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Loyola Magazine


One day, one hope

Theresa Dear

Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) survived the foster care system and eventually became the first African American chair of the board of One Hope United, a a community support organization that serves children and families. Above, Dear spends time in the classroom with students at One Hope United's Bridgeport location. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

A challenging childhood in the foster care system taught Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) that if you never give up, anything is possible

By Amanda Friedlander ('18)

"You have two options: fight or flight.” That’s what Theresa Dear (MUND ’90, MSIR ’99) told herself when, at age 17, she decided to leave the foster care system and strike out on her own. After her mother’s death, Dear spent six years in foster care, living in nine different homes—years she says were characterized by abuse and neglect. She remembers one particularly traumatic incident when she was forced to sit at a table for four hours and eat macaroni and cheese, which she disliked to the point of getting sick. She was not allowed to leave the table until the meal was finished. If she got sick, she was spanked.


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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“To this day, I can’t stand to look at mac and cheese,” she says. “That childhood experience still haunts me.”

Through her pain and isolation, Dear kept repeating to herself a simple personal mantra: “one day.” One day, she’d own a nice dress. One day, people would stop teasing her. One day, she’d be a success. And when that day came, she was ready to make it happen.

A long road out

Dear got a part-time job as a telemarketer and a second job as a lockbox clerk at bank, making just enough to leave her foster home and move into a studio apartment. For four years, she lived in an empty, unfurnished apartment. She struggled to pay the rent and buy groceries. But she saved what she could, and she knew the ticket to a better life was getting a college degree.

When she was 10 years old, Dear would often accompany her aunt to her job as a housekeeper for a woman named Dina. During those weekly visits, Dina became the first person to suggest to Dear that she should—and could—pursue higher education. Had it not been for those weekly conversations, Dear says she’s not sure she would have even thought about college.

Those visits helped Dear make another important connection. On the commute from her 63rd Street home to Dina’s house in Skokie, Dear would pass the Loyola ‘L’ stop on the Red Line. When she was ready to apply to college, Loyola still stood out in her memory. A teacher had mentioned the possibility of scholarships to her, which Dear researched and applied for on her own. Building on the minor professional and academic successes she experienced over the years, Dear went from sleeping on a mattress on the floor to earning a 2-year scholarship to Loyola.

The hard work didn’t stop there. In her third year at Loyola, Dear worked overnight shifts at Loyola University Medical Center as a medical records coordinator while she earned her degree. Though she began her undergraduate career as a pre-med student, she was inspired to pursue human resources after taking several classes from a professor who, at that point, had been the only African American she knew with a PhD. “I thought, ‘if I could do half of what this man does, I’m going to be OK,’” she says.

Giving back

Dear’s Loyola education was a springboard to finally reaching the “one day” she had dreamed of years earlier. After returning to Loyola to earn her master’s degree, Dear founded her own successful business, HR4Non-Profits, a human resources and training consulting firm with offices in six states. She’s helped shape policy and advocacy as a national board member for the NAACP for over 12 years, is an ordained minister in the AME church, and hosts her own weekly radio show. Last summer, Dear walked more than 500 miles with the NAACP on their 42-day march from Selma, Alabama, to Washington, DC.

Most recently, Dear was appointed the first-ever African-American chair of the board at One Hope United, a community support organization that offers early childhood education, crisis prevention and intervention, and community-based programs. The new role allows her to focus on her passion for child and family advocacy, as she raises awareness of One Hope’s mission of “life without limits” for children and families.

Dear was even able to work with former President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, back when Obama was a community organizer. She invited him to speak at her church, then assisted in his senatorial campaigns and both of his presidential campaigns. Coincidentally, the office Obama occupied when he ran for the U.S. Senate is the same office where Dear currently works. She reflects upon her connection with the Obamas as one of the most memorable experiences of her life. “I just think of how rich my life has been, when I could’ve been a statistic,” Dear says. 

She’s also published two books: one about her personal journey, and the other about scripture that empowers women to succeed. Even so, there’s still one thing Dear dreams of: more hours in the day.

“That’s why I’m doing the work I’m doing at One Hope,” she says. “Because I believe there’s more work to do. If I can make it, every child in the foster care system, every child in a broken or fragmented home, can make it, too.”

 Click here to read more stories about outstanding Loyola alumni

Taking the elevator to the top


A chance conversation in an elevator, along with a strong foundation in marketing research, helped Maria Handberg become one of the top young professionals in her field

By Amanda Friedlander (’18)

Four years ago, Maria Handberg (JFRC Fall ’11, BA ’13) stepped into an elevator with a complete stranger and sparked a conversation. Six months later, she was moving across the globe to work for his company in Sydney, Australia.

Handberg was working in the Chicago office of Vision Critical, a market research software company, when Bala Rajan, the company’s vice president of international research, flew in to run a training seminar. Handberg wanted to talk to him but was nervous about doing so. Then she found herself in an elevator with him on his last day in town.

“By the end of the training I found myself wanting to know more—the curiosity was consuming me,” she says. “When he got into the elevator, I had a moment where I thought, well, it’s now or never. I just simply told him I wanted to know more, and asked to stay in touch.”

That conversation led to her landing a spot on Rajan’s team at Vision Critical’s Sydney office, where Handberg is now the company’s senior research manager. In the role, she’s in charge of working with clients to find solutions to business problems. The job requires an ability to inspire clients, while striking a balance between research and creativity. But the best part for Handberg is seeing her work pay off for a client.

“I can walk into the grocery store and point out products I’ve helped to put on shelf, or go into restaurant and see a new burger launched based on customer feedback,” she says. “It’s a really surreal feeling, in a very nerdy way.”

Handberg began as an advertising and public relations student at Loyola, but found her passion in Quinlan School of Business lecturer Stacy Neier Beran’s marketing research course. During the semester, students had an opportunity to work with small businesses around Chicago and conduct research into their business problems. Using various research techniques, the class analyzed each problem, and then presented their findings as well as potential solutions.

Handberg credits Neier Beran as one of the driving forces behind her success. From the marketing research class, she learned the importance of careful and precise analysis, as well as how to be creative in an otherwise methodical setting. The skills and experience she gained from the class sparked a hunger in her to learn more about consumer behaviors, which led her to the job at Vision Critical.

Handberg’s creative philosophy is simple: Treat every idea as a possibility, then narrow down potential solutions and work with others to mold ideas. Her ability to break through the clutter and listen to what clients truly want earned her the Research Industry Council of Australia’s 2016 Young Researcher of the Year award. The prestigious award has helped bolster her already growing reputation as she continues to move forward in her career.

From striking up that first elevator conversation to making the move from Chicago to Australia, Handberg admits that some of the steps that got her to where she is haven’t been easy. But the key to getting ahead, she says, is following your passion, whatever it may be.

“You absolutely cannot fake authenticity,” she says. “If you’re truly interested in something, it doesn’t go unnoticed, and as a result, people choose to invest in you. If you’re hungry for something, just ask.”

Keeping the peace

police reform

Greater police accountability can improve relations between law enforcement and the people they serve

By Maura Sullivan-Hill

Stephen Rushin is a fan of unlikely combinations. He’s the son of a police chief and an expert on police reform. He earned a law degree, then decided to study for a PhD in criminology and sociology. It’s these opposite—yet complementary—perspectives that make Rushin, who joined the School of Law as an assistant professor in July, a leader in the national conversation on police reform and accountability.

Because he grew up in a police household, Rushin knows what life is like for officers in the field. And Rushin says his social science training puts him in the role of an unbiased investigator. This fall, Rushin will teach a course at Loyola on police accountability. He also recently published his first book, Federal Intervention in American Police Departments, on the role of the U.S. Department of Justice in regulating police departments. He took a break from getting settled in Chicago to share a few thoughts on the state of policing in his new home city.

How will working in Chicago impact your research?

Chicago is a fascinating laboratory, a city that both is in need of some basic reforms in terms of police accountability and that is also battling serious crime. That tension between the need to protect the constitutional rights of citizens and the need for police to engage in proactive policing that may reduce crime is fascinating to see play out in your own backyard.

Last spring, the Chicago Police Department announced a new policy that limits the use of force. What do you think of these changes?

I think it’s a definite improvement and is more consistent with what you see across the country. The focus on de-escalation is important, and long overdue. It’s something we recognize as a best practice for police departments to have in their use of force policy. It’s also good to see that they elaborated on what is considered potentially deadly force to include a larger amount of behaviors.

The fact that the policy was developed through a collaborative process is great—that is something that you need to have for police reform to be successful. You need community stakeholders represented, and you also want to have officers represented to make sure you are handing down a fair and equitable policy that they are willing to accept.

How do you approach this issue as someone who advocates for reform but is also the son of a police officer?

Supporting reforms designed to protect constitutional rights does not make you anti-police or anti-law and order. I think you can both support the need for police to have basic accountability mechanisms in place while also being pro-police.

I think we often get pulled into this “you’re either with us or against us” kind of perspective. Police officers themselves benefit from basic accountability mechanisms. It helps us sort out the small number of officers who are responsible for a large portion of misconduct. Being able to hold those officers accountable for this misconduct improves the image of the rest of the officers—it helps improve the relationship between the police department and the people that they serve.

I can recognize that the police have difficult, dangerous jobs and deserve our respect and admiration. But I can also recognize that, when the small cohort of officers that engage in more misconduct than others do something really bad, we need to have a system that can hold them accountable.

A visit to the country

OBrien China
Alumni Voices

To get a true picture of China, take the road less traveled

By James O'Brien (BA '16)

The countryside filled my window as we left the busy metropolis of Nanjing. My neck began to ache as the ride wore on, but I couldn’t stop watching the varied drama of the landscape. My friend Jacob Miller and I first traveled in China during our junior year at Loyola while studying abroad at the Beijing Center. The fall after our graduation from Loyola, we returned to China to continue searching for a full and honest picture of life there.

Jacob and I had a shared interest in going to places most travelers wouldn’t visit, so we turned to the Lonely Planet guidebook to find a smattering of well-preserved historical countryside villages in the mountains of Jiangxi that were, as it so happened, almost unknown to foreigners.

That night we arrived in Shangrao, a city in Yushan County. We were the only passengers to arrive that evening, so taxi drivers jockeyed to draw us into their car. As tourists in an unfamiliar area, we represented a catch for any driver. After getting into a taxi, it occurred to us that we had no place to stay for the night so we asked our driver about hotels. He described a few local spots while smoking expansively, then took us to one of the hotels he had mentioned.

Despite the sprawling quality to the city and the presence of a surprising amount of amenities, including bakeries and coffee shops, the streets were surprisingly empty. While walking through the city we saw many older Chinese couples gathered in a public square dancing to music. Shangrao felt more like a small town that had gotten too big for its own good.

The next morning we boarded a bus. The city landscapes and broad boulevards rapidly gave way to lush green hills, bright blue lakes and rivers, and winding narrow mountain roads. Our next stop was a smaller town, where we caught a smaller bus with a short time to spare. Evening fell as our ride began. We were closer to our destination, the scenic villages of Wuyuan County—or so we thought.

We struck up a conversation with a young woman named Yanling who was seated next to me on the bus. She asked where we were going, and upon hearing our plans said there was no way we’d make it to the villages that night. But our disappointment was quickly met with a surprising offer.

“Why don’t you come stay with my family for the night?” she suggested. “That way you can go visit the villages in the morning.”

I couldn’t believe our luck. Yanling then received a call from her mom, who only had one concern about us coming to their home, a question many foreigners in China will hear: “Can you eat spicy food?”

When met Yanling’s family, they received us like old friends. We had a delicious dinner of tofu, shellfish, potatoes, and other delicacies that were unrecognizable to us yet nonetheless delicious. Yanling’s dad poured Jacob and I a glass of sweet plum-flavored liquor. For himself, he poured cheap baijiu, a Chinese sorghum distilled liquor. He asked how to say “cheers” in English. We toasted.

The next day we thanked Yanling and her family. They drove us into the heart of their small town. Jiangwan had a two-lane street at its center; white buildings clustered around the road with colorful facades suggested supermarkets and tea stores. We walked to the bus stop, but were told that the bus wouldn’t go to our destination today. Yanling had to leave, but she suggested we ask someone to take us to the villages. She wished us well, and we paced a bit on the sleepy main road, wondering if someone would really drive us.

Sure enough, a man pulled up in a car and he asked if we wanted to go to the villages. We negotiated a price and he drove us there, and I once again was surprised by our good fortune.

We were soon in a cable car lifting up from the lush valley into the green mountains. There in the mountains, nestled on terraces, we arrived in the first scenic village. Yellow flowers and red fruit lay drying in woven bamboo on the rooftops under a blue sky. A man walked up uneven stone steps amongst a throng of visitors. Two foreigners, and throngs of Chinese tourists, were admiring the white stonework, red brick homes, and black eaves of his village. His demeanor was noticeably different than that of anyone else present; this was clearly represented in his singular familiarity with the village.

Before I went to China, I read about its history and appreciated Chinese landscape painting. Reality, however, is not a landscape painting. And while the village had undeniable beauty, no painting could have prepared me for the true beauty we found in the people who live there.

James O’Brien (BA ’16), a native of Portland, Oregon, graduated from Loyola with a degree in International Studies and a minor in Asian Studies. He studied at The Beijing Center for Chinese Studies and this summer returned to China with the Peace Corps. His friend, Jacob Miller (BA ’16), also studied at The Beijing Center and earned a degree in sociology with an Asian Studies minor.

Read more essays by Loyola alumni

The Jesuit next door


Above: Jerry Overbeck, S.J., sits in his office on the third floor of the Terry Student Center surrounded by photos and mementos of the many friendships he’s made over the years at Loyola. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia) Below: Father Overbeck is pictured with students in his Mertz residence hall room in 1999 (photo courtesy University Archives) and with the children of alum Troy Fleming during a recent family trip to a pumpkin patch (photo courtesy of Jerry Overbeck).

Over his 40 years at Loyola, Jerry Overbeck, S.J., has formed lasting relationships with generations of alumni

By Maura Sullivan Hill

He’s known as Fr. Jerry, Fr. J, even Dr. J. Others call him Padre, or Padrecito. At the Cathedral Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in Honolulu, Hawaii, he is Pono. Some teasingly refer to him as FJSJ, with the last two letters standing not for Society of Jesus but “surfing Jesuit.”

No matter which name you know him by, he’s Rev. T. Jerome Overbeck, S.J., a beloved chaplain and professor who has been a part of Loyola since August 1976. He’s comfortable with whichever name people use; he’s just happy to be talking to them.

“My name is Thomas Jerome. I’m a junior, and they called me Jerry from when I was little,” he explains. “As I became an adult, I learned more about St. Jerome and, honestly, I think it names who I am.”

St. Jerome is known for translating the Bible into Latin, then the common language of the people, to make it more accessible. In many ways, that’s the work Overbeck has been doing at Loyola for four decades. “My method of working is: Go where the people are,” he says. “Whether it’s food courts, Starbucks, Pippin’s, wherever. The place isn’t important.”

That’s why you’ll find Overbeck at Starbucks on State and Pearson at 6:30 every weekday morning (except for Thursday, his one day off) for what he considers his office hours but what students have dubbed “Java with the Jesuit.” He says he sees the early birds, and those who haven’t been to bed yet. There is always a seat at his table, whether it is for someone who needs to talk about a personal problem or a student with a question on a class assignment. “Truly, I see more students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, neighbors, and baristas at that Starbucks than I ever see in my church, classroom, or office,” he says.

For Overbeck, any conversation is his classroom, and he never stops teaching and learning. “I’ve loved teaching for all of my Jesuit life, but I think there are different ways to teach,” he says. “It’s the variety of venues that I find so interesting, where people learn how to put life learning together with classroom learning.”

Many of these conversations occur in Baumhart Hall, where Overbeck lives. He’s spent 30 of his 40 years at Loyola in residence halls. He lived in Mertz Hall at the Lake Shore Campus with 700 freshmen, then helped the University open Simpson Hall and later Regis Hall before moving downtown.

Brian McFadden (BBA ’99) lived a few doors down from Overbeck on the 10th floor of Mertz, and it was the beginning of an enduring friendship. “I find our conversations as meaningful now as they were 22 years ago, just in a completely different context,” McFadden says. “Then, I was a freshman from Omaha, Nebraska, with no ties or friends in Chicago. Now, I’m a parent with four kids.”

Overbeck presided at McFadden’s wedding, baptized his children, and blessed the family’s first home. McFadden’s wife, Jackie, says Overbeck cultivates a relaxed, comfortable environment with their kids. That’s something McFadden also witnessed at Loyola. “He’s visible and approachable, whether it’s with freshmen or graduate students or graduates, of faith or not of faith,” he says.

Every Tuesday night, Overbeck makes a home-cooked meal at his apartment and brings it around the residence hall to offer to his neighbors, going door-to-door until the pot is empty. Chicken stew is on the menu in the winter, and he often defaults to his specialty, Italian cooking. He’s also been known to make Moroccan dishes, a skill he picked up while living and studying in Casablanca.

“I knock on every door, ask if anyone is hungry, and offer whatever I made that night,” Overbeck says. “Believe me, this connection feeds more than the body.” 

Beyond their shared address, Overbeck has something else in common with students: He is a graduate himself, earning his degree from what was then Loyola’s Bellarmine School of Theology in 1970. He decided to become a Jesuit around the time he started college, and feels he’s perfectly suited to the order.

“I’m called to be a contemplative in action,” he says. “The chapel that is right down the hall from my office is a good symbol of Ignatian spirituality, in the sense that it has a contemplative quality to it and there is a stillness in the room, yet if you look out the window, you’re clearly in the middle of a vibrant city. Being a Jesuit is finding God in the middle of all that.”

At Loyola, Overbeck has taught courses on theology, anthropology, counseling, and social work. His official titles have varied over the years, including professor, University Liturgist, and chaplain of the schools of law and social work, his current role. He’s such a fixture, in fact, that Lu’s Deli and Pub in the Terry Student Center even named a sandwich after him—the “Fr.  J.”

Although his titles have changed, one thing has remained consistent: Overbeck’s dedicated presence on campus. Generations of alumni cherish his influence on their lives, as evidenced by the packed house at Madonna della Strada Chapel for the celebration of his 50th year as a Jesuit in 2014.

“He is multidimensional. He’s an authority figure, yet he mixes really well with the students and is dedicated to that,” says Mike Calsin (BBA ’93). “I’m sure there are days when he’d really like to be by himself, but he’s with the student body almost all the time because he thinks that’s where he needs to be.”

“He’s a common thread through a lot of Loyola experiences,” adds Maria Calsin (BBA ’93), Mike’s wife.

The Calsins remember encountering Overbeck for the first time at the 10:15 p.m. Sunday Mass as undergraduates. They found his homilies relatable and relevant. When the couple got engaged, Overbeck was a natural choice to preside at their wedding.
That would be the first of many sacraments he would perform for the Calsin family: he’s baptized all three of their sons, heard the boys’ first confessions, and gave them their First Communion. The family’s eldest son, Jack, even asked Overbeck to be his confirmation sponsor.

“I couldn’t even respond, I just got up and gave him a hug,” Overbeck recalls. “I was just so moved.”

It’s an annual tradition for Overbeck to accompany the Calsins to a pumpkin patch and corn maze every fall, and he’s always a guest at their extended family celebration of St. Joseph’s Day. They invite him when they bring their sons to campus to cheer on the Loyola basketball team. And beyond the fun family, Overbeck still supports and guides the Calsins like he did with those applicable homilies during their undergraduate years.

“When I was a student, I was comfortable talking to him. As a parent I’ve been comfortable talking to him, the same as a friend,” Maria says. “He’s just genuine.” Mike adds, “He is a good listener and a good thought-provoker. He has in-depth conversations with people, and yet makes them feel really comfortable.”

So comfortable, in fact, that Overbeck is in high demand for alumni weddings and baptisms. He’s never taken the time to count up the ceremonies, but if it is a weekend between April and October, odds are high that he’s presiding at a sacrament for Loyola alumni.

June and July, however, are the exception. For the past seven years, Overbeck has spent those two months in Hawaii. He works on research and writing, and also presides at the cathedral in Honolulu. That’s where he got the name Pono (“righteousness” in Hawaiian), bestowed upon him by a friend who was a high priest in the indigenous Hawaiian religion.

It’s also where he hits the water. Remember the “surfing Jesuit” nickname? Overbeck took up the sport in the ’60s on the West Coast, and fell more in love with surfing when he spent a summer working at a parish in Hawaii during the early years of his priesthood. Surfing actually reminds him of Jesuit discernment. “When you are surfing, you have to learn to spot the wave you think has the most power, and you can feel it as soon as you catch the wave,” he says. “If you don’t lean in to it enough, you’re dead in the water. If you go too far, you tumble [off the board].”

Just like discernment, he says. “You’ll feel it when you catch the wave, when you catch where God is working in your life and you’re on a roll, man. If you don’t lean in enough, or you lean too much and try to control things, uh oh. There’s only one God, and lest there be any confusion, it would not be you!” he laughs.

With Overbeck’s willing laugh and engaging storytelling, it’s easy to see why students and alumni have been drawn to him for so long. But he is also a rock in difficult moments.

Troy Fleming (JD ’13) and his wife, Dawn, turned to Overbeck when their youngest son, Garrett, was born with meningitis and it was unclear whether he would survive. Overbeck dropped everything to go to the hospital to pray with the family. He remembers cradling Garrett in his arms, with the other two Fleming children hugging his legs, and Dawn and Troy standing close, all fervently praying.

“It was what we needed and it gave such peace and comfort to us,” says Dawn. “We had already spent some years together, and this was something that now binds us for a lifetime.”

Today, Garrett is an energetic, completely healthy four-year-old. Last year, on a family trip to the pumpkin patch with Overbeck, Garrett was scooting around a corn pit and happily riding down the slide. “My heart was so full of gratitude I almost cried, just to see this kid healthy as a horse,” Overbeck says.

Inside the Terry Student Center, Overbeck’s office is decorated with photos, cards, and notes from the families, alumni, and students who love him. There are wedding and baptism pictures, family photos, Christmas cards, and more, hanging on all four walls of the room; a visual representation of the love and appreciation the Loyola community has for him.

And the feeling is mutual. “What I don’t make in dollars and cents, I do make in job satisfaction,” he says. “I feel like God has lavished me with so many gifts by being here for 40 years—mostly the relationships.”

Head of the class


Harry Rossi (EdD '85) teaches a certification course in Lewis Towers on Loyola's Water Tower Campus. Rossi, who has devoted his career to education advocacy and supporting students, is a proud Rambler who continues to teach at Loyola's School of Education. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

School of Education

Teachers inspired Harry Rossi to follow his dreams—and to follow in their footsteps

By Amanda Friedlander (’18)

Unraveling his maroon-and-gold Loyola Ramblers scarf, Harry Rossi (EdD '85) makes himself comfortable at one of the Schreiber Center lobby tables and whips out his newest-generation smartphone. The way he sauntered into the building—hair combed back, leather jacket unbuttoned, silver Aviators reflecting the bright overhead lights—Rossi immediately commands attention. But just a few minutes with him reveals this first impression to be deceiving.

When asked to talk about his life’s work, Rossi is quick to deflect the conversation away from himself.  After a few minutes briefly outlining his own education and career, Rossi—who in March received the 2017 American Association of School Administrators Distinguished Service Award—spent the next 20 minutes describing the love he has for his students and for the teachers who shaped his own path. His own high school teachers, he says, were his inspiration for a career in education and school administration. “Teachers saved my life,” he says.

Rossi had humble beginnings. He grew up in a rough neighborhood on Chicago’s West Side, where many of his peers didn’t do well in school or go on to college. Rossi excelled in academics and sports, but it was the encouragement of his teachers that determined his future. He remembers them saying he could do anything he wanted to do, and for Rossi, that meant making a difference in the lives of other young people.

Rossi has done just about anything he’s wanted to do; he’s held jobs across the educational spectrum from teacher to CEO of FED-ED, a group that advocates for more than 110 school districts and 500,000 students. He’s also taught Loyola students for more than 20 years as an adjunct professor in the School of Education, teaching one or two courses each semester for graduate students with similar dreams of student advocacy.

Earning the Distinguished Service Award, a national honor given to administrators who have made a major impact in the field of education through service and advocacy, is something Rossi takes in stride. It isn’t the first time he’s been honored for his work, or more accurately, the first time someone has attempted to honor him. He’s been nominated for many different awards but declined each time, not wanting to devote district resources to himself. What makes this award special, he says, is the fact that a former student took the time and put in the effort to nominate him.

Rossi’s passion for Jesuit education, and for helping students from low-income communities, has also made him a supporter of the Cristo Rey Network of high schools. “It’s a wonderful model of giving kids from inner city schools the opportunity to get a really good Jesuit education, work experience, and get them ready for college,” he says. Many of Rossi’s former students are now administrators for Cristo Rey. And along with his wife, Diane (EdD ’05), a fellow Loyola alumna and School of Education faculty member, Rossi helps to provide financial aid for Cristo Rey graduates to attend Loyola through the Harry and Diane Rossi Scholarship Fund.

Rossi’s ongoing commitment to Loyola doesn’t end there. He’s been a longtime member of the National Alumni Advisory Board, serves as president of the School of Education Advisory Board, and was a member of the now-defunct Rambler Varsity Club Advisory Board. You can also often find him at men’s basketball games, where he’s been a season ticket holder for the past 40 years.

These days, he’s starting to step back from his leadership positions to spend more time with his family, all of whom are lifelong Ramblers. His children, Phillip (BBA '00) and Elizabeth (BA '01), both received Presidential Scholarships to attend Loyola, and even his infant grandsons share in the Loyola legacy—Rossi beams with pride when he describes their Rambler onesies.

Though he has chosen to slow down a bit in recent years, Rossi isn’t likely to leave education advocacy behind anytime soon. He insists that as long as he’s in good health, it will always be part of his life.

“I’m not a person who just wants to sit in a rocking chair and move to Florida,” he says. “While I may step down from teaching, I will always be available to help my students.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Better health through Bollywood dance


A cultural tradition may be the key to combating obesity in Asian Indian teen girls

By Zoë Fisher (’17)

Technology can sometimes distract teenagers from getting physical activity, but it can also be used to enhance it. Products and apps like Fit-Bit, Nike Running App and MyPlate aid in tracking health, and tech products are becoming increasingly involved in weight management. For Niehoff School of Nursing assistant professor Annie Thomas, PhD, RN, technology has also proven effective in monitoring obesity in Asian Indian female adolescents.

Thomas chose this specific population for several reasons. As a member of the Asian Indian community, she observed obesity among adolescents first-hand. Data also shows that one in five U.S. children is the child of an immigrant, and many of these children are at high risk of becoming overweight or obese. This is often due to cultural factors, Thomas says, such as parents emphasizing studying over exercise or diet.

In 2013, Thomas collected data from 20 female participants ages 14 to 18. She recruited them from her local church, St. Thomas Mar Thoma in Lombard, Illinois, and tracked their health behaviors for seven days.

Thomas’ research used an accelerometer and the web-based app SuperTracker to monitor the participants’ calorie intake and daily exercise. She found SuperTracker to be the most helpful diet monitoring website because of its incorporation of culturally-specific food. The website also provides physical activity suggestions and detailed nutritional information.

Thomas also addresses the concerns of Asian Indian parents about their children focusing on academics. Physical activity helps the mind, spirit, and body, she says, because exercise can lead to physical and academic benefits. A 2009 University of North Texas study found that students who had a healthier cardiovascular system did better in subjects like math and reading.

The next step for Thomas is intervention. “Physical activity is a medicine,” she says—and it should be culturally specific. After receiving $2,500 in grant funds from both the American Nursing Association and the Palmer Grant Program, Thomas is creating a program that uses Bollywood dancing to increase physical activity among female adolescents.

While activities like Zumba or just working out at a gym can be expensive or unappealing to teens, Thomas says Bollywood dancing is inexpensive, culturally appropriate, and can be done with a group—making it appealing to young Indian girls. And getting teenagers to pick an activity they enjoy is often the most important component in getting them to stick with a healthy lifestyle.

“Anything they do, they need motivation. If they’re not motivated it’s not going to happen,” Thomas says.

Seeing crime in a new light

Lurigio crime

Loyola faculty member Arthur J. Lurigio has become a leading expert on crime in communities and the suffering experienced by victims long after the fact. His own experience of being robbed at gunpoint during his college years helped to shape his understanding of the trauma victims experience. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Being robbed at gunpoint opened my eyes to one of the most critical needs in our response to crime: healing the lasting emotional wounds experienced by victims

By Arthur J. Lurigio (PhD ’84), Professor of Criminal Justice and Psychology

On a sultry evening in the summer after I completed my freshman year of college, I was the victim of an aggravated robbery. It was a Tuesday night—July 17, 1973, to be exact—and the day’s temperature remained oppressive long after the sun had set. I was on the walkway on the south side of my parents’ home, where I had played blissfully as a child, tossing a baseball and riding my bike back and forth. Until that day I’d had wonderful memories of that place and felt utterly safe there. Then a five-minute episode permanently changed my perception.

My perpetrators ran up to me in the dark gangway. By the time I heard the footsteps, the guns were already pointed at me. One of the gunmen pressed the barrel of his gun flush against my temple, and the weapon felt hard and cold on my sweaty forehead. Early studies of eyewitness memory have found that robbery victims concentrate more on the guns than the faces of the robbers, and that was true for me; I have a clear memory of the .38-caliber revolvers but only a vague memory of the perpetrators.

Robberies develop instantaneously, and the victim has no time to prepare for the shocking violation of their person. In my case, it all felt surreal. My sympathetic nervous system, which prepares the body for a fight or flight or freeze response to perceived threats to safety, went into high gear. Though I felt a sense of unreality about what was transpiring outside of me, I had a keen sense of awareness of what was transpiring inside—rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, shallow breathing.

My options were limited. I was wedged into a corner with a gate against my side and a building at my back: no flight. My attackers were tall, muscular men with guns pointed at my head: no fight. With only one option left, I froze. The assailants screamed repeatedly at me in rapid succession: “Get your hands up!” One of them snatched my watch off my wrist. The other took my ring—a keepsake that was worth little, but had been my father’s as a young man. I wore it every day to feel close to him. They emptied my pockets of two dollars and took my wallet, which had nothing of value (no credit cards) but contained my driver’s license and school ID card, which later cost hours of effort to replace.

Robbery is the quintessential urban crime, involving an unprovoked surprise attack on an innocent victim by strangers. In 9 out of 10 cases, men are the perpetrators. They generally are young, with histories of violent crime and addiction. Unlike the perpetrators of theft and burglary, who take property by stealth and have no contact with victims, robbery offenders insert themselves immediately into their victims’ personal space. They stalk and pounce in a lightning-quick attack, which renders most victims shocked and disorientated.

The prospect of a robbery is fear-inducing, and keeps many people, especially older residents, indoors at night. In many cases, like that of my own victimization, the features of a robbery constitute a serious and potentially physically or psychologically harmful experience. And the presence of guns during the commission of a crime, as well as the victim’s belief that his or her life is in peril, both strongly increase the likelihood that the victim will suffer psychological symptoms in the aftermath of a crime.

