A Message of Hope
April 7, 2020
Dear Alumni and Friends,
I hope this message finds you and your loved ones safe and healthy during these challenging and unprecedented times. Our campus activities may be “virtual” in many ways, however, as Loyolans, we continue to think about our first responders; our physicians and nurses; our students, faculty, and staff; our alumni and all of those in our extended Loyola family. In a special way, we also extend our deepest thoughts and heartfelt prayers to those among us who are most vulnerable or hurting deeply.
I want to provide you with an update on the ways our Loyola community has risen to the COVID-19 public health challenge, and the ways we are coming together to support a future focused on continuing our tradition of providing a transformative education for future generations of leaders.
Within a one-week period in March, we moved our students residing on campus, home, when possible, and urged everyone else to shelter in place. By the start of the second week, through tireless work by our faculty and many staff members, all university courses encompassing more than 3,400 class sections, transitioned to online and virtual meeting formats. Almost all of our more than 4,000 employees shifted to remote work. As the academic semester enters its final weeks, we will still confer degrees in May as planned, however, we have tentatively re-scheduled our commencement ceremony in August, subject to the evolving public health situation.
Every day brings new challenges and information that we continue to share across our community. I encourage you to stay up to date on the most accurate, timely information and review the FAQ section at Loyola’s Coronavirus website.
We are hopeful that campus-based classes and events will resume in the fall. In the meantime, we are closely monitoring the situation and will base any decisions on available data and guidance from the medical and scientific professionals.
This spring semester is vastly different than anyone could have imagined, however, our students have been resilient and resourceful. Their Loyola education has helped them gain perspective, hone critical thinking skills and appreciate the scientific rationale for the steps we have taken. As “persons for others” they understand that social distancing, while often uncomfortable and difficult, accentuates our solidarity as humans and protects all of us, especially those most vulnerable or at risk.
This has not been easy. It has been very difficult for everyone. I continue to be heartened by Loyola students embracing this new “reality” by focusing their talents and hard work on their education. More than one student has shared with me that their coursework remains as rigorous and demanding as before we shifted to online learning to complete the semester. They are finding new ways to reach out to their professors and fellow students and providing us with useful feedback. We are staying connected with them not only for classwork, but to support them on their journey. We have deepened and enhanced virtual support systems for students so that they can access wellness services and academic support, psychological and spiritual care, and connect with each other in this time of social distancing.
Our extraordinary faculty have responded with expertise, creativity, and sensitivity to support the success and well-being of our students. They are developing new and effective ways of teaching and are reaching out to students outside of class to check in and ensure that they are connected, engaged, keeping up with coursework, and coping with the myriad of changes and constant flow of information. Loyola infectious disease specialists are part of a national clinical research network working diligently to develop treatment and vaccines. Experts in medicine, nursing, public health, business, economics and other fields continue to share their insights and expertise with public health agencies and the news media.
Alumni across many fields are serving in extraordinary ways, from physicians, nurses, and health professionals on the front lines, to social workers, teachers and religious brothers and sisters. Most are unsung heroes, including perhaps the largest group of alums of whom we are so proud--the parents who have had to figure out how to care for and support virtual schooling of children in the midst of so much chaos. As we emerge from this crisis period, the social and economic effects of pandemic and quarantine will demand collaborative responses across many fields. Loyola alumni and supporters who have given selflessly in the past are already beginning to answer the call again. Alums are reaching out to us asking where their support is needed the most. The direct help we anticipate receiving will enable us to respond quickly and address students’ needs during this time of uncertainty.
This is not the first time the Loyola community has been called to respond to a crisis. Just a few months after its founding, the institution that would become Loyola found itself in the midst of the Great Chicago Fire. As one of the few buildings to survive, the college became both a refuge for citizens and a resource for rebuilding a great city. In the 150 years since its founding, through wars, economic downturns, and social upheaval, dedication to excellence and profound care for people and communities has distinguished Loyola as one of the nation’s top universities.
We have asked much of our students and faculty, already. In the weeks and months ahead, we will ask more of everyone so that we continue to support our students, faculty and staff strengthen our programs and expand our mission. The adaptation, ingenuity, and flexibility our community has always shown is fueled by the vision and generosity of our alumni and supporters. Together, we can transcend the greatest challenges.
Our mission of education, research and public service to address today’s most urgent issues has never been more important. I am enormously grateful for your continued connection and support, and for the many ways our extended Rambler community is pulling together through these incomparable challenges. I am confident we will sustain this energy and passion to answer the calls to action certain to emerge.
Please care for yourselves, your families, and neighbors. Thank you for your prayers, and know that you are in mine.
Jo Ann Rooney, JD, LLM, EdD