The Heart of Our Mission
September 9, 2019
In my monthly newsletter, I share notes, links, and items of interest with the Rambler community. As always, I am grateful for all you do and welcome your ideas and feedback.
It has become a back-to-school ritual for me to greet first-year students with Professor Bob Bucholz as they arrive for his History 101 class. For most of these freshmen, it is, literally, their very first step into college coursework. As we met them last week, their excitement and trepidation were palpable. As he has for so many years, Bob takes the time to greet each and every student warmly, welcome them to the class, and, perhaps, calm their first-day nerves.
I appreciate Bob’s invitation to join him every year. It is a highlight of the start of a new fall semester to share in the excitement of our students’ first day. Speaking with students is always a pleasure and watching a master teacher and scholar interact with students and get them excited about learning is a joy as well. The experience demonstrates to me, in a concrete way, that caring and accomplished faculty are the vital heart of Loyola’s Jesuit, Catholic educational mission, and exemplary of our cura personalis.
Last spring’s peer visitor report in our Mission Priority Examen praised the quality of teaching across our university and, in particular, cited students’ reported experience of coming to know the mission through the example and mentorship of individual professors. It cited, as well, the University’s ongoing commitment to social justice informed by faith, diversity of thought, and the central place of the liberal arts and humanities in Jesuit education.
This month we will celebrate exceptional teaching and research at Faculty Convocation, where we present University-wide awards for excellence in teaching and school and college-based recognition for teaching and research. I look forward to spending time with faculty from all of our campuses to reflect, together, on teaching, strategic planning, and collaborating in the year ahead.
A major scholarly event takes place this month at Loyola through the Hank Center for the Catholic Intellectual Heritage. The Third Biennial Catholic Imagination Conference will feature major writers, poets, and critics discussing The Future of the Catholic Literary Tradition. It promises to be a fascinating series of discussions that bridge issues of spirituality, science, literature, race, identity, and social justice.
This fall we advance our preparations to celebrate Loyola’s 150th anniversary. We will also begin a university-wide process of collaboration leading to the development of our next strategic plan. These discussions should be especially rich, as we will conduct community discernment of our future course in the frame of our historical legacy of education and social progress. We will use our recent Examen process and the Apostolic Preferences as our foundation on which to build. Our strategic planning process will be an opportunity to come together and look deeper into our specialties. We will be challenged to reach across academic disciplines and areas of responsibility to understand the common ground of our mission and the opportunities for innovation and creative collaboration that will keep us at the forefront of higher education, research and our Jesuit mission.
Last month the third class of Arrupe College students graduated with their associate’s degrees, bound for four-year colleges or exciting new careers. It was a joyous occasion for the graduates and their families, and for all of us who have been involved with this innovative, Jesuit-driven model of collegiate access and success for first-generation students from across Chicago. Our Annual Founders’ Dinner on September 16 will celebrate the fifth anniversary of Loyola’s Arrupe College and promote new philanthropic investments to expand the Arrupe model and to enhance resources for student success.
The beginning of the academic year brings celebrations on all of our campuses. I was happy to join in this year’s White Coat Ceremony at the Health Sciences Campus to wish our newest medical students well as they begin their journey to become physicians, and was also delighted to join faculty students and staff at a picnic, in ideal weather, to celebrate the start of classes at the new Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health. In August, we celebrated the 100th Birthday of Sister Jean in a range of events that included a packed house at Damen Student Center, a long line for photos and cake during the Water Tower Campus Block Party, and an outpouring of love from across the globe, featuring a video of well wishes from many including Cardinal Blase Cupich and Charles Barkley.
We are pleased to officially welcome three new deans to Loyola: Hong Cheng at the School of Communication; Malik Henfield at the School of Education; and Lorna Finnegan at the Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing. Each of them brings to Loyola deep understanding of our mission, strong scholarly credentials, and a passion for the work we do. I look forward to collaborations with them as we move into an eventful year.
Last week, Loyola debuted our “We Are Called” brand campaign at the Loyola CTA station and across the city, with a national rollout planned for later this fall. We are excited to share these authentic Loyola stories with our neighbors and across the world.
All of this activity is just a small part of what takes place here every day. I am continually inspired and energized by the work of our faculty, students, and staff. As we told students at New Student Convocation recently, with the new semester gathering speed, please also make time and take opportunities to recharge, refresh, and be present for yourself, to each other, and to your friends and family.
It is an exciting time at Loyola, and I wish you a fantastic semester. Go Ramblers!
Dr. Jo Ann Rooney