My risk as a potential robbery victim was moderate. I was a college student with a 4.0 GPA whose friends were all either in college or the workforce. I had never been in trouble at school or with the police, and my parents’ home was in a low-crime neighborhood. Even so, I was a young man (a high-risk group for violent crime) and I was out after midnight (a high-risk time). Moreover, Chicago was at the surging front edge of a 25-year crime wave. In the year I was robbed, 6,500 suspects were arrested for robbery, and more than 23,000 robberies were reported in Chicago. The following year, Chicago recorded the highest number of homicides in the city’s history: 970.

For me, the most stressful aspect of the incident came when the assailants insisted on me letting them into my parents’ home. Presumably, and expectedly, they were frustrated with their meager take: two dollars, an empty wallet, and an inexpensive watch and ring. I surmised that the robbers were calculating actors, and I remained outwardly composed but inwardly roiled as I informed them of the costs and benefits of home invasion. In so many words, my story was that the residents of the home—my mom, dad, aunt, and uncle—owned nothing of value (only partly true, as I grew up wanting nothing). I impressed on them that the benefits of a break-in would be low. I also told the robbers my father had a loaded gun at his bedside (partially true, as my father had my great-grandfather’s pistol somewhere in the house, probably unloaded) and was a decorated marksman in the army and willing to shoot to protect his family (completely true). So the risks of a break-in would be high. I was relieved when they told me to walk to the alley and wait a few minutes before entering the house. I was left physically—but not emotionally—unharmed.

Though they never entered the house, the robbers’ violation of my home—a space where fewer than 20 percent of all robberies take place—transformed a safe and familiar haven to a place corrupted by a sense of loss and violation. Those same physiological responses triggered by the nervous system to transform us into fiercer combatants or faster runners in the face of danger can also help to sear traumatic memories into our brains, forcing us to remember horrible events so we can avoid them in the future. For me, the crime was something that haunted me. But also served as an inspiration for my life’s work.

The aftermath

Despite the serious nature of robberies, only 60 percent are reported to the police nationwide. Even fewer are reported in the most violent communities, where most robberies are committed. Fear of offender retaliation and the belief that the police will do nothing to solve the crimes are two of the many reasons these crimes are often unreported.

When I entered my house after the robbery, I recounted the incident to my family. My mother and aunt were quite shaken but supportive, my uncle was quiet, and my dad was seething. He did have my great-grandfather’s gun, and he took it out into the street. But the offenders were long gone. My dad quickly realized the futility of his manhunt and returned home, still seething. We called the police, and after a long wait they came. I was struck by the officers’ nonchalance, failing to comprehend that I was not a special case—merely one of 23,000 robbery victims that year. I wanted the officers to be outraged; instead, they were businesslike. They told us that the young men had been seen in the neighborhood attempting to break into garages and cars. I described what ensued, and they left with no promises.

I had trouble sleeping that night, and for several nights thereafter. For weeks—long into the fall, when I started school again—I had reoccurring and intrusive thoughts about the experience. I was anxious in the walkway and avoided the spot where the crime transpired, especially at night. Simply put, I experienced the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which first appeared in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders in 1980 but had long been referenced in the clinical case histories of returning war veterans and was later used to explicate the emotional turmoil suffered by victims of rape, natural disasters, and severe accidents. My symptoms gradually remitted, but the trauma sparked an abiding curiosity that defined some of my earliest intellectual pursuits.

As the attitude of the police officers who visited my house showed, criminal victimization is common in the United States. Each year, tens of millions of Americans become victims of violent, property, and other types of crime. Nonetheless, relatively little is known about the fluctuating nature of criminal victimization, which has waxed and waned since the first systematic collection of crime data. Knowledge about crime types and trends can support the development of solutions and the evaluation of their effectiveness, but aggregate crime data reflect nothing about the considerable and lifelong pain and suffering of crime victims and their loved ones.

Most people ignore crime-related statistics; still, they pay close attention to vividly portrayed incidents of crimes on the local news. What these stories typically fail to communicate is that the end of a crime incident is usually only the beginning of victim suffering.

Dealing with trauma

The trauma of violent victimization changes people’s thoughts, feelings, perceptions, behaviors, and self-images. Victims of serious crime view the chronology of their lives as falling into two periods: “before the crime” and “after the crime.”

I learned a lot from my robbery. In retrospect, I believe the awful encounter implicitly influenced the course of my research. Ten years after the incident, I was a junior faculty member at Northwestern University, where I became interested in studying criminal victimization. I applied my training as a psychologist to help implement and evaluate crime victim service programs and to train police officers to be more sensitive and responsive to crime victims. I studied victims of robbery, burglary, and battery to identify the predictors of symptoms in the aftermath of victimization, yet until I wrote this article, I never made a direct connection between my own victimization and my intellectual pursuits, which of course were also a function of many other factors.

Unexpectedly, my post-victimization experiences aligned with the results of my studies involving hundreds of crime victims. For example, nobody blamed me for my victimization. Thus, I found it easier to refrain from blaming myself.

Self-blame is a highly significant predictor of symptoms in the aftermath of crime. Victims who think they were attacked due to flaws in their judgment or character have a difficult time coping with their trauma. They struggle with feelings of guilt and low self-esteem, which exacerbate their depression and anxiety. In my counseling of crime victims and developing programs to address their emotional needs, I underscored the importance of reducing self-blame. I shifted thoughts of self-blame and eventually redirected my cognitions to the real onus of the crime: the offenders.

At first, I was enraged at them. I later became inquisitive: Who are they? Where did they grow up? What drove them to violence? Did they feel any empathy toward their victims? I ask these same questions today in my research with young men living in Chicago’s most violent communities.

In the days and weeks after the crime, I distracted myself by thinking about how the robbery could have been much worse. As my research later showed, I was engaging in a therapeutic exercise known as cognitive reframing or downward comparisons. The incident was quite stressful and disruptive. Notwithstanding, I was alive and uninjured. I had lost little. My cheap watch was replaceable, and my dad gave me a new ring that I treasure. Most important, my family was safe.

People who suffer from a variety of tragedies cope more effectively if they think about what did not happen but could have. For example, tornado victims who express relief because no one was injured even though their homes were leveled are engaging in a downward comparison. Victims of violent crime should be encouraged to think about worst-case scenarios, which can help them gain a healthier perspective. A serious caveat: spending too much time vividly imaging more horrific consequences can backfire, worsening anxiety and sleep problems. The trick is to consider what actually happened as an event with ultimately good outcomes, all things considered. Occasional fantasies of my assailants pulling the trigger made me panicky; intrusive thoughts were painful and unavoidable in the days after.

To lessen the occurrence of these visualizations, I used thought stoppage and replacement. I turned to meditation, which I practiced between classes. I focused on what I could learn from the event. Likewise, victims often glean inspiration and meaning from their losses and injuries. Veterans who lose a leg in battle run marathons with a prosthesis and relish a great sense of accomplishment and a reconstituted self-image.

Despite my initial belief that I had little control over my fate, I began to view the world and myself in more positive ways. I realized that my negotiating calmly with the robbers indicated that I indeed had control in the situation. They did not harm me or force their way into my house. Maybe my talking with them had little influence over their behavior. It did not matter, though, because I believed it did, and that belief empowered me. I gained confidence in my capacity to change people, which is a good foundation for a budding psychologist.

The best victim service programs are targeted to the specific needs of crime victims, which can vary greatly depending on the nature and seriousness of their victimization and the extent of their physical injuries, medical costs, psychological harm, and property loss. Some victims need their locks replaced or their windows boarded up after a burglary. Others need help paying the bills for medical and rehabilitative procedures following severe injuries. Still others, like me, can benefit from short-term therapy, or crisis management, which would have probably helped me cope more effectively after the crime.

Immediate treatment in the aftermath of violent crime can forestall the eruption of full-blown symptoms of PTSD largely through the techniques described above, which fall under the rubric of cognitive behavioral therapy. However, shooting and sexual violence victims require longer-term services, and might not ever fully recover from their physical and emotional injuries.

Crime and communities

A critical mass of victimizations in a neighborhood alters the character of the community itself. Law-abiding residents with middle-class financial resources and sensibilities are the first to move out. Those who remain stop socializing in public places. Less sidewalk traffic results in fewer opportunities to communicate with neighbors, and fewer people on the street makes the streets more dangerous, since there is no one to report illegal or disorderly activities. The social fabric of the neighborhood—its solidarity, community identity, and collective efficacy—begins to erode and finally tears altogether, fostering more decay, decline, and neglect. People stop shopping at local stores, declining numbers of customers cause business closures. As the social structure begins to crumble, so, too, does the economic structure.

For decades, and particularly since the 1960s, sections of Chicago’s West and South Sides have been stuck in a crime-fueled cycle of decay. But while current statistics seem alarming, they are much lower than they were in decades past. As I approach the 44th anniversary of my own victimization, violent crime in the United States as a whole is relatively low compared with the unprecedented levels seen in the 1970s through the mid-1990s. But Chicago is still grappling with shootings and murders every day.

The effects of a single serious crime often spread from victims to their partners, family members, neighbors, friends, fellow students, and co-workers. Through this process, known as vicarious victimization, simply hearing about the victimization of others can make people feel more vulnerable. The closer direct or indirect witnesses are to victims, the more the witnesses begin to fear crime, and the more their fear spreads to others. Thus, although violent crime has been decreasing steadily for the past 25 years, fear of crime has not declined at the same rate. This is largely due to the media’s unrelenting coverage of crime, especially the most violent, unexpected, and horrific episodes.

The solutions to violence are complicated, and require fundamental changes in the socioeconomic status and belief systems of young men living in the city’s poorest communities. My own robbery experience enhanced my compassion for the suffering of crime victims. But the needs of those victims are too often overlooked in the sensational crime stories that make the news. A better understanding of how to help victims in the months and years after a crime can go a long way in helping them heal—and in strengthening our communities.

Psychologist, professor, and senior associate dean for faculty in the College of Arts and Sciences Arthur J. Lurigio (PhD '84) is a leading criminal justice expert who has been quoted in numerous local, national, and international news outlets. He has served as Faculty Scholar and Master Researcher of the College of Arts and Sciences, received the American Psychological Association’s Distinguished Career Award, and served as president of the Illinois Academy of Criminology for three years, where he remains a vital contributor.

The long and winding road


Above: Tamara Franco, left, and her daughter, Patricia Brito, who both will graduate as part of Loyola's Class of 2017, walk together along the path next to Madonna della Strada Chapel on the Lake Shore Campus. (Photo: Heather Eidson) Below: Franco and Brito are pictured in their native Cuba in the 1990s. (Family photo)

Twenty years after leaving Cuba as political refugees, a mother and daughter take the next step as members of the Class of 2017

By Scott Alessi

Patricia Brito easily blends in amidst the sea of students flowing through Damen Student Center. The 23-year-old Loyola senior carries herself with a quiet demeanor, her wavy black hair neatly pulled back to reveal an unassuming smile. She calls little attention to herself as she casually chats with friends between classes, in many ways the picture of the prototypical college student.

Across the room, Tamara Franco is hard to miss. A broad, bright smile stretches between her rosy cheeks, framed by a wall of long, flowing blond curls. She speaks excitedly through a thick Cuban accent, her words accompanied by an infectious, joyful laugh. Her gregarious nature makes her fit right in among her fellow undergraduate students even though, at 47, Franco would seemingly have less in common with her peers than she would with their parents.

As Brito walks through Damen, she talks to a friend who points out a student standing with Franco. “Hey, that’s my sister,” he tells Brito, gesturing toward the young woman. Brito looks over and responds, matter-of-factly, “That’s my mom standing next to her.”

By now, it is a familiar conversation for Brito. Since her sophomore year, she’s shared the Loyola campus with Franco, her mother, as both pursued their bachelor’s degrees. “I still have to explain to some of my friends that, yeah, I go to school with my mom,” she says. “It’s definitely weird. But you get used to it.”

Both Brito and Franco acknowledge that their situation is unique, but for them, it is just the latest stop on a journey that’s been anything but ordinary. It began 20 years ago in Cuba, a country Brito doesn’t even remember, when Franco was forced into exile for challenging the Communist regime. Their path wound its way through Miami, across the Atlantic to Paris, then back to Miami. When Brito was in high school she and her mother moved to Chicago, where both eventually found a home at Loyola.

Through it all they have stuck together. And now mother and daughter—together—will celebrate their college graduation this spring.

Enemy of the state
When asked about the remarkable road she’s traveled, Franco just flashes her characteristic smile and shrugs her shoulders. “Life is unpredictable,” she says.

As a child growing up in El Cristo Oriente, a small town on the outskirts of Santiago de Cuba, Franco couldn’t have imagined where her natural curiosity would one day lead her. Her education was centered on the ideals of the Communist Party, and teachers told her she should shun religion and hate the United States. In middle school she became a member of the Communist Youth Union, which instructed children to be “honest vigilantes,” informing the authorities of anything they saw at school, or even at home, that conflicted with the strict rules of Fidel Castro’s regime. But Franco was never content to accept these teachings at face value.

When she was 13, Franco started asking questions. She wondered why, for example, religion was considered taboo when so many beautiful churches dotted the landscape of Havana. One day, her curiosity got the best of her. She walked into a church and approached a priest, who shared with her the teachings of Catholicism. She went home excited to share her findings with her family only to be scolded by her grandmother, who made Franco promise never to visit the church again.

That didn’t stop Franco. She kept asking questions about religion and politics, and when the answers didn’t match up with her own experiences, she became increasingly disillusioned with the Communist Party. During her final year of high school, she stood up at a meeting of the Communist Youth Union and renounced her membership. “I gave back my card and said, ‘I am done. I am not ready to be consistent with what this card means to you,’” she recalls.

Franco went on to attend college in Havana City, where as a freshman she joined a group of likeminded young people who shared her desire to change Cuba’s oppressive government. She and her friends each wrote and signed letters to Castro, calling for changes like democratic elections, freedom of speech and religion, and the freedom to travel outside of Cuba. As a result she was expelled from the university, ending her first attempt to earn a college degree, and suffered through interrogations and intimidation at the hands of Cuba’s political police.

Despite her family’s protests, Franco had also continued attending church. After getting married and giving birth to her daughter, she began attending classes to prepare for baptism. At first she went alone, but she soon began bringing her infant daughter along. Police would sometimes follow her to church, making sure she was aware of their presence, even sitting at the end of the pew during Mass. But Franco refused to be intimidated. She followed through on her plans to have Brito baptized and then, eventually, she too was baptized into the Catholic faith.

Then one day, in March of 1997, everything changed. The police came to Franco’s house and forced their way in. They gave her two choices: leave the country, or give up her daughter to be raised in the Communist system while she and her husband went to jail. “That was the ultimatum,” she says. “When they left, my decision was already made.”

Stranger in a strange land
Franco made the only choice she could. In May of 1997, she boarded a flight to Cancun, Mexico, with her husband and then three-year-old daughter. From there, they flew to Miami to begin a new life in America.

Franco took a job as a tobacco maker—“I was never good,” she admits—and started learning English. Eager to resume the education she began in Cuba, she started taking classes at a community college. But after separating from Brito’s father, Franco had to drop out of school and take a second job painting houses.

The twists and turns of life took Franco and Brito to new places, each one with new challenges. “When you move to a new environment, there is always a time of integration, a time of adaptation,” Franco says. “Those adaptations are difficult for everyone, but you know what? You get through. You just have a very defined goal and know how to get there, even if it is difficult. You maintain your steps, step by step, even if you find people that say ‘no, you’re not going to [succeed].’ You know you are, and that is the key.”

Although she’s easily understood, Franco still apologizes for her lack of fluency in English. Occasionally she pauses mid-sentence to translate a phrase from Spanish, or slips in a word or two in her native tongue. The language barrier has slowed her progress, but it never deterred her from continuing her education. After moving to Chicago in 2010, she enrolled at Wilbur Wright College. There, a professor gave her a copy of the Paulo Coelho novel The Alchemist and told her to spend 10 minutes every night before bed writing out the book by hand as a way to learn sentence structure. It worked. Her writing improved, and her educational journey continued.

At the same time, Franco was helping Brito prepare for college. They visited several local campuses, but Franco didn’t feel at home at any of them—“We were going to these for my future college career,” Brito interjects as a reminder. At one university, Franco describes having an overwhelming feeling of not being welcome. Another, she says, felt like a military bunker. Then they came to Loyola.

“When I arrived to Loyola, I felt at that moment that this is my place,” she recalls. “This is the place where I want to finish my studies.”

Brito wasn’t thrilled by this news, considering that she had also chosen to attend Loyola. But she also recognizes just how much her mother loves the University. When Franco completed her associate’s degree a year later, she remained true to her word. With the help of a transfer scholarship, she joined her daughter as a fellow Loyola student.

Like mother, like daughter?
Brito and Franco commute to campus each morning from their home on Chicago’s Northwest Side. Franco wakes up around 5:30, goes to the kitchen, and prepares her traditional cup of Cuban coffee (“It’s disgusting,” says Brito of her mom’s favorite beverage). Franco takes her time slowly sipping her coffee and tidying up the house, while Brito wakes up later and quickly gets ready to rush out the door. Often, she has to push her mother to leave on time.

“She takes forever,” Brito says.

“For me, drinking coffee is a ritual,” Franco replies.

“Twenty minutes!” clarifies Brito. “You’d think my mom would be the first out the door, but I’m always the one saying ‘Come on! We have to leave because we’re going to be late.’”

The odd-couple nature of their relationship reflects the unique bond the two share, a comfort level more like two old friends than a mother and her college-age daughter. Both find humor in the sometimes awkward moments that have arisen out of their situation. When seeing her mother across the quad, for example, Brito wasn’t sure whether to call out “Mom” or “Tamara” to get her attention (it turns out “Tamara” worked better). The two took one class together, and Brito found herself admonishing her mother for making too much noise snacking during the lecture. Franco would sometimes forget to do the homework and ask her daughter if she’d done it, to which Brito would respond, “Yes, but shouldn’t this be the other way around—you do the homework and I ask you?”

Though both were students in the College of Arts and Sciences— Brito majoring in political science and religious studies, Franco studying anthropology and philosophy—they were able to maintain their independence and respect each other’s space. But Brito never tried to avoid her mom on campus. “I’m not the kind of person who’d say we’re not going to have any kind of relationship while we’re in school,” she says. “You know, I’d miss seeing her around.”

As they approach graduation, both reflect on how far they’ve come. Brito made up her mind at age 6 as to what she wanted to do with her life. Watching her parents go through a divorce, she told her mother, “I’m going to become a lawyer one day so I can defend you in court.” Now she plans to take a gap year to study for the LSAT and apply to law schools, with Loyola being one possible destination.

Franco, who completed her degree requirements in the fall but will walk with her daughter at commencement in May, is one step closer to her dream of being a college professor. She had no question about where she wanted to continue her studies, and has recently been accepted to the Master of Divinity program at Loyola's Institute of Pastoral Studies.

“I don’t see myself outside of Loyola,” she says. “It’s like an extension of me.”

It’s possible both will remain at Loyola as they continue their education, but for now they are more focused on graduation day. To make the moment even more meaningful, Franco’s mother, whom she has not seen in two decades, will travel from Cuba to witness both her daughter and granddaughter graduate. It will be the first time Brito has met her grandmother, or at least the first time she can remember since leaving Cuba as a toddler.

It’s going to an emotional day for Franco, who will finally receive the college degree she’s tirelessly pursued for most of her adult life. To do it alongside her daughter, who has been by Franco’s side through all of her struggles, is one of those unpredictable moments in life that fills her with joy and pride. Brito is her legacy, Franco says, and she just hopes she’s set a good example.

“If I can show my daughter that you never—even if things are so difficult—you never give up,” she says, “then my job as a mother has been well done.”

Brito has indeed been paying attention, quietly observing every step of the way. “I admire the fact that she’s come so far,” Brito says. For a moment, she sets aside the gentle teasing and turns to look her mother in the eyes.

“Even though I don’t say it a lot,” Brito tells Franco, “I am very proud of you.”

Elizabeth Czapski (BA ’17) contributed to this story.

Rise of the machines

College of Arts and Sciences

Advances in artificial intelligence could change the way we work in the not-so-distant future

By Tasha Neumeister

Could your next co-worker be a machine or a robot? It’s not out of the realm of possibility, says George K. Thiruvathukal, professor of computer science and director of Loyola’s departmental computing.

The strides made in artificial intelligence (AI), the computer science area where computers perform tasks that normally require human intelligence, have grown exponentially, and Thiruvathukal expects to see a steady progression in the next five to 10 years with robotics becoming more a part of our everyday workplace. “Much as the printing press and modern electronic computer had direct consequences on the workforce,” he says, “the new age of AI/machine learning is going to replace many jobs.”

Thiruvathukal has been tracking advances in AI and robotics, an industry that has steadily grown to replicate humans both in function and character. Many activities that humans undertake can be done more safely or efficiently by robots. We’re already seeing robotic automation in industries such as agriculture and manufacturing, and Thiruvathukal expects to see robots play a larger role in the future in fields such as medicine, pharmacy, space exploration, and the military.

Even some of the seemingly far-fetched AI seen in Hollywood may not be that far off. Computer vision, for example, has seen great strides with advances in autonomous vehicles like self-driving cars, bringing us closer to robots having an intelligent pair of eyes. Robotic hands, including prosthetics, are also now being developed for amputees. While this is not exactly creating full androids yet, the ability to realistically mimic physiology is a key component of building the next Terminator.

But should the idea of AI in the workplace be as frightening as the Terminator? Thiruvathukal isn’t so sure. “The workforce will need to adapt to the latest innovations in computing technology,” he says. “More than ever, we face the risk of losing many good jobs. But we’re seeing many good jobs being created, too.”

The “holy grail” for AI research, as he puts it, is for computer algorithms to do the work with little or no human supervision. “At first blush, this may sound like we have no need for humans,” he says. “But it is the contrary: We’d like human brainpower to be focused on the overall tasks, as humans are needed to adjust what the robots are doing.”

That means the skillset needed for some jobs will change. Human workers will at minimum need to know how to write a bit of code to be able to manage their robot workers, Thiruvathukal says. In his classes at Loyola, he’s trying to ensure that future generations of workers will have the technological literacy to keep up with the changes ahead.

“There has never been a better time or place to learn about computing,” Thiruvathukal says, “at least to make sure you’ll know something about your next co-worker—a robot—and how it gets its work done.”

First class

Arrupe first graduates

Carlos Luna (above), a member of Arrupe College's first graduating class, used his success at Arrupe as a springboard to get to Georgetown University, where he will pursue his bachelor's degree. Other graduates, like Ramatoulaye Diallo (below), will be continuing their education at Loyola after getting help from Arrupe in making the transition from high school to a four-year university. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Two years ago, Arrupe College welcomed a group of students to be the pioneers of a new model in Jesuit education. Now, those students are ready to take their education to the next level.

By Anna Gaynor

Carlos Luna got the e-mail from Georgetown University in May. He was just beginning to look ahead to his final summer classes at Arrupe College, followed by graduation in August, and then the transfer to a four-year Chicago university in the fall. But then, Georgetown reached out to him, and all of his plans changed. “Honestly, I didn’t expect to be accepted into Georgetown,” he says. “I still applied because people pushed me to. And with that acceptance, a new opportunity came. I visited campus, and in the end, I decided to go.”

Luna is a member of the first graduating class of Arrupe, Loyola’s two-year associate’s degree program created to provide a rigorous liberal arts education to motivated students with limited financial resources and an interest in attending a four-year institution. In 2015, Luna was among nearly 160 Chicago teenagers who started taking classes on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus. And in August, more than 100 of those students crossed the stage at Arrupe’s first commencement ceremony. (See photos of Arrupe's commencement.)

“I’m grateful particularly to this group of graduates because they took a risk to pioneer this with us,” says Father Steve Katsouros, S.J., dean and executive director of Arrupe.

Arrupe offers small class sizes, one-on-one time with faculty and advisors, and the resources to thrive and earn an associate’s degree. In his two years at Arrupe, Luna became involved in student government, started the Dreamers and Allies Student Organization, and was awarded Loyola’s President’s Medallion. For him, Arrupe provided the chance to get on the college path he always aspired to. When in high school, Luna originally focused on applying to schools outside of Chicago, primarily the East Coast.

“It was decision after decision of being denied or wait-listed, so that was really tough on me,” he says. But now he will make the move from Chicago to Washington, DC, with plans to major in government and minor in either Mandarin Chinese or philosophy. “What I had hoped for in the beginning,” Luna says, “it’s come true.”

A dream realized

Arrupe College was a last-minute decision for Ramatoulaye Diallo. Originally from the West African country Mauritania, Diallo spent some time living in Paris before moving to Chicago with her mother in 2012. In high school, she decided she wanted to go to Loyola after graduation, but then her ACT score wasn’t quite high enough. “We share the same values—care for self, others, and community,” Diallo says of Loyola.

When she didn’t get in, she gave up on applying to schools. “In my head, I was just going to go back home and study,” she says. “And then my advisor calls me one day and says, ‘have you heard of Arrupe?’”

Diallo’s advisor explained Arrupe was part of Loyola, that she’d be a part of the first class, and she might be able to transfer to Loyola after graduating. That call came at the end of her senior year. Now, just over two years later, Diallo is planning the move into Bellarmine Hall on the Lake Shore Campus with four of her Arrupe classmates. And like many of her fellow Arrupe graduates, Diallo will be receiving a continuum scholarship from Loyola to cover the costs of her tuition and housing. “I can’t stress it enough—it helps a whole lot,” she says.

Diallo will be studying biology. Besides the fact that she loves science and anatomy, the program gives her the opportunity to decide what profession she might choose: nurse, physician assistant, researcher at a hospital—and if she goes big—maybe a doctor.

“I just hope that it’s really the beginning of something new and something important,” Diallo says. “I don’t know what I’ll accomplish with a biology degree, but I know it will eventually lead me to something great, and maybe possibly taking the MCAT and going to med school—eventually, eventually that will happen one day, Insha’Allah (God willing).”

A little help from her friends

Jacky Cruz is going from one lakeside school to another. Granted, Lake Mendota is a little smaller than Lake Michigan, but still, the University of Wisconsin-Madison will be her new home come fall. Going from a small college to a large state university will be quite a transition, but like many of her classmates, Cruz has been able to take advantage of the support network Arrupe offers. “We were always taught: If you have a question, just ask it,” says Cruz. “If you need help, just ask for help. I have not met a professor who has said, ‘no, I don’t have time, go somewhere else.’ They’re always there for you. They always make time.”

It’s something that Katsouros wanted built into the environment at Arrupe. While many community college students might meet with their advisor once during their college career, Arrupe students never have to look far for help. “The key feature of our success here in terms of retention and graduation rates has to do with my colleagues, and particularly how our faculty members serve as advisors,” says Katsouros. “Our style of advising is cura personalis oriented. They meet with their advisors several times during the course of the semester. The faculty meet once a week to discuss the students.”

That community support became more urgent when Cruz’s cousin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year. She was taking four classes and had a research project coming up. Her philosophy instructor, Minerva Ahumada, gave her an extension on a paper and also offered a kind ear. “We talked about that (first), and then about the research paper,” Cruz says. “She’s who I would go to, who I always go to if I need help for anything—with school or my own life.”

While the transition from Arrupe to a four-year university may seem a bit daunting, UW-M will be helping to make it easier. Cruz will not only be receiving in-state tuition, she won’t have to stay an additional semester or year, which is not often the case for transfers at other schools. And she’s already looking beyond college to a possible career in nursing, specifically working with pregnant women and possibly becoming an OB/GYN one day. “I’ve always wanted to do something with just helping and aiding people,” she says.

Taking the next step

When Blanca Rodriguez’s photo was on the cover of Loyola magazine almost two years ago, she said she planned to major in psychology after she graduated from Arrupe. It isn’t much of a surprise that now she’ll be doing just that. But Rodriguez does say she was surprised by some aspects of her time at Arrupe. “I thought it was just going to be going to school and going home and doing homework, but it wasn’t like that,” she says. “It was talking to professors, staying 15 minutes after class just to talk about Dr. Minerva Ahumada’s wedding, or hanging out with my friends in the lounge.”

While other schools say they’re like a small family, Rodriguez points out that Arrupe actually is a small family. Freshmen and sophomores talk to each other, everyone knows everyone else, and members of this graduating class are helping those now entering Arrupe. Rodriguez served as vice president of Phi Theta Kappa (PTK), the honors society for two-year schools. She feels like a big sister to fellow students, letting them know that if they put in the work, they can accomplish something more. “I feel it’s good to try to push people further to their fullest potential, and I feel that as a PTK leader that’s what I’m able to do.”

Along with psychology, Rodriguez is planning to minor in music when she heads to Dominican University. She wants to work in musical therapy. She herself picked up the ukulele last year and finds playing can be a stress reliever.

Katsouros is encouraged by how much students like Rodriguez have grown at Arrupe, and how they’ve embraced the Jesuit mission and will now carry it with them as they leave. “We’re very invested in these students, in who they are, in their successes, and also with what they’ve brought to us,” Katsouros says. “I think that they are really impacting Jesuit higher education. They’re teaching us how to deliver this curriculum to a new and very important demographic, one that’s going to have a huge impact on cities like Chicago and the communities like the neighborhoods that our students come from.”

For Rodriguez, she feels like Arrupe gave her the encouragement and support she needed, making it possible for her to graduate and get a full ride to attend a four-year university. “I feel like Arrupe has given us that chance,” she says. “You can do it—it doesn’t matter where you come from, what culture you are from, or what your background is. You can go to whatever school you want to and succeed wherever you want to go.”  

Changing the conversation

Civil discourse

As heated arguments between opposing parties have become the norm in an ever-polarized society, Loyola faculty are helping students bring back a little civility

By Anna Gaynor

The overwhelming ubiquitousness of social media—and the internet in general—offers us the opportunity to easily make connections with people all around the world. Unfortunately, it also seems to offer just as many opportunities to create and reinforce divisions.

It’s easier than ever to avoid opposing viewpoints online and to anonymously shout down anyone who offers a different perspective. People can seek out only the news sources and opinions that align with their already held beliefs, confirming rather than challenging their worldview. These self-imposed ideological quarantines have greatly contributed to our current polarized culture, resulting in an environment where healthy debate and civil discourse can hardly thrive.

That’s something Michael Murphy, director of Catholic Studies and associate director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage, hopes he can help change. As an educator who has taught everyone from kindergarteners to post-doctoral students in the past 25 years, Murphy has seen a marked difference over the past five in how students debate issues.

“With technological advances, the media-saturated culture, and the very nearness of media to us all, people were getting a little more intense about the big ideas and really not navigating it in ways that were charitable and humane,” Murphy says.

As a Jesuit, Catholic University with a social justice mission, Loyola continues a tradition of fostering a diverse community where civil discourse and civic engagement are strongly encouraged. It is essential in today’s society—especially with so much division—to take on difficult issues and to discuss them in a respectful manner. Showing students how to navigate these often challenging conversations is a task Loyola faculty don’t take lightly—and for Murphy, a strong liberal arts education is a very important part of that.

“All of a sudden, we wake up and there is a breach in civil discourse,” he says. “The connection is that people do not really do the reading or are hungry or curious—I’m not wagging my finger—but the curiosity about the things that matter in life compete against these other quick things. It’s hard for a person to be balanced in that tradition, which really is a Loyola tradition. So, we’re holding on to get it back a little bit.”

