more than that,” she said. “We have spent so much time focused in the field on the emotional distress, anxiety, etc., that kids experience. My interest is in continuing to understand that better. But in the face of these enormous chronic stressors, they [youth] show impressive resilience.”

The goal is to see how community-based, cross-age mentoring can reduce negative outcomes in youth exposed to violence while also giving back to these communities through positive identity development and economic support. 

Training the mentors

The SLIY program is made up of a team of Loyola faculty, staff, and students from various disciplines. The team is divided into various sites where the members have created a curriculum in concert with community and anti-violence groups. They work with many organizations including I Grow Chicago, Imagine Englewood If, Sue Duncan Children’s Center, Telpochcalli Community Education Project (Tcep), Chicago Public Schools, and City Incite Inc.

The Loyola team then recruits mentors at high schools and through word-of-mouth. Once the mentors are hired, they receive a modest stipend and training in a bevy of topics, and they must sign a contract signifying their commitment to the program, said Darrick Scott, the site director at Robinson.

“We talk about how they could really emphasize bonding with another human being, with someone who’s in that same circumstance, that same neighborhood, same community, same struggles, and how to develop their relationship through empathic listening,” he said.

At the core of the mentor training is the idea of helping others through a trauma-informed lens. Essentially, how to spot trauma and support those who have it.

At Robinson, mentor Robin Brown, 17, was recently recognized as volunteer of the week by the Illinois Commission on Volunteerism and Community Service, and you can see the zeal she has for her mentees in her eyes. She talks about how she spotted something in one of her three mentees, who noticeably hadn’t talked about his father.

“They were always trying to run around and be around with friends. But once I started to talk to them, they started to open up about their home life,” said Brown, who has her own mentor that she meets with in another program. “I started suggesting different ways they could handle things. I gave them a chance to share their feelings with people about their past. I ended up giving them a journal to write down what they were feeling.”

Brown said her actions helped her mentee open up and talk about his father.

Her mentees have had a significant effect on Brown as well. She previously wanted to become a neonatal nurse; now she wants to be a social worker at an adoption agency.

Encouraging signs

Although Richards and Tyson McCrea developed the SLIY program together, the two have different roles. Richards supervises the quantitative data, while Tyson McCrea oversees the qualitative aspects of the project. This allows for a multifaceted evaluation of the program as it enters its third year—with many of the participants facing extreme adversity.

More than 77 percent of the students in the program are fearful of witnessing violence in their community, and more than 50 percent fear being a victim of violence, according to a report by the research team.

But there are encouraging numbers too.

After nine to 12 months in the program, the team has noted a change in male mentors: They showed fewer instances of being withdrawn or anxious/depressed and were less likely to behave recklessly, according to preliminary findings. For female mentors, regular attendance seems to increase their sense of belonging to a strong support network.

Overall, there are 142 mentors in the program, with a mean age of 17. They support 159 mentees, who have a mean age of 12.

Dakari Quimby, a graduate student in Loyola’s clinical psychology program, said this peer mentoring approach where mentors are just a few years older than mentees is effective because it is based upon a community-participatory model. Traditional approaches, on the other hand, use adult mentors from outside a community.

“Taking a youth [mentor] from the same community circumvents some of those issues so there won’t be a cultural gap between the two, and it establishes some credibility there,” said Quimby, who oversees all four program sites. “It’s more sustainable because it’s a student that they [a mentee] may see later in the week just walking around the neighborhood.”

The program aims to capitalize on that peer influence to build long-term relationships—and to potentially address cultural and generational limitations that weren’t successful in other mentoring styles. The program builds a positive social network to offer alternatives to the negative social networks the youth otherwise encounter.

Empowerment is key

Because crime and poverty are real issues for the students involved in this program, SLIY offers all participants trauma focused counseling and access to social workers. Quimby said the majority of students need some kind of mental health support—but aren’t able to receive it because of the lack of facilities in their neighborhood.

That’s why empowerment counseling—an approach developed by Tyson McCrea and carried out by social work interns—is  a key component to the program.

