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Restlessly Inclined

Restlessly Inclined

Remarks by Dr. Jo Ann Rooney, President, Loyola University Chicago, to the 2018 Faculty Convocation, September 17, 2018.

 

Good afternoon.  I am delighted to welcome our new faculty as well as our returning faculty to today’s Convocation coming from our Lake Shore Campus…Water Tower Campus…and the Health Sciences Campus.

Thank you for being here.   Thank you for the many ways you care for our students, families, patients and partners—the many ways in which, every day, you aspire toward and make manifest our Jesuit mission.  Across disciplines, departments and campuses, across time and geography, we are Ramblers. We are One Loyola.

In a convocation, we gather together to pause and reflect, re-engage, and underscore the shared, collaborative nature of our mission.  Universities are dynamic collections of academic specialties and cultures, and this is a day when we convene in one room and across all of the programs that comprise Loyola University Chicago. It is a chance to reflect on the mission that unites us and the ways in which we can further collaborate and bring out the best in each other.

 We gather to stand in solidarity and stand together in spirit—if not always in opinion. We discuss and debate, we innovate and challenge each other in ways that support our aspirations, enhance our robust academic and research goals, deepen our mission work and broaden our social justice impact.  We are blessed with talented and passionate colleagues and students and are challenged every day to further our mission of advancing knowledge and social justice.  This intentional approach, this intellectual ferment, has enabled Loyola to deliver a truly transformative, timely education to generations of students.  

 Our intentions are guided by the Jesuit concept of magis—that we can always seek ways to do more for others, and ways to do it better.  

 The author Chris Lowney described this idea in his book on the Jesuit tradition called Heroic Leadership: Best Practices from a 450-Year-Old Company that Changed the World.

 “A magis-driven leader is not content to go through the motions or settle for the status quo,” he writes,  “but is restlessly inclined to look for something more, something greater. Instead of wishing circumstances were different, magis-driven leaders either make them different or make the most of them. Instead of waiting for golden opportunities, they find the gold in the opportunities at hand."  

This is how Loyola Chicago has grown and served for nearly 150 years. By being restlessly inclined to look for something more, something greater. Our ability to address the challenges and find the opportunities in the present, and our ability to anticipate change and emerging needs, will serve our students well into the next century and a half.   

This restless inclination has its roots in the rich history and tradition that brings us together today.

In 1548, members of the Society of Jesus opened their first Jesuit school. This first school, and the hundreds that would follow, went against the societal norms at the time. The schools were not solely for the education of new members of the Society of Jesus or for aspiring priests or for the wealthy; they were fully open to laypeople of all economic classes.  This was a radical undertaking for a religious order – or any organization - in the 16th century.

Think about this historical period and the explosion of information that characterized it.  Global exploration and trade were rapidly expanding the world’s horizons and markets.  Nicolaus Copernicus had presented a radical mathematical proof that the planets revolve around the sun. New insights and perspectives about the physical world revolutionized the way composers wrote music, the way painters measured perspective and mixed their colors. Philosophy, literature and religion were fundamentally altered.

The Jesuit response was to frame an integrated education, an education of the mind and spirit and senses, open to all. Ignatius developed an educational approach that regarded art and science, and reason and rhetoric, as integral to all creation. Critics of students in Jesuit schools noted that they knew Cicero better than scripture.  Jesuit spirituality is convinced that the divine is located in every human area of inquiry and exploration.  It is dedicated to the common good, to shaping those who lead and transform their professions and communities.  The Jesuits created a method of inquiry and action in the world that has remained powerfully effective for hundreds of years. Its aim is to serve the world, and every succeeding generation builds on the past to shape the present and anticipate the future.

Over the summer, I participated in a weeklong gathering in Bilbao, Spain, where leaders from Jesuit higher education institutions from around the world met to engage in dialogue around critical issues affecting us and seek opportunities for collaboration to address them together.

During his address to the assembly, Father General Arturo Sosa repeatedly and fervently called upon – one could say demanded – that Jesuit universities work for reconciliation and peace and anticipate the needs for the future. He challenged all of us to go to places that are not easy to reach and which others have avoided.  

Father Sosa’s remarks were meant to challenge all of us. They were meant to shake us out of any complacency and comfort with our current status or state of being.  And, they were also meant to inspire us and guide us even in the most challenging times and circumstances.

However, before you can work towards reconciliation, you need to acknowledge the failings and wrongdoing and be motivated to corrective action. Like many of us here today, I have struggled greatly with the recent revelations in Pennsylvania on top of years of previous reports; about clergy abuse and the actions, cover-up and betrayal by so many in leadership positions throughout the Catholic Church.  Trust has been shattered. Lives have been irreparably harmed.