And getting that back might mean looking back—all the way to 1546. While St. Ignatius wrote thousands of letters, it’s a specific letter to his brothers at the Council in Trent that Murphy believes represents the Jesuit tradition, a tradition of simply talking to one another (see sidebar). In “On Dealing with Others,” Ignatius writes:

Be slow to speak, and only after having first listened quietly, so that you may understand the meaning, leanings, and wishes of those who do speak. Thus you will better know when to speak and when to be silent.

Murphy understands that encouraging students to have conversations and dialogue isn’t necessarily the most exciting approach to civil discourse, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. “It really is the best way,” he says. “It’s easy to throw blows. It’s harder to dialogue. So if it’s harder, it usually is more worth our time.”

Another Loyola faculty member has been looking even further into the past to examine today’s political discourse. In his classes at the School of Communication, assistant professor George Villanueva focuses on Aristotle. Specifically, Villanueva asks students to use the philosopher’s Rhetorical Triangle, a framework that breaks down arguments into three elements: logic (logos), ethics (ethos), and emotion (pathos).

Aristotle’s Rhetorical Triangle, or any other type of analytical approach, gives students a framework to analyze political speeches and media from the past as well as today. Students can recognize that a speaker who reads off a list of dry facts and figures has an excess of logos, while their opponent, who uses their speech to tell the story of a family impacted by an issue, is leaning more on pathos. This academic knowledge of how speeches work can help establish ground rules for when students find themselves in the midst of debate.

“Obviously everything is personal, but I try to refer back to the course material and some analytical terms that we’ve been learning in the class,” Villanueva says. “So we can try to take a step a back and understand this within that analytical term, and how rhetoric or communication theories can be applied to this current event or debate.”

From his own experience, Don Heider, dean of the School of Communication, recognizes that emotions can play a large role, and sometimes an obstacle, in these types of disagreements. “I definitely don’t disagree with passion, but we’ll never have civil discourse if we are too emotionally invested in an issue,” Heider says. “What’s missing, I think, in a lot of discourse these days is the ability to actually listen to another human being and try to understand and appreciate what they’re feeling—even though you assume you understand them. It’s a big mistake.”

In his theology courses, Murphy encourages students to talk about and analyze divisive issues. He takes a different approach than Villanueva—but has a similar agenda.

Murphy asks his students to remove themselves from the debate, meaning they have to avoid any “I” statements. Instead, Murphy wants them to understand the entire issue, and that means understanding the full spectrum of opinions on the subject. On each side of a white board, he’ll write the two opposite positions in a debate and then fill in the less extreme views that fall between them.

“The agenda in the classroom is to say: All right, let’s put these things into play,” Murphy says. “Where we objectively put the ideas next to one another, divorced of my opinion, and to encourage students to be sober in their dealing with them.”

Villanueva often brings community organizers and advocates into his classes to discuss their work and the challenges they face. While they have specific views and positions that they are arguing for, they’re also the people who are out having real one-on-one encounters—talking to neighbors, knocking doors, and just being physically present.

“I think we need to return to conversation in some kind of physical presence, otherwise we’re just going to be susceptible to media,” he says. “Media is great, don’t get me wrong. I love media. I study media, but I know that without any conversation in the physical presence, you can’t get anywhere.”

In class, Villanueva sees that students want a better way to connect, and he encourages them to have more face-to-face conversations—rather than getting involved in the one-sided ones they can find behind their keyboards or phones. The challenge, he admits, is getting them to accept disagreement and be willing to be uncomfortable.

“I think we’re way too stuck with thinking that agreement is the goal,” he says. “It can’t be the goal. History has taught us, agreement is never there. How do you actually be uncomfortable with being in disagreement and just working through these discussions—and sometimes knowing that some of this is going to be painful?”

Some of that discomfort comes from recognizing others’ feelings and motivations and realizing they may be different from your own. Murphy believes asking questions to understand a different viewpoint is key, such as, “Why in your heart or your mind do you think this way?" or "What are you worried about if something else happens?”

“It’s not anything too complicated,” Murphy says. “I seek for a deeper understanding and I don’t want to use the ‘I’ statements to defend myself. I’m more interested in what you feel about it.

“The grace part comes in when we have the courage and the willingness to be open to others’ points of view, and in the art of discussing these things in a civil manner.”

Today’s research, tomorrow’s cure

CTRE research

New discoveries that will impact the lives of future patients are taking place on Loyola's Health Sciences Campus

Research stories by Jim Ritter

The Center for Translational Research and Education opened just over a year ago, and it has already been home to breakthroughs in the lab that could have significant benefits for patients. Here are just a few of the research endeavors currently in progress:

Preventing brain defects in future generations

Repeated binge drinking during adolescence isn’t just dangerous for teenagers—it can also affect brain functions in future generations. Research by Toni R. Pak, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology, found that adolescent binge drinking altered the on-off switches of multiple genes in the brains of teen binge drinkers’ offspring, potentially putting them at risk for such conditions as depression, anxiety, and metabolic disorders.

In the study, one group of teenage rats was exposed to alcohol equivalent to about six binge drinking episodes. The rats mated after becoming sober and the females remained sober during their pregnancies, so any effects on offspring could not be attributed to fetal alcohol syndrome. The alcohol-exposed rats were compared to a control group that were not exposed to alcohol.

In the offspring of alcohol-exposed rats, researchers examined genes in the hypothalamus, response to stress, sleep cycles, and food intake. Researchers looked for molecular changes to DNA that would reverse the on-off switches in individual genes. They found 159 such changes in the offspring of binge-drinking mothers, 93 gene changes in the offspring of binge-drinking fathers, and 244 gene changes in the offspring of mothers and fathers who both were exposed to binge drinking.

The study is the first to show a molecular pathway that teenage binge drinking by either parent can cause changes in the neurological health of subsequent generations.

Solving an HIV mystery

A mystery has long baffled HIV researchers: How does the virus enter the nucleus of immune system cells? A recent discovery by Edward M. Campbell, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, may help to answer this question, and opens a potential new strategy for fighting HIV.

HIV infects and kills immune system cells, including T cells. This cripples the immune system, making the patient vulnerable to common bacteria and viruses that usually don’t cause serious problems in healthy people. Once HIV enters a cell, it has to find a way to get inside the nucleus, which contains the cell’s DNA. Many related viruses do this by waiting until the cell divides, when the protective membrane surrounding the nucleus breaks down. But HIV has the ability to enter the nucleus in a non-dividing cell.

How HIV gets through the nuclear envelope has been a mystery. In part, this is because the HIV core (the protein shell that protects the HIV genome) is 50 percent larger than the pores in the envelope. These pores normally enable cellular proteins and other materials to go back and forth between the nucleus and the rest of the cell.

Campbell and colleagues discovered that a motor protein, called KIF5B, interacts with both the HIV-1 core and the nuclear pore in a way that allows HIV into the nucleus. HIV hijacks KIF5B to serve a different purpose: It induces KIF5B to tear off pieces of the nuclear envelope and transport them away from the nucleus, thus making the pore wide enough for HIV to pass through.

Developing a drug that prevents KIF5B from disrupting nuclear pores would prevent HIV from sneaking into the nucleus without detection. This would give the immune system enough time to attack and destroy HIV.

“It’s like making a bank vault harder to break into,” Campbell says. “In addition to making the money more secure, it would increase the chance of sounding the alarm and catching the burglars.”

Saving lives by lowering blood pressure

Intensive treatment to lower systolic (top number) blood pressure to below 120 would prevent 107,500 U.S. deaths per year, according to research by Richard S. Cooper, MD, chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences, and other coordinating institutions. Two-thirds of the lives saved would be men and two-thirds would be age 75 or older, according to the study.

Current guidelines recommend keeping systolic blood pressure below 140 mmHg. When the treatment goal was lowered to a maximum of 120 mmHg, there was a major reduction in mortality. To determine whether intensive treatment to lower systolic blood pressure could alter mortality, researchers applied findings from a multicenter study to the U.S. adult population. Loyola University Medical Center was among the centers that enrolled patients in the SPRINT trial, which included more than 9,350 adults ages 50 and older who had high blood pressure and were at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The SPRINT trial found there was a 27 percent reduction in mortality from all causes when systolic blood pressure was lowered below 120 mmHg, compared to the standard treatment of lowering blood pressure below 140 mmHg.

Advancing treatment for children with cancer

A grant from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation will help fund pediatric cancer clinical trials, including funding a research nurse who will coordinate trials of new drugs and drug combinations. Charles Hemenway, MD, PhD, division director of pediatric hematology/oncology and the Ronald McDonald House Charities endowed professor in pediatric oncology, says the grant will make more clinical trials available to patients.

“Because government funding is limited, private funding from organizations such as St. Baldrick’s Foundation plays a critical role in advancing the treatment of children with cancer,” Hemenway says.

Pediatric cancer clinical trials currently open at Loyola are looking for better treatments for leukemia, brain, bone, liver, and kidney cancers. Loyola is among 40 childhood cancer institutions across the country that received infrastructure grants from St. Baldrick’s, the largest private funder of childhood cancer research grants. 

The long goodbye


A highly detailed carved effigy of the deceased is created as a part of the traditional funeral practice of the Toraja people. Below, the Toraja funeral includes a ritual procession of the body of the deceased and the carved effigy to its viewing pavilion for the duration of the funeral. (Photos courtesy of Kathleen Adams)

One culture’s unique rituals for the dead have a lot to teach us about life

By Anna Gaynor

It’s hard not to be sensational when describing Kathleen Adams’s research. For the past 30 years, this anthropology professor has been studying a small Indonesian community, Toraja, which has become something of a tourist destination for the adventurous. Visitors, however, aren’t just coming to see its stunning limestone cliffs or rich art traditions—but rather its unique rituals honoring the dead.

A Toraja funeral can last days, host thousands of visitors, include effigies of the dead, feature water buffalo fights and sacrifices, and sometimes require mile-long processions through a village. “It’s not that they subscribe to a vastly different religious worldview,” Adams says. “That kind of relationship and familiarity with the realm of death, I think, really appeals to foreign tourists because it’s something we tend to segregate out from our everyday lives.”

The majority of the Toraja people practice Christianity, but the pageantry of their burial rituals remains a holdover from when they practiced the “Way of the Ancestors.” This includes keeping the bodies of loved ones for weeks, and sometimes years, in the home.

Toraja people also have a ritual that entails periodically cleaning the graves and sometimes bodies of their deceased loved ones, even years after the funeral. These rituals, says Adams, can often be misunderstood.

“What started happening, as best as I can piece together, was migrants who had moved to Jakarta and other parts of Indonesia, who were often second-generation migrants, were coming back,” Adams says. “The city folk would want a picture next to their deceased relatives, and the images started circulating on Facebook. Toraja became suddenly internationally associated with this idea of the ‘walking dead’ and zombies.”

It’s easy to get caught up in the strange juxtaposition—an online search reveals photos of tourists and family members taking selfies with a beautifully dressed and decayed body. But once Adams starts talking about Toraja, she opens up about a community that sees its relationship with the deceased as something that doesn’t stop at death.

Starting in 1984, Adams spent nearly two years in the region conducting Fulbright-sponsored dissertation research on the effects of tourism and globalization. She stayed with a host family, who would eventually come to know her as their adopted daughter. During her time there and her semi-regular trips back, Adams has seen many funerals, including both her adoptive father’s and mother’s, and knows very well the work that goes into them.

“People will wait a year, two years, even five years to have a funeral because these rituals draw thousands of guests,” Adams says. “You have to build almost a mini village to house everybody and to stage the funeral. If kids are away at school or if family members have migrated halfway across the world, they must work together to find a suitable date and amass the resources needed for the funeral.”

During all of that planning, the body of the deceased loved one is kept at home. When Adams’s adoptive mother died, the family cared for her body in bed for about nine months while they planned the service. “They gave her tea by her bedside. They ritually fed her, and traditionally people talk about that period as a time when the deceased is ‘sleeping,’ ” Adams says.

For her adoptive mother’s funeral, which lasted 10 days, Adams says about 75 smaller pavilions were built to house everyone. At the start of the ritual, guests arrive in extended family groups, often in a procession of 50 to 100 people. All the women and men in the group might have coordinating sarongs, while other men carry rice or lead in pigs and water buffalo.

The body and a carved effigy were carried throughout the village as part of the funeral, which concluded with her adoptive mother’s coffin being sealed in a tomb. The effigy was then placed next to her husband’s so they can remain side by side. “The traditional belief was that one of your souls would remain with the effigy and the other soul would go on to the next world or afterlife, where you would live with all your relatives and the water buffalos as your wealth,” Adams says.

After the funeral, the Toraja people traditionally continue to honor the deceased, bringing them gifts like money, beer, and candy. In exchange, the soul of the deceased watches over them. “There was this ongoing discourse between the world of the living and the world of the dead,” she says.

Less wealthy members of the community hold simpler, more condensed funerals. Their ritual starts much sooner after death, and there may be only one water buffalo sacrifice, not the 20 to 50 that might occur during an elite individual’s funeral.

Adams finds that tourists and the media have a tendency to treat the Toraja beliefs as alien and exotic. They see the traditional dress and rituals of a funeral, but they don’t always see the same people later wearing modern clothes and glued to their phones like anyone else.

In reality, the Toraja community is one that values its relationships with family—and a funeral is the place where they can pay the ultimate respect to their loved ones. “There are some things to be learned from a society that is so comfortable with death,” Adams says. “I think we would all be a lot more comfortable facing the ends of our lives with those kinds of open practices.”

And although those practices may look different from ours on the surface, Adams sees a lot of similarities. “We care deeply for our families and we are concerned about the big questions of existence, life and death, and how to make a life meaningful. For me that’s been an important lesson: not to let the surface differences alienate us from one another.”

Super connector


Alumna Jessica Kubasak (BS ’03, BA ’05) uses Skype to connect with a Loyola student she met through LUConnect, an online platform that allows students to seek career advice from alumni. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

A new online platform is helping students tap into an incredible resource for career advice: Loyola's vast network of alumni

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

Loyola senior Nikki Devens knew she wanted to pursue a career in law. But there are a lot of options within the field, and Devens wasn’t quite sure which area she wanted to focus on. Getting advice from practicing lawyers proved difficult, since most were too busy with their own workloads to make time to talk to a college student.

Then Devens discovered LUConnect, a growing online platform that gave her access to a vast network of Loyola alumni willing to provide exactly the kind of perspective the aspiring lawyer was seeking. She ended up contacting six different lawyers—all Loyola alumni who had signed up with LUConnect. All were happy to have a conversation with a fellow Loyolan looking to break into the legal profession.

Devens asked them what they wish they had done as undergraduates to better prepare for law school, and she gained helpful insight on what life is like for law students and lawyers. When she talked to a lawyer who specializes in immigration justice, “a light bulb went off,” Devens says. “And I just knew this was what I wanted to do.” It has been her focus ever since.

Most college students grapple with the same kinds of life-changing questions—what their first step should be on the career path, whether to go to graduate school—and LUConnect is making it easier for students to navigate these questions with support and guidance from alums who have been there and done that. An easy-to-navigate website allows students to quickly find alumni who share their interests and have already committed to helping students in the same position they were once in: trying to figure out how to transition from college to career.

After a soft launch a year ago and a hard launch in the spring, LUConnect has more than 850 registered participants. Students and alumni are asked to create profiles and each group can determine the extent of their interactions, which can range from a mentoring relationship to a one-time conversation or e-mail exchange. Either way, the goal is for students to come away armed with the information to make well-informed decisions about their future.

The alumni—known as “champions”—are experts in hundreds of fields and can advise students on things like finding their first job or determining if the career they are seeking is really right for them. Alumni who create profiles can also connect with one another if they are looking for a new job or are thinking about switching careers.

LUConnect is kind of like “LinkedIn meets Match.com,” says Brian Kurth (MA ’92), who created the software platform and donated it to the University. “You can reach out to someone on LinkedIn, but there are no guarantees they’ll respond,” says Kurth, founder and CEO of Revere Software. “The advisors on LUConnect have signed on to share their expertise and best practices and can’t wait to do so.”

Kathryn Jackson, director of Loyola’s Career Development Center, agrees that the availability and enthusiasm of alumni champions are crucial to the success of the program, which is facilitated through partnerships between the Career Development Center, Alumni Relations, and Information Technology Services. Networking can be overwhelming if you have a massive group of people to sift through, Jackson says, and students can quickly lose confidence in the process. But with LUConnect, students find mentors who are targeted to their situations and very likely to respond. “It’s not just a database of names,” she says. “It’s a real learning laboratory.”

Many of the conversations that take place through LUConnect are examples of “flash mentorship,” according to Kurth, who has himself mentored students on being an entrepreneur. Long-term mentoring “can be stifling for millennials,” he says. “They’d rather get a variety of perspectives and do it on their own timeline.” However, he adds, long-term coaching is still a possibility through LUConnect in cases where a student and an alum are open to it.

Many students find LUConnect especially helpful in areas where professionals are busy or overworked, as Devens discovered with lawyers. The same is true in the medical field, making LUConnect popular at the Stritch School of Medicine. Stritch student Nathan Pecoraro (BS ’15) helps lead a Stritch mentoring program that uses the platform to connect about 200 medical students with undergrads looking for guidance. Many discussions involve the medical school’s Early Assurance Program, and sophomores have asked Pecoraro to review their applications to make sure they’re on the right track.

Having been a Loyola undergrad who went through the process himself, Pecoraro is able to offer valuable advice to students on getting accepted to medical school. “It can be an intimidating process,” he says. “Students want to know how they can compete against 10,000 applicants.”

His advice is simple: “Do what you love to do, not just what you think will help you get into medical school. We’re all unique, and we all took diverse paths. You don’t have to put on a fake version of yourself to be a good applicant.” Pecoraro hopes that mentoring through LUConnect will eliminate barriers that might discourage younger students. “You shouldn’t give up on your dreams,” he says.

On the other hand, mentors can help a student change course if he or she is heading down a path that might not be the best fit. Until recently, senior anthropology major Judy Kyrkos was thinking about medical school. Talking to alumni made her aware of other opportunities to get involved in health care, some of which are a better match for her interests. She decided to attend graduate school and pursue public health or a more research-based field.

“The med students were really honest and up front about things like the work load and the realities of the financial burden,” says Kyrkos, adding that she might still attend medical school after receiving her graduate degree.

Jessica Kubasak (BS ’03, BA ’05), a child life specialist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, says it’s important for students to learn that school and careers don’t always take a “straight and narrow path.” She’s a good example of this, as she prepares to go back to school and transition into a new career in physical therapy.

Kubasak says mentoring can give students clarity and possibly point them in a direction that differs from what they had envisioned. She has communicated with a few students through LUConnect and has asked them to really think about what they enjoy doing with their time.

“When you’re 18, we tell you to choose a major and do that for the rest of your life. But even if you have a firm idea of what you want to do, life doesn’t always work out that way,” she says. “So I ask students to do some real soul searching.”

Jackson says LUConnect is quickly building momentum with students, who like that the service is free, online, accessible 24/7, and even available to those studying abroad. At the same time it offers flexibility to alumni who wish to serve as champions. “Alumni can choose how much time they want to devote, and they can communicate via phone, Skype, e-mail, or in person,” Jackson says. “It’s a nice way to give back.”

That’s a message that has resonated with Devens, who is already thinking of how she can assist future Loyola students who are pondering the same kinds of career decisions that alumni mentors have helped her tackle. “The people I’ve talked to have helped me with big decisions,” she says, “and I would love to pay it forward and be there for the next group of students.”

Sign up to be a champion or learn more about LUConnect at LUC.edu/LUConnect.

Your neighborhood nurse

Niehoff cover story

Senior nursing student Katie Kazimir works with resident Lillian Stratigakes at the Pat Crowley House in Rogers Park, where Niehoff students meet regularly with patients. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

For more than three decades, Niehoff students have been gaining experience outside the classroom—and transforming lives in the local community

By Anna Gaynor

On a bright Thursday afternoon, a small group of students meet on the first floor of Pat Crowley House, a Rogers Park apartment complex for seniors who need assisted care. Sitting in the community living room for their first day, the nursing students get debriefed on the home’s residents and their daily activities. Walking in late are Katie Kazimir and Sara Reilly—Kazimir’s first home visit went longer than they expected thanks to a talkative patient and a temperamental little dog. “He was very protective of her,” Reilly says, half-joking.

Fortunately, Kazimir and Reilly weren’t checking up on the dog. Once a week for the next semester, the two will come to that patient’s home to help her manage her chronic health problems.

All of these students are part of Loyola’s Community Nursing Center program. Throughout this semester, they will do home visits in the Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Uptown communities for those who cannot afford home health care. Students, like Kazimir and Reilly, will look at a number of things for each patient: their general health, housing situation, mobility, and ability to do daily chores. If students find that a patient can’t manage certain activities or afford certain necessities anymore, they will work to match that patient with a government agency or nonprofit that can help.

“We keep people out of the hospital by intervening earlier with chronic diseases,” says Monica Dillon (BSN ’82), project director of the Community Nursing Center. “We do a lot of education, but we do a lot of assessments and try to intervene before the diabetic becomes out of control.”

For Kazimir’s patient, she will need to assess her vitals, change bandages, answer questions, and help with any other health issues she might be having. “It’s a much slower environment,” Kazimir says. “The pace is more relaxed, where as in the hospital everything is going really quickly and your day flies by. You have to be constantly thinking on your feet. This is stopping and being with the patient.”

Every semester, roughly 40 students are divided into groups to be led by instructors like Jennifer Lucas (BSN ’02, MSN ’07), a Loyola alum who is working with the Pat Crowley House group. Each of these students is assigned two patients, one at the house and another in the community. Students make visits in pairs, which means four home visits per week.

This experience teaches students what happens when patients leave the hospital. During visits, a student will ask patients to show them the medications and instructions they received from their doctor or the hospital. For financial reasons or due to a miscommunication, patients might not have gotten a prescription filled, didn’t make that follow-up appointment, or don’t have the support system in place to follow a doctor’s instructions. It’s a lesson that Lucas finds stays with them after graduation.

“Even some former students who are now nurses in the ICU, as they’re discharging a patient they start to think, ‘Oh wait, is home care set up?’ Are the supplies there? Do you have a home health nurse? Who’s going to help you with your bandages?’ ” Lucas says. “So they start thinking more holistically.”

Humble beginnings
The Community Nursing Center started in the unheated basement of St. Ignatius Church in Rogers Park, but since its beginning in 1981, it has grown into an integral part of the north side community. Dillon was a student at the center in 1982, started working at the nursing center in 2014, and was named director this summer.

“You’d be surprised how much it hasn’t changed,” she says. “We still have the same mission to reach out to probably the most vulnerable seniors in the community. The Nursing Center continues to be a critical safety net.”

Today, students have started seeing patients with increasingly more complicated health issues. For many, the visits are what allows them to stay in their homes. “There’s nothing else like it,” says Pam Andresen, who was the director of the center from 1988 to 2010. “We have had grant funding over the years, but we’re mainly supported by the University, and they have supported us since 1981.”

New students don’t just treat individual patients, most of whom are seniors. They’re teaching public health classes in addition to those home visits. Classes have taught preschoolers the best way to brush their teeth, wash their hands, and even cough and sneeze. Students might do a series of prenatal classes, talk about healthy eating at Loyola’s farmers market, or discuss treating arthritis at senior centers.

For all of these programs though, the Community Nursing Center makes sure listen to the community first and foremost.
“In community health, it’s important to know what the population needs so we’re not going to teach them something they have no interest in,” Andresen says. “At the senior center, if we had gone and talked about preventing falls, which would be actually a very good thing to teach, but if they felt like, ‘oh I’m safe, I’m not going to fall,’ they probably would not have even shown up.”

A lasting impact
Dillon, Andresen, and Lucas all have stories about the work students have done—whether it was helping a veteran get reconnected with a VA hospital, finding pro bono help for a patient who hadn’t been to a dentist in over a decade, or convincing a patient to visit the ER where she was told her body was in the process of shutting down.

Nursing students take pride in changing someone’s life for the better, but sometimes these changes take place over years, not weeks. During Lucas’ first semester at the Nursing Center, a new resident moved into the Pat Crowley House. When Lucas and her students sat down with the woman, they asked if there was any health issue she wanted help with.

Turns out, the resident had a goal: lose 100 pounds using a food journal. For that first semester though, she just wrote down her meals in the journal. The second semester, she asked the students to circle foods she shouldn’t be eating. Next, she wanted to know what she could have to replace the foods previous students had circled. And after she had lost those 100 pounds, another group of students helped her revisit and lower the amount of medications she was taking.

“Sometimes the students only see a small piece of the puzzle. They may say, ‘I don’t think I’m really helping this person or doing much,’ ” Lucas says. “As an instructor, I can see over the last six years, all of the little semesters add up. Everything that they’ve done each semester has now completely changed this person’s life.”

Next up
Back at the Pat Crowley House, Carla Dannug and Lauren Baranovskis are still sitting in the living room while some of their fellow students are being introduced to their patients. The residents Dannug and Baranovskis have come to meet are out, so they’re writing brief notes introducing themselves to leave behind. This is a big leap from their previous classwork. Before this, these students were primarily in a hospital environment working alongside a nurse.

“I definitely think that this experience of being on your own, it gives you a wakeup call of, ‘Oh, I’m actually graduating next year,’” Dannug says. “There’s so many preventative measures that you can take in helping them from ever even going to the hospital.”

The two are joining a long line of nurses who have benefited from the center—no matter what path or specialty they choose afterward.

“I’m kind of realizing this is the reason I went into nursing,” Baranovskis says. “This really pins it on the head: getting out into the community and preventing people from getting into hospitals to begin with.”

We are what we eat

We are what we eat

"Vertemnus" (detail) by Renaissance artist Giuseppe Arcimboldo, 1591

Changing the way we think about food may be the key ingredient to improving the health of local communities

By Scott Alessi

“I’m not anti-meat,” says Dr. Terry Mason (BS ’74). It’s an odd thing to say for someone whose diet is almost entirely plant-based. It’s even more curious when you consider that Mason has just spent the past hour talking about the connections between staples of the American diet—processed foods, sugary drinks, dairy products, and yes, meat—and the most common illnesses in this country. But Mason, the chief operating officer of the Cook County Department of Public Health, isn’t a critic of any one food in particular. He does, however, want you to change the way you eat.

“I’m not anti-anything; I’m just pro-health,” he says. “And I look at the food supply in America as the number one threat to our health.”

Mason hasn’t always been a proponent of healthy eating. After decades as a urologist, he transitioned into the field of public health in 2009 and began to learn more about the links between diet and disease. It led him to radically shift his own eating habits, and now Mason starts each morning with a shake that usually includes blueberries or blackberries, vegan protein powder, and fresh kale. With mounting medical research to back up his concerns, he’s made it his mission to spread the word about the dangers of the American diet.

“It’s about what helps you and what hurts you, and I’m not going to make any apologies for saying certain foods hurt you,” he says. “Because if we don’t get a handle on what’s going on, we’re going to be among the sickest people on the planet.”

Even with better education about nutrition, he recognizes the challenges of changing people’s eating habits. A proliferation of processed foods fills grocery store shelves. Corporations focus their marketing efforts on kids, pushing sugary drinks and salty snacks adorned with cartoon characters. An abundance of fast food restaurants provide a convenient dinner option for families that are seemingly always on the go.

In his role as a public health official, Mason sees an opportunity to take a community-based approach to the problem in suburban Cook County. And in searching for a local partner to assist in working toward solutions, he turned to his own alma mater.

Loyola has identified the need for collaborative and creative solutions to community health disparities as a key priority of “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University’s five-year strategic plan. Leaders at Loyola’s Health Sciences Division in Maywood are working to identify local health concerns, and the recent Health-EQ conference—at which Mason was among the keynote speakers—took the first steps in developing strategies to tackle these issues.


Addressing community health disparities is one of the four priorities of Loyola's "Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World." Read more about the University's strategic plan here.

Mason sees the Maywood community as a sort of “living laboratory” to test out potential solutions to suburban public health issues. Maywood doesn’t have a grocery store, and processed foods are much more accessible to families than natural, healthier options. There’s also a general lack of knowledge about nutrition among many families.

“If we could begin to work out some of the issues in Maywood,” says Mason, “we may be able to develop a blueprint for how we can transform communities all over the country.” Solutions may include things like teaching kids how to plant and grow their own vegetables or helping families find ways to cook healthier meals at home.

But Mason understands that food isn’t the only concern in Maywood. Communities that become food deserts, he says, often lack other vital resources like quality schools, social services, and affordable housing. Convincing people to adjust their diets is only one piece of the puzzle.

That’s where Loyola becomes such a valued partner. Among the strategies of Plan 2020 is a collaboration across disciplines to address health disparities, and Mason believes that’s just what a town like Maywood needs. He sees opportunities to bring together experts from schools across the University—such as law, education, social work, and business—to work together on a range of issues that impact people’s health.

“We could come up with a model where we can empower people, create jobs, help improve housing, and recreate stability in communities,” Mason says. 

Such long-term collaborative efforts can make a significant difference over time. In the more immediate future, Mason just wants people to rethink what’s on their plates. Documentaries like Forks Over Knives and Food, Inc. have increased awareness about the consequences of our food choices, and vegan movements have gained steam in promoting a plant-based diet. But to really make a difference, Mason believes such voices need help in reaching a larger audience.

“That’s what I want to do, and I think an academic partner like Loyola can help create a platform for this,” Mason says. “Loyola can be an academic leader in really changing the world, one bite at a time.” 

Service with a smile


Sister Alicia Torres (BA '07) stands in the kitchen at the Mission of our Lady of the Angels in Chicago's West Humboldt Park neighborhood, where she puts her culinary skills to work preparing meals for the community. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

Sister Alicia Torres wowed audiences on the Food Network, but a simple life of serving the community is the young nun’s true recipe for happiness

By Scott Alessi

One afternoon last November, Sister Alicia Torres (BA ’07) set out for a routine walk through her neighborhood to hand out sandwiches alongside members of a visiting youth group from Indiana. Providing food to her neighbors in Chicago’s West Humboldt Park community is a regular activity for the 31-year-old nun, but on this day, something was different. Each person who saw Torres was buzzing with excitement, and not just because of the free sandwiches.

“Oh my gosh, we saw you on TV!” someone shouted. “Sister Alicia, you’ve made us all celebrities!” called another.

One by one, local residents beaming with pride came to greet Torres. For the past six years, she’s been an integral part of the community along with six other sisters and one priest—members of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago—at the Mission of Our Lady of the Angels on Chicago’s West Side. But days earlier, her friends and neighbors watched along with viewers around the country as Torres competed on a Thanksgiving-themed episode of the Food Network series Chopped.

By outlasting three other cooks whose culinary skills are also normally reserved for soup kitchens and shelters, Torres was crowned the winner and earned a $10,000 prize to aid her ministry. But the monetary reward was almost secondary. The feel-good story of the “cooking nun” garnered widespread media attention, shining a positive light on a community that is often plagued by poverty, gang violence, and drug trafficking. And Torres, the cheerful Catholic sister whose youthful face is framed by the traditional Franciscan veil, found herself suddenly thrust into the spotlight.

Though her poise and confidence shine through on screen, Torres humbly blushes when talking about all the attention she’s received since her television appearance. “I’m a lot more introverted than I look,” she says. But still, she welcomed the opportunity to highlight the struggles she sees in her community on a daily basis. “It wasn’t about me becoming famous,” Torres says. “It was about how I can use that platform to raise awareness about the epic crisis of hunger in our country and how each of us can respond to that.”

