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City Club of Chicago Remarks

City Club of Chicago Remarks

Focusing on Loyola's strong future in the city, Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, spoke at the City Club of Chicago on October 4.

On October 4, Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD, president of Loyola University Chicago, addressed the members of the City Club of Chicago. In her second year at Loyola and in Chicago, Dr. Rooney outlined her view of the University’s past and present—and where it will go in the future.

Two weeks after Steve Katsouros, S.J., spoke on the same stage about Arrupe College’s new approach to higher education, Dr. Rooney expanded on the numerous ways Loyola is bringing that same innovation across the University and to communities throughout Chicago and beyond.

Watch Dr. Rooney's speech at the City Club of Chicago's website, or read her remarks below.

City Club of Chicago Remarks
October 4, 2017

Good afternoon. Thank you, Jackie, for that warm welcome, and my deepest appreciation to President Doherty, Dr. Mazur, and the City Club of Chicago Board of Governors for the opportunity to join you today.

Now in my second year at Loyola, I can truly say that the past 16 months since the announcement have been very full, but without question, every day I feel a sense of honor and privilege to be part of such a wonderful university, at this time and in the City of Chicago.

Before I came to the city and during my first months, I did a little research and asked many people what are the “essential” experiences in Chicago? So far, I have done my fair share of sightseeing and attendance at cultural performances, taking in the architectural tours, being on the lake, visiting several museums, attending the symphony and ballet, and experiencing music on a summer evening in Millennium Park. I have also sampled a few versions of Chicago pizza and popcorn mixes.

There are many special days and experiences that stand out, graduation for our students being at the top of the list—with a tandem skydive from 13,500 feet ranking in the top few for certain. The last causing a bit of consternation for some of my colleagues and board chair. However, one day, in particular, that also ranks near the top was November 4, 2016. That day is special for a few reasons. I will admit to being a life-long Red Sox fan and many of my Boston family were here in Chicago on that day. They tell me they were here to celebrate my inauguration which was held on the fourth, but I really think they wanted to be part of the 5 million people celebrating the amazing World Series win by the Cubs.

Yes, it was a great day all around. Of course, I continue to add to my list of Chicago experiences and can only hope that maybe we will have a Red Sox/Cubs World Series. One thing that has become abundantly clear over the course of the past year is that time with the City Club of Chicago is indeed essential. Thank you for allowing me to spend time with you today.

Loyola University Chicago and the City Club share something very important: a long-standing and deep commitment to the common good in Chicago.

So, in our time together this afternoon, I would like to share some thoughts about Loyola University Chicago: a bit of the past, much about the present, and a glimpse into the future. I want to share our view of the call to action that drives us. How we continue bringing the commitment to the common good and our mission to be women and men for others, together, at this time, for the good of our collective future in this city, our neighborhoods, and beyond.

It is about working closely with Chicago’s business and civic communities to make the common good in our city—uncommonly better.

Let me start by sharing a few facts about Loyola today. We are the only Jesuit, Catholic university in Chicago and one of the largest in the United States. In fact, we have the largest undergraduate population of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities in the U.S.

Loyola has been part of Chicago since 1870, and, we, like the city, have continued to grow and change in a dynamic way. We are located across multiple campuses and locations, including: Chicago’s Edgewater and Rogers Park neighborhoods, the Water Tower Campus downtown, our Health Sciences Campus in Maywood, our Retreat and Ecology Campus in Woodstock, and our Loyola Lake County campus, which hosts primarily MBA and professional programs. We also offer our students a broader world view through global programs in Rome, Beijing, and Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam.

Across these locations, we offer educational opportunities for every age and stage of life, including an associate’s degree program, more than 80 undergraduate majors, and 170 graduate and professional programs, ranging from certificate programs to master’s degrees and PhDs.

Here at home, we’re investing in the neighborhoods where Loyolans study, live, and work. With more than 16,650 students and over 5,000 employees we have the opportunity to make a real economic impact—and we do. More than 50 percent of our faculty and staff reside in the city thanks, in part, to a Loyola-assisted housing program that helps our employees offset costs when they purchase a home in Chicago as their primary residence.

Over the past 15 years, we’ve invested more than $700 million dollars into new buildings, streetscapes, and campus-edge improvements and partnered with local developers to unlock the potential of Loyola-owned land.

And when our students graduate, they enter a proud, global network of more than 150,000 Loyola University Chicago alumni. 85,000 of those alumni live right here in Chicagoland.

Our work, every day, really is about education and our students. Our current student body represents all 50 states and 105 different countries, and that is just within our 10,000+ undergraduates.

Over 90 percent of those same undergraduate students receive some form of financial aid enabling them to attend Loyola. In addition, many are the first in their families to attend college.

So that’s us—by the numbers.

