SOPHOMORE ANGELA is an English major with three minors in women and gender studies, sociology, and anthropology. She is currently an intern at the Ethiopian Community Association of Chicago and has discovered the calling for her life through working with refugees. Her passion was first incited when she took a refugee resettlement class at Loyola. She also has a love for writing and a personal curiosity in classical mythology.
Why do you feel particularly committed to working with refugees?
My experience with refugees began long before I even signed up for the class. Both my parents were Vietnamese refugees from the Vietnam War, so that really got me. I really felt a desire to want to help because I know my parents had no one… no one here could help them. So I wanted to be that person, even if I can’t be much. I can be a friend who can help them work through the difficulties of a new life.
How did you develop such a strong interest in classical mythology?
I took classical mythology and the name of the class stood out to me. It really connects to life because all of these stories have some sort of moral quality to them. And a lot of them are really deep and dark and some are more mature, not just your typical “don’t steal” or “don’t talk to strangers.” And so it definitely connects to life in so many different ways. Afterwards I started doing some research on it and I realized that I just couldn’t stop.
What would you say to encourage students to volunteer and find their own way to help others, as you have?
I would say, definitely find a passion, first off. Not everyone would find refugee work inspiring. Or not everyone would find working with the homeless [inspiring] or working with runaways. And I think you really just need to find your niche. And once you do, all the different types of work you do, it just sort of flows. You don’t have to make yourself do anything because it will just come naturally.
Do you have any mantras that inspire you?
My sister loves to write and she was the one who got me into writing… we’re six years apart. But she had this one quote. “Nothing we can do can change the past, but everything we do can change the future.”
What does the future hold for you?
I know definitely that I want to do something with writing and I know that for a fact. But I’m hoping I can somehow unite all of these passions into one, but they’re so different. I have Greek mythology and I have the refugee work and then I have the writing. So they’re all very different. But I hope to combine them somehow, because I would hate to have to sacrifice something. But I’m a sophomore and I still have two more years of different opportunities to come my way. And whatever comes when I’m a senior or when I’m ready to graduate comes and I’ll figure that out. But as of now, I’m hoping to be able to unite some of those different passions on a daily basis.
Junior Natalie Niskanen is a psychology major at Loyola with a minor in the psychology of crime and justice. Her dream is to someday be able to help children who have suffered from abuse or neglect. Niskanen has taken organ lessons for two years at Loyola and can be seen on campus in Madonna della Strada playing the organ for Mass. She also has a passion for learning other languages and has dabbled in Italian, French, and Russian and has been studying Spanish literature.
Why did you choose your major and your minor?
I chose my major [because of] my cousin’s experience, abuse at the hands of her father, and that was something very close to home so that kind of inspired me to learn more about the field of psychology. And so that’s really my goal… I’m very interested in child psychology and how you can help children who have been abused or neglected and help them to have healthy development.
What’s the most fulfilling thing about working with children?
I love having a relationship with them and having fun and watching them grow. And I work with autistic children and it’s just really great to see their progress and how I’ve helped affect their lives. I’m so satisfied that they’re happy. I love kids. I want to work with children whenever I can.
How did you get started playing the organ at Loyola?
I took piano lessons when I was younger for 12 years and actually my dad was really interested in organ music. When we were kids he used to play organ music in our house. And I play for church services at home and I thought, hey, I should take advantage of it and it would be a really fun and interesting thing to do.
Do you have any advice or wisdom to share with other students to encourage them to find a way to serve their community?
I would say that they should just find something that they’re passionate about. Loyola has all kinds of opportunities and all kinds of missions. They have all kinds of different ways that you can help people. And you should take advantage of all those opportunities and you just need to get out there.
Do you have anything you consider to be your most rewarding experience as an undergraduate?
I think one of the greatest things I’ve been able to do—that is kind of an accumulation of all the things I’ve been involved with—was I took a graduate seminar focusing on infant cognition. That was a coming together of all my previous hard work. It brought together all of my interests and created this really great opportunity and experience.
Where do you see yourself in the future?
I have to see what’s out there for me, but I definitely want to work with children. I’m thinking about one possibility. My minor is in the psychology of criminal justice, so [I’d like to] help represent children in court or be a psychopathologist. I’ll definitely be going to graduate school after working in the field for a few years, so that’s in my future.
After Sean O’Brien received his undergraduate degree in English, he studied German literature for a year in Germany and then traveled to Japan to teach English as a foreign language for a few years. When he returned to the states, he went on to pursue a master’s degree in teaching and then went on to teach high school English in Chicago. After realizing his passion for language, he attended Loyola to receive a master’s in English. Today, he is currently working on his English PhD at Loyola.
Why did you decide to come back to school and get a PhD in English?
At the high school level, I enjoyed teaching and I liked the people I was working with. I wanted to transition to where I was in a position where I could kind of mix the teaching with research as well, which is kind of the hallmark of the college level where you can devote a certain amount of your time to pursuing your own education and continuing to learn about your field and produce knowledge and then use that to help keep your teaching fresh. That was something that I was very interested in and Loyola offered me the opportunities, too.
What’s the most fulfilling thing about teaching?
What I like best about teaching is seeing the students really start to take the reins and start putting together new ways of looking at a subject or about the world in general on their own. So like finding what they’re interested in and then pursing it and creating their own insights with the materials that I have for the class and bring to the table.
Do you have any teaching philosophies that are unique to you?