An unexpected calling

The seeds were planted early on for Torres to lead a life of service, though she never expected it would come in the form of a religious vocation. Raised in a military family, she had dreamed of serving her country as a naval officer. But faith was also a big part of her upbringing, from saying prayers before meals to reading the Bible with her mother. Even then, she recalls, something about religious life piqued her curiosity. “When I was little there was kind of this mystique about sisters,” Torres says. “I didn’t even know if they went to the bathroom!”

Some of the mystique faded when Torres attended a Catholic high school in Massachusetts, where she got to know several religious sisters and brothers. Looking back, she says they were an inspiration. At the time, however, Torres had no intention of following in their footsteps.

After plans to pursue a naval career didn’t work out, Torres decided to major in English when at Loyola. She also sought out opportunities to practice her faith on campus, from joining a pro-life club to participating in small faith-sharing groups. Many of the Catholic friends she met through campus ministry were theology majors, and seeing how much they enjoyed their studies inspired Torres to pursue a theology degree.

It wasn’t until her junior year that Torres started to feel God was calling her to be a sister. At first she resisted, not convinced that religious life was right for her.

“I fought with it for a while,” she says. “But eventually I realized the peace and joy that I was looking for came when I was moving in the direction of saying yes to God and saying yes to being a sister.”

Following that path led Torres to Father Bob Lombardo, a Franciscan priest who told her about a small group of men and women discerning religious life at the mission where he served. They were the beginnings of the Franciscans of the Eucharist of Chicago, and Torres found their simple life of prayer and service suited her well. Last October the journey came full circle, as Torres professed her final vows with the religious order.

Neighborhood watch

The Franciscans have become a part of daily life in West Humboldt Park. They host block parties and share in community meals, where Torres uses her now-famous culinary skills to cook for crowds large and small. Every Tuesday morning, neighbors can find her at the Mission’s food pantry handing out groceries. And she’s willing to lend an ear whenever someone just needs to talk.

“We’re here 24 hours a day, 7 days a week,” Torres says. “Anything that affects our neighbors, it affects us too, so there’s a real solidarity there with the people we live with.”

Two summers ago, a fatal shooting took place on a corner near the church. Torres was quickly on the scene, navigating her way around the police tape to see how she could help. The next morning she noticed that children in her Bible camp weren’t their usual rambunctious selves, and a parent told Torres that the children had witnessed the shooting firsthand.

Knowing the families had no resources to deal with such trauma, Torres reached out to Catholic Charities to arrange for grief counselors to meet with the children. It is because of the bonds she’s formed in the community that Torres is able to identify such needs and find ways to address them. “If those relationships weren’t there,” she says, “then I wouldn’t be able to connect people to the resources they need to live a healthy life.”

She’s also able to look more deeply at the root causes of problems in the community—why young people get involved in gangs, why people turn to drugs. The solutions aren’t easy, but the Franciscans are in it for the long haul. “You have to be at peace with the fact that this is going to be inch by inch, step by step,” Torres says.

Still, she prefers to focus on the positives of life in West Humboldt Park. The neighborhood is filled with wonderful people, and she’s proud to call them friends. The feeling, it seems, is mutual.

As Torres walks down the front steps of the church on a weekday afternoon, children on the sidewalk smile and wave. Her face lights up with a smile as she makes her way to greet them. Months removed from her brief TV fame, she’s still the same sister who has been their neighbor for six years. And beneath the habit, she says she’s still just a regular person, not much different from the people she’s devoted her life to serving.

“If I thought I was super great and totally sinless, I’d be a terrible sister,” she says. “I realize I can make a mistake just like everyone else. That helps me stay grounded, and it helps me share the love I’ve been given.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Setting the world on fire

Setting the world on fire

Above, a promotional booklet for the Meenan Corporation shows the Congress Hotel, just one of the iconic Chicago buildings that Cyril F. Meenan's Combusto-Jet was responsible for heating. Below, Meenan is pictured as a Loyola student in 1930 and in a 1973 newspaper clipping. (Images courtesy of Michael Murphy)

How my grandfather’s Ignatian-inspired ignition helped to fan the flames of the sustainability movement

By Michael P. Murphy

When my grandpa, Cyril Francis Meenan, came up to Loyola from Rock Island in 1928, his intention was not to become a pioneer in green technology. He hoped instead to begin a career in law and develop his formidable skills as a musician. Still, one never knows how the road of life will weave and wind, and the story of my grandpa’s experience resonates with many who came of age in difficult times.

‌The list is long in human history of inventions or discoveries that were the result of a “happy accident” or unexpected twist of fate. My grandfather’s Combusto-Jet, which optimized boiler efficiency and reduced air pollution in large-scale heating systems, was one such invention. That his Combusto-Jet would end up heating much of industrial Chicago (and beyond) in the latter half of the 20th century is all that much more of a marvel.

But Cyril’s story is also a tale in an Ignatian key: the journey of a prayerful pilgrim responding to a series of “cannonball moments,” the kind of which engender a breed of grit and innovative spirit needed to become the author of seven patents and a true energy pioneer.

Perfect combustion in combustible times
Fundamentally, the Combusto-Jet was a product born of the Great Depression. Like many students in Chicago then and now, my grandpa worked as he went to school, moonlighting for a heating company and selling boilers on the side. By 1931, times became so difficult that my grandpa was forced to leave Loyola without a degree. This blow was hard to take and not at all part of his plan. But my grandpa, who discerned God’s hand in all things, saw his way forward and did not waver.

If heating was the thing, so be it. Cyril would respond to St. Ignatius’s admonition to “set the world on fire” precisely by—in a manner of speaking—setting the world on fire. He became hooked on combustion and dead-set on evolving his understanding of efficient heating systems. He rode out the Depression by working for others, honing his skills, and cultivating his natural disposition to entrepreneurship, and was ever grateful to be gainfully employed.

By the late 1940s, my grandpa had made a name for himself in the world of industrial heating. He had also fallen in love, started a family with my grandmother, and created his own small heating business, the Meenan Corporation. But he was always “improving product” and searching for the pristine flame. This quest was not without trials of many kinds. The obligations and worries for the owner of a small business, where no job is too small, were legion. He injured his left hand preparing a job at his Clark Street shop and was never able to play his beloved violin again—a devastating wound he bore with quiet dignity.

But one evening, he caught a break. As he was busy running a test for a boiler job, Cyril inadvertently kicked over a shop vacuum and then beheld a glorious sight: the flaming tongues of the perfect burn. This happy accident, fleeting as it was, inspired a new direction in engineering. My grandpa’s questions about facilitating perfect combustion and the path to improved fuel efficiency were asked under a new light. What if I inject a more systematic flow of oxygen into the chamber? What hard materials would be needed to recreate and sustain such conditions?

The “vacuum event” was a game changer, and like the story of so many accidental inventions—from penicillin to potato chips to post-it notes—the event inspired forays of robust experimentation. There were many failures; torching copper and other materials beyond recognition, gassy disasters produced by bad fuel-to-air ratios. But Cyril was onto it. He crafted a device out of refractory cement replete with strategically placed holes that were situated, insulated, and ventilated for optimal burn. Eureka: the Combusto-Jet was born.

What began as a boon to fuel efficiency inspired by the hard lessons of the Depression became uniquely relevant for energy conservation and pollution abatement in the early days of environmental consciousness. The Combusto-Jet not only facilitated radical fuel efficiency, it also reduced pollution dramatically—a feature dear to my grandpa and one he emphasized in his marketing material from day one. This one-two punch became attractive to many Chicago manufacturers, and to others who required large spectrum heating, especially with the rise of emissions regulations in the early 1970s.

At its height of operation, the Meenan Corporation—staffed by uncles and cousins and 20 odd others—had over 1,000 systems in place. The client list included titans of Chicago industry: M&M Mars; Sears, Roebuck, and Co.; Coca-Cola; and Motorola. Other notable clients included The Art Institute of Chicago, Spiegel, and Illinois Bell, as well as out-of-state installations at The US Naval Academy in Annapolis and Domino Sugar in New York. The other large category of clients, not surprisingly, were institutions and communities of a decidedly Catholic orientation—seminaries, hospitals, and parishes—and, of course, Loyola. My grandpa had the Catholic market cornered, and for all the right reasons!

This is to say that Cyril’s faith life is the crucial component of this story. He was a Catholic “in full” in a time when that meant something distinctive. Like many Meenans, he was often a daily communicant; and like many Catholics in his era, he drew his main sense of community in the sacramental, liturgical, and social life of the church. He consecrated his family—including all 14 of us grandchildren—to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Politically speaking, his was a Catholicism that transcended the tenuous boundaries of identity politics, his abiding view being that life is to be cherished in every form and stage because, as he would often say (in ways that strike me now as all too Ignatian), “It’s all God’s gift.”

Catholic identity values such as these were central in his life, and they were not confined to Sundays alone. Moreover, the core Catholic intellectual premise of faith meeting reason became the cornerstone for his business plan. As Cyril wrote, “We employ the best of scientific observation and method.” We utilize resources responsibly; we minimize pollution because it is our responsibility to do so; and we take care of the gift and leave things better for the next generation. We pray because we cannot do it alone and, as he taught me, “we always rely on the mystery of God’s grace.”

For me, these are no mere platitudes; and, by the collision of my own personal cannonballs, I was able to get a sense of this kind of spirituality when I was very young. My grandfather taught me much about prayer; and, by a strange course of events, he also gave me my first spiritual direction by preparing me for my first communion.

Sure, we didn’t call it spiritual direction in the Ignatian mode back then, but things often make more sense with the benefit of hindsight, especially when you’re Irish. In Queen of All Saints Basilica (my family’s parish and, of course, one of my grandpa’s favorite accounts), we would kneel in silence and then “bring our needs to the beads” by praying decades of the Rosary. He would then encourage me to do two things: first, to be ever grateful and to note why, and second, to always ask God what he wants of me. In its focus on the magis, it strikes me as so explicitly Ignatian: What more does God want of me? What more does God want of us?

Ite Inflammate Omnia
In 2012, I was at a professional crossroads. While I was no stranger to Chicago, I was born and raised in California and saw my life unfolding there. But the perfect job opened-up at Loyola which gave my wife, daughters, and I cause for serious discernment about our family’s future. Three main reasons to move emerged as decisive: the excellent work taking place in The Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage (CCIH), the Loyola identity document on transformative education (so singularly brilliant and bold), and the life-giving vision of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability. I’ve been fortunate enough to work at the crossroads of all three of these gems in Loyola’s crown.

When I think of my grandpa, I think that the Spirit is at work here. I think that, in some meaningful way, my work connects to his and that Loyola has a vital part in all of this this. “Maybe you'll go here one day,” he would say. Maybe so.

The purpose of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius is to respond to the movement of God’s grace within us “so that the light and love of God inflame all possible decisions and resolutions about life situations.” Cyril took this to heart in a humble but radically intentional way. “Look at that clean flame, honey,” he said to my mother, Joan, along for the ride one day with her dad as he checked the mechanics on a job. “That’s the beginning of perfect combustion.”

Ite inflammate omnia is what we tell our students: “Go and set the world on fire.” Carry the fire and nurture the flame. Encounter it and learn from it. Gather its brightness and share its warm light, directing it to the good from which it comes. As my grandpa knew, much depends on it. Man, how he loved a good flame.

About the author
Michael P. Murphy, PhD, is director of the Catholic Studies Interdisciplinary Program and associate director of Loyola’s Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage.

Mother Teresa and me

Mother Teresa

The Church’s newest saint was much more than just an inspiration

By J. Breezer Rickey (MSOD ’02)

I was 12 years old when I first read about Mother Teresa in a Chicago newspaper. She was identified as the “Saint of the Gutters,” and I was in awe of her love and compassion to serve the poorest of the poor. Frankly, I wondered if she was even real. So I decided to find out for myself by writing her a letter.

Dealing with my own struggles at the time, I poured my 12-year-old heart out to her. Sure enough, Mother Teresa responded to my letter, giving me hope to continue through the pain I was feeling. Over time, her letters became the strength I needed in the darkest times. With her inspiration and encouragement, I decided at that point that I would devote my own life to serving others.

Years later, at the age of 27, my dreams of serving the poor alongside Mother Teresa became a reality. I quit my job as a social worker in Chicago and hopped on a plane for Calcutta, India, to join Mother at one of her homes for the poor. Upon my arrival I was immediately put to work—my first stop was Shishu Bhavan, a home for orphaned and sick children where all volunteers must start out. Most volunteers only last a few days, as the work is not easy and is often psychologically and physically draining.

Because I was volunteering for longer than three months, I was able to work mornings at Khalighat, the home of the dying destitutes, and in the afternoons teaching math and English to children in the back alleys. But nothing, not even a master’s degree in social work, could have prepared me for this.

I had the opportunity to be with people who were literally dying—holding their hands, putting oil on their rough skin, picking worms from their stomach and lice from their hair. It was what all Christians are called to do, and I had the privilege of doing it alongside Mother Teresa. Mother’s mission was to care only for those most in need, such as the people at Khalighat who were in their final 48 hours of life and had no one else.

For some of my time in Calcutta I lived at a guest house, and the rest of the time I lived at the Mother House where Mother and the other sisters resided. Living there was another humbling but gratifying experience. We awoke at 4:45 for morning prayers and washed our clothes on hard rocks. Sitting on the floor of the simple chapel with Mother and the other sisters for morning Mass prepared me for the strenuous work ahead. After Mass each day Mother would bless us, and I felt the power of God come through her small hands. She was quite small in size but robust in power and prayerfulness.

Walking to work I stumbled over people dying in the streets. I had to choose among them to decide who I would pick up and bring to Khalighat so they could spend their last 24-48 hours dying with dignity, being cared for by myself or one of the sisters. As Mother always reminded us, each of these “untouchables” was Jesus.

After a year in Calcutta I returned to Chicago, where I took to heart Mother’s words about serving those most in need. I worked as a therapist for children and teenagers with HIV and AIDS, then worked at a residential treatment facility for runaway teens.

Hoping to make a larger impact, I came to Loyola to pursue a second master’s degree in organizational development and started my own consulting practice, which allows me to weave together my faith, passion for social justice, and leadership skills.

Today I serve in a variety of roles: as a management and leadership consultant for nonprofits, a therapist for families moving overseas, an administrator of bullying prevention programs in the Archdiocese of Chicago—all of which are an extension of my time in Calcutta and my Jesuit education. Loyola has given me the tools to truly implement the concept of being a person for others, and I’ve been privileged to pass that on to students in the School of Social Work graduate program as a professor for the past 10 years.

When Mother died, I returned to Calcutta and joined the sisters in preparing her body for visitors to pay their last respects. For the funeral, I rounded up some people from her homes to participate in the Mass, knowing that having some of her beloved people involved in the funeral would be just what Mother would have wanted. In 2003 I had the honor of attending Mother’s beatification in Rome.

This past September I traveled there again to be present at the canonization where she became an official saint of the Catholic Church. Of course, I’ve always considered her to be a living saint, but it was still appropriate for her to be officially recognized by the Church.

I could go on and on about my time in Calcutta and how Mother inspired me as a child and, even now, as an adult. But Mother Teresa was not “just” an inspiration to me. She helped me through my darkest moments, filling a significant void—first through her letters and later as a personal role model.

Being a person for others is more than a catchy slogan. It is a way of life that isn’t always easy, but one that is rewarding and life-giving. Along with St. Ignatius of Loyola, our new St. Teresa of Calcutta serves as a role model who taught me to see God in everyone. I can only hope that I might be half of the inspiration to my college and graduate students as Mother was to me.  

About the author

J. Breezer Rickey (MSOD ’02) is a licensed clinician and organizational consultant in Chicago. In addition to being a Loyola alumna, she is also on faculty at the University, teaching graduate and undergraduate courses in the areas of leadership, ethics, race, and culture.


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Teachable moments

Teachable moments

Above, School of Education student Katina Tole, a 2016 President's Medallion recipient, teaches an algebra class at Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois. Below, sophomore Erin Cunnea works with students at St. Benedict School in Chicago’s North Center neighborhood. Both Loyola students are part of collaborative partnerships between the School of Education and local community schools in Chicago. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Inside classrooms at schools on Chicago’s North Side, Loyola students and faculty are helping to advance education—and learning valuable lessons in the process

By Maura Sullivan Hill

When Symone Smith arrived at Edgewater’s Nicholas Senn High School in the fall of 2013, she was a quiet freshman who had never envisioned journalism as a potential career path. Then she enrolled in Senn’s digital journalism program. Today, Smith is a senior, juggling college applications and homework with her spot as an anchor on the school newscast. She wants to be a broadcast journalist and even hopes to host her own television show someday.

“Before this program, I didn’t know anything about journalism,” she says. “[Now] having an idea for a story, like a profile piece or a feature, and then doing every step to put my story out—interview, film, and edit it—is very rewarding.”

Senn’s digital journalism program is one component of a successful partnership between the high school and Loyola’s School of Education that started in 2011. Since then, the partnership has served as a model as Loyola revamped its curriculum and partnered with more local schools. In 2013, the School of Education launched its redesigned teacher preparation program—known as Teaching, Learning, and Leading with Schools and Communities—with a focus on field-based, urban education.

“Almost all courses happen in school sites, community organizations, or cultural institutions,” says Ann Marie Ryan, the associate dean of academic programs in the School of Education. “We’re committed to preparing teachers in urban settings.”

Loyola currently has more than 50 partnerships with local schools—including Chicago public schools, Catholic schools, and independent schools—which serve as a training ground for the Loyola students and an opportunity for the partner schools to tap into the University’s resources and expertise. These community-building efforts are part of Loyola’s Lake Shore Community Partners initiative, a component of “Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World,” the University’s five-year strategic plan.

The heart of these partnerships is that they are mutually beneficial. “We don’t want it to be a one-way relationship, where Loyola is only considering what resources to share,” says Jon Schmidt, coordinator of the partnership with Senn and a clinical assistant professor in the School of Education. “We’re asking, ‘What do they have to share with us? How can our students learn and grow through this partnership?’”

Senn students enroll in one of four programs at the school: an international baccalaureate (IB) program (similar to an honors or advanced placement track), an audition-in arts program, STEM, and the digital journalism program. Loyola takes an active role in supporting the IB, STEM, and the digital journalism program, which began in 2013.

Michael Cullinane, the journalism and marketing director at Senn, is completing a master’s degree in digital storytelling at Loyola. He wrote Senn’s program curriculum alongside Loyola journalism faculty, and it includes both print and broadcast journalism classes and reporting for the Senn Times, the school’s online newspaper, and SennTV, their YouTube news channel. In the classroom, Cullinane emphasizes the importance of telling stories.

“[The journalism students] take ownership of it and they really enjoy it,” he says. “It’s been really awesome to see what young people can do with some encouragement. It doesn’t always have to be worksheets and tests, it can be giving them the right tools and letting them make the products that, in the end, can hopefully inspire others.”

Senn also plays host to Loyola classes for observation and student teaching internships, with their teachers and the Loyola students exchanging ideas and learning from each other. “It is a true partnership,” says Mary Beck, Senn’s principal. “Our students flourish because they have the ability to go to Loyola to use their library and journalism facilities. They feel connected to Loyola from freshman year on, and I think that’s really powerful.”

This connection is powerful on an abstract, personal level, but there is also data that affirms the positive effect of this partnership. Schmidt points out that Senn is trending upward in nearly every metric, including overall school attendance. “It’s unusual to see an increase in students, especially at a local, neighborhood high school,” he says. “And it is pretty significant.”

The school’s success was also reflected in the most recent ranking of the best public schools in the city by Chicago magazine. Senn was named one of Chicago’s top three neighborhood schools and made the top 20 high schools list, coming in at number 12. The ranking was especially important, Beck says, because it took into account not only attainment scores and college acceptance numbers but also the school’s significant growth.

“Five years ago, when this partnership started, we were not in the top 12,” she says. “So it is a testament to the hard work of the teachers and students in this building. The support of Loyola has been fantastic and really led to this.”

According to Cullinane, the partnership with Loyola has created an atmosphere of hope and inspiration at Senn. “Loyola has been a beacon for us and the students aspire to go there,” he says. “When we visit Loyola, the students get excited about college.”

Schmidt agrees, noting an increase in applications to Loyola from Senn seniors. Last year, 140 Senn students out of a class of 300—nearly 50 percent of the class—applied to Loyola. That’s a dramatic increase from even a few years ago.
The Senn High School Scholars Program is another component of the partnership, and offers tuition assistance to at least five outstanding Senn students each year who attend Loyola. Juanito Boligor graduated from Senn’s IB program in 2015 and is now in his sophomore year at Loyola as a Senn High School Scholar.

Boligor is both humble and grateful when talking about the partnership between Senn and Loyola. He knew he wanted to go to college, but wasn’t sure how his family could afford the expense until he heard about the scholarship program. “I felt like, in the sea of students throughout the country, there was no way that a university would give an immigrant student from a Chicago public high school a scholarship,” he says.

“But after hearing that the seniors in the graduation class ahead of me received substantial scholarships from Loyola, I knew that every decision I made from that moment on was to get that scholarship. The partnership made me incredibly driven and focused; the partnership gave me a chance.”

And Boligor is not the only one. At St. Benedict Preparatory School, a pre-K through 12th grade parish school in the North Center neighborhood, a number of students do not speak English as their first language and need extra assistance in the classroom. In 2014, St. Benedict implemented their first English language learner support class—a direct result of their partnership with Loyola.

One of the main courses in the School of Education’s teacher preparation program focuses on English language learning (ELL) and special education. The Loyola students conduct an in-depth research project that assesses the learning strengths and weaknesses of ELL students. Applying their own research and the expertise of their education professors, Loyola students present a case study to the teachers at the end of the semester, with recommendations about how best to work with each ELL student to meet his or her needs.

“From [this research project], we realized we needed to do more to support the English language learners we had on campus,” says Rachel Gemo, St. Benedict’s head of the parish school. “We were actually able to design a class based on what we learned from the Loyola students.”

St. Benedict, or St. Ben’s as it is affectionately known, has been involved with the Partners for Education initiative since the start, and before that St. Ben’s was a host school for Loyola student teachers. Today, St. Ben’s hosts Loyola students and faculty in some capacity every day. Education professors bring their students to to observe classes as early as freshman year, and several Loyola students complete their required yearlong student teaching internship at St. Ben’s.

In their first semester, Loyola students will work alongside a cooperating teacher. By their second semester they are ready to lead the class. “It is a scaffolding approach,” says David Ensminger, associate professor and program chair for teaching and learning in the School of Education. “Our candidates have the opportunity to get to know their students by co-teaching first and then taking over the classroom.”

For Ensmigner, the advantage of this field-based approach is that students can see the lessons they learn in the classroom come to life. He recalls a visit after finishing a chapter on English language learners: “If I had been teaching that class on campus, we might have done a video or a written case, which is beneficial. But when the Loyola students are in a school watching a teacher work with a group of students who are English language learners, that textbook comes to life,” he says.

“It fits Loyola’s broader mission of preparing people for action. The more we can make a connection between conceptual and theoretical knowledge, the more students are going to act on that knowledge.”

Senior Gianna Marshall is completing her student teaching internship at St. Ben’s this year, in the third grade classroom of Loyola alumna Rachel Nemes (BS ’11). Marshall feels ready to take over as third grade teacher next semester thanks to the many hours she has already spent in classroom settings throughout her four years at Loyola.

“We are put into that role [in the classroom] very quickly,” she says. “On the second day of my freshman year, I was in a high school helping juniors prepare for the ACT. This year, I feel very comfortable in front of the classroom and creating lessons.”

The St. Ben’s students benefit from the extra help and attention, and veteran teachers can even learn a thing or two from Loyola students. Nancy Feely (MEd ’05, MEd ’11), a Loyola School of Education alum who earned master’s degrees in elementary education and instructional leadership, says having teacher candidates in the classroom helps push St. Ben’s teachers to reflect on and refine their own approach. It is in effect a form of continuing education.

“The student teachers and student observers from Loyola are learning fresh, new things. They have access to the newest methods in reading instruction, or new philosophies on social justice teaching,” Feely explains. “They are sharing some of the most up-to-date practices on education policies and methods with our teachers.”

Another component of the partnership is a dual-credit course in British literature, offered to seniors, which can count as a college-level course at Loyola and other universities. Loyola vets the syllabus and supports the teacher to ensure that the course is up to the academic standards of a college-level class.

Going forward, members of the School of Education are offering their expertise and assistance as St. Ben’s works on a new strategic plan and vision for the future. It’s a perfect fit, says Gemo, because the two schools have such closely aligned goals.

“The mission of Loyola is that they want their teachers to be able to teach every kid,” she says. “And that really fits with us, because we believe that each child can learn. When you match from mission, everything else just fits naturally.”

Loyola’s commitment to urban education also extends into the communities where the schools are located. “Loyola, and the School of Education in particular, is really working to be ever more deeply embedded in our communities, with really deep commitments to social justice,“ says Schmidt, the coordinator of the Senn partnership. “We are putting experiences in place that encourage and support students who then, we hope, are making decisions to teach in cities.”

Ensminger wants his students to understand not only the impact that schools have on communities, but their role in that impact as a teacher. “One of the underlying principles of our programs is that we try to support neighborhood schools, and you can’t support neighborhood schools without considering the community that they are in,” he says. “What we are doing, in very systematic and purposeful ways, is to support the schools in our area—and the communities themselves.”

Read more about the other initiatives of Loyola's Lake Shore Community Partners

Death becomes her

Maureen ODonnell

Maureen O'Donnell (MUND '79) works at her desk in the offices of the Chicago Sun-Times, where she has earned a reputation for perfecting the art of writing vivid life stories for the obituary section. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Writer Maureen O’Donnell found her true calling penning life stories on the Sun-Times obituary page

By Mary Ann O’Rourke (MUND '80)

Maureen O'Donnell (MUND '79) recalls the day she learned that her favorite college professor had died. English professor Michael Fortune, who had instilled in O’Donnell a love of writing and the English language, passed away on New Year’s Eve in 2010. O’Donnell, upon spotting the death notice of her old professor, began composing an obituary for him.

The following month, the Chicago Sun-Times carried this piece of lyrical prose about Fortune's teaching of the Divine Comedy:
"For students encased in a wintry classroom overlooking the whitecaps of Lake Michigan, it was as if they were flying over the golden fields of Tuscany. Mr. Fortune was about to carry them along on Dante's journey to hell, purgatory, and paradise.”

O’Donnell’s skill at drawing out colorful anecdotes from people’s lives has earned her a devoted readership in the obituary pages of the Sun-Times. After graduating with an English degree from Mundelein, she worked her way through a number of news organizations, including City News Bureau, The Washington Times, and the Milwaukee Journal until the Sun-Times hired her in 1989 as a general assignment reporter.

After years of covering education, crime, and politics (and collecting numerous awards along the way), O’Donnell was offered and took the obituary writing job in 2010. In a conference room at the Sun-Times offices on the 10th floor of the Apparel Mart, O’Donnell explains her eagerness to accept the job. “I’ve always known that obituaries have some of the best storytelling,” she says. “When you’re telling people’s life stories, you have a long leash to use more of your skills as a writer.”

O’Donnell’s passion for writing obituaries is fueled by a keen appreciation of a life well-lived. She uses a number of strategies to find interesting Chicagoans who have recently passed, including scanning local daily death notices to find that golden nugget to make the recently-perished larger than life. She also fields calls from funeral directors who have tips on notable deceased persons in their care.

O'Donnell has earned a reputation as one of the best obituary writers in the business. She's currently president of the Society of Professional Obituary Writers, an organization that has given her numerous awards over the years. In 2015, she was recognized for her extraordinary skill and sensitivity in obituary writing with the Anne Keegan Award by the Chicago Headline Club. Judges cited O’Donnell's “gifts of inquisitiveness and eye for the perfect anecdote in her carefully researched and gracefully written obituaries.”

From an early age, O’Donnell was interested in literature. Her father, an Irish immigrant who landed in Chicago’s Portage Park neighborhood in 1952 with a ninth grade education, possessed a curious mind and a love of literature. In addition to some of his favorite Irish authors like George Bernard Shaw and W.B. Yeats, Mr. O’Donnell avidly read newspapers and magazines. “Anything he could get his hands on, he would read,” O’Donnell says of her father. “He knew so much about history and current events.”
That inspired O’Donnell to study English and pursue a career as a writer.

At Mundelein College, she was the editor of both Pace, the creative writing quarterly, and Hotline, the school’s weekly newspaper. She also credits her Catholic grammar schooling with helping to develop her writing talent. “Although most kids hated it, diagramming sentences and spelling bees really paid off for a future writer like me,” she says.

In addition to her love of storytelling, O’Donnell enjoys her latest beat for its regular hours. She and her husband, Mark Rosati, a former journalist (now a non-profit communications consultant and playwright), raised their daughter, Mairead, while juggling dueling late night deadlines.

As an obituary writer, her schedule is less hectic. Now she works four days a week, one at home. “My schedule is more predictable, and that’s a good thing,” O’Donnell says. “Now I have time to sink into a good mystery before bedtime.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Mobilizing health care

Mobilizing health care

Tiffany Vuong, a senior in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing, traveled to Albania with Volunteers Around the World, an organization that has special medical and dental outreach destinations worldwide. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Nursing student Tiffany Vuong (’17) is getting a global education in providing quality care

By Erinn Connor

Loyola medical and nursing students take service trips all over the world—from Rome to Mexico to Belize—but Tiffany Vuong (’17) picked a more unusual destination: Albania.

The small country in southeast Europe is mostly known for its beautiful coastlines, but Vuong went with another purpose in mind. She traveled there with Volunteers Around the World, an organization that has special medical and dental outreach destinations worldwide. “Since I started nursing school, I have always wanted to experience working in an international setting and to seek deeper understandings about patients with different backgrounds,” says Vuong.

That’s a goal for many students in the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Niehoff students have an opportunity to practice nursing in multiple destinations across the globe, including service trips to Belize, Rome, England, and France. Such trips involve medical education, clinic work, and spiritual care. Many students also participate in Ignatian Service Immersion trips offered by University Ministry that focus on addressing health inequalities and their causes in countries around the world.

Vuong traveled to Albania earlier this year with four other Loyola students and two students from Valdosta State University in Georgia. Before even getting on the plane, Volunteers Around the World interviewed local doctors to figure out where the underserved communities were and who needed the most help. During the two-week trip, the mobile clinic consisting of Vuong and other volunteers travelled to four villages: Pashalli, Bistrovice, Vokopole, and Skrevan, all in the city of Berat in the south-central part of the country.

Albania is one of the poorest countries in Europe as it has suffered from an unstable government for many years. It has no centralized health system, and infectious disease and chronic illnesses are often left untreated. Most people cannot afford the quality care available at private hospitals, and a majority of the population also live in rural areas, adding another obstacle to getting treatment.

Throughout her time in those villages, Vuong and her fellow volunteers helped nearly 250 patients, some with potentially serious illnesses who were unable to find proper treatments. Vuong says she saw children with prolonged ear infections and adults with diabetes who couldn’t get to the city for a checkup or the appropriate medications. “Our mobile clinic was the closest thing to health care that many of them had ever received,” she says.

Their work mainly consisted of shadowing and assisting doctors, taking vital signs and patient histories, and educating patients on nutrition, hygiene, and more. Despite the language barrier and sometimes long lines for treatment, Vuong says the appreciation from patients was palpable. Seeing the limited access to medical treatment firsthand helped solidify her desire to bring care to disadvantaged populations.