 Whether you are Catholic by faith tradition or a member of our Loyola Community supporting our Jesuit catholic mission, there are no words or statements that can be compassionate enough to support the victims of clergy abuse or strong enough to condemn the actions of those clergy abusers or the leadership that failed to take action to make the changes necessary to protect children and adults from such reprehensible acts and abuse of power. There are no sentiments angry enough to capture the call for dramatic change.

In our position as a Jesuit Catholic University, we can insure that these vile acts are not tolerated in our community and we will continue to advocate and work for the changes needed.  Know, unequivocally, that within our university, within our Jesuit province and within our archdiocese, there is no tolerance for such heinous acts and abuse. If we receive any reports of such incidents, they are turned over to the civil authorities for investigation and criminal action.

However, please know that at Loyola, the intolerance for such behavior is not limited to clergy but applies to anyone and everyone who abuses positions of power to take advantage of or abuse vulnerable individuals. There is an obligation that each and every one of us has as a member of this community- and that is to report any such abhorrent behavior or incidents of which you become aware.

As a university community, it is imperative that we foster a culture of respect, trust, transparency, civility and accountability. When we find those tenets are not adhered to, we are called upon to address the issues head-on, then work towards reconciliation and peace.  We desire for our students a transformational education preparing them for lives of leadership and service. As such, it is incumbent upon us to be role models and hold ourselves to those unwavering standards.

We should continue to extend and deepen our work and relationships with each other and the larger community; that we thoughtfully engage in civil discourse and dialogue in a way that models critical thinking and human respect; that we help each other and our students discern our calls to action; that we embrace creativity to develop and support programs, activities and create learning communities enabling students to find their strengths and develop their passions. Our students grow when we help them make the most of the opportunities they find here to extend and deepen their insights about themselves and the world. They are transformed when we help them cultivate the restless inclination to look for more, to dig deeper, to grow in knowledge and insight and to engage in service to others.

Together, we educate students to challenge boundaries, work across social and political divides, and become engaged citizens of the world. This is what we mean when we say “Jesuit educated.”

You, our esteemed faculty, are the heart of this enterprise, key facilitators in this educational process; extending across the humanities, arts, sciences, business, technology or medicine; whether you teach new freshman, doctoral students or every level in between. You are specialists, scholars, and teachers. You are guides, role models and mentors.  Your work in the classroom, your research and your engagement with the community deeply drives and animates our mission.

 This year, we welcome the largest and most diverse freshman class in our history.   Diversity is central to Jesuit practice and at Loyola is a principal educational value. It makes our community stronger and more vibrant, and it deepens and enriches the educational conversation and our preparation for work in a complex world. Diversity and Inclusion are an integral part of our Jesuit mission. The Jesuit framework, dedicated to the care of the whole person and respect for each individual, compels us to model reconciliation, peace and community.  We manifest this practice through authentic hospitality, inclusive excellence, empathic dialogue, critical thinking, and imaginative scholarship.

 All of this begins in our own community and in our own hearts. In the coming days and weeks, we will announce new action steps from a task force established in the spring to enhance and make more transparent the work of our Campus Security office and to strengthen equity and trust in our community. We will address issues of race, inclusion, and personal experience at Loyola and in society, by continuing a community-wide series of discussions to explore the Diversity Climate Survey released in the late spring. These discussions will have a direct impact on informing our action steps as a university. We will come together to share our experiences, thoughts and aspirations about how we create and enhance a community that truly reflects our principles.

 This year, we will participate as a university in a communal Jesuit exercise, the Institutional Examen. This is a yearlong community inventory, reflection, discussion and assessment of our performance against Mission that you will hear more about in the next few weeks.  Coming together as a community in this way to engage a series of questions and issues related to our strengths and challenges empowers all of us to identify where we can do better today and into the future. As our mission is core to everything we do. This Examen will be used by us not just to measure or reflect on our current effectiveness, but to serve as a part of our communal discernment and as the foundation of our future strategic vision for living out our Jesuit mission. I encourage everyone to participate fully in these community reflections.

I am pleased to report that the University remains in a healthy financial state.  We enrolled the largest freshman class in our history for the 3rd year in a row and have over 17,000 students studying at Loyola. Our strong undergraduate enrollment has helped offset disappointing graduate enrollments that are below expectation. During the past two years, we have reduced expenses through significant input from our financial planning working groups and hard work across departments to reduce positions and restructure operations. These results of these initiatives have enabled us to continue maintaining across the board salary increases and merit increases for faculty and staff.  Wayne Magdziarz, Sr. VP CFO/CBO, will again conduct a series of meetings across all campuses throughout the fall to provide additional details, data, and financial results and discuss future challenges. I hope you are able to attend one of these meetings.