I would hardly say this encapsulates all of my teaching philosophy, but I think it’s a very important one that I can’t expect my students to care about how much I know until they know how much I care. I didn’t make that up, it was one I heard. My job is to communicate with people who are in the room with me and use that communication to help them achieve an education, which is more than just the processing of knowledge or clearly definable skills.
Can you describe yourself in three words?
Inquisitive, tenacious, and communicative… I think an important part of my work is communicating; it’s inter-relational rather than just about me and what I am. It’s about all sorts of relationships.
Where do you see yourself in 10 or 15 years?
I would hope to be a professor of English at a college or university in which I’m engaged in teaching the student body while I continue my own research in order to keep bringing fresh things to the table every semester in my teaching.
Why do you feel teaching English is important?
I think it’s important because I feel that, in literature and in English, most people [use it] to address tough questions that they need to work through. Literature gives a different perspective… it allows people to have new insights into things that affect the way they live and engage with each other in the world and I think that’s very valuable.
Kelly Smith is a senior at Loyola majoring in anthropology with a minor in theatre. After discovering a passion for studying other cultures and helping others, she transferred from Purchase College in New York to Loyola before her junior year, switched her theatre major to a minor, and changed her major to anthropology. She has worked with the Loyola Refugee Outreach program, Chardin Anthropological Society, Golden Key International Honor Society, and Tau Sigma Transfer Honor Society. She has also volunteered in Tunisia, working with the local refugee population.
Why did you switch your major from theatre to anthropology?
I decided that it wasn’t really the lifestyle that I wanted and I was always interested in studying other cultures and traveling all over the world. So I came in [to Loyola] as a cultural anthropology major and kept my theatre minor. And since being here, I’ve kind of moved from cultural anthropology into applied anthropology. Now that I’m working in applied anthropology, I’m going to continue to work in non-profits and try to use the same concepts to help people.
What does it mean to you to be a person for others?
Well, obviously it’s always nice to know you’re helping someone, but I also feel like it’s personally rewarding because you can make a direct difference in someone’s life and better someone else’s situation. A lot of times, for work that I do, I see people that have had completely different experiences and I feel like it really puts my life into perspective. I really enjoy having somebody shake you up a little bit and make you look at the world in a different way.
How did you feel when you found out you were being profiled for the Weekend of Excellence?
[I was] kind of surprised because I’ve never thought of doing volunteer work as something to put on my resume or to impress people. I’ve just always done it for me and for the people I help and really never thought someone was watching. It is kind of nice to know somebody’s watching.
How is your experience at Loyola different from other students’ experiences?
I definitely have had a unique experience only being here for two years, so I think I came in with a lot more drive to get things done and to get things done quickly. And immediately during my first couple weeks here I found the Refugee Outreach Program and became an officer and started creating new opportunities for other students and trying to give the program a structure. I think a lot of other kids kind of come in and take some time to figure out their talents and their passions and I came in ready to do something with those already.
What is your career goal?
The dream job would be to create and manage my own non-profit. I’m working on the baby steps so I’ll probably continue working in refugee resettlement after graduation, and probably in Chicago.
Do you have a motto that you live by?
I try to just live every day experiencing life and not let it pass me by and reminding other people to do the same.
Emily Storms is a sophomore honors student with majors in advertising and public relations and political science. She is a recipient of a Ricci Scholarship, has a fervid interest for international studies, and will be traveling to China and Italy next year to conduct research. She is also a member of a sorority, Phi Sigma Sigma, and works as a resident assistant (RA) on the honors floor of Regis Hall. Loyola will be hosting the National Jesuit Student Leadership Conference this summer and Storms will function as the marketing director.
So far, what has been your most rewarding experience at Loyola?
I am an RA and I love working with my residents and being able to help them. So being on a floor for a whole year and seeing how the residents change over the course of a year has been really rewarding. Also, I’ve been really lucky to have a great group of friends and I think that is definitely a really rewarding part of life in general. And I think especially for me, that’s been a wonderful part of my experience at Loyola.
I understand you’re part of an after-school program. Could you tell me about that?
I am part of an after-school program at the United Church of Rogers Park. I love that. I love working with the community and getting to know kids. It’s really nice because in college, we don’t really get the opportunity to work with kids. That’s definitely something that I enjoy a lot.
What have you enjoyed most about working with children?
For me, it’s really similar to what I love about the RA position because you work with the same kids week after week and you really get to see the differences and the changes in how they behave and the kind of work they’re doing. And actually, that’s the area where I’m going to be doing a research project next year. I’m traveling to Italy and then China.
I’d like to know more about that…
My research for this project actually came from my volunteering at the after-school program. I’m looking at the public education systems of Italy and China. I’m looking at how they teach international history to middle-school children between the ages of 11 and 13. And I’m particularly looking at the more controversial parts of international history and then I’m profiling and looking at the portrayals of Mussolini and Mao in textbooks. I’m really looking forward to it. I’m excited.
Do you have any mottos that you live by?
This is kind of cheesy, but my sorority is Phi Sigma Sigma and our motto is “aim high,” and that’s something that I do. I’ve always aimed high. And I don’t really see any reason why you wouldn’t.
What would you like to do for a career someday?
I’m interested in so many different things that I have no idea. I want to do everything! I’m definitely interested in pursuing public relations as a career, maybe higher education. I would definitely be interested in working abroad, and of course in politics.