“Being able to witness the health disparities and the lack of proper medical treatment helped me recognize the privileges that I held being in a developed country,” she says. “It also taught me to be more patient and flexible in terms of working with a unique health care team, which consisted of local Albanian doctors, nurses, and other students who wished to pursue their careers in different areas of health care.”

Vuong has continued pursuing international service opportunities, including a research trip to Uganda this summer, and encourages her fellow students to do the same. “It is very important for us, as future health care professionals in a developed country, to have these similar exposures abroad,” she says. “Because of this experience, I’ve realized that the scope of nursing practice does not just end with taking good care of our patients. It is also about challenging and educating ourselves to be more culturally competent and globally aware.”

The power of resilience


Associate Professor Noni Gaylord-Harden researches the ways urban youth are affected by violence in their community. (Photo: Heather Eidson)

College of Arts and Sciences

Noni Gaylord-Harden finds that resilience can do amazing things for youth struggling in difficult

By Kristen Hannum

Noni Gaylord-Harden, PhD, was talking with kids in a Chicago school one day as part of her community-based research on African American children who are exposed to multiple stresses in their environment. She asked them what their biggest stressor was.

“Trying to get home without getting shot,” they told her. “I was blown away that these 12-year-olds were having to deal with this,” says Gaylord-Harden, an associate professor of psychology now in her 11th year at Loyola. “They talked about being angry and depressed, about how it was affecting their homework.”


Loyola recently launched Plan 2020, a five-year strategic plan to promote social justice. This story falls into one of the four strategic priorities outlined in the plan. Read more here.

Because of what children in the community told her, she and the graduate students she works with began looking more specifically at violence. Her research team comes back to the term “resilience” frequently, because it describes the strategies—such as coping and future orientation—that predict positive outcomes for the children.

“If they can continue to maintain positive thoughts about the future, about living beyond 18 or 21, they do better,” Gaylord-Harden says. Depression, on the other hand, is a key predictor for less positive outcomes. “If you develop hopelessness,” she says, “you’re more likely to put yourself in dangerous situations.”

Loyola is critical to her work because of the nature of those conversations with children in Chicago schools. “The voices in community have to be heard,” she says. “We maintain the relationships and continue to earn trust.”

Gaylord-Harden’s research gives her an opportunity to work with many families through intervention, whereas in clinical work she was limited to helping one family at a time. Still, it’s not something she planned to do. She earned a PhD in clinical psychology and was working with children in an impoverished community in Tennessee. The children there were going to inadequate schools and facing discrimination and violence.

“The research said they should all have negative life outcomes,” says Gaylord-Harden. “That’s when I began learning about resilience."

She became a postdoctoral clinical research associate through the Institute for Juvenile Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago and has been widely published in her field. But she especially enjoys working with her students.

“The beauty of psychology is that it draws people who want to help others,” she says. Loyola magnifies that. “I knew coming in that I would have the opportunity to have class discussions on social justice issues. I think students are drawn to Loyola because of its commitment to social justice,” she says. 

In her human diversity course, she focuses on social justice in the last class. A handout helps students write about their role in creating justice. “For me, a reason for writing a mission statement is that it helps me remember why I’m doing the work in the first place,” she tells them.

“I revisit my mission statement and remember conversations I’ve had, the smiles I’ve seen, and the feeling of knowing my work is important.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

Voices of change


During the Vietnam War, student protests were common on the Loyola campus and students, with faculty support, even shut down the campus in 1970 in the wake of the Kent State Shootings (above). Current students like Loyola junior Kelsey Cheng (below) are also passionate about activism, but often approach it in a different manner. (Top photo: Loyola University Archives; Kelsey Cheng photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Like generations before them, today’s Loyola students continue a tradition of activism on campus

By Anna Gaynor

For Kelsey Cheng, the passion for activism wasn’t sparked by just one event. As a freshman, her biology major increasingly seemed like a poor fit. But fortunately, her decision to get involved in student government was paying off. She sought out and received some helpful advice from a Loyola senior while on a retreat, then learned more from her advisor. But what really crystallized her change in direction was a trip to Washington, DC, for the Ignatian Solidarity Network’s social justice conference.

“I was very thrown off,” says Cheng. “The weekend I went was the 25th anniversary of the (murder of the) Jesuit martyrs in El Salvador, and that kind of served as a big inspiration for me wanting to work for justice in my life. I had the realization that if I wanted to keep doing these things like lobbying and having an active role in my government, I needed an experience outside of my own life and background.”

All of these experiences sent Cheng down a different path. She switched her major from biology to advertising and public relations. Now a junior, Cheng remains involved with student government and has broadened her interests by helping out with campus ministry, the Green Initiative Fund, and the student-led Magis Scholarship Initiative, which will provide financial support to undocumented students. As she looks toward graduation and beyond, Cheng says she would eventually like to put her skills and passion to work as a lobbyist.

“I don’t think I would’ve discovered my passion for activism and advocacy had I not come to Loyola,” Cheng says. “This is ‌completely different than all other colleges I applied to, and I think Loyola gives you the tools you need to learn how to become an advocate.”

Many advocacy minded students and alumni have a story similar to Cheng’s. While some arrive on campus dedicated to making a difference, others, like Cheng, find their calling along the way. The motivation could be rooted in a personal struggle against injustice, an experience of witnessing activism firsthand, or values grounded in a family’s ethos. For Cheng, it was an invitation to look at the world and better understand what’s happening and how she could affect change.‌

Activism on college campuses has a long and rich history. It has had its ebbs and flows through the years, with quiet periods offset by major protests around issues of national concern. During the Vietnam War era, for example, students made their voices heard at Loyola and on other campuses on a regular basis. Following the shootings at Kent State in 1970, Loyola students and some alumni destroyed draft records and organized a student strike.

“As soon as that happened, the situation went from being a matter of protest to a vociferous reaction,” says history professor Theodore Karamanski. “There were students at Loyola, my cousin included, who really got into this. He went over to the local hardware store and bought some big chains, and they chained up Damen Hall so nobody could get in.” Those attempts to prevent classes, with the support of faculty, ultimately ended the academic year early.

Karamanski arrived on campus as a student the following year and has been a faculty member since 1979. In that time, he’s seen students speak out on the Iraq War and Occupy Wall Street. Today, national issues such as the Black Lives Matter movement have sparked discussion on campus, with the three founders of the movement being invited to speak on campus in January and the first Black Lives Matter conference being held in April. Students also took a stand locally by joining public appeals to Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner to approve legislation extending MAP grants during the state’s budget crisis.

“Since the Enlightenment, the university has been a site for not only the passing down of traditional knowledge but also for the consideration of different kinds of ideas,” says Kelly Moore, an associate professor in the Department of Sociology. “It’s simultaneously a place of tradition—and also a place of creativity, of innovation, and of debate.”

Moore, whose research focuses on social movements as well as science and technology, supported her own causes while in graduate school at the University of Arizona. In addition to fighting to end the death penalty, she was active in the Central American Peace Movement in the 1980s, where she also helped resettle refugees from conflict.

At Loyola, Moore talks to current students taking part in demonstrations on campus, including pro-life groups and gay rights groups. She often finds that they see their rallies as just a continuation of what they’re learning in classes like theology, history, and even science.

“Young people are idealistic,” Moore says. “They are hopeful, and they are trying to make the world a better place. Sometimes what they do is they wonder whether their university can do better, so sometimes they’re taking aim at some practices, policies, or activities of the university. Sometimes they’re taking aim at other things, like war or Apartheid.”

A more active campus allows a university to reflect on how members of its community talk with and listen to one another. At Loyola, many questions have been raised: Is the University doing all it can to foster understanding, welcome diverse perspectives, listen without bias, and create opportunities for dialogue? Considering those questions has led to some changes on campus.

This spring the University undertook a review of its demonstration policy, gathering input from students, faculty, and staff to develop a policy that allows students more flexibility to express their views in a timely, respectful manner. In addition to a more flexible demonstration policy, there have been several listening sessions on campus with faculty, staff, and students.  

In January, Interim President John P. Pelissero, PhD, emphasized to the University community Loyola’s dedication to respecting the conversations that take place on campus. “As a Jesuit, Catholic university, we are committed to welcoming an open exchange of ideas and fostering respect and understanding, especially when discussing and debating complex issues,” he wrote in a letter to faculty and staff.

Another commitment has been the appointment of Christopher Manning, an associate history professor who focuses on 20th century politics, to the President’s Cabinet as a diversity advisor. Like Moore, Manning took up the activist mantle during his own college years.

While studying at the University of Alabama in Hunstville, Manning organized a Martin Luther King march with other nearby colleges and universities. And as president of the Black Student Association, he led the fight to stop a fraternity from flying a confederate flag on campus and at sporting events.

‌As a historian, Manning points out that the field is just beginning to look beyond the notable speeches and marches of the civil rights movement. Many researchers are now taking a closer look at what was happening behind the scenes, beyond the momentous events, including those who were organizing the events and working to build support. Manning’s current focus is researching the effectiveness of change through politics and legislation.

“It’s much more glamorous to get the picture of the young dude in the street with a Che shirt on and a beret,” Manning says. “That’s glamorous and it’s important, but that same guy could grow up to become a local alderman or that same young lady could be running for Congress.”

For young activists like Cheng, Manning says there’s a lot to learn from the activists of the past. “Take the time to study movement building and historical case studies to understand that there are multiple roles necessary for a movement to be successful,” he says. “Learn what those roles are, consider the roles that can be utilized to move your agenda forward, and honor the contributions of all of your allies, partners, and teammates.”

The art of healing


Emily Obringer (MD '11) oversees children as they paint at the Quinn Community Center in Maywood, where Obringer has volunteered since her third year at the Stritch School of Medicine. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Alumna Emily Obringer (MD '11) has taken a hands-on approach to improving community health in Maywood

By Erinn Connor

Across the street from the rumble of rush hour traffic on the Eisenhower Expressway, about a dozen children ping pong around a brightly lit art room, most with finger paint caked on their palms. At the center of this whirlwind is Emily Obringer (MD ’11), fielding shouts from the kids to have her look at their creations. A 5-year-old named Joshua hovers quietly near her with his finished artwork, proudly showing her his purple creation. She hangs Joshua’s painting up along with the rest on a clothesline, below a hand-painted sign that reads “Quinn Community Center.”

Obringer’s work with the Maywood center started during her third year as a student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine. She started out working in the soup kitchen at St. Eulalia Parish and soon became involved in the birth of the center.

The Quinn Community Center was at first just an empty former school building attached to St. Eulalia—with parish leaders questioning the best use for the space. Soon it became a safe haven for kids to do arts and crafts, finish their homework, or simply hang out. Maywood is a small village that spans barely more than 2.5 square miles and doesn’t boast many after-school activities for its kids or central gathering areas for its residents.

In her beginning days as a volunteer in the soup kitchen, Obringer sensed the kids, and the teenagers in particular, were eager to create their own opportunities in a place where there weren’t many. “The teens identified that void in the community themselves,” she says. “The first thing they did was create a talent show because they didn’t have any ways to express their interests. They often talk about north of the Eisenhower and south of the Eisenhower in Maywood. There’s very little for the kids on the south part of the city where they are.”

After the success of the talent show, the teenagers wanted to do something for the younger kids in the neighborhood over the summer. That led to the creation of a summer camp hosted by the Quinn Community Center.


Addressing community health disparities is one of the four priorities of Loyola's "Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World." Read more about the University's strategic plan here.

Working around her hectic medical school schedule, Obringer helped the teenagers organize a summer camp for about 25 Maywood kids. Now about to be open for its fifth year, the Quinn Community Center summer camp has more than 120 kids in the program with about 30 Maywood teenagers acting as counselors and more Stritch students volunteering.

As the camp gained momentum in the community, Obringer looked for ways to incorporate her medical school training into the Quinn summer camp. She received a grant from the American Academy of Pediatrics that let her build in a nutrition component. The kids are now given milk and water instead of juice to reduce sugar intake. They’ve also created a garden at the community center to grow their own vegetables.

This year Obringer would like to have Loyola medical students teach the teenagers basic health and nutrition concepts, which the Maywood teens can then pass on to younger campers. “It’s been interesting to watch them grow from a health perspective,” she says. “In one of the boxed lunches in the first year of the camp there was a stick of celery and we had the 5-year-olds saying ‘what is this?’ So that spurred me into getting the grant, and now they grow their own veggies.”

Gabriel Lara, director of the Quinn Community Center, says the children had very little exposure, if any, to healthy foods. “A child who before was eating nachos with cheese and drinking soda is now eating salad, freshly cooked pasta, drinking water, and having fruit for dessert,” she says.

Working closely with the kids and seeing their limited access to healthy foods and organized exercise, as well as other health inequality issues, helped inform Obringer in her current fellowship in pediatric infectious disease at the University of Chicago Medical Center. “We talk a lot about medication compliance or why isn’t this kid coming to his appointments,” she says. “When you know it from the other side, you’re now asking yourself, ‘Is it because there’s a single mom who doesn’t have a car?’ or ‘Is this child always going to have asthma medicine handy when they’re playing?’ It gives you a totally different perspective when you’re seeing them in the doctor’s office.”

Obringer’s reach extends beyond just the kids at the summer camp—she’s known and respected by everyone who walks through the center’s doors. “To the children, she is the fun and creative teacher,” says Lara. “To the teens, she is the wise and cool mentor. To the adults, she is the hard worker and committed doctor.”

During the second summer of the camp, Loyola Academic Summer Program Integrating Resources for Excellence (ASPIRE) students volunteered to help. Then last summer, Stritch went further and helped fund a camp manager position, which was filled by Manuel Bernal, a current second-year medical student at Loyola. “It’s amazing to see how much it’s grown since the start,” Obringer says. “The first year we started out with a couple hundred bucks from University Ministry and people donating bats and balls and art supplies.”

Through her years at the Quinn Community Center, Obringer has formed lasting ties with the community. She knows the name of every child who flits in and out of the arts and crafts room; their parents greet her warmly. Those teenagers who helped form the original camp—some of whom are in college, others working full time—come to see her whenever they’re all in Maywood.

One connection ended up being lifelong. While volunteering in the soup kitchen at Quinn, Obringer befriended a mother with nine kids and another on the way. The woman was set to deliver at West Suburban Medical Center, where Obringer was doing a family medicine rotation. On a Saturday morning after finishing her rounds, Obringer saw the mother being pushed into the hospital by her oldest son and decided to stay with her during the delivery.

She became the godmother of the little boy—Joshua—who now shadows Obringer whenever she’s at the Quinn Community Center. It is one of the strongest bonds she’s made in Maywood. “I call it one of my God moments,” she says, “because you can’t make up that kind of coincidence and connection.”

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

A West Coast view on Chicago’s communities


George Villanueva, PhD, brings a wealth of experience with community organizing in Los Angeles to his work at Loyola's School of Communication. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

School of Communication

After forging his expertise in issues of urban justice in Los Angeles, George Villanueva brings his unique perspective to Loyola’s School of Communication

By Kristen Hannum

George Villanueva, PhD, remembers the day in 1992 when the policemen who assaulted Rodney King were acquitted. Los Angeles erupted in rioting. Villanueva was at middle school, 25 miles from his Central Los Angeles home. Businesses were set on fire and school buses couldn’t risk making their way through the violence. Parents kept their children at home. Schools were closed for more than a week.

“It was stark, going through that experience,” Villanueva says. “It played a part in forming my outlook.”


Loyola recently launched Plan 2020, a five-year strategic plan to promote social justice. This story falls into one of the four strategic priorities outlined in the plan. Read more here.

Villanueva, who came to Loyola in 2015 as an assistant professor in the School of Communication, credits the experience with drawing him to social justice work. It led him to spend more than a decade in the intersecting world of Los Angeles politics, community media, and community organizing for sustainable urban development.

After earning his undergraduate degree in Black studies and history from the University of California Santa Barbara, Villanueva returned to Los Angeles, working with organizations and elected officials who were trying to make the city better for residents.

“That deepened my interest and kept me thinking about how to turn the city around. LA could have gone much more negatively than it has in the last 30 years,” he says. “I’ve seen so many examples where people have banded together to work for the common good.”

That work made Villanueva aware of how impenetrable urban planning is for most people—how much of it is complicated by its fiscal aspects and capital infrastructure projects—and he decided to return to school. His goal was to learn how to better engage and teach others how to communicate urban planning. He earned his doctorate at USC’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, where he focused his research on civic engagement, spatial justice, and sustainable urban development.

So why is this Angeleno, a man deep in LA politics, at Loyola in Chicago? “I wanted to be in a big city and at an institution that would support social justice work,” he says. “Chicago and Loyola—with its Plan 2020 and Jesuit tradition—were a big draw.”

Villanueva dove into learning about Chicago’s 77 community areas and more than 200 self-identified neighborhoods. “Chicago has a strong sense of itself as a city but also as neighborhoods,” he says. “Before communities can successfully organize, there needs to be a feeling of belonging, of neighborhood pride. Neighborhoods aren’t just geography, they’re also social perception.”

Villanueva himself has become involved with Chicago community organizations and taken part in local summits, most recently for conflict resolution and peacebuilding. “What I’ve see here is the process for democracy versus violence,” he says. “My own sense of optimism tells me people can come together and work towards solutions in their neighborhoods.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

An intimate portrait of Alzheimer’s


William Utermohlen's "Snow" illustrates the growing reclusiveness of the artist, who is pictured away from the ongoing conversation. Utermohlen continued to paint self-portraits after being diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease, documenting the affects of the disease on his brain.

LUMA’s spring exhibition offers a unique look inside the mind of an artist suffering from a debilitating disease

By Evangeline Politis

According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in nine Americans over age 65 has Alzheimer’s, and the majority of those with the disease are over age 75. A degenerative brain disease, it is the most common cause of dementia and is characterized by a decline in memory, language, problem-solving, and other cognitive skills. For UK-based artist William Utermohlen, the symptoms began in his late 50s and he was diagnosed with the degenerative brain disease before he even reached the age of 65.

William Utermohlen: A Persistence of Memory follows his career, tracing the effects of the cognitive impairment on both his style and perspective. The exhibition at Loyola University Museum of Art (LUMA) showcases the span of Utermohlen’s work, from his classically trained portraiture to emotionally charged abstraction.

“If you did not know that this man was suffering from Alzheimer’s, you could simply perceive the work as a stylistic change,” says Pam Ambrose, director of LUMA and cultural affairs at Loyola. “As the disease progressed, he was unable to render pictorial space correctly, but was truly able to express emotion through his work.”

‌Walking through the exhibition, Ambrose points to two specific paintings. The first is part of the artist’s “The Conversations Pieces,” a series of six pieces that depict the intimate world of his wife and their London flat. This set of works was created years before his diagnosis, but as signs of the illness were starting emerge. The colorful pieces feature tilted picture planes and ungrounded objects, whimsically floating in space.

Utermohlen’s 1990 piece, Snow, illustrates his growing reclusiveness. Four people are engaged in conversation at the dining room table, while Utermohlen is pictured far removed from the social engagement, on the sofa with a cat in his lap. The piece is flanked by two bleak, black-and-white landscapes, one of which could be perceived as a graveyard.

“This painting gives us a clue that Utermohlen was really pulling away,” explains Ambrose. “He was becoming less articulate at this time. This is where I believe artists have a leg up with the effects of the disease; although they lost the ability to communicate verbally and in writing, they continue to communicate through art.”

LUMA’s ilLUMAnations program, in partnership with Northwestern University’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, works to develop that ability. The three-year-old program, offered nine times a year, uses the arts to engage Alzheimer’s patients and their caregivers. The museum at Loyola’s Water Tower Campus was chosen because of its quiet and intimate space—an atmosphere that wouldn’t be too overwhelming.

Working with Loyola’s Department of Fine and Performing Arts, the workshops combine art, dance, and music with a social hour. Qualitative evaluations have shown that participants with the disease have gained increased social engagement, self-esteem, and verbal communication skills. In the next year, LUMA hopes to expand IlLUMAnations to include both morning and afternoon sessions. 

‌As a second key painting of the exhibition shows, Utermohlen used art to communicate his deepest emotions as his life progressed. In Self Portrait with a Saw (1997), the artist depicts himself with an anxious, perplexed expression and with a miter saw. Though commonly used by artists to cut wood for canvases and frames, the saw meant something more to Utermohlen—his physician told him that the only way to know for certain if he had Alzheimer's would be to cut into his skull to examine his brain after he died. “That image stuck in his mind, and he immediately painted this piece," explains Ambrose. "Artists internalize everything—luckily, musicians and visual artists especially have the advantage of an engrained need, almost compulsion, really, to express themselves.”

The exhibit William Utermohlen: A Persistence of Memory ran through July 23, 2016. For more information on the exhibitions currently on view at LUMA, visit LUC.edu/LUMA.

Voice lessons


Jeffery Austin (BASC '13) competed on NBC's The Voice, surviving several weeks of competition before finishing in fourth place. He's now leaving behind a career in PR to pursue singing stardom. (Photo: NBC)

Success on NBC’s hit singing competition set alum Jeffery Austin on a new career path

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

Loyola alumnus Jeffery Austin (BASC ’13) admitted at his audition on The Voice last summer that he hadn’t performed in front of an audience in over six years. The former public relations worker is performing a lot more frequently now after finishing in fourth place on the hit NBC singing show.

Taking advice from his coach, musician Gwen Stefani, the 24-year-old singer delivered performances on the show that were honest and authentic, ranging from covers of Sam Smith’s “Lay Me Down” to Cher’s “Believe.” Austin praises Stefani for encouraging his music. “Working with Gwen was one of the greatest experiences I’ve had in any career path I’ve been on,” he says. “She never critiqued me on vocals, she was never too pushy with song choices, and she really pushed me as an artist.”

Austin, born Jeffery McClelland, attended St. Charles North High School before coming to Loyola, where he majored in advertising and public relations. “Going to school in Chicago allowed me to make connections with the PR industry that wouldn’t be afforded to me at other schools,” he says. His professors offered hands-on advice that he was able to use during job interviews. “I felt really prepared when I went into the workforce and I was working above my level because of my education.”

After Loyola, Austin worked for Edelman, a major PR firm in New York, where he was assigned accounts at a global level. Edelman was Austin’s dream job, but he still felt a tug to explore a career in music. And although he previously auditioned for singing shows, he never made it past the early rounds. “I never thought I would make it through,” he says. “But it turned out to be way different and it snowballed into a career that I’m so grateful to have now.”

As far as preparing him for a singing career, Austin credits his degree and experience in PR. “On The Voice, I was prepared for production interviews, was able to schedule my own press, and could tell my story in a way that other contestants may not have been able to handle in the early stages,” Austin says. “Now that I’m off the show I’m still securing interviews and maintaining a public image.”

With little-to-no experience as a performer, Austin struggled with putting himself “out there.” But thanks to The Voice, Austin stretched himself to lose that fear and connect to the music: “When you’re forced to do that in front of 14 million viewers each week, those nerves kind of fade away,” he says.

Now a full-time resident of Los Angeles, Austin left public relations to focus on music. “My first priority is to build a team and to take this platform to create some really awesome material to hopefully put out as an album or EP,” Austin says. In the meantime, he is pursuing his career dreams with scheduled performances around the country. 

When offering advice, Austin urges young performers to lose fear of not being good enough to accomplish a career in music. “Someone will connect to you and someone will listen to you and feel affected, and that’s what has made it worth it to me,” he says. “I don’t think you can live with yourself knowing you’ve never tried something you’ve always wanted to do—whether it ends up being a success or failure.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Taking it to the streets


Loyola student James Egan, far left, and Water Tower Campus ministry program director Nicole Chmela, right, sit down with a man experiencing homelessness on Michigan Avenue. As part of Loyola's Labre Ministry, they focus on not just offering aid to the homeless but building meaningful relationships. (Photo: Mark Patton)

For students in Loyola's Labre Ministry, helping people who are homeless begins with a simple 'hello'

By Alexandra Jonker

On a recent summer evening, members of Labre, Loyola’s homeless outreach ministry, met in the chapel at the Terry Student Center for a brief reflection before heading out to Michigan Avenue. Amid the fast-paced shoppers and towering buildings, a quiet man they stooped down to chat with could have easily been missed—another fixture of the city to glance at. They stopped and asked if it would be OK to talk with him for a while, share some food, and see how his day was going. Such an ordinary exchange between a few people—a truly effortless gesture—ended in a dispirited man’s genuine smile, the result of having someone to talk to after a day of being ignored.

The same narrative was repeated throughout the evening, as the group encountered men and women on the street in need of not only food, water, and housing but a friendly face amidst a sea of people walking by.

“Labre understands itself as a ministry of presence,” says James Egan, a Loyola senior studying philosophy and one of Labre’s 15 student leaders. Eight years of ministry and four different routes around the Water Tower Campus have provided Labre with plenty of opportunities to form relationships with those they serve.

“It’s about creating personal connections in a spirit of solidarity with people who are often passed by and ignored,” says Egan. “By listening attentively and offering kindness and conversation, [students] can make a small but significant difference.”

This past spring, Labre acted as a pilot for the University’s crowdfunding efforts—with overwhelmingly generous results. Within five days the student-run organization was able to meet their fundraising goal of $2,000 to support their summer outreach efforts, and then went on to more than double that amount, winding up with a total of $4,600 raised.   

“All of our basic needs will be met,” says Nicole Chmela, Water Tower ministry’s program director, who has been with Labre for its entire eight-year history. But these operating goods—things like hot dogs, granola bars, lemonade, and the coolers in which to put them—aren’t the most important parts of Labre’s work.

“We use food as the mechanism for interaction and dialogue, but really it’s more about building a relationship,” Chmela says.
Those relationships have included highs and lows. Chmela says they have seen some people move back into housing, and others have moved away but later returned. There have also been some individuals experiencing homelessness who Labre members have continued to see since the group’s inception.

Although the focus is on the change that can be enacted on the lives of those on the street, there is also a change that occurs within the students involved. “It’s really at the heart of our Jesuit education,” says Chmela. “Students going out to meet people where they are, sharing their stories, and then coming back and reflecting on that in light of their own lives.”

Being on a campus in the heart of Chicago means students are surrounded by need; those who are struggling to make ends meet are often as close as the nearest sidewalk. Labre serves as an avenue for students to get out of their classrooms to really see what’s going on in the city.  

“Labre is an avenue for students to . . . experience some reality of the streets,” says Chmela. “That informs how they use and value their education, then in turn, what they will do when they leave Loyola. And I think that’s really a beautiful thing.”

All in the family


Chicago-area OBGYN Susan Scanlon (JFRC ’84-’85, MD ’91) comes from a proud Loyola family. Her father Patrick Scanlon (MD ’62) and grandfather Edward W. McNamara (MD ’37) (pictured below) are both Stritch graduates, and her father's personal and professional philosophy had a big influence on Scanlon's medical career. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

For third-generation Stritch School of Medicine alum Dr. Susan Scanlon, providing exceptional health care is a family tradition

By Alexandra Jonker

“I want you to reach outside of your community.” Those are the words Susan Scanlon (JFRC ’84-’85, MD ’91) remembers hearing as a student at the Stritch School of Medicine from her father, Patrick Scanlon (MD ’62), who was then chief of cardiology at Loyola University Medical Center. “Do something more,” he said. “Try to reach beyond something that you think is possible. That’s what I want you to do.”   

Scanlon, today a leading Chicago-area OBGYN, grew up in and around the Loyola medical community. Her grandfather, Edward W. McNamara (MD ’37), graduated from Loyola Medical School one year before it was renamed the Stritch School of Medicine, making her a third-generation Stritch alum. Her uncle, Jack Scanlon (MD ’65), and cousin, Matt Scanlon (MD ’92), are also Stritch graduates—but it was her father’s influence that had the most impact on Scanlon’s career.

She would often join her father as he worked in the cardiology catheterization lab in Maywood, and she credits the experience as being a significant part of her decision to attend Stritch after completing her undergraduate education at Boston College. “I loved the experience and I loved the people at the medical center,” Scanlon says. “It was such an exciting place to be, with world class researchers on staff and cutting edge technologies being developed.”

Scanlon family photosWhile her father was working as a physician at Loyola University Medical Center, Scanlon and her sister joined him on a medical mission to St. Jude Hospital in St. Lucia. Even as a college student, Scanlon says the trip made a profound impact on her career goals. “We were exposed to the world around us and saw medical care being practiced in a completely different way than what happens here in America,” she says. “It was a big part of why I chose to become a physician and gave me a foundation for what I wanted to do in life.”

‌‌Aware of the enormous impact such missions can have on young people, Scanlon decided to take her own family—her college-age son and two high school-age daughters—on a medical mission to Ecuador this past summer. “It was a fantastic experience for me as a physician,” she says. “But it was also a chance to expose my children to the world of medicine and how fortunate we are to have access to excellent medical care in our country, like at Loyola, and why it’s so important to give back to those who have less than us.”

Closer to home, Scanlon has just finished her most recent project, The Gyne’s Guide for College Women: How to Have a Healthy, Safe, and Happy Four Years, a how-to book for young women on handling the health and social issues they may encounter in college. The work is accompanied by a series of hands-on workshops in the Chicago area that build on the book’s message.

“I have two daughters in high school that will be going to college in the next few years, and I was unable to find a book with smart strategies for handling health and safety issues that young women face away from home,” Scanlon says. “This is my 20th year in private practice. I’ve taken care of thousands of girls, and I know that they need more information before they go to college.”

Reaching beyond one’s self—a philosophy her father instilled in her as a med student and one that has been exemplified by Scanlon’s own career—was the inspiration for the Patrick J. Scanlon, MD, Cardiovascular Research Fund. The fund supports research at Loyola's Cardiovascular Research Institute, mainly focusing on physiology, pathology, and pharmacology issues.

“My father felt that research was an important part of not only being a physician but also for the academic center as a whole,” Scanlon says. “He always encouraged his team of Loyola physicians to conduct cutting-edge research, advance medical knowledge, and seek out cures for the benefit of their patients.”

The family hopes that, as a University, Loyola will continue to grow its research in the field of cardiology and cardiovascular disease. “I love Loyola, it’s a great place,” Scanlon says.  “And I think that it really fosters my father’s way of thinking—to provide excellent medical care to patients and then reach beyond to make a difference in the world.”

For information on Dr. Scanlon’s book, visit thegynesguide.com. To learn about her practice visit mcwhc.com.

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

On a mission of mercy


Jacquelyn Pavilon (JFRC Spring '10, BA '12, BS '12) presents a book of photos from her work with Syrian refugees to Pope Francis. Pavilon, who works for Jesuit Refugee Service in Rome, had a personal meeting with the pope as part of a major campaign to provide education to refugees. (Courtesy photo)

College of Arts and Sciences

At home in Rome, dancer and mathematician Jacquelyn Pavilon found her true calling in providing support to refugees

By Alexandra Jonker

During her time at Loyola, Jacquelyn Pavilon (JFRC Spring ’10, BA ’12, BS ’12) explored a wide range of interests. She interned with a refugee center in Rome, served as the U.S. liaison to a Ugandan children’s rights group, studied math, and practiced dance. After earning a dual degree in mathematics and global and global and international studies and political science with a dance minor, Pavilon hoped to continue working abroad but instead took a job as a mathematician for a gaming company in Chicago. The job provided security and a steady income, but Pavilon told herself it was only temporary.