“Nothing about us, without us, is for us,” is a popular slogan used in the disability rights movement that Quimby said illustrates why Loyola’s program goes beyond research and intervention and “gives the mentors these roles to be agents of change in their community.” The teens also serve as co-researchers, collecting data from each other and co-authoring papers for publication. That added support helps them build the skills they’ll need to improve their lives.

Brown, the mentor at Robinson, is well on the road to changing the world around her.

She walks her mentees to the program from their school each week to provide them—and their parents—peace of mind. In that way, she has taken on a defined role in her neighborhood and wants the world know about the happiness she brings to her mentees. She also wants others to know that community and positivity flourish on the South Side of Chicago.

“So many people think kids from this area are bad, are ‘hood.’ They’re not,” Brown said. “Most of them have a lot of manners. So give these kids a chance. Get a chance to know them and you will really learn a lot.”

With the program grant running out in a year, Dakari Quimby and others on the research team are “task shifting” the cross-age peer mentoring approach to stable community organizations such as I Grow Chicago in Englewood.

The team is training staff, inviting other mentors in the surrounding communities to get training, and having community collaborators shadow the program at various sites. But I Grow Chicago and other organizations still need funding to support the mentoring program.

For ways to help sustain the program model, contact Quimby at dquimby@luc.edu. For more information on the program and research team, go to http://riskandresiliencelab.weebly.com/.

CONVERGE: The College’s first alumni event garners more than 100 attendees


President Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD speaks with CONVERGE guests (starting from red vest) alumnus Kevin Woghiren, Computer Science Chair Konstantin Läufer, Computer Science Advanced Lecturer Robert Yacobellis, and alumnus Plamen Petrov on October 8, 2016. Converge is a celebration of the College of Arts and Sciences for alumni, faculty, staff, and friends of the University to reconnect with one another and re-live the Loyola Experience. (Photo: Glenn Kaupert).

The College of Arts and Sciences held its first alumni event, CONVERGE, on Oct. 8, 2016. More than 100 people enjoyed lunch and an afternoon listening to thought-provoking faculty talks on current issues like the upcoming presidential election, the history of U.S. immigration, and current issues in international affairs. After the talks, fellow alumni and faculty had cocktails and engaging conversations with Loyola President Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, in Palm Court. Visit the CONVERGE webpage to learn more about the event and session topics.  Photos from CONVERGE have been posted to our Loyola Alumni Flickr account. Please click here to view the album.

History professor's "Midnight Bike Ride" brings the past to life


Loyola student Reed Redmond (flannel shirt) and others stop under the iconic Wrigley Field sign during a "midnight bike ride" tour highlighting historic sites in Chicago. The annual tour is led by Loyola History Professor Timothy Gilfoyle who has conducted the event, which is open to his students and extended to faculty, staff, and friends, since 1989. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

‌‌By Gabrielle Barnes | Student Reporter

History Professor Timothy Gilfoyle doesn’t limit his lessons to within the walls of the classroom. In his 29 years at Loyola, Gilfoyle has consistently hosted his Midnight Bike Ride to teach students about history in a fun, participative way.

“There is a lot of history all around us that most residents are largely ignorant about,” said Gilfoyle.  “The midnight bike ride is a vehicle that allows me to teach not just urban history or the history of Chicago but also U.S. history.”

Beginning at Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus and extending as far as Chinatown, participating students stop at numerous historical sites along the ride. Gilfoyle typically takes his students to visit locations such as the Bloomingdale Trail, Carl Sandburg’s home, the Finkl Steel Mill, the site of the Haymarket Incident, and more.

This year’s Midnight Bike Ride began on Thursday, April 20, around 9 p.m., and students returned to campus around 7 a.m. the following morning after stopping for breakfast and watching the sunrise.

The ride takes place throughout the night to avoid the hectic Chicago traffic during the morning and evening rush hours. Gilfoyle believes that seeing parts of the city devoid of the typical crowds allows students to have a different perspective. Even though, as Gilfoyle said, “History is all around us,” many students don’t take the time to explore the historical aspects of the city.