As members of the Loyola family (and I know there are many of us here today), we are very proud of those numbers. However, what brings the heart and soul to Loyola is not the numbers but the people. What we find even more compelling and, dare I say, more life changing than our economic impact is our social impact, made possible through our Jesuit, Catholic mission and identity and the people who translate those ideals into action.

Together, this is the heartbeat of Loyola University Chicago. This is what makes us different and unique. We exist as a diverse Chicago community and embrace that diversity as the core of our strength. We work to expand knowledge in the service of humanity through learning, justice, and our faith. This is what we mean by women and men for others. We care for the whole person, intellectually, morally, physically, and spiritually.

In union with the Jesuits, we call that cura personalis. It is this focus that allows us to do one thing really well: prepare people to lead extraordinary lives of leadership and service to others.

Let me share some examples of this today…

Starting with Alejandra. Alejandra was originally brought to the United States at the age of 14 and lived in Savannah, Georgia. As a teenager, she overcame language barriers and social obstacles and thrived in high school.

Alejandra went on to college in Savannah where she worked tirelessly studying, assisting in conducting biomedical research, and volunteering at a local clinic, educating the underinsured about disease prevention and often interpreting for Spanish-speaking patients. She began teaching herself sign language so that she could assist the hearing impaired.

All the while, she cleaned houses and did countless odd jobs to help pay her bills. In addition, she retained the 3.5 grade point average that was required to keep her scholarship.

In 2016, Alejandra received her BA in Chemistry, and today she is a second-year student at the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine. She is studying to become an OB-GYN and practice in the underserved communities in her home state of Georgia.

I invite you to imagine the impact that a physician like Alejandra will make on the world, the impact that she will make for decades for people on the margins.

Then there is Mariana, another amazing young woman. Mariana graduated last May with a BA in Political Science. She addressed her fellow graduates during her Commencement ceremony on behalf of the College of Arts and Sciences and recalled the journey that brought her to Loyola University Chicago.

Born in Matamoros, Mexico, as a school girl, she saw many children her age who could not go to school because their families needed them to work to help put food on the table. She recognized the importance of education and realized it was not guaranteed for everyone.

Mariana recalled in her Commencement remarks that her mother told her that a college education would provide a pathway for her to fulfill her goal of “leading a life with purpose.” Education would require work and self-discipline. This opportunity would enable her to be the first in her family to earn a college degree.

Yes, she became discouraged at times. Yes, she had moments of self-doubt, but she did do it. This past spring, many of us shared tears of joy with Mariana as she took her oath of citizenship becoming a U.S. citizen, followed a few months later by graduation where she earned her degree from Loyola.

When Mariana spoke to the audience filling the arena on graduation day, she talked of her awakening to social justice during college. She realized that her education at Loyola and her experiences enabled her to find her voice as an agent for change who would actively participate in the most meaningful aspects of life, challenging the status quo every step of the way.

That should serve her very well as she pursues her next goal of law school!

Next, it is about our faculty and staff in the School of Education. In May 2012, Mayor Emanuel announced a partnership between Loyola University Chicago and Nicholas Senn High School, in which our Loyola School of Education committed to working with the Senn principal, administrative team, and faculty to help support the academic achievement of the students at Senn High.

Going strong to this day, this partnership model exemplifies how academic research and experiences can translate into practical improvements and transformation.

Mary Beck, our partner and principal at Senn High, says, “Senn students are learning from Loyola students, Loyola students are learning from Senn teachers, and our teachers are learning from Loyola faculty members. Loyola’s presence can be felt throughout Senn, and the community is stronger for it.”

Then it is about Neal, our soccer coach, who spent over 4 minutes of his 5-minute address to an audience talking about a trip the team took to Peru last year. He could not say enough about the wonderful service the young men on the team undertook in the poorest of neighborhoods in Lima. How they worked to help build shelters and fix and clean areas to assist the community. And how they engaged in pickup games of soccer with the local children, who did not have much in the way of material goods, but had a love of game and connected in a special way with the team.

Likewise, when you speak with the players on the team, the first topic is not about soccer. It is about how each feels transformed by the experience in ways never anticipated. It is about acknowledging how this shared service brought them together in a special way that practice and matches could never do.

Oh, and so that I do not forget, this team also went on to win the MVC tournament last year, but that was just an afterthought to the real experience and a footnote to the coach’s comments and those of his team!

It is also about Bob, an experienced history professor in his 29th year of teaching, who looks forward to the first day of class each semester when he gets to greet brand new freshman to their first college class—yes, a requirement. You can witness firsthand, how the students were often tentative, reserved, anxious, excited, and maybe even a bit questioning over the need to take this required course. However, within the first few minutes, Bob makes world history come alive in ways that match today’s headlines and have a relevancy to whatever future career these students follow. Very quickly the students realize that understanding events that took place hundreds of years ago directly impacts our public policy discussions today and their ability to be future advocates and leaders.