Maintaining our financial discipline to achieve positive results and fund future debt payments is critical as we look to the future, adapt to a changing student demographic, continue to invest in attracting and retaining great faculty and staff, and develop new programs and innovative solutions to evolving market and social needs.

Numerous other universities in our region and some in our Jesuit network have experienced faculty and staff layoffs and budget cuts across their institutions as a result of deficit operating budgets. Loyola has been able to remove significant cost without these unsettling actions. We will continue to be diligent stewards of our resources. We will continue to intensify fundraising; last spring’s Final Four resulted in wide and deep levels of alumni engagement and a new level of excitement and support from Loyola around the globe, and we are working hard to leverage that and grow that support.

We are seeking opportunities for diversifying sources of revenue. Accomplishing this is very important for us who are so highly dependent on tuition revenue, which provides 70% of our income. It is also critical that we continue to invest and innovate, creating new programs that anticipate the needs of new markets and a dynamic higher education environment.

This past Thursday, after almost a year of work by faculty and staff across programs and divisions under the leadership of Dr. Margaret Callahan, and following a review and recommendation by the University Senate, The Board of Trustees approved the new School of Health Sciences and Public Health. This new school creates the framework for Loyola to develop academic programming that will meet workforce and society’s needs in the changing landscape of health care delivery and technology, while also building on existing programming and our strong reputation. We expect that Loyola, in partnership with Trinity Healthcare, will be a disruptive force in these areas. We are also working very closely with a potential donor on a significant naming gift and expect additional philanthropic support will be possible. You will be hearing much more about this new strategic initiative in the days ahead.

 We have continued to invest and reinvest in people, programs and our physical plant for the benefit of our students. We continue to fund—at historic levels—faculty equity and start-up pools to ensure we remain competitive in our recruitment efforts. Our academic innovation fund provides deans, program directors and faculty with resources for market research and start-up funding to launch viable programs aimed at growing enrollments and revenue.

To do all we need to do, we must be fearless. We must heed the restless inclination to do more and continually challenge ourselves to expand knowledge, generate insight, and move our students and our society toward equity, health and justice. We must continually interrogate our institutions and ourselves and push towards excellence and equity. We do all of this on a foundation of respect and love for each other, and a presumption of good will on the part of those with whom we disagree.

Compared to Ignatius’ time, our age is so different yet with striking similarities. It is a time when technology and knowledge is exploding but when some denigrate and dismiss science and others do the same with faith. Some question the value proposition of higher education. Political agendas threaten to limit access to college and professional schools at a time when college and graduate degrees have never been more important to social mobility and to our nation’s economic health and democracy. It is a time of fragmented communication and a time when loud voices, passions and orchestrated outrage divide us from each other when we most need to come together around issues like climate change, poverty and human rights.

Our Jesuit mission--to develop world citizens who can engage in deep research and thinking, who can engage others in civil discourse without rancor or recrimination, who have the ability to continually look beyond conventional ideologies and conventional wisdom to arrive at new solutions—this mission, this work, has never been more important.

I would like to leave you with words from the poet Rabindranath Tagore, the first non-European to win a Nobel Prize for literature. Tagore was Jesuit educated; as he is writing about colonial India, you can also hear the restless inclination, that quest for something more, in his words.

He writes of a land

“Where the mind is without fear…
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls.
Where words come out from the depth of truth,
where tireless striving stretches its arms toward perfection.
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
into the dreary desert sand of dead habit.
Where the mind is led forward by thee
into ever widening thought and action.”

“Where the mind is led forward into ever widening thought and action.” This is magis. This is Loyola. This is the work we do.

 We carry this legacy forth. We engage the most difficult issues and work to serve the most vulnerable and marginalized.  We look to go deep and we look to get better. We do not run away from the world or flee from complex problems and difficult conversations. We engage, participate, and challenge—we make ourselves “restlessly inclined to find something more, something greater.” We seek reconciliation and peace. We work across boundaries of academic disciplines, ideology, class, race and religion. We work individually and we work together, reaching out most especially to the poor, the struggling, the oppressed and the vulnerable.

 We come together at Loyola University, at this time and in this place. Let us continue to create a space of honest inquiry and scholarship, of rigor and compassion, constancy and creativity, trust and respect, inclusion and transparency —a space of informed and loving action. May our restless inclinations lead us to greater good.

 I wish you the very best for a wonderful year. Thank you again for your commitment to our extraordinary students and to Loyola University Chicago. It is my honor and privilege to serve beside you every day.