Eventually an opportunity in Rome came calling, and Pavilon jumped at the chance to return to the Eternal City. She joined the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), where she’s now helping to run a $35 million campaign to provide education to refugees.

In this interview with Loyola magazine, she discusses life in Rome, her passion for service, and her personal meeting with the pope.

How did you get interested in working with refugees?

When I was a student at the John Felice Rome Center, I took a human rights course and my service learning placement was at the Joel Nafuma Refugee Center. My first day on the job, an Iraqi man came up to me, handed me his documents, and said, “Please help me, I need asylum.” It was the most moving experience to work with him on his asylum process.

I always wanted to work in international human rights but I didn’t know particularly what I’d do. When I studied abroad and did that internship, I knew I wanted to work specifically with refugees.

How did you go from being a mathematician to working at JRS?

I was graduating in a terrible economy. My best friend and I applied for the same job at JRS upon graduation and we were the last two candidates. In the meantime, I had been recruited to work as a casino mathematician, which is something I never thought I wanted but it was a really good job opportunity. The JRS ultimately offered my friend the position.

I told myself I would work for the casinos for two years maximum. Two years later my friend was finishing her contract at JRS and they were looking for her replacement. I reapplied and was offered the job as international communications assistant. Due to some staff transitions, I was eventually offered the job as the international communications coordinator, which is the head of communications for the international organization.

What is the JRS currently doing to help refugees?

We work in 45 countries, and our mission is to not only serve but also accompany and advocate for refugees worldwide. Our primary services are in education and psychosocial support, although because of the crisis in the Middle East we are doing a lot of emergency work as well as providing food and non-food items.

Right now, we are running a campaign called “Mercy in Motion” to provide educational services to an additional 100,000 refugees worldwide, which was actually a brainchild of Pope Francis.

How did you get to meet the pope?

This giant campaign was brought to our organization, and as a precursor to the launch, we had a private audience with the pope for our staff, some of our donors, and some refugees with whom we work. He spoke about the importance of education for refugees and how to show mercy in a concrete way.

I had just a few months prior been working in Lebanon with the Syrian refugees. I had a collection of photos of Syrian refugee children holding drawings of before, when they were in the war in Syria, and after, when they are at our educational center in Lebanon. I presented the pope with a book of these photographs and asked if he would pray for Christians and Muslims together in a very interfaith way.

Do you still find time to dance?

I actually still dance a lot. I train at an underground studio two stories beneath platform 24 of the train station called Termini Underground. I train with a lot of hip hop dancers there, and I’m really involved in the underground community.

What is it like to live in Rome?

I love Rome. It has a lot of history and layers and complexities that are interesting, and I have a great life here.

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Air of generosity


Bob Munson (MD '85) and wife Pam have lived an adventurous life, and the couple credit Loyola in helping them get to where they are today. (Courtesy photo)

Physician, pilot, and alum Bob Munson (MD '85) and wife Pam are supporting the next generation of students at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine

By Alexandra Jonker

A rainy and cold Chicago drive to Maywood in a “crummy rental car” after a long flight from Germany was the prelude for Bob Munson (MD '85) to his interviews as a prospective medical student at Loyola. That dreary day was to be contrasted with the personal attention and kindness of Loyola staff, a first impression he clearly remembers to this day.

“I wasn’t a great candidate, on paper anyway,” he says. “My GPA at the Air Force Academy was 3.09. I hadn’t taken any classes in eight years, but Loyola granted me an interview, and everybody I encountered wanted to be helpful to me.”

After graduating from the Air Force Academy in 1973, Bob and wife Pam wed later that year and he became a pilot. After flying tours in Southeast Asia, Colorado, and Europe, he applied to many medical schools, but in the end Loyola proved the best fit. When the Stritch School of Medicine accepted his application, the government awarded him the Health Professions Scholarship to assist with tuition. Pam also began working at Stritch as a medical technologist to make ends meet.

“Though a non-Catholic, I appreciated the Jesuit leaders-in-service theme that went along with our education,” says Bob. “I always felt that the staff and the educators at Stritch sought to instill in us a common sense of our responsibility to help others. It fit well with the Air Force core values of ‘integrity first, service before self, excellence in all that we do.’”

Bob carried with him the ethic of service during his 30-year career as a physician and pilot with the U.S. Air Force, primarily in research and development but also in combat aeromedical evacuation during the Gulf War and on exchange to the Royal Air Force’s Institute of Aviation Medicine in the United Kingdom. For his work developing improved concepts in medical evacuation, he was named the Air Force Physician of the Year in 1998.

Bob and Pam now devote much of their time volunteering to support a wide variety of nonprofits in their community and elsewhere in their home state of Colorado. For example, on many Mondays Pam can be found working at their community’s food bank while Bob provides care in the Air Force Academy’s Internal Medicine clinic, pro bono, as a Red Cross volunteer.

“Since I don’t have to meet output metrics, they give me one-hour appointment slots, and I handle their most time-consuming patients,” he says. “The patients and staff appreciate it.”

The responsibility to give back still drives the Munsons’ life choices. Bob and Pam support the Teresa Wronski Medical Student Scholarship Fund at Stritch. They both also decided to include a significant gift to Loyola in their estate plans to support additional student scholarships, with special consideration to be given for applicants with some military background or affiliation.

“Loyola helped us get to where we are today,” says Pam. “It had a very positive effect on our family, and when we came back for the class reunion last September, we were impressed by the students we met and how the school has grown. We know that by giving this gift, we can help others even beyond our lifetimes.”

“Whether we realize it or not, we all succeed on the shoulders of others who have supported us in the past,” says Bob, “and that should provide us all with a sense of responsibility to those that follow us.”

Learn how you can support scholarships for current students

A winning combination


Freshman nursing student Maddy Moser helped the women's volleyball team hit the 20-win mark while also making the dean's list with a 4.0 GPA. Moser is just one of the outstanding Loyola students who balance academic excellence with athletic prowess. (Photo: Steve Woltmann, Loyola University Chicago Athletics)

For Loyola’s student athletes, success in sports is outscored only by achievements in the classroom

By Alexandra Jonker

Coming off of back-to-back NCAA championships, the Loyola Rambler men’s volleyball team began the 2016 season with a seven-game winning streak. Meanwhile, women’s volleyball had their best season in over a decade, reaching 20 wins for the first time since 2004 and making it to the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) tournament for the first time. Men’s and women’s soccer are also on a roll, with both teams having standout performances in last year’s Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

Although these are impressive stats, perhaps even more impressive are the success rates of Loyola’s student athletes in another arena—the classroom. The Ramblers have a graduation success rate (GSR) of 98 percent, tying Loyola for third place nationally alongside such elite schools as Columbia, Harvard, Notre Dame, Princeton, and Yale. This is the highest-ever GSR recorded for Loyola athletics and marks the sixth consecutive year the department has seen improvement.

Loyola also scores high on the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate (APR), a team-based metric based on the eligibility, retention, and graduation of scholarship student athletes. Of Loyola’s 11 athletics programs, 10 had a perfect APR of 1,000 for 2014-2015 and eight have a perfect multiyear score.

“We are extremely proud of how our student athletes perform both in competition and in the classroom,” says Loyola Director of Athletics Steve Watson. “The NCAA data shows that we are on the right track in preparing our student athletes for life after Loyola, and the fact that we have done that while maintaining a high level of success on the playing fields shows how special Loyola can be.”

So to what, or whom, do these students owe their success? For student athletes like Jake Mazanke, the answer is twofold: first, to themselves and second, to their support system of coaches, academic advisors, and fellow athletes.

Mazanke, a senior journalism major, has been a record-breaking track and field star during his time with the Ramblers. In the 2014-2015 season, Mazanke clocked the third-fastest 600m time in school history (1:18.56) and finished first at the Indiana Relays. He was also runner-up in the 800m at the Meyo Invitational with the second-fastest time in school history (1:48.57), and was a member of the distance medley relay team that broke the school record at the Alex Wilson Invitational.

Off the field he’s been involved in multiple student organizations and interned with the Big Ten Network, all while maintaining a 3.92 GPA. His accomplishments have earned him the Missouri Valley Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Week honor three times since coming to Loyola.

“Being a part of the team has pushed me academically because it holds me accountable to get things done,” Mazanke says. “Not only do I have to stay on top of things to be eligible, but for me personally, our team GPA is really important. I want our team to do well in the classroom as well. I take that very seriously, almost as much as my own athletic performance.”

For freshman nursing student Maddy Moser, the transition from high school to college athletics required only “a little bit of adjusting.” As a member of the women’s volleyball team, she’s in good company: In addition to winning 20 games this season they earned the AVCA Team Academic Award, given to teams that maintain at least a 3.30 cumulative GPA. Moser contributed to the team’s success both on the court and by maintaining a 4.0 GPA in her first semester, which also earned her a spot on the dean’s list. She credits Loyola with helping players stay on track academically.

“There are a lot of resources at Loyola,” she says. “We have our academic advisors, which help a lot. And then Norville is a place where we can all study, and our academic advisors will help us get set up with tutors if we need them.”

“We take great pride in our student athletes and build strong relationships with them,” says Patricia Hoffmann, senior academic advisor to student athletes. That includes directing students to resources such as tutors and the Writing Center, assisting with pre-registration advising, and monitoring academic performance up through graduation.

Students learn early on how to coordinate their course syllabi with their academic calendar and the demands of their sport, helping them to strike a balance between the two. “We provide the resources for success,” says Hoffmann, “but the student athletes are the ones who challenge themselves each and every day to be the best they can be in competition and in the classroom.”

Chris Muscat, now in his fourth season as head coach of Loyola’s women’s volleyball, tries to emphasize long-term thinking for student athletes. “I think that it’s a balance between trying to make sure that volleyball is a priority for them, which takes up a lot of hours, but also what is equally important for them—the 60 years after their athletic career here is done,” Muscat says.

Women’s soccer head coach Barry Bimbi ascribes to the same philosophy as Muscat when it comes to the academics of his players. “We talk a lot of big picture, like post graduate life, especially with those kids that are really struggling with academics,” says Bimbi. “It’s like this: You are not really going to be a professional soccer player, you are going to be someone in the business world or a doctor or a physical therapist. So we try to get them focused on life after their four years here.”

However, when it comes down to it, excellence may just be inherent in what it means to be a Loyola Rambler.

“For us, not only recruiting great athletes but recruiting the right people who we hope can have academic success here is pretty important,” says Muscat. “I think I would attribute a great deal of the recent success to the quality of student athlete we are able to recruit to a school like Loyola—one that has a great academic reputation.”

Where campus meets community


Loyola's Center for Urban Research and Learning has developed a unique model of partnering with local organizations in Chicago to research issues of importance to the community. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

For 20 years, Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning has built lasting partnerships that have led to impactful social change

By Scott Alessi

When talking to people in Chicago who had recently experienced homelessness, researcher Christine George kept hearing the same complaint again and again. Individuals who found themselves in need of housing or shelter had attempted to contact the city’s 311 helpline, only to be told they should find a nearby hospital or police station. Instead of directing callers to services that could help with their housing dilemma, operators were telling them to turn to someone else for assistance.

So George, an associate research professor at Loyola’s Center for Urban Research and Learning (CURL), and her research team decided to test the system themselves. They placed 100 calls to 311, each time presenting the operator with a crisis scenario. And just like the people they’d interviewed, the researchers were given vague and unhelpful directions. For people in real emergency situations, the helpline was clearly not serving its purpose.

The finding was part of an extensive evaluation of Chicago’s 10-year plan to end homelessness, a study commissioned to find where the city was succeeding in its efforts and where it could improve. A group of 550 people experiencing homelessness were tracked over a period of one year, with researchers looking at what worked and what didn’t when it came to getting people into stable housing. Like all of CURL’s research, the project was a collaborative effort between researchers, students, and community leaders aimed at finding ways to address urban issues.

It also sparked a significant change. When George and her team presented the results of their study at an event hosted by the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness, the failings of 311 caught the attention of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel. While Emanuel was pleased to hear that many of the city’s efforts to end homelessness were leading to progress, he pledged to deal with the 311 problems immediately.

Sure enough, improvements to the system were quickly implemented. “Our report was the basis for that,” George says. “It helped to move forward a bunch of important pieces in addressing homelessness.”

It is this type of success that has made CURL, one of Loyola’s Centers of Excellence, a respected partner in the local community for two decades. “We are the go-to people,” says George. “We have formed these partnerships, and people really trust us.”

Power of partnerships

Those partnerships are the heart of CURL’s unique research model. Founded in 1996, the center was designed to bring together members of the University and leaders in the community for collaborative projects geared toward not just studying urban issues but finding solutions.

“The simple view is that there is knowledge in the university, but there is also knowledge in the community,” says Philip Nyden, the founding director of CURL. Nyden, a sociology professor who joined Loyola’s faculty in 1979, says university researchers might not get the full picture of what is happening in a community when conducting research on their own. But the community can also benefit from the expertise and credibility that comes from working with representatives of a major university. “The model in many ways is highly logical,” Nyden says. “But around the academic world, that was a radical idea.”

Nyden first tested this approach in 1989 when he helped to form the Policy Research Action Group (PRAG), a collective of local universities and community groups in Chicago. PRAG proved the model had merits and paved the way for the establishment of CURL.

It didn’t take long for CURL to see the fruits of its partnership-focused model. An early project for the center brought together the Howard Area Community Center (HACC), a local social service agency, and Organization of the NorthEast (ONE), a political advocacy group, to study the potential adverse effects of welfare reform. A key finding of their report was that cuts of subsidies to legal immigrants for rent and food would lead to a $41 million loss for the local economy in the Rogers Park, Edgewater, and Uptown neighborhoods.

CURL’s involvement substantiated the findings, but their partners helped to put the results into action. By calling attention to the impact on the local economy, ONE was able to get the attention of politicians, community leaders, and the media. As the story gained national and even international attention, elected officials who previously were uninterested in taking on the issue were pressured to act. Ultimately, Illinois legislators responded by passing a $10 million addition to the state welfare budget.

Such results wouldn’t be possible without CURL’s partners. “They were able to do things in Springfield that we as a research center and a University are not hardwired to do,” Nyden says. “Research is a tool with which you can shape policy, but that only happens when you put it into play. We need community partners to do that.”

Academic versus activist

Having community partners also helps CURL maintain its own distinct role. Nyden says that as academics they must remain objective in order to produce sound results, and there is a fine line between research and activism when it comes to some of the issues CURL studies. Nyden himself has turned down offers to join partners in lobbying or sit-ins at the mayor’s office to avoid muddying the waters.

It is a lesson he is also careful to emphasize with Loyola students, who play a major part in CURL’s research projects. In some cases, students may be eager to take on a project because of their own personal stance on an issue. When recruiting students for a study on the impact of Chicago’s first urban Walmart store, for example, Nyden recalls one student enthusiastically saying, “I want to get Walmart!”

But as Nyden explained, CURL wasn’t trying to take down the retail giant. The study was intended to research Walmart’s effect on sales tax revenue and employment numbers in the neighborhood, and going into the project there was no way to tell what the results would be. “I didn’t know if we were going to ‘get’ Walmart,” Nyden says. “The results might have been positive.”

It turns out the findings were fairly neutral—tax revenue and employment data were both virtually unchanged by Walmart’s presence in the neighborhood—but the report didn’t indicate the store had a profoundly positive influence on the community either. And that was enough to get Walmart’s attention.

When an interim report was released halfway through the study, Walmart produced a 20-page rebuttal. Two days after the final report was released, the Chicago Sun-Times ran an editorial criticizing CURL’s findings. But when the New York City Council was considering whether to allow Walmart to expand its presence there, they called upon one of the researchers on CURL’s study for input. The Washington Post also asked the lead researchers on the report to write an op-ed about their findings.

Though the results weren’t meant to attack Walmart, they still had a big impact. “I think we really rattled a few cages,” says David Van Zytveld, CURL’s associate director. “I don’t know of a report we’ve done that had, quite frankly, such innocuous results that got so much attention.”

Two-way street

Whether or not their work garners headlines, CURL maintains a commitment to research projects that have a tangible outcome—not only for the community but for the University as well. “I think we have been a benefit to a variety of communities, but it is not a one-way street,” says Van Zytveld. “Our community partners have helped us—both CURL and the University—in our educational mission. We’ve been able to make connections and they have extended our classroom.”

Part of the learning process involves being open to hearing the concerns of a community and following their lead on research projects. A 2002 collaboration with a group of teenage girls in the Uptown neighborhood, for example, focused on questions of race and culture related to how the young women styled their hair. It wasn’t a topic CURL’s researchers would have come up with on their own, but it proved to be a valuable learning experience for both sides.

Developing relationships with people in the community has been a highlight for Nyden, who this year will transition into retirement after 20 years as CURL’s director and nearly four decades at Loyola. At times, he admits, the work can be disheartening, as it provides an up-close view of the toll that issues like poverty and domestic violence take on people’s daily lives. “You put a face on these problems and sometimes that’s disturbing,” he says. “But there’s also a lot of hope there too. That is really critical in the kind of work we do. And it keeps you going.”

It also adds pressure to work toward change. And looking back, Nyden sees the great strides CURL has made both locally and beyond. The center has been a model for researchers at universities nationally and internationally, and its work has had far-reaching policy implications.

“You’ve got to make gains,” Nyden says. “They might be small gains, but those small gains shared with thousands of people are really going to change the quality of people’s lives.”

Loyola helps veterans ease transition to college life


Anita Lumpkin, Loyola’s coordinator of Military Veteran Student Services, helped the University launch a new course that helps veterans adjust to life on campus. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

A new University course for veteran students helps them address the unique challenges of going from the military to the classroom

Adjusting to college can be difficult for any new student, but those who come to campus after serving in the military have a unique transition. To help these students make a smooth shift to life at Loyola, the University has developed a new course specifically designed to meet their needs.

The one-credit course, which launched last fall, is adapted from the University’s general transition courses. All incoming freshmen are required to take a college transition course, and a modified version was created for transfer students.

Anita Lumpkin, Loyola’s coordinator of Military Veteran Student Services, says it made sense to adapt that course for veterans so they could work through their shared experience together.

“As a default, the class becomes a safe space for veteran students,” she says. “They get to discuss their common identity and common struggles, which can be hard to explain to non-veterans.”

The class covers many of the same topics as the course for transfer students, such as connecting to Loyola’s mission and identity and locating resources on campus. But it also helps veterans unpack their military service and provides information on benefits available to them through the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Currently, Loyola has 165 undergraduate or graduate students who are military veterans. Those who took the pilot course found it helpful in making the adjustment to college, Lumpkin says.

“Veteran students, particularly those who have served in combat, have a different transition need than our traditional college-age students,” she says. “The class hopes to meet that need in a meaningful way.”

Learn more about how Loyola supports veteran students

Finding a life’s work


Stritch School of Medicine student Kamaal Jones is working with Project Brotherhood, an organization on Chicago's South Side that takes a holistic approach to health for young black men. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Kamaal Jones works to increase health awareness among African American men on Chicago's South Side

By Erinn Connor

Before he was a student at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, Kamaal Jones took a trip to South Africa in 2012, where he experienced firsthand the country’s overburdened health care system. Jones, now a second-year medical student, kept an online journal during that summer trip and had a revelation during his time there.

He wrote: “One of the most interesting things for me was that, as an African American, this is the first time I’ve ever truly just blended in. It seems like a minor thing, but it was strange to me to be surrounded by other black men and women everywhere. At hospitals where I’ve been before, I always stuck out like a sore thumb, but here, I was home. I truly loved it.”

Fast forward two years, as Jones was settling into his busy schedule at Stritch. During and after his undergraduate years at Cornell University, and after outreach work in South Africa, Haiti, and Port Chester, New York, which is near his hometown of White Plains, Jones was itching to rediscover this feeling in a community near Loyola.

He was particularly interested in black men’s health, and through Stritch, he discovered Project Brotherhood. The South Side–based organization looks to increase health awareness in black men, not just physically but also mentally, socially, economically, and spiritually. It provides preventive health training that is relatable and understandable for black men of all ages. Its doctors—all black—provide medical services out of Woodlawn Health Center for men who either don’t have access to regular clinic services or don’t feel comfortable in that environment. They also provide resume writing classes, fatherhood support groups, and other social support groups.

Jones immediately took to Project Brotherhood’s philosophy and their approach to caring for specific needs of black men. He felt it synced with his own reasons for going into medicine.

“You have to have a grasp of what’s happening in the community to be able to understand the pathology of what’s happening with the patient,” Jones says. “You can have a much broader effect through this kind of public health work in ways you can’t necessarily do by the time they’re actually coming into a doctor’s office or hospital.”


Addressing community health disparities is one of the four priorities of Loyola's "Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World." Read more about the University's strategic plan here.

Jones has been involved in a number of programs at Project Brotherhood. One is through his Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, a national year-long program that lets students create and implement efforts to improve the health of underserved communities. Through his fellowship, Jones helped lead an outreach program to train high school students about basic public health principles.

“When he first started coming here and teaching the public health class, I think it was a real eye-opening experience for him,” says Marcus Murray, Project Brotherhood’s executive director. “He was making a program for black kids from the city, and being able to communicate with them was a skill he had to hone. It’s not like just seeing a patient in an office; it’s understanding where they’re coming from and just being able to have a conversation.”

Jones first asked the kids what their concerns are in their neighborhood. At the time it was gun violence—the Laquan McDonald shooting had recently happened nearby, and both kids and adults were troubled by what was taking place in the community. Jones was helping the kids figure out how that intersected with their health and well-being. They also discussed smoking, drinking, and issues that come along with generational gaps between older and younger men.

Through all of his public health work, both abroad and on the South Side, Jones has found working with the members of the community and teaching them to help themselves is important in meeting their specific health needs.

“When you look at the history of what went into the building of the communities of Chicago and the segregation that occurred, you can see that so many resources have been pulled out of the South and West sides,” Jones says. “Wherever we can bring in resources and use them to guide the community to meet what they see to be their needs, that’s the most crucial thing. It is helping them get a platform so their voices are heard.”

His Schweitzer Fellowship public health awareness group paired well with another project he was given by Murray. Jones, along with a few social workers, met weekly with a group of high school students who were victims of gun violence, giving them a safe space for emotional support. Their conversations range from safety to hip hop. Making those connections has been one of the most rewarding parts of Jones’s work with Project Brotherhood.

“He has a natural talent for talking with these young people,” says Murray. “They all gravitate towards Kamaal. He’s a genuine, honest person who is willing to learn. I think everyone who meets him sees that.”

Lena Hatchett, PhD, director of Community and University Partnerships and an assistant professor in the Neiswanger Institute for Bioethics, connected Jones with Project Brotherhood in his first year. She believed his passion for public health and desire to help black men made him a perfect fit for the organization. “He is able to recognize and cultivate the assets and abilities of the high school students he will engage,” Hatchett says.

Though Jones doesn’t know where he wants to be for his residency, he knows he’d like to work with an organization like Project Brotherhood. He’s also interested in public health research, and the organization’s population would be ideal. “They have a really unique patient population,” Jones says. “Partially because you don’t have that many black men who are doctors, it’s hard to get black men into hospitals and clinics before it’s an emergency a lot of the time.”

Wherever Jones ends up after graduation, his already deep roots in community outreach will continue to grow and play a large part in his medical career. “Medicine can’t be understood without a community context,” he says. “No patients are islands unto themselves. They’re all part of some greater web of interconnection.”

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

Global challenges, global solutions


The new online textbook Healing Earth is divided into six chapters covering key topics related to modern ecological issues: biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, food, and global climate change. (Photo illustration by Joe Darrow)

Loyola joins Jesuit institutions worldwide to collaborate on Healing Earth, an online textbook tackling modern ecological issues

Shrinking natural resources, a declining food and water supply, and the planet’s changing climate are among the pressing environmental challenges for people in all corners of the globe. And educating the next generation on how to understand and begin to address these issues is going to require a global effort.

Enter the International Jesuit Ecology Project (IJEP), a first-of-its-kind initiative that brings together members of the worldwide Jesuit education network for a shared mission. Realizing that educating students about these pressing 21st-century challenges necessitates a 21st-century resource, the IJEP have launched Healing Earth, a free, online environmental science textbook for upper-level secondary schools and beginning college students.

Led by a team from Loyola University Chicago, the project reflects the work of more than 90 scholars from Jesuit institutions across the globe with a wide range of expertise. Broken into six chapters—biodiversity, natural resources, energy, water, food, and global climate change—the book offers perspectives on modern ecological issues from a scientific, ethical, and spiritual perspective. Healing Earth also provides a platform for students around the world to share their perspectives on environmental issues in real time.

“We want students to learn more than the science behind our environmental problems—we want them to reflect on the complicated social issues these problems create,” says Michael Schuck, PhD, associate professor of theology at Loyola and Healing Earth co-editor. “Students want to be engaged as whole people; they want their minds, hearts, and spirits challenged, and they want to be mobilized. Healing Earth meets our students as whole people.”

With the support of Michael J. Garanzini, S.J., chancellor of Loyola University Chicago and secretary of the Jesuit Global Higher Education Directorate, and Patxi Álvarez de los Mozos, S.J., director of the Social Justice and Ecology Secretariat in in the Jesuit Curia, the IJEP was initiated in the fall of 2011. Soon after, Healing Earth was identified as the project’s major initiative. In October 2012, a team of 31 experts from 10 countries gathered at Loyola’s Retreat and Ecology Campus to conceptualize and outline the textbook.

“The Society of Jesus has identified environmental sustainability and ecological challenges—which disproportionately affect the lives of the poor and marginalized—as a major area of concern,” says Father Garanzini. “All Jesuit institutions, especially universities, have been called on to address these issues, something which we are uniquely qualified to do.”          

The goal of the book is to provide students a holistic view of these problems and a hopeful, action-oriented response at the local level. As an online resource, the digital text can be updated with new resource links and video content. It will also unite students from around the globe and give them access to educational materials that may otherwise be unavailable.

For Keith Esenther, S.J., an ESL instructor at Arrupe College in Harare, Zimbabwe, that is a major benefit of the project. “In Zimbabwe, the Internet is much easier to access than printed textbooks,” he says.

Healing Earth will help us understand how to use the world’s resources in a way that is fair and honest and recognizes their limitations, and its online format will allow us to deliver this information to students in the developing world.”

IJEP collaborators plan to create additional resources for educators, which will include forums for lesson plan sharing and a teacher’s manual. To accommodate a global audience, the textbook is being translated into multiple languages, including Spanish and French, which will be available later this year.

To view the textbook, visit healingearth.ijep.net. To learn more about the project, visit LUC.edu/ijep.

Making responsible choices—both near and far


Theology professor Tisha Rajendra, PhD, teaches a course on morality and food, encouraging students to think about the impact of their dietary choices. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

College of Arts and Sciences

From migration to meal choices, theologian Tisha Rajendra explores the morality of decision making

By Kristen Hannum

Growing up in North Carolina, Tisha Rajendra, PhD, saw history all around her: statues honoring Confederate generals and soldiers who had fought and died for a set of principles that were wrong, she says. “But no one ever talked about that. Part of my fascination with the responsibilities of the past comes from growing up in a place where no one talks about their responsibilities.”

Most of Rajendra’s articles and her forthcoming book, Migrants and Citizens: Justice as Responsibility in the Ethics of Migration, look at issues of migration and the responsibilities of receiving nations. That’s because it’s their policies that often are to blame for driving waves of refugees. “Migration is patterned,” says Rajendra, an assistant professor of theology. “Migration flows. Something sets migration flows in motion.”


Loyola recently launched Plan 2020, a five-year strategic plan to promote social justice. This story falls into one of the four strategic priorities outlined in the plan. Read more here.

Her research is focused on viewing migration in a larger context. “It’s not just poverty or unemployment that drives it,” she says. “A fuller picture of justice needs to be discussed. Responsibilities also need to be part of the understanding.”

Rajendra offers the United States’s history of looking towards Mexico for low-cost labor as an example. There had long been a pattern of circular migration, she explains, where workers would come for the harvests and then return to Mexico. A 1986 policy reform made it more difficult and expensive to cross the border. Workers began coming to stay and bringing their families. “It began what we have today, a huge population of undocumented workers,” she says.

In contrast with her work on international migration, Rajendra teaches about mostly domestic, hands-on issues. In “Moral Problems: Food Systems,” for instance, she urges students to think through their dietary choices. The class has experiential components—the students garden, interview farmers, and live on the budget of someone on food stamps. Students may come in saying they don’t understand why people in poverty eat so many potato chips, but when living on a food stamps budget they get hungry and fill up on low-cost chips. “That’s from the stress of a mere weekend, worrying over every penny and running out of food,” Rajendra says.

Rajendra hadn’t planned on teaching and writing about social justice. Her Bryn Mawr undergraduate degree was in linguistics; she wanted to be a New Testament scholar. “Then I learned that I preferred the concrete questions of my Christian ethics classes,” she says. Her Harvard master’s in theological studies led her to Boston College, where she earned a doctorate in philosophy in theological ethics and became better acquainted with the Jesuits. She came to Loyola in 2010.

“I was familiar with Jesuit institutions, and the Jesuit ethos, so I was very aware of Loyola,” she says. “It’s a great environment for someone who wants to teach what I want to teach and to write what I want to write about,” she says.

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

Taking a healthier position


Amy Luke, PhD, a professor of public health at Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine, stops by the First Congregational Church in Maywood for an evening dance class. Through her involvement with the Maywood Fine Arts Association, Luke is able to help families learn about health and nutrition. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Stritch School of Medicine

Maywood Fine Arts offers professor Amy Luke a forum for promoting nutrition and healthy living

By Erinn Connor

On a rainy weekday night, Amy Luke, PhD, stops by First Congregational Church in Maywood, just a block down from the Maywood Fine Arts Association headquarters. In a large auditorium, dozens of girls in leotards and tutus chatter excitedly. Every so often a bell would ding, as the kids dropped spare change into a bank collecting donations for a new dance studio. The old Maywood Fine Arts studio burned down in a fire in 2010 and the association is now fundraising for a new space with their “Raising the Barre” campaign. 

Luke, a professor of public health sciences at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, greets Taiyana Shurn, the dance instructor who was once a student herself. Parents poke their heads in the door as they drop their kids off, saying hello to both Luke and Lois Baumann, who founded the organization with her husband, Ernie. The two women stand in the wings as Shurn starts playing a Disney soundtrack and the kids start going through the basic ballet positions.

Baumann and Luke weave through the rows of kids, correcting their poses and making sure toes are properly pointed. Pictures of dancers past and present hang on the walls of the auditorium, showing just how many kids have gone through the doors of Maywood Fine Arts and been affected by the time Luke, Baumann, and others have invested in the community.

At the forefront of this involvement is Luke, a professor at Loyola for 22 years whose simple curiosity started the empowerment of a community. Luke and her husband, Carter, a jazz musician, saw a group of kids performing tumbling routines in Oak Park. They were impressed by the performance and tracked down the name of the group—the kids were part of the Maywood Fine Arts Association.

Since that encounter, Luke and her husband have been heavily involved in the growth of Maywood Fine Arts. She’s served on the board of directors since 2001 and her husband teaches music lessons to the children. Her son Miles now participates in those same tumbling classes she first saw in Oak Park.


Addressing community health disparities is one of the four priorities of Loyola's "Plan 2020: Building a More Just, Humane, and Sustainable World." Read more about the University's strategic plan here.