And it is certainly about Asya, a young Chicago woman who recently graduated from Arrupe College, sharing her journey and that of her classmates in the first graduating class. She shared a time when she questioned whether continuing in the program was worth it. How she decided to skip a day of class to ponder the next step, not certain she would return to class.

She felt in her own words, beige—lacking color and vitality and energy, just beige. Sitting along the lake that day, she realized that it was not about just going through the motions, going to class for the sake of getting it done. If she was to become the vivid color she wanted, it was up to her and in her control. It was about harnessing the power of her education to make a difference.

Yes, she finished at Arrupe, but she is not done. She is presently in her junior year at Loyola studying business. Beige is no longer a color in Asya’s world nor in the world of those around her.

I can go on and on and on, yet Asya’s story and many of the others I cited also give us a glimpse into the future. The future of higher education and the future of Loyola University Chicago

At Loyola, it is our mandate to continue going to the frontiers where others have not gone, to reach out to the most marginalized people in our city and our world, and to fearlessly address some of the toughest challenges in society. Yes, we must risk discomfort and confront ambiguity to redefine what is really possible and take action.

But how?

How can we even begin to do this? What challenges face us in the future? How do we ensure continued financial stability and agility to meet new demands? How do we ensure the highest academic quality and effectiveness in a dynamic changing, technology-driven world? How do we respond when the value of higher education is being challenged? How do we embrace the changing student demographics knowing that 61 percent of undergraduates will be 25 years of age or older by 2019? How do we embrace innovation as the path to the future and display the necessary courage, creativity, and decisiveness to make it happen? How do we ensure that our Jesuit, Catholic mission remains steadfast as the foundation for our research, teaching, and service—frankly the foundation for everything we do?

We want to always be present in the moment and cherish that gift, but we recognize that our future must begin in this moment as well. The numbers are important now and in the future, and you have likely heard the saying, no margin, no mission. For us, it is about continuing with the discipline and stewardship of resources already in place but also enhancing our decision-making sophistication and effectiveness through the implementation of multiyear strategic financial planning and dynamic data analysis.

However, this is just the first step. Our most creative ideas, best devised plans, and most detailed analyses are empty dreams without the people required to lead these efforts.

We believe, as persons for others, it all must start by focusing our attention on our students—on meeting our students where they are and educating them for what the world of tomorrow needs them to be. Our recent graduates of the Class of 2017 are entering careers and jobs that did not even exist 10 years ago. Plus we are acutely aware that in five years, most of the jobs today will not even exist or will be dramatically different.

We are continuously adapting curriculum and other offerings to prepare our students to meet the demands and expectations of a 21st century workforce. At Loyola, our job is to provide a relevant and truly transformative education to all of our students by shaping people who have the skills, the knowledge, the heart, and the grit they need to make a difference on the frontiers of society.

At the same time, we’re seeking to better understand and appreciate the diversity and range of perspectives in the local, national, and global conversation. We must continue to lead in the modeling of civil discourse. We must present opportunities for our students, faculty, staff, and community to engage in ways that encourage vibrant, inclusive, and respectful exchanges of varying perspectives and ideas. We must hone the skills of critical thinking, analytical reasoning, and effective communication in all of our students and sharpen those same skills in ourselves.

We know in these turbulent times that God is already there ahead of us; we just need to pay attention and respond to that presence.

Access to affordable education is near the top of the list of challenges and opportunities for colleges and universities across the country. We work very hard at Loyola to keep costs low and challenge ourselves to be as efficient as possible and good stewards of all of our resources. We are continuously looking to expand our external support for scholarships, but we also stay vigilant about the debt levels our students carry.

We are working to reimagine the traditional path from secondary to post-secondary education particularly for first-generation college students from families with limited financial means. Our Arrupe College model is just such a program. Some of you may have heard Father Steve Katsouros, the founding dean of Arrupe, speak about the program at the City Club or read about it in the Chicago Tribune. He is here with us today, and I will put a plug in for his book, How the Jesuits are Reinventing Education (Again), if you want a firsthand account of this magnificent program. I will repeat a comment from one of our Jesuits: “There is no better story right now in higher education.”

We are continuously looking for new ways to bring together various academic disciplines to solve vexing issues. Whether it is bringing our social work and sociology faculty together with heath care professionals to better support telemedicine in rural areas.

Whether it is bringing our environmental sustainability faculty together with our business school to better foster true social impact and responsibility with those leaders. It is about seeking out critical partnerships both inside and outside of Loyola to take action and lead long-term change as we are called to do.

We are focused on the future, but we are working to begin shaping that future every day by tapping into the expertise and utilizing the resources of the University to strengthen our communities.

Let me highlight just a few examples of this community work.

