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.
“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.”