She’s constantly checking in on the association’s different programs. Luke sees them from two perspectives, as a Maywood resident and a public health researcher. Maywood Fine Arts offers opportunities in an area that is nearly desolate of creative outlets. It also gives them the chance to be active and healthy when their circumstances don’t automatically allow that lifestyle.

“Living here and understanding the challenges has helped inform my work with the association as well as my research,” Luke says. “I’ve gotten to know the people and understand what they want for themselves and their kids.”

As she continued working with Maywood Fine Arts, she noticed the lack of nutritional and healthy lifestyle knowledge by the kids and their families. “You start to notice things like Maywood doesn’t have a grocery store, that there are a lot of single-parent homes, that the kids just didn’t know what healthy foods were,” Luke says. “My research work is focused on chronic diseases—obesity, diabetes, and high blood pressure, which a lot of these kids were at risk for.”

Luke has helped implement many fitness and healthy living initiatives that feed into her research interests. With the help of other public health faculty and students, she’s started cooking classes and created a community garden. Maywood was also a recruitment site for a study she worked on looking at the high rates of elevated high blood pressure in African Americans.

Beginning in 2009, she was a co-principal investigator with David Shoham, PhD, on the Modeling Obesity Through Simulation (MOTS) project. This National Institutes of Health grant involved untangling the many complicated factors of childhood obesity and how they feed into each other. For example, disadvantaged communities have a lack of grocery stores, a large number of fast food restaurants, and a lack of physical activity options. These are all prominent in Maywood and the surrounding neighborhoods, and these factors were an important part of the study. This is where Maywood Fine Arts comes in to combat a lot of these issues. It serves nearly 1,000 students in their classes, and their families are 72 percent African American and 22 percent Hispanic. For some of these kids, it’s the only extracurricular activity they’re involved in.

Luke is determined to integrate Loyola into the community by recruiting medical and public health students to help with her research and make fitness a big focus of the association.

Loyola’s Institute of Public Health received a grant in early 2015 to develop and test a Family-based Lifestyle Intervention Program (FLIP) for low-income African American and Hispanic and Latino families. The program will promote the adoption of healthy lifestyles. It involves monthly meetings with families; quarterly health assessments that measure weight, blood pressure, and fitness levels; and monthly cooking and fitness workshops. Because of the funding, researchers will be able to examine the long-term effects over seven to 10 years, rare in a health study focusing on low-income families.

“Getting the community engaged with nutrition and healthy activity will always be a central pillar of what Loyola is doing in Maywood and at the association,” Luke says. “I’m hoping to gradually recruit more students and faculty into research opportunities in Maywood as we continue to add more programs.”

The 37-year-old nonprofit welcomes Luke’s help with open arms and hopes Loyola continues to be involved in their backyard in the years to come. “When we started Maywood Fine Arts, we wanted to do something right by the kids and families in a city that never really got back on its feet,” Baumann says. “If we don’t have people like Amy Luke finding us and getting involved, we certainly don’t stand a chance of sticking around and making a long-term difference for these kids.”

As the music winds down at the First Congregational Church, the kids finish their warmup and are bouncing around, full of energy.

“Good work ladies and gentlemen!” Luke claps, the kids smiling from ear to ear. “That was beautiful!”

“She’s been one of our largest advocates and a guiding star for Maywood Fine Arts,” says Baumann, watching Luke and the kids with a grin. “She believes in the kids and the opportunities we offer them.

Read more stories about members of the Stritch community working to address health disparities

The future starts here


One passionate principal is determined to make college a realistic goal for urban youth

By Scott Alessi

The halls of Tindley Renaissance Academy beam with college pride. Pennants representing colleges around the country hang from the ceiling of the urban Indianapolis school, and each classroom bears the name of a prestigious university. A large sign greets the students—or young scholars, as Tindley calls them—each day with a reminder of the school’s motto: “College starts here.” Nearly every aspect of the school day is focused on college preparation—even though the students are still in elementary school.


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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Tindley principal Clarisse Mendoza (JFRC Spring ’05, BA ’06) acknowledges that the college-centered mission is unusual for a school that only includes kindergarten through fourth grade. But a decade working in urban education, both in the classroom and at a district level, has shown Mendoza that more traditional structures aren’t succeeding when it comes to preparing students from underserved communities for higher education. She recalls working as a high school English teacher in Washington, DC and encountering students who weren’t even able to read by the time they reached ninth grade.

“I would always wonder, how did it get so bad? How did these young people keep getting passed from grade to grade without really having mastered these foundational skills?” The answer, she says, was that an emphasis on college readiness needed to begin at an earlier grade level. “If we really are going to ensure that our scholars someday walk across that stage not just with their high school diploma but with their college degree,” Mendoza says, “we have to ensure that they have the strongest start to school possible.”

That means providing the students a rigorous curriculum to help them build a solid academic foundation. The Tindley model also emphasizes goal setting and helping students envision themselves one day being in college, developing what they call a collegiate scholar identity.

That mission struck a chord with Mendoza, who left a job with the UNO Charter School Network in her hometown of Chicago to become Tindley’s principal in 2014. The work, she says, can be incredibly challenging. The school is located in The Meadows, a low-income, high-crime neighborhood on Indianapolis’s northeast side. Most students come to Tindley with little or no concept of college. Mendoza puts in long hours and helps with tutoring students on the weekends. “It is not even work,” she says. “It is a lifestyle.”

But Mendoza understands how vital her role is in helping young people in her community succeed. A 2011 study published in the American Sociological Review found that children who grow up in low-income neighborhoods have a significantly reduced likelihood of graduating high school. And according to 2013 data, only 9 percent of individuals from families in the bottom quarter of the income bracket graduate college by age 24—compared to 77 percent among top income earners.

Mendoza isn’t deterred by these statistics. If anything, such realities motivate her to find new ways to make college a realistic goal for her students. And what better way to make college seem more real, she thought, than having students visit an actual university campus?

Like everything about Tindley, the idea was unconventional. Most colleges Mendoza contacted weren’t prepared to host such a young class of visitors. But she turned to her alma mater and found a welcoming group of hosts in students from Loyola’s Black Cultural Center. Mendoza saw this as a perfect opportunity for her students, most of whom are African-American, to meet college students who could serve as positive role models.

Though some of her colleagues scoffed at the idea of taking 78 fourth-graders on an overnight, out-of-state trip, Mendoza was determined to make it a reality. The students organized bake sales, dances, and other fundraisers to help cover the cost. They prepared questions on a variety of subjects—from campus life and choosing a major to being a minority student and living away from home—that they hoped to ask the Loyola students.

But the actual day of the visit far exceeded anything the young students imagined. They were in awe as Mendoza took them around the Lake Shore Campus, showing them buildings where she had taken classes and where she lived. When they came together at the end of the day to reflect on the trip, one student raised her hand to share what the day had meant for her.

“Ms. Mendoza, I didn’t know what college was like,” the student said. “I couldn’t imagine it. But now that we’re here, I can definitely see myself being here. I can do this.”

Those words gave Mendoza goosebumps. It was a confirmation that her outside-the-box idea had exactly the effect she intended: It was a transformational moment that showed the students college was not outside their grasp. “When she said that,” Mendoza says of the student’s reaction, “I knew we did the right thing.”

Mendoza’s voice races with excitement as she recounts the experience of taking her students to visit Loyola, which she plans to make an annual tradition. It is days like these, when students visibly gain confidence in themselves, that keep her going.

Though challenges remain, Mendoza is always amazed at the resilience and dedication of her students. She truly believes that they have the ability to succeed in college and beyond. “It is really hard, but it is worth it to be a part of that growth and to contribute to our future,” she says.

“People say at the end of the day it is just a job,” Mendoza says. “But in keeping with my Jesuit upbringing, this is my calling. This is my vocation. And I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Lessons in justice


Seungho Moon, EdD, an assistant professor in the School of Education, works with Loyola juniors in his "Teaching & Learning Within a Global Framework" class at Ogden International School. Moon's research focuses on promoting social justice and equity through curriculum studies. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

School of Education

Seungho Moon focuses on promoting social justice and equity through curriculum studies

By Kristen Hannum

“I try to promote cross-cultural conversation between East and West,” says Seungho Moon, EdD, an assistant professor of curriculum studies in the School of Education. Through his programs in schools, his writing, and his teaching, the native of South Korea advocates for arts in school curricula, giving children a safe environment to explore and share their diverse perspectives.

“Art gives us different ways to communicate, gives us a space to think about and respect different ways of thinking,” he explains. “Art is an intangible element, giving rise to our social and ethical imagination. It opens up unknown ways of knowing.”

Curriculum studies as a field explores what knowledge is important. “It looks at what is considered known, and how do we decide who knows what,” Moon says. “I try to provide different ways of looking at the world from different schools of scholarship.” He wants his students to ask other questions as well, beginning with, “How do we promote learning, equity, and justice?”


Loyola recently launched Plan 2020, a five-year strategic plan to promote social justice. This story falls into one of the four strategic priorities outlined in the plan. Read more here.

Moon deliberately carries forward the work of his mentor, Maxine Greene, an education theorist who spoke and wrote at length about the importance of imagination. Another mentor, Janet Miller, taught him the importance of openness in defining curriculum. He met them while studying for his doctorate at Teachers College, Columbia University.

He’s proven a prolific writer on curriculum studies that promotes equity, multiculturalism, and justice, authoring dozens of articles, book reviews, book chapters, and translations in both Korean and English.

His transnational background, love of arts and philosophy, passion for social justice, and belief in the power of the imagination all led to Moon’s critical questioning of frames of important knowledge and power operations.

Moon came to Loyola in 2015 after teaching for four years at Oklahoma State University in Stillwater, Oklahoma. Budget cuts have meant that arts education in Oklahoma isn’t part of children’s school day. Moon wrote a grant for an afterschool program, ARtS—Aesthetic, Reflexive thoughts and Sharing. Fourth, fifth, and sixth graders in the course share their multiple perspectives through their art.

Moon describes both Chicago and Loyola as his “land of opportunity,” a place he can further his work in partnership with schools, designing curricula that combine the arts and social justice. He hopes to build those programs through the School of Education’s apprenticeship, community-based teacher education program, which works in a variety of schools.

“Teaching is not something you can learn from textbooks,” Moon says. “You have to learn by participation. I try to have fieldwork and theory interwoven in each course. You can’t do one and not the other.”

Meet more Loyola faculty who are focused on social justice:

The possible dream


Renée Suzanne Frodin (BBA ’97) shares a laugh with sons Jon, right, and Dave. After her husband passed away, Frodin completed her degree while raising her four children and is now a successful entrepreneur. (Photos: Natalie Battaglia)

Quinlan School of Business

A college degree may have seemed out of reach for Renée Suzanne Frodin, but that didn’t stop her from trying

By Aaron Cooper

As a teenager, Renée Suzanne Frodin (BBA ’97) faced challenges that far exceeded the “normal” growing pains of her peers. She grew up in the south suburbs of Chicago in a poor family. During her high school years, she dropped out of school, got married, and started having children. By age 21, she and her husband had four young children with no prospects of building a solid future for their family.

Despite Frodin and her family living on food stamps, she eventually earned her GED. But she knew that would only carry her so far. “Everyone I knew who had a good life for their children and was successful was also educated,” says Frodin. “They had more than a GED, and they were able to make a better life for themselves and their children. Despite my circumstances, I wondered what I could do to make a better life for my kids, because that wasn’t how I envisioned them growing up.”

Frodin applied for grants and got into Prairie State College, a community college based in Chicago Heights. She worked hard and earned good grades. Again, she found herself wanting more. A student there told Frodin that Loyola University Chicago offered a Presidential Scholarship and encouraged Frodin to apply.

“At first I thought, ‘That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard,’ ” says Frodin. “Why would a prestigious university like Loyola want anything to do with someone who got a GED, had a bunch of kids, and went to junior college? But I also thought, ‘What would it hurt to apply?’ ” So Frodin did apply, and one day a letter from Loyola arrived telling her that she had been accepted to the University—and awarded the scholarship.

“It was like the skies opened up,” she says. “I just couldn’t believe it. It was the best break I’ve ever gotten in my life. To go someplace like Loyola was unthinkable for a person like me who had the life that I had. Many people thought it was ridiculous that I even tried.”

At the time, Frodin and her family lived in Richton Park, Illinois. She took the train to class every day, about an hour commute each way. Two of her children were in day care, and the other two were attending school.

“I was very tight with my schedule,” she says. “I’d wake up and get the kids off to school or day care, run to the train, take three classes in a row on Monday through Friday, pick up my kids, and go home. There wasn’t time for anything else.”

Frodin studied finance at the Quinlan School of Business. During her final year, and with only a semester left to earn her degree, Frodin’s husband passed away unexpectedly. Facing an even more uncertain future as a single mother of four children, Frodin feared she would lose her scholarship, because the Presidential Scholarship is only for full-time students.

“I couldn’t attend full time anymore after he passed, because I needed to get a job,” Frodin says. “But I still wanted to finish my degree, because I was so close. I wanted to graduate from Loyola and didn’t want to have to go someplace else.”

Frodin wrote a letter to the University asking if there was any way the scholarship could be continued so she could finish her final classes despite not being able to continue on full time.

“Loyola said yes, and I am forever grateful,” says Frodin. “Not only for myself but also for my four children. My kids needed me to finish that degree. I knew if I didn’t that nothing would change for us. I might still be on food stamps. I couldn’t bring my husband back, but I could graduate. It was the only way I could see for us to ever have a better life.”

Frodin is quick to point out the impact of that decision. “Loyola helped us all—five people, not just me,” she says. “All four of my kids have graduated from college. And I don’t know where we’d be if I hadn’t finished my degree.”

Frodin went on to a successful career in investment operations, accounting, and finance. As she established her career and could better provide for her family, she began donating money to Loyola, particularly in support of scholarships.

“I like to give back to the University any way I can,” Frodin says. “I always envision someone like me who wouldn’t be able to attend Loyola without some assistance, and I hope that he or she can graduate and have a better life because of their education and pay it forward.”

Frodin lost her job last June, and after 20 years in the corporate world she decided to pursue a coaching certification. Now she is working diligently to launch a new full-time business as a certified personal coach with a specialty of helping women who are frustrated with dating.

Frodin has always been passionate about improving one’s life and personal development and doing the best one can with what one has. She had been wanting to pursue a different career path for several years, so when she lost her job, she felt that was a good opportunity to follow this new calling and develop a career she felt strongly about.

“I am a big believer in lifelong education,” says Frodin. “Learning something difficult and not giving up really tests your mettle…"

“I had a pretty rough childhood, and the kindness that was extended to me by the University made me believe the world could be a good place and that good things could happen to good people,” says Frodin. “I am grateful for the opportunity to give back to Loyola, and I hope the University will continue to make the education it provides available to as many people as possible.”

Learn more about how to support current Loyola student scholarships

A giving heart


Marie Ginther (BBA '87) holds a child at the Abandoned Baby Unit of the Port-Au-Prince General Hospital in 2008, before the facility was destroyed by the 2010 earthquake. Below, Marie is pictured in 2012 with, from right, her husband, Ray; their sons Tommy and Matt; and Matt's fiance, Emily. (Photos courtesy of Ray Ginther)

School of Continuing and Professional Studies

An unconventional college path prepared Marie Ginther (BBA ’87) for an extraordinary life of service

By Jenny Kustra-Quinn

Just four years after taking an early retirement at age 54 from her career as a corporate comptroller, Marie Ginther (BBA ’87) was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s in 2011. During those years between retirement and failing health, she committed herself to service projects in the neediest areas of Cairo, the Congo, Cuba, Ethiopia, Haiti, and Vietnam. Back home in New York City, she worked in a soup kitchen and as an end-of-life doula, comforting and advocating for the terminally ill.

Marie didn’t do these things because her time was limited; she couldn’t have known the cruel fate that awaited her. She lived this way, according to her husband Ray Ginther, because that’s just how she is—“a beautiful, giving person.”

The Ginthers both retired early. It was a decision that enabled them to travel extensively, including taking a cross-country bicycle trip, and to make a difference in many lives before Marie’s illness started taking its toll. “I tell people all the time, if you have a chance to do something, do it now,” says Ray. “You don’t know what the future will hold.”

Today, Ray speaks for Marie, who at 62 years old is in the late stages of her disease and living in a full-time care facility near the couple’s home. For those who love Marie, it’s difficult to accept that this independent woman who embraced life must now depend entirely on others. “It’s not fair. She had so much to give,” Ray says.

He says doctors tell him they’re increasingly seeing younger Alzheimer’s patients. “People need to be aware, because the implications are devastating.”

Marie’s story is a cautionary tale, a reminder to live, like she did, with urgency and purpose. She even took this approach in pursuing a college degree, which she started in her home state of Utah. That’s where she went on a blind date and met her future husband, who was working in publishing after graduating from Michigan State University. They married in 1975 and moved to Chicago three years later. Marie began working as a royalties accountant for Playboy and enrolled in night classes at Loyola.

When Ray had an opportunity to work in the home office of Condé Nast in New York City, Marie encouraged him to take the job. They made the move, but Marie was determined to continue her education—and to earn her accounting degree from Loyola.

She found a new accounting job in New York and wanted to continue taking night and weekend classes. Marie turned to an advisor from Loyola to help guide her through the process of choosing classes at New York schools that could be transferred to count toward her Loyola degree. “We’ve always been grateful to Loyola. The way Sandra (the advisor) looked out for Marie was everything to us,” Ray recalls.

Marie never gave up, balancing full-time work with the demands of college. Toward the end of her education, she was also pregnant with her first son, Matt. At three weeks old, he accompanied Marie and Ray back to Chicago for his mother’s graduation. It was 1987, and the Loyola journey that began nine years earlier was finally complete: Marie had earned her degree from Loyola’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS).

Marie went on to have another son, Tommy, and a successful career. She retired as a principal from Renaissance Technologies LLC, an investment management company where she worked for 20 years. Marie Ginther and her family in July 2012

Retirement provided Marie an opportunity to give back. She volunteered in the soup kitchen and at Mount Sinai Hospital. She served on the board of Good Shepherd Volunteers, which sends volunteers to social service ministries to help women and children affected by poverty, violence, and neglect in the US and abroad. She served on the board for HaitiChildren (formerly Mercy & Sharing), which provides healing, education, and hope to Haiti’s most vulnerable people. Marie and Ray made several trips to Haiti to see the results of the organization’s projects, and Ray continues to serve on the HaitiChildren board. Marie and Ray also traveled with Fix It Friends, a group that takes on annual projects.

Marie participated in several projects, including repairing apartments of single mothers in the Cairo slums, fixing up a school in Laos, and building a playground in Haiti. Ray is still involved and will be heading to Zambia with the group in January.

Ray believes that traveling intensified his and Marie’s desire to serve others. “When you travel, you see so much need. And you realize that you can’t fix the world, but you can fix a small part.”

In 2010, Marie received Loyola’s prestigious Damen Award for her leadership and service. She is now being honored again, as her husband has gifted $250,000 for the establishment of the Marie M. Ginther Endowed Scholarship at the SCPS. Loyola will match the endowment to create a $500,000 scholarship.

Ray says he and Marie know how difficult it can be to manage a job while struggling to get an education one or two classes at a time. It takes persistence and dedication, and it can be a financial challenge. But the SCPS makes it possible for students who are taking care of other responsibilities to complete their education.

“We would like to take some hardship away and help people realize their dream, because we realized our dream,” he says. “I’m proud of Marie, and I hope her story can inspire others. Loyola is a special place. This kind of thing is possible.”

Ray and Marie celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary in November. They were married Thanksgiving Day, which seems appropriate, given the gratitude that Ray expresses for his wife and their journey together. He says he wouldn’t change a thing. “It wasn’t that we set out to live an interesting life. It’s that we made ourselves available to let it happen.”

Click here to read more stories about outstanding Loyola alumni

Achievable. Accessible. Affordable.


Osmar Cruz, a member of Arrupe College's inaugural freshman class, exits the Chicago Ave. Red Line stop with classmate Andrea Vallejo. Arrupe offers students like Cruz the opportunity to attend a two-year college and to graduate with little or no debt. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Arrupe College is opening doors to higher education for local students from under-served communities

By Scott Alessi

During his senior year of high school, Osmar Cruz took a weekend job working 12-hour shifts at a restaurant about an hour from his home on Chicago’s South Side. After leaving school at 3 p.m. on Fridays, Cruz would make a brief stop back home before rushing off to start work at 6. By the time his shift ended the next morning, he’d gone 24 hours without sleep. At 6 p.m. that night he’d be back at the restaurant, ready to do it all over again.

The job was exhausting. Cruz was already working four nights a week at a martial arts school, cleaning up after practice in exchange for free lessons. The schedule started to take its toll and Cruz struggled to keep up with his studies. “Sometimes I couldn’t fall asleep,” he says. “I couldn’t concentrate. I was losing it.”

When he took the job, Cruz was unsure of where he’d be after high school. He worried that a college education would be too expensive and may not be an option. But as the long hours wore on him, Cruz recalls getting some valuable advice from a coworker: If you don’t want to keep doing this kind of work, you have to get an education.

Cruz knew that meant more than earning a high school diploma. He quit his restaurant job and shifted his focus to applying for college, looking to Chicago’s city colleges as his most affordable choices. But his prospects still seemed bleak. Cruz says he knew the schools he was applying to didn’t have the best academic reputations, nor the highest graduation rates. In fact, the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center finds only 39 percent of students who enter two-year community colleges graduate within six years.

And there was still the issue of cost. Though community college is generally more affordable than a four-year university, the Institute for College Access & Success reports that the average cost to full-time students is still $15,000. Only 2 percent of students have their financial need met by grants, and for Cruz, the only guarantee he would get from attending a city college was a heavy load of student loan debt.

Things changed when a teacher at Cruz’s high school told him about Arrupe College, Loyola’s new two-year school. Designed for students like Cruz, Arrupe strives to make a high-quality Jesuit education accessible to students with limited financial resources. With the aid of grants and scholarships, Arrupe gives students an opportunity to earn an associate’s degree and to graduate with little or no debt.

Cruz applied and was admitted, making him one of nearly 160 students to enter Arrupe’s first freshman class in August 2015. Students attend either a morning or afternoon session four days a week—leaving the rest of their day open for work and studying—and complete their courses over five eight-week sessions throughout the year. Class sizes are small, students have more direct access to professors, and support staff are on hand to assist students. All of these ingredients are designed to pave the road to success for Arrupe students.

Blanca Rodriguez’s eyes widen with excitement when she talks about the opportunities Arrupe has given her. The oldest child of Mexican immigrants, Rodriguez has dreamed of going to college since she was in seventh grade. She knows the kind of sacrifices her parents made in leaving behind their home and family, all in the hope of making a better life for their children. That inspired Rodriguez, pushing her to work hard so that she can give back to her parents and set a good example for her two younger brothers.

“It has always been in my head that I have to go to college in order to be successful,” she says. “It has never really been a choice for me. It has been something I had to do.”

Rodriguez was dejected upon realizing that a four-year university would be financially out of reach. She had hoped to pay her own way through college rather than putting an additional financial burden on her parents. Like Cruz, she considered city colleges but was unimpressed with the offerings. Then she discovered Arrupe.

“I’ve always prayed to go to a good school and to have a good education,” says Rodriguez. “This school was an obvious sign that God listens to my prayers.”

Rodriguez was accepted, and through a package of financial aid and scholarships she will graduate debt free. She realizes what a unique opportunity that is and says it is an added motivation. Thus far, her hard work is paying off. In the first eight-week session, she was among a select few students to make the Dean’s List. She hopes to attend Loyola to complete her bachelor’s degree, and if she keeps her grades up she knows she can qualify for automatic admission—and more importantly, for a merit-based scholarship.

Arrupe also helped Rodriguez find a part-time job at a bank, where she works four days a week. She says the job has boosted her confidence and improved her organizational skills. The money she earns helps her contribute to the family’s bills and to buy groceries, which allows her father to reduce his overtime hours at work. For Rodriguez, it is a small way of showing her gratitude.

That desire to serve others is something Rodriguez sees reflected in Arrupe’s Jesuit mission. “Here we talk about how we need to be men and women for others. If I went to a community college, I feel like everybody would just be focusing on themselves,” she says.

Rodriguez believes Arrupe is indeed preparing her to be a “woman for others.” She wants to study psychology, with the goal of one day working with children who have mental disabilities. “I am not working for my own success,” she says. “I am working for the success of my parents because they had to struggle to come here. And I am working for the success of people that I want to help in the future to better their lives. I am not focusing on my own goals, I am focusing on how to better the lives of other people.”

When Arrupe’s morning classes let out, Osmar Cruz finds himself a quiet spot to study on campus. It’s a brief respite in an otherwise busy schedule. He still spends his evenings at the martial arts school, but he’s traded in his cleaning duties for teaching, leading classes for children age 12 and ages 4 to 6. Then he tries to fit in a little more schoolwork before getting to bed.

Cruz admits it is hard work, but feels those long hours at the restaurant and his martial arts training helped to mentally prepare him. “I always tell myself that nothing is ever too much,” he says. “It is not an obstacle. It is a challenge.”

Cruz hopes to continue his studies at Loyola, with his sights set on not only a bachelor’s degree but a PhD as well. He enjoys teaching and wants to someday be a college professor. Yet he knows none of it would be possible without Arrupe allowing him to take the first step. “I am very proud to be an Arrupe student,” he says. “I am thankful for everybody who supported the making of this college, because now there is one more person in this world who has an opportunity.”

Learn more about Arrupe College

Meet another Arrupe student, Edquitta Alexander

Cycle of pride


Charles Lafkas (BS ’94), right, and his father Robert proudly display their Loyola jerseys on a 2013 cycling trip. (Photo: Courtesy of Charles Lafkas)

Loyola alum and avid bicyclist Charles Lafkas (BS ’94) found a unique way to show his Rambler spirit

By Aaron Cooper

Charles Lafkas (BS ’94) used to marvel at how much attention he got when he would wear a cycling jersey from his father’s alma mater. So Lafkas, a Cincinnati-based clinical project manager in drug development and an avid bicyclist, decided to create a Loyola version to showcase his own alma mater. He kept the project a secret from his father, Robert, until the two went on a planned cycling trip in 2013—which provided the perfect opportunity for the younger Lafkas to surprise his dad with his very own Loyola jersey. 

A unique project
Lafkas enlisted a little help to make his idea a reality. “I was introduced to a local designer, Diana Puppin of dp Design, who’s also a bicyclist," he says. "With Loyola’s blessing to commence the project, followed by the University’s continued input and final approval, we created the jersey.”

The jersey proved to be a hit not just with Lafkas’s father but with other cyclists as well. “We were in eastern Oregon for a week with 2,000 other people who had come from all over the world. So I gave my father this Loyola bicycle jersey, and he was absolutely stunned," says Lafkas.

"We were with another friend, whom I gave a jersey to also, and about half a mile out of our camp that morning, while riding someone yelled to my father, ‘Hey, Jesuit!’ He rode up to my father and named all the members of the ’63 Loyola championship basketball team. All three of us that day each received half a dozen comments, all positive.” 

Service through science
Lafkas, a biology major during his time at Loyola, manages drug trials for pharmaceutical companies as they’re working toward FDA approval, ensuring that the trials are done ethically and objectively. “I take as much pride in the drugs that we’ve been able to help get to market as the ones we’ve been able to help kill, knowing that they shouldn’t get any further than they did. It’s about protecting the rights and welfare of the people who are participating in these trials.” 

Giving back
As part of Loyola’s Access to Excellence: The Campaign for Scholarships, Lafkas endowed a scholarship to provide financial assistance to one or more students, particularly those studying biology, physics, or chemistry.  

“I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’ve become financially successful enough that I can give back in this way," he says. "Because Loyola gave me a good start, I enjoy being able to help someone else attend Loyola, and hopefully they in turn will get off to as good a start as I did and take that experience out into the world.” 

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

In the right place at the right time


Andrew Trotter (MD '07), a Stritch School of Medicine alumnus, works in a Nepal hospital shortly after an earthquake struck the country in 2015. (Photo: Patrick Adams)

When an earthquake struck in Nepal, Andrew Trotter called upon the skills and experience he gained at Loyola to aid the emergency response

By Lauren Krause (BA ’10)

For Andrew Trotter (MD ’07), medicine has always been a global experience. After his first year at Loyola’s Stritch School of Medicine, Trotter volunteered in India and later on spent one rotation in Bolivia. These experiences helped shape his idea of a life in international health. After Loyola, he continued his global career while working as a resident at the University of Illinois and an infectious disease fellow at Tufts Medical Center.


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.

Read more stories.

Trotter now works in Nepal, where his skills were put to the test when an earthquake hit in 2015. In this interview he discusses that experience and how his time at Loyola prepared him for a career in international medicine.

What’s been the most gratifying part of your time in Nepal?

First, teaching medical students and nurses. Teaching is a time-consuming and sometimes hard job. It requires a lot of planning and work to be done right. However, I enjoy teaching, both in the classroom and at the bedside.

There is nothing more gratifying than having a student whom you taught be able to give a perfect answer, treatment plan, or differential diagnosis. In medicine, you realize that you can touch and impact more than just one patient at a time—through teaching other students, residents, and nurses.

Second is being able to provide hope and safety to people living with HIV. In Nepal, those people can face stigma and discrimination in almost every aspect of their lives, sometimes quite openly. They are refused jobs, housing, medical care, and education. For many people, this can profoundly affect their ability to follow up on care and medication. I find it very gratifying to provide a place where they can speak about their HIV status openly; for many patients our clinic is the only place they can.

How did the Nepal earthquake affect your work?

When the earthquake happened, I was at home. After the initial tremor stopped, I went to a basketball court, which was a gathering point for the people in my neighborhood. People were in shock, and no one was quite sure of what to do. 

Once I got to the hospital, I realized the true effects of the earthquake. There were patients everywhere: on beds, on chairs, on tables, on the floor. Many had broken bones, head injuries, punctured lungs, and back injuries.

Over the next few days, I spent my time helping take care of patients and supervising the medical residents, but the patients kept coming—first just from Kathmandu but then from the outlying areas—I had never seen anything like it.

How did your training at Loyola prepare you to deal with that kind of situation?

There were a lot of traumatic injuries, which as an infectious disease specialist and internist, I don’t see often. I realized later that the trauma assessment and triage skills I was using came from Loyola during my trauma surgery rotation.

As a medical student, I still remember staying at the hospital overnight and being paged by the surgery residents late at night. I would rush to the trauma area of the emergency department at Loyola and the residents would make us perform the trauma assessments.

I remember being so nervous and unsure about doing the assessment myself, but I now know that I was able to respond the way I did during the earthquake because of those surgical residents at Loyola when I was a medical student.

Do you have any advice for doctors who want to work internationally?

I would tell them to try to get as much experience as soon as possible. International health can mean a lot of things, not just the location but the type of work you do and your role. You need to figure out where you fit. Do you want to work in an office and liaise with governments to make policy, or do you want to work in the field? Do you want to work in large international organizations?

No amount of classes or schooling can show you that. You need to get the experience to understand what you want.