Last year, we created the Center for Criminal Justice Research, Policy, and Practice with the goal of improving the quality and administration of criminal and juvenile justice in Chicago and throughout the state. Our faculty, students, and staff are working with state, county, and city justice practitioners, as well as NGOs and social service providers, to improve the fairness and efficacy of the justice system while reducing crime.

We are honored to be working with other community partners on the anti-violence initiative convened by Cardinal Blase Cupich and the Archdiocese of Chicago. This critically important work is designed to break the violence-causing cycle of despair, racism, and poverty in the city.

Our ability to bring together and coordinate many academic disciplines across Loyola through our Center for Urban Research and Learning has been an invaluable resource for this work. CURL, as we refer to it, has been cited numerous times for their groundbreaking work locally as well as nationally. This type of multidisciplinary work and interdisciplinary programing is very much a model for future development in higher education.

We are continuing our work with Cook County to better understand and improve how the justice system responds to young adults. As part of this effort, we are collaborating with one of our Loyola alumni, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, who stood at this podium back in May.

We have just begun working with our partners at Loyola Medicine and Trinity Health in the area of big data analysis. By examining and analyzing the data across the entire Trinity network, we anticipate being able to impact the delivery of care to patients—frankly the care that you and I along with our loved ones receive in the future. Whether through better pre- and post-op care, changing protocols for ventilator usage, or timing and dosage of medications, all aspects of this work promise to be truly transformational for health care delivery.

And, finally, there is our community work on sustainability.

Mayor Emanuel has set a goal for Chicago to become “the greenest city in the world,” and we are embracing that initiative to help make that goal a reality.

In 2013, the Institute of Environmental Sustainability under the guidance of Dr. Nancy Tuchman, was started. This institute provides us with the launch pad from where we work to create solutions addressing the stress on our planet's natural resources and expand important knowledge through teaching, conducting research, and sponsoring outreach activities on pressing environmental issues. Though still relatively young, the work by the faculty and students has received numerous awards and recognitions on a local, national, and now international stage.

We are particularly proud of a few projects that touch the Chicago community. First, our CPS Drinking Water Project, which is a partnership with Chicago Public Schools, the Illinois Department of Public Health, and the Jardine Water Purification Plant, to measure, monitor, and eradicate any lead in the drinking water of the 527-campus CPS system.

Then there is the West Pullman Neighborhood Revitalization Project, just 12 miles south of here. Partnering with Chicago Habitat for Humanity and the Far South Community Development Corporation, we are working to establish a soil remediation program that will use plants to remove heavy metal toxins like lead and mercury from the soils of empty lots in the historic West Pullman neighborhood. This will help accelerate the revitalization of this historic neighborhood

There is so much more I can share that touches every corner of the University. However, I trust that the stories shared and examples cited provide you with a good sense of the kind of work that is underway at Loyola University Chicago, today, and where our path will lead into the future. I cannot be emphatic enough in stating how much we value your past and current support and rely on that support to continue into the future.

So as I conclude, I would like to ask you to consider a few ways we can build on our work together and strengthen our partnerships.

First, and this will come as no surprise (I am the University President, after all and spend a great deal of time with the Jesuits), we welcome your philanthropy. I could say it more delicately, but there is simply no substitute for financial support particularly to fund our student financial aid, educational access goals, and new future initiatives.

Second, if you know of qualified applicants—prospective students, faculty, and staff who might be interested in joining the Loyola University Chicago family—we welcome your referrals.

Third, when you are looking for great interns and full-time employees, please include Loyola University Chicago students and alumni on your short list. They are a remarkable resource and well prepared to serve, grow, and lead in your organizations.

And finally, I hope you will continue to get to know us even better and work with us to spread the excitement about and impact of Loyola University Chicago far and wide. We are not the type of university that keeps our students and our faculty cloistered away, pondering the world. Instead, we are out in our city, out in our communities, and out in our world.

Our founder, St. Ignatius, loved the cities and their people, their problems, and their vitality. He always placed early Jesuit institutions in the center of cities.

We are part of Chicago and proud of it. We teach our students that education is the single most powerful tool they have to transform themselves and their city. We teach them what it means to take the harder road and continue with persistence and tenacity. To us, this is what it means to prepare people to lead extraordinary lives and become women and men for others.

As I conclude my remarks, I am reminded of the way Saint Ignatius of Loyola would sign off. He ended a letter to St. Francis Xavier with the Latin expression, Ite, inflammate omnia.

Or, Go forth, set the world on fire.

Now, Chicago has some well-known “history” in that department, dating back to 1871, but I will assure you, that is not what St. Ignatius meant. What he did mean was to set out a direct challenge for all of us: “Go forth—and make a real and lasting difference.”

Our goal at Loyola University Chicago, today and in the years ahead, is that all of us go forth and set the world on fire—together.

Thank you.