Senior creative writing major Reed Redmond decided to participate in the overnight ride after hearing a lot about it from his classmates. Redmond had a hard time deciding which site was his favorite, but he really enjoyed learning about the churches around Chicago because they opened his eyes to a different aspect of a bustling city.

This bike ride showed me how much I'm missing when I go from one place to another without exploring what's in between,” he said, “I also learned that my professor is in much better shape than I am.”  

Some of the historical sites in the 2017 ride included Wrigley Field, Goose Island Brewery, Hull House, and Berger Park.

“My favorite historical site that we visited was Goose Island Brewery. We got to tour the brewery at 1 a.m., and it was a very interesting experience,” said freshman Maggie White, who is majoring in history and secondary education. “On the ride, I discovered hidden places that I never knew existed and saw the sun rise for the first time.” White said the long distance of the bike ride was the most challenging part of the evening.

Although the bike ride is demanding, as participants can attest, Gilfoyle wholeheartedly believes it’s worth sacrificing an evening to delve into history in a way that’s different than simply reading a textbook.

“Without a vivid link to the past, the present is chaos and the future is unreadable,” Gilfoyle said. “The bike ride is a way that I can explain history, make connections, and enlighten students as to how the physical world around them has an impact on their contemporary life.”


Breaking the code: Loyola students give back and teach school children robotics

Botball_students_competition - CAS archive

Volunteer judge Bradley Dabdoub ('17) watches as 6th-grader Carmel Schreiber and 9th-grader Sarah Feinberg prepare their robot for the next round of the competition. Loyola students served as judges and mentors to local school children participating in the annual Botball competition at the Damen Student Center this spring.

Cheering fans. Flashing lights. Teams huddled in a corner, reviewing game strategy. These are the elements of a Botball robotics tournament.

Last week, 11 Loyola students attended the tournament at Damen Student Center, where they served as judges and mentors for participants from 13 elementary, middle, and high schools from Chicago, Skokie, and Deerfield. Several Ramblers had been meeting with the younger students after school since January, working to perfect the art of coding and programming robots. 

The name of the game

The robots competing in Botball, some of which were reminiscent of hyper-advanced Roombas, were programmed to complete various tasks, each with a different point value. A blue pom-pom called the “cow”, for example, would be picked up and moved into a “barn” space on the board for 25 points. A foam piece called “BotGuy” would be moved into the center of the board for an additional 25 points. The robots would respond to a series of lights and sensors, all completely autonomously. 

The competition worked in two rounds: the first was a timed event where teams worked one-by-one to gain as many points as possible within an allotted time. The second round allowed the teams to go head-to-head while picking up objects and moving them into designated spots; the team with the most items won the round. Participants constructed the robots out of materials that ranged from Lego-type pieces to metal. All of the pre-approved Botball robot kits came with motors, cameras, and tools so that each team was able to construct their robots without the use of power tools.

Bridging the gaps

Botball is a supportive computer science and programming environment. One that Senior Jace Sheu said gives underrepresented students a chance to explore a career that they otherwise may not have had the resources or the confidence to pursue. She said the competitors were a diverse group of people, and included a large representation of women and individuals of color. Still, she said, racial and gender disparities still exist in STEM fields. 

“A lot of students here – particularly the women, when you ask why they’re in that field, they say the only reason is because they had a mentor at a young age who they happened to cross paths with,” said Sheu, who photographed the event. 

Sheu is participating in the competition as part of a service learning course run by Ron Greenberg, PhD, associate professor of computer science, who also serves as an advisor and facilitator. 

Leveling the playing field

Senior Brad Dabdoub served as a judge for the tournament. He said participating schools come into the competition with varying levels of resources, but all were able to compete on an equal playing field - both literally and figuratively. Dabdoub, who plans on returning next year to mentor the teams for the 2018 tournament said this both surprised and impressed him. 

“It’s really inspiring for me,” he said. “Some of these kids have been coding for longer than I have. Seeing them all being given the opportunity to participate with cutting-edge subject matter made me feel good inside. We’re leveling the playing field here, and we’re doing that via education.”