Read more stories of outstanding Loyola alumni

Immersed in service


Annemarie Barrett (BA '12), bottom right, poses for a photo with some of the friends she's made during her time as a lay missioner in Bolivia. (Photo: Courtesy of Annemarie Barrett)

School of Communication alum Annemarie Barrett finds a second home serving in Bolivia

By Anna Gaynor

After spending three years as a lay missioner in Bolivia, working and learning alongside the locals in her community, Annemarie Barrett (BA '12) still thinks her biggest accomplishment might just be the decision to come to South America in the first place.

The St. Paul, Minnesota native’s desire to volunteer abroad was planted after a study-abroad experience in El Salvador. From those four months in Central America—and with some help from Loyola’s Campus Ministry office—Barrett decided upon the Franciscan Mission Service after graduation.

Not only was the School of Communication graduate thrilled by the opportunity to head to Bolivia, she also found inspiration in the organization’s approach. It focuses on getting to know locals and following their lead on what work needs to be done. That meant Barrett traveled to Bolivia with no firm job in place.

“My first six months to my first year here were focused on relationship building and getting connected with people in the local community—and then some of that involved getting connected to local work that was already happening,” she says. “I was doing a lot of listening and a lot observing in the first year, and from there I took on a support role.”

That support role took shape when Barrett joined a team pursuing and promoting urban farming. After spending her first six weeks taking Spanish classes, another lay missioner put her in touch with a Bolivian woman who offered families an opportunity to strengthen their communities and reclaim a part of the life they left behind in el campo, or rural Bolivia.

In Barrett’s city of Cochabamba, farming families from rural Bolivia have been migrating to a more urban life. There are a number of reasons for moving—better education opportunities, climate change, industrialization, financial reasons—but there are just as many reasons why relocating doesn’t turn out the way they expect.

From the language they speak, their skin color, their clothes, and even the way they eat, many migrants face both economic and social challenges. “A lot of our work is about valuing the culture that they’re coming from,” Barrett says. “Life before they migrated is often much healthier or much more vibrant than what they find when they come into the city. A lot of the families have migrated into the city with this vision of ‘I’m going to have a better life—a better life for my kids.’ The development of the city is going to open me up to all these resources that I didn’t have before—when in reality, a lot of what they find is that they experience much more social challenges and discrimination.”

As a part of La Pastoral de la Madre Tierra (the Mother Earth Pastoral Team), Barrett works with 15 families in the Santa Vera Cruz Parish. Often she assists women who have undergone an adjustment of their own. Instead of working alongside their husbands every day as they had on their farms, these women suddenly find themselves alone taking care of their home and children. Showing them how to take advantage of their small garden space, the project gives them the opportunity to start growing everything from potatoes to peaches and peppers to beans.

While Barrett’s work addresses the practical concerns of saving money and giving access to organic foods, she also knows there’s a spiritual side to it as well.

“When they produce their own food, it really is a huge self-esteem booster, because they are able to provide more vegetables and healthy food for their families,” Barrett says. “They’re also able to recuperate a knowledge that they’ve always had but are in a crisis of losing—because so many people believe that they can’t produce the same way in the city. These women are producing themselves with just support from us more than anything.”

Barrett has now been living in the city for three years and officially renewed her contract for a fourth with the Franciscan Service Mission. For doing work that relies so heavily on building relationships, Barrett has found the longer she stays the deeper her ties to the community become.

“There’s so much joy in the work that we do,” Barrett says. “That’s a really beautiful thing that I hope to share with the people who are supporting our work. When it’s based on relationships like this work is, the work that we do is incredibly joyful.”

Read Barrett’s blog about her work in Bolivia at franciscanmissionservice.org/author/ambarrett

Click here to read more stories of Loyola alumni

Getting an inside look at outsider art


Student Bryan Owens spent the fall 2015 semester working at Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art, a Chicago nonprofit that takes a social justice approach to outsider art. (Photo: Natalie Battaglia)

Intern profile

Loyola student Bryan Owens spends a semester learning about the interaction of art and social justice

By Kristen Torres (BA '16)

Loyola student Bryan Owens, a double major in sociology and human services, interned during the fall 2015 semester at Intuit, a Chicago organization that promotes outsider artwork. We recently caught up with Bryan to learn more about his internship and how it furthered his future career goals.
Tell us a little bit about your internship.
I’m an intern at Intuit, a nonprofit that takes a social justice approach to the world of outsider art. We work with self-taught artists, people who grew up in the middle of nowhere, people in institutions, and individuals with mental disabilities. I help put on exhibits that showcase their artwork.

What projects have you been working on?
We have an exhibit going on right now by a World War II vet who has post-traumatic stress disorder and made collages that showcased his experiences during the war. It’s so great to get that out there and show people how art can express artists’ views and show their interpretation of larger issues.

What has been your favorite part of the internship?
I’d have to say the theme of art and knowing about who the artists were and why they made the specific artwork they did. It’s interesting getting to know what makes them who they are and getting that out to people, instead of just saying “here’s some random artwork.”

How do you think this internship will affect your career?
I feel like there’s a boundary between academia and art, which is why I’m choosing to double major in human services and sociology. I’m ever changing, and so are my career prospects. Human services is so interdisciplinary, you get such a broad spectrum of possible career choices. I have no idea where I’ll be in the future, but I definitely want it to be somewhere where I can mesh art with another discipline.

Loyola's new leader

Jo Ann Rooney feature

Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, brings a wealth of experience and a deep passion for education to her role as the University’s 24th president

By Scott Alessi and Brendan Keating (JFRC Spring ’00, BA ’01, JD ’04)

When Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, was introduced as Loyola’s 24th president on May 23, it was not her first encounter with the Loyola community. As she revealed in her remarks that day, Dr. Rooney had just a few weeks earlier put on jeans and a sweatshirt for an “incognito” visit to campus, hoping to blend in as a lost graduate student or perhaps a visiting family member. As she spoke with students, parents, and campus security, Dr. Rooney was struck by how each person was able to articulate the unique character of the University. “It wasn’t something they read on a mission statement,” she says. “It was from the heart.”

That undercover visit helped Dr. Rooney confirm that there was indeed something special about Loyola—or more specifically—the people of Loyola. Each person she met had an openness and warmth that made her feel instantly welcome, and as she continues to meet people across the University, Dr. Rooney finds that everyone is eager to talk about Loyola’s mission and how that mission impacts their work at Loyola. She plans to continue those conversations as her presidency unfolds, with a focus on how the community’s shared passion can translate to opportunities for growth.

Just before officially beginning her tenure as the University’s 24th president on August 1, Dr. Rooney sat down with Loyola magazine to share a little bit about her own passions, from travel and sailing to higher education in the Jesuit tradition.

You’ve had careers in a variety of fields, but always come back to higher education. Why are you so passionate about it?

I can really say it comes from having a family that values education. I often point to the fact that my mom was a career educator. And while my dad was not, he absolutely supported the notion that education was transformative. While it was always a part of me, I didn’t realize until later on how passionate I was about it and wanted to find ways to make higher education a career.

How did you come to that realization?
I always enjoyed school and learning environments; I was energized by it. But really a big moment for me was when I had my first opportunity to teach. The first time I walked into a classroom I realized I had no idea how to put together a Jo Ann Rooney with her parents at Spalding Universitysyllabus or a curriculum, so I picked up the phone to call my mom. She was an elementary education professional for almost 40 years and mentored many teachers, so of course I said, “Mom, help me out!” But despite that tentative beginning, I loved it, even though it took a little while to get involved with the students and not just be the person in the front of the room.

You have those moments where you are in a classroom and you start to see the proverbial light bulb go on for people. You can see their facial expressions and body language change. You see that spark and their intellectual curiosity begin to blossom. In those moments, it is so rewarding to know that you are really having an impact on people’s lives.

‌I was teaching in an adult accelerated program at Emmanuel College in Boston. The students were working full-time during the day, as was I, and you would hear them talk about why they were willing to juggle families and work to come back to school and get a degree, and what that would mean not only for them but for their families. Having that opportunity to help people make that difference was powerful and humbling, and I found I was enjoying my evening teaching role far more than my day job. By networking with my colleagues I was able to make the career change into higher ed and use my corporate experiences as well.

Later I had a phenomenal experience with the Department of Defense, but I also knew that was not a long-term career. I was called upon to serve our country and presented with an opportunity to do some really important work, but my intention was always to come back to higher ed. I admit to really missing higher education when I was away from it. Even in my role at the Department of Defense, part of my portfolio was DODEA, which was the Department’s educational activities. When I was on military bases I would always visit elementary, middle and high schools, academies and training facilities, or even the medical school if there was one nearby.

When you find yourself being drawn to something like that, you know that is your passion.‌

Can you tell us about your connection to Jesuit education and how that led you to Loyola?

I was first introduced to Jesuit education when I was teaching at Emmanuel College. They had a partnership with Regis University, our Jesuit school in Denver, which had developed an accelerated learning model. Part of me becoming an instructor in the accelerated program was learning not just how to teach adults from the pedagogy standpoint but how to integrate the idea of service beyond oneself into my teaching. Without even really understanding that was part of the Ignatian philosophy, it was embedded in me as I learned how to be a part of the adult accelerated program. The more I learned about it and the more time I spent with Regis University, the harder it was to ignore the Jesuit influence and what it meant for this program to be coming from the center of a Jesuit school.

I continued to work with many people at Regis through the years, including facilitating strategic planning on their campus. Through working in those roles, I spent a lot of time with the Jesuits. Then I had the opportunity to serve on their board of trustees. Father Mike Sheeran, who was president of Regis at the time, reached out to me and said, “We know you. You know us,” almost as a way of saying, “You may not realize this, but you very much understand Ignatian spirituality and what we’re doing here.”

He invited me to serve on the board of trustees, and I think that experience took my understanding and my internalization of Jesuit education to a whole new level. As a trustee, you really do need to understand that, because any of the decisions we made had to be focused around how to support the mission of Jesuit education and Ignatian spirituality.

What does the Jesuit education philosophy mean to you?

It comes in a number of different forms, and I was struck by it today walking around campus. I spoke to an individual who was working on faculty development. A conversation that I have had on the Regis campus is about how we prepare our faculty to help students start to integrate the mission and ideals of social justice and apply it in the world. That does not mean our faculty have had to come through Jesuit education. In fact, they are of many different faith, cultural, and educational backgrounds. But we need to offer something more than just technical learning. I found out that there is a very concerted effort here—not just for new faculty, but ongoing professional development—to help faculty integrate these conversations and these issues into the classroom.

As one example, almost every college has an ethics course. But how do you take that to the next level and talk to students about practically applying those ethical decision-making challenges to social justice issues or challenges in their own life? How do they model to their colleagues and clients that those ethics must be very much at the heart of what they do?

That is just an example of what our faculty are being challenged to do. On the other hand, our students come here because they want an education that doesn’t just teach them technical skills, which, in many cases, are going to be out of date in a very short time given the speed of transformation in many fields. That is really where I think the difference is in Jesuit education and, frankly, our liberal arts core curriculum. Our students have the ability to see the world through a different lens, to understand that it is about serving others. There needs to be that social justice component in what our students learn, which will long outlast the ‌technical knowledge they receive.

As Loyola’s first lay president, how do you plan to maintain the University’s Jesuit mission and identity?

I have already had a number of conversations about this with the Jesuit community, especially Father Jim Prehn, who is the rector, and Father Brian Paulson, who is the provincial. Those conversations started early on, even as part of the search process, about how important it would be to closely work with the Jesuit community to continue to make sure that the mission and identity is front and center.

When the campus community has always had a Jesuit president, I think people may have almost taken for granted that the University is following the Jesuit mission. Now we are having conversations around making sure we are very intentional in not only our programming but in engaging with the Jesuit community. Father Jim and I have had conversations about how to make sure that the great group of Jesuits and scholastics here can participate and contribute to the mission and campus life. I think it is critical that we have these conversations about how to be very thoughtful in making that connection even stronger and how we can continue to keep that focus on mission and Jesuit identity.

I have also had conversations with one or two of the other Jesuit schools to see how they have continued to develop and articulate their mission when they have had a lay president come on board. For instance, Gonzaga University did a wonderful written piece on their mission that brought the campus and discussions together, and they really took the time to develop that position. We will likely be doing more of that here as well.

Jo Ann Rooney sailing photoSETTING SAIL
What do you like to do in your free time?

If I am not at work, most likely you’ll find me on the water. I am an avid sailor and have been for many, many years. I’ve sailed on everything from small boats with a single sail to larger sloops and schooners to crewing on the Australian tall ship Endeavour. I do not mind climbing to high places and out on yardarms setting sails. For me, sailing and being out on the water experiencing the elements is where I can completely let everything else go.

I also enjoy two kinds of rowing. First, I am a kayaker. For me a great day can be taking my kayak out, seeing all the marine life, and just paddling and enjoying that peace and tranquility. The other rowing I like to do is probably the complete opposite, which is sculling. There it is primarily about going fast, but again it is very much about a physical connection with water.
I’m also a big snorkeler and love to dive. I don’t scuba anymore, but I love to snorkel whenever I get the opportunity and have experienced many wonderful diving sites.

Along with that, I also love travel. I have had the benefit of going to many exciting, diverse places around the world to experience different countries and cultures. One of my favorites is Australia. I’ve been there a couple of times traveling primarily up and down the east coast. I dove in the Great Barrier Reef and it was one of the most amazing experiences I’ve ever had. I have a great underwater picture showing a sea turtle that was coming up and giving me this very curious look, and I managed to snap a picture at that moment. It was just wonderful.

What are your other top destinations?

If I have to pick a city other than Sydney it would be London. I love England and the English countryside. I’ve also spent some time in Ireland enjoying the country and trying to figure out where some of my family roots have come from.
I’ve traveled throughout Europe, to the South Pacific, to South America, to Australia and New Zealand, and to the Caribbean. Italy would probably be another favorite destination along with the Scandinavian countries, which have an aura all their own. There are so many places that I love.

Is there anywhere you haven’t been that you’d like to visit?

Yes, China. That one has been on my list since I was in either middle school or freshman year of high school. I had an English literature teacher who went on an exchange program at the point when they were first starting to allow educators from the U.S. to go to China, and she came back to tell us about it. I have wanted to go to China for many years and just have not quite been able to work it out.

Do you have any pets?

I did have dogs. I had a miniature dachshund for 14 years, and my last one was a rescued greyhound. I would love to get a new one, but right now, with my lifestyle, I am not sure that is feasible. I am a big dog lover. In fact I’ve already told the Wellness Center that I know that Tivo is over there and I am definitely going to be coming to visit.

FROM CAMPUS TO THE PENTAGON Jo Ann Rooney at the White House
Can you talk about your role at the Department of Defense?

The title of my role was personnel and readiness, and my job was really about our people. And it wasn’t just uniformed military; it also included the hundreds of thousands of civilians supporting our troops along with a lot of work with military families to make deployments and transitions easier for them. For example, if a military spouse was a nurse in Illinois or a teacher in Washington, for instance, and then was moving to Arizona or Kentucky, how could we help that person transition successfully and navigate the licensure requirements and relocation challenges?

Another part of the role was looking at medical care. After the recent series of wars, we were faced with having to not only be at the forefront of research and innovation in our treatment but also to figure out the best way to support our injured men and women so they could have rich, full lives. Our medical teams in the field got very adept at being able to save people from traumatic injuries, but once they came home, we had to figure out how to advance those treatments and create the best quality of life for those veterans along with supporting their families. This was also during a time when the military was downsizing, and we had to look at what was next for people in their transitions in terms of how to prepare them for jobs or link them with higher education opportunities.

The readiness aspect of my job was about whether our military have the tools—but more so the training and the support—to be able to do what our country needs them to do. The big question was always, “ready for what?” I believe when many people think military, they think war. What they do not realize is that the bulk of what our military does is humanitarian assistance. It is building infrastructure, supporting cultures, or coming in to help after a disaster. The challenge we faced was how do you ensure that they are ready to do whatever is required of them, whether they are serving in war zones or providing humanitarian aid? Again, my job covered some aspect of everything to do with the people.

It sounds like there are many similarities between the work you did there and the responsibilities you would have as a university president.

Very much so. People often ask me, “How did you get to the DoD?” I say it was some fortuitous meetings with several people that knew of my background in higher ed. Robert Gates was Secretary of Defense at the time, and most people do not recall that he had served as the president of Texas A&M University. I had been a university president and so had he, so he understood that role. When he and the President were looking to bring in leadership that understood organizational change and how to run large, complex organizations, the connection to higher ed was apparent.

Much of what I learned in an organization as huge as DoD—how to connect with people and events globally—really makes the transition to Loyola easier. I have had a leadership role in this large, complex, diverse, extensive worldwide organization. The 30,000 people in my division were located around the world, and I had direct budget responsibility for more than $73 billion and additional oversight for billions more.

What was your work life like at the DoD?

The Department of Defense is an institution that very tightly follows protocol. It was unusual for people to just drop in to my office, since that was not considered proper protocol and since my schedule was intense. But my team started to realize that, as it got later in the day, my door was open for a reason and they could just stop in.

One day I had a colleague come in to talk about a very thorny issue with health care. It was a long day and after more discussion we realized that we had done as much as we could with the issue and needed additional work to solve it. The solution was not going to happen that day. Soon, realizing that, we just started trading travel stories. We both had a great passion for travel and we sat there exchanging experiences.

All of a sudden we started to laugh, really laugh, and I got a knock on the door from my military assistant asking, “Ma’am, just checking if everything’s alright,” because we were making more noise than we realized with our laughter. Next thing I know more people came in and all of us started exchanging stories and having a wonderful relaxed interaction after a really tough day.

Sometimes you need to know when to say, “OK, we have a serious issue, and we will find a resolution, but what can we do right now? Let’s make sure we can all have some balance and perspective, get some grounding, and we will tackle that one tomorrow.”

Do you maintain any connections to the DoD?

Yes, in addition to having some very close friendships with people still in DoD, I had the opportunity recently to speak to ROTC cadets at Fort Knox. That was arranged with the help of Lt. Col. Matthew Yandura (U.S. Army), chair of Loyola’s Military Science program. In fact, the person who introduced me to the cadet corps is one of our students here. I talked to them about leadership and the challenges they, as new officers, would likely face and hopefully gave them some tools or ideas that they could apply. As I stated earlier, often it is not about war, but it is about work on the humanitarian side and how these young officers can lead effectively in all circumstances.

What do you see as the role of Loyola’s alumni?

Alumni are a critical university constituency. As part of the Jesuit network, the education that Loyola has continued to provide and its role in this community are extremely strong. But the people that can speak to that the best are oftentimes the alums. They can look back at their career path and how they got there and say, “Now I understand the influence that the Jesuit education had on me.” They’re often the best spokespeople for how transformative this education can really be.

I believe if we do not engage with our alums and ask them, frankly, to continue to help us, we are shortchanging ourselves as an institution. Whether they are donors that want to financially support educational opportunities or special projects, or whether they can be mentors to potential incoming students, I think there are a lot of opportunities to be able to engage with our alums. I know that we have a broad network of alums, so there have to be a number of different opportunities where we can strengthen those ties.

How do you hope to engage with our Loyola alumni going forward?

There has not been a single alum I have met either here in Chicagoland or outside the region who does not want to find a way to give back and help the institution. We have to look for ways to reach out and say, “You’ve had a wonderful education, now we need you to help us make the connection with future generations, and here are some ways we’d like you to help us.”

It may be as simple as alumni having opportunities to meet with potential students or their families. I think we take for granted that we are reaching out to our students, but often we have to engage their whole family in the decision process of where they go to school. Again, I think we’ve got some wonderful alums who can speak from the heart about what Loyola meant to them.

We must continue to find ways to engage more and more of our alums. The strongest schools, those that continue to grow and have greater influence beyond their campuses, almost universally have very engaged alums. There is a great opportunity for us to enhance that engagement. 

Read more about Dr. Rooney's background, watch the video of her introduction as Loyola's 24th president, or view more photos from her arrival on campus

Ready for takeoff

Intern Michelle King

Loyola senior Michelle King stands in front of the Apollo 11 Command Module Columbia at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, where she is working as a summer intern. (Photo: Courtesy of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum)

Intern profile

Loyola senior Michelle King is exploring space through a summer internship at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC. In this interview, King, who is majoring in history and minoring in German studies, shares some of her favorite discoveries at the museum and a sneak peek at the future exhibit she's working on.

What attracted you to this internship?
I had done internships at museums in the past, most recently this past spring at the Field Museum. I want to go into museum work, so it seemed natural to keep progressing on that ladder.

What interests you about working in museums?
It is a mixture of working with physical historical objects and educating a wide variety of audiences. I enjoy bringing both real-life objects and real-life stories to people.

What are you currently working on?
The exhibition I’m working on now isn’t going to open to the public until 2021, so we’re in the very early stages of researching artifacts, images, quotations, and other aspects of the exhibit. The topic of the exhibit is how images of Earth from space have changed our perception of ourselves, and I’ve most recently been researching quotations by astronauts and other prominent figures.

What’s something interesting you’ve uncovered in your research?
I’ve been reading transcripts of radio communications of different space flights of the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo programs. Reading quotes that have just been recently declassified has been fun, and it is interesting to see famous figures like Jim Lovell, Buzz Aldrin, and John Glenn exclaiming “Oh boy!” when they see Earth for the first time from space.

What’s your favorite part of the Smithsonian?
The door that I walk into every morning lets you see into the Milestones of Flight gallery, which has the Spirit of St. Louis, the lunar module, and so many different amazing planes and spacecraft. That’s a great initial view to see just walking into work every day.

But my personal favorite gallery is “Moving Beyond Earth,” which talks about the space shuttle era and has one of the launches of the space shuttle Discovery projected on a huge screen. It is very contemporary of what is happening in space now.

How will this internship help you in your career?
I would love to build and design exhibits, so working in the space history department here helps me understand how to develop content for an exhibit. I’ve learned that it is not just knowing a lot about the content but trying to think about how people will connect with that content so it can be personalized and interesting for a great variety of visitors.

If you could work on any exhibit, what would it be?
I personally like American history, and I’ve taken a lot of classes at Loyola about German history and World Wars I and II, so those are particular interests of mine. Somehow being able to address World War II in an exhibition would be really exciting for me personally. But when I was little I wanted to be an astronaut, so I really love what I’m doing here at the Smithsonian.

Battling back from cancer on the big screen


Actors Antonio De Robertis and Juliet Hart in a scene from "One Year Later," a new film by Loyola alumna Lucia Mauro that highlights the struggles of a woman coping with the emotional challenges of life after cancer.

An alumna's new film showcases the emotional side of recovering from cancer

A new feature film inspired by a Loyola alumna’s own battle with—and recovery from—cancer will premiere September 18 at 1 p.m. at Loyola’s Center for Translational Research and Education in Maywood.

Written and directed by alumna and former adjunct faculty member Lucia Mauro (JFRC Spring ’85, BA ’86), One Year Later explores the emotional side of surviving cancer. Mauro, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012 and received treatment at Loyola University Medical Center, has pledged to donate proceeds from the film to ovarian cancer research at Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center.

The film tells the story of an American woman (played by Chicago actress Juliet Hart) who struggles with life after cancer and embarks on a cathartic trip to the Italian Alps. The film was shot both on location in Italy and on Loyola's Maywood campus. (Click here to watch the trailer.)

"I insisted on crafting an uplifting film that moves beyond the clinical aspects of cancer," says Mauro. "Unlike many films in that genre, One Year Later is not set exclusively in a hospital following the protagonist through treatment. Instead, it moves out of the physicality of cancer and into a rejuvenating world of the emotions, the senses, and human connection."

The film is set to premiere in September to coincide with National Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. The event will include remarks by Dr. Ronald K. Potkul and Dr. Patrick Stiff on Loyola's ovarian cancer research, comments from Mauro, and a post-screening Q&A. The screening, and subsequent showings throughout the Loyola community, will raise funds for the Christl Burgess Ovarian Cancer Fund at Loyola.

"Loyola has been instrumental in making this film a reality," says Mauro, "and the film is my gift to Loyola."

To RSVP for the screening, visit LoyolaMedicine.org/oneyearlater. For additional information on the film visit oneyearlaterfilm.com.

Sowing the seeds

IES Cover Story

The Institute of Environmental Sustainability is working toward practical solutions to modern environmental challenges

The new Institute for Environmental Sustainability (IES) facility is more than just a building. In some ways, it mimics the environment those within it seek to preserve. The geothermal heating and cooling system operates on the same principle as the process that keeps a duck's foot warm in cold water. The aquaponics facilities act as scaled-down wetlands. Even the building itself is something like a tree, with deep roots that get energy from the ground and a roof that harvests rain water.

This idea—that by understanding our how our environment works, we can be better stewards of it, which will benefit us in return—is at the heart of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability. The building, and the programs under the umbrella of the institute, demonstrate that sustainability is a part of all facets of life, at Loyola and in the world beyond.

“Sustaining the health of our environment is the critical issue of the next generation,” says Nancy Tuchman, PhD, founding director of the institute. “It’s a Jesuit way of thinking, and it’s an issue of responsibility. We see environmental issues as social justice issues.”

The institute is a cooperative endeavor that spans campuses and disciplines, addressing environmental issues from the molecular level to entire ecosystems, and from personal responsibility to environmental policy. Research taking place within the institute ranges from the compilation of data about the damaged Chicago area waterway system to field ornithology courses to soil evaluation. The Retreat and Ecology Campus, including its student-run farm, is a vital arm of the institute.

The new building, which opened on September 6, will be a center of sustainability at the Lake Shore Campus. Featuring classrooms, labs, academic departments, and student housing under one roof, as well as two student gardens, two aquaponics facilities, a green café, and other innovative components, it is designed to integrate sustainable thinking and sustainable living.

“Our Institute of Environmental Sustainability gives us an opportunity to drill down and dig deeply into knowledge of the science behind environmental problems, but it also offers the hopefulness of solutions that we can provide,” says Tuchman.

The institute offers a BA in environmental studies and a BS in environmental science, as well as five-year BA/ or BS/MBA programs designed to help students understand the implications of business and consumer products and practices. All students, regardless of their majors, take a Core course in environmental issues.

“We want to help channel students into careers in environmental sustainability, whether it’s business or policy, public health, or environmental science,” Tuchman says. “And we want all of our graduates to have literacy about environmental issues—to connect them to the sense of urgency that we ought to all have.”

Tuchman hopes to see the program enrollment double over the next few years and eventually grow into a fully-fledged school. At Loyola, the culture of sustainable responsibility—and the resources to find solutions—are growing.

Cultural immersion


Loyola student Cate Walters, second from left, spent the fall semester of her junior year studying in Vietnam. The University's Vietnam Center allows students an opportunity to experience a new culture, meet local residents, and travel to various sites in Southeast Asia. (Photo: Courtesy Cate Walters)

A semester abroad in Vietnam is a chance to experience the incredible diversity of Southeast Asia

By Eric J. Martin (BA ’92)

More than 8,000 miles from Loyola’s Chicago campuses, students explore the ruined temples and tombs of Mỹ Sơn. They see the floating markets of Mekong Delta and take an historical tour of Saigon. They traverse the underground tunnels of Củ Chi and visit the Royal Palace in Cambodia. It is all part of the cultural immersion experience that comes with a semester at Loyola’s Vietnam Center.

Located in Ho Chi Minh City (also known as Saigon), the Vietnam Center allows Loyola students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the social, economic, and political factors shaping Southeast Asia through a variety of classes and excursions. Participating students—a select group limited to 15 to 25 per semester—attend classes held at nearby Open University (OU), a partnering institution.

Students choose from approximately 12 courses offered by Loyola University Chicago, such as Culture and Politics of Development in Contemporary Vietnam, Modern Vietnamese History, and Humans and the Environment in Contemporary Vietnam. Every student is paired with an English-speaking Vietnamese OU partner/guide and resides in a dormitory set in District 10, a lively area with shops and restaurants. 

But it’s the program-sponsored field trips in and around the country that are often the most memorable.

“I loved our excursion to Cambodia and getting to see the ancient city of Angkor, as well as kayaking in the stunningly beautiful waters of Ha Long Bay, rock climbing in the little mountain town of Da Lat, and hiking in Sa Pa,” says Loyola senior Cate Walters, a global and international studies major who attended the Vietnam Center during the fall semester of her junior year. “My experience was incredible for many reasons—new friendships, fascinating classes, delicious food, and amazing trips.”

Walters says the experience taught her how large and diverse the world is. “There are so many different cultures, traditions, and experiences outside our own little bubbles,” she says. “Living in Vietnam taught me how to go with the flow and try new things. It also gave me the opportunity to volunteer with more vulnerable populations outside of Ho Chi Minh City.”

The study abroad program in Vietnam began as a summer session and expanded to a fall or spring semester option in 2010. Kelly Heath, associate director of Loyola’s study abroad program, says that a semester in Vietnam helps students grow personally, spiritually, and professionally.

“Students learn a lot about Vietnamese culture, language, history, and current events through the program,” she says. “And they get a chance to get out of their comfort zone, live somewhere new and challenging, and learn how to adapt to a new lifestyle.”

Learn more: LUC.edu/studyabroad/Vietnam 

Solidarity through soccer


Members of the Loyola men's soccer team visited Peru this spring as part of their international service-learning class. (Photo: Loyola Athletics)

Center for Experiential Learning

With the universal language of sports, Loyola students help build community in Peru

By Scott Alessi

On a rainy March afternoon, Loyola sophomore Elliot Collier stood in the center of an outdoor concrete court in the mountain town of Andahuaylillas, Peru, kicking around a ball with fellow members of the Loyola men’s soccer team. Slowly, children from the surrounding area heard the familiar sounds and started to join in. As the day went on more children arrived, and eventually some adults from the community gathered to watch—or even join the game.

Despite the language barrier, Collier says the Ramblers quickly bonded with their new Peruvian friends. “The language of soccer speaks louder than any other language in the world,” he says.

The experience was just one of the highlights of this year’s spring break experience for players on the men’s soccer team. Through a collaboration between athletics, the Center for Experiential Learning, and campus ministry, the team participated in a 10-day immersion trip to Peru. The trip was part of the international service-learning course, a class offered through the Center for Experiential Learning that focuses on service and community development.

While traveling through Peru, the students were immersed in a developing country where they were able to explore the use of sports—particularly soccer, or fútbol, as the Peruvians call it—as a means of youth and community development.

The Loyola students worked with a local nongovernmental organization in Lima, the Martin Luther King Association at El Agustino, where former gang members are working to rejoin their communities and workforce thanks in large part to rehabilitation efforts through soccer. Upon returning to Chicago the students continued to explore similar issues with local nonprofit organizations.

Senior Ryan Howe was impressed with the MLK Association’s ability to mix the fun of soccer with educational outreach efforts to youth living in poverty. “No matter what games that they are playing, they are always looking to incorporate an educational lesson into it,” Howe says of the organization. “It was great to see the kids engaged and eager to play, and to listen to what the instructors had to offer.”

Another stop on the trip was the city of Cuzco, where the Ramblers visited a Fe y Alegría school. Founded by the Jesuits, the Fe y Alegría network of schools has a mission of creating educational opportunities for children living in impoverished rural areas and helping them prepare for successful careers. The school in Cuzco teaches more than 600 students, ranging from preschoolers to teenagers.

For students like Collier, the trip was an eye-opening experience that provided a different perspective on the daily struggles experienced by people in other parts of the world.

“Peru has shown me that I have a lot to be thankful for and take a lot of things for granted,” he says. “I can say that we have definitely been taken out of our comfort zone. We have been tested in ways we could never have been back in Chicago.”