Loyola University Chicago

THEA Institute

Summer 2023 in Review

This year we had the pleasure of welcoming 34 high school students from 10 states across the U.S. to Loyola University Chicago’s Lake Shore Campus to dive into the theme of water through scientific, ethical, and spiritual lenses as they grew in relationship with one another and in their unique sense of spirituality. Students participated in classes each morning with university professors, worked on projects about embedded water in a variety of industries, prayed together, and built a wonderful community. During the week, they had the chance to experience life at Loyola through a campus scavenger hunt, tours of the School of Environmental Sustainability, meals in a campus dining hall, and rooming in De Nobili Residence Hall. On Wednesday, we went on our annual field trip downtown for the Architectural Tour on the Chicago River. On Thursday, students had the chance to meet with young professionals from Chicago working in the areas of sustainability and ministry. It was a full week with many fantastic opportunities for students to begin their own vocational discernment as they begin to think about college and about who they hope to become.

We are grateful as always to the awesome current Loyola students who provided leadership and mentorship for the program, to our incredible interdisciplinary faculty team, and the coordinating team who makes all of this possible. Below you can glimpse a range of the expertise offered by our faculty team as well as the culminating products of several student projects.


Integrative Action Projects

During the Institute, students work in groups to research the environmental impacts of embedded water in an industry. In addition to an informative poster on their topic with a comprehensive ethical evaluation and a suggested alternative for their industry, students were asked to creatively communicate their message. Two groups produced digital creations, which are linked below:

Embedded Water & the Meat Industry

Click here to view this group’s flipbook on Canva

Embedded Water & the Fashion Industry

Click here to view this group’s post on Instagram


Meet THEA's Summer 2023 Faculty

The faculty team, who are all experts in their respective fields, cultivate an innovative and welcoming classroom experience, rooted in the THEA mission. To learn more about a faculty member, select their name below:

Aleja Sastoque is the Faith Formation Campus Minister at Loyola University Chicago. In this role, she coordinates the Christian Life Community Program (CLC), forms our CLC student leaders, and prepares and leads retreats for students at our Lake Shore Campus.

Aleja earned a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (BS) in her native Colombia, and her Master’s degrees in Divinity and Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University Chicago. She is a missionary who likes to help youth and young adults discover their vocation. Aleja also helps to run youth and young adult groups at St. Mark’s Parish in Kenosha, WI, and volunteers at a shelter for women who’ve experienced domestic violence. She stays focused on each person’s needs while accompanying them on their personal journey. Aleja is bilingual, and is fluent in Spanish.

Aleja has a lot of hobbies including traveling the world and learning from new cultures. Aleja also loves to explore and play different sports which recharge her battery, and dance to Latin-American music. She enjoys movies (specially Harry Potter), and hanging out with friends and her amazing nephews and nieces.


What does sustability mean to you?

Sustainability is being able to maintain anything effective in a self-sufficient and holistic way. Often, we attribute this term to the environment or economics, but in my opinion most areas of being human should also be sustainable.

William French is an Associate Professor of Theology at Loyola University Chicago. He graduated from Dickinson College, received his MDiv degree from Harvard University, and completed his PhD at the University of Chicago. His main research interests are religious ethics, ecological ethics and policies, and war and peace issues. He has written articles and book chapters on such topics as global climate change, land use issues, ecological security, just war theory, the moral status of animals, the Catholic natural tradition, Biblical views of creation, and comparative religious ethics.

Paula Skye Tallman is a biocultural anthropologist who investigates the drivers of health inequities among marginalized populations in South America and South East Asia, with a focus on connecting this scholarship to social justice initiatives. She received her Ph.D. in Biological Anthropology from Northwestern University in 2015 and completed a postdoctoral fellowship focused on indigenous well-being and conservation at The Field Museum of Natural History in 2016. Dr. Tallman has over a decade of field experience working with indigenous Amazonian populations in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. Her research has been funded by institutions such as the National Science Foundation, Wenner-Gren Foundation, and the British Academy.


What does sustainability mean to you?

For me, sustainability means thinking through whether our behaviors will work out in the long term. This could be the big picture, like whether our carbon-based economy is going to work functionally for the climate in the long-term. It likely won’t, as carbon emissions are creating the conditions for more extreme weather that will cost human society in the long term.

It can also be on a smaller scale. For example, we recently visited a community in Indonesia that does not receive enough water for their needs. We were excited to hear that the government installed new water pipes. But when we went to see these additions, the plastic pipes were above the ground, right where the cows walk. It won’t be long before a cow steps on the pipes and they break.

From an economic perspective, if we don’t consider the sustainability of our actions, we are wasting money. From an ethical perspective, we are increasing the risk of suffering. In both cases, thinking about sustainability before we act is an excellent choice!

Br. Mark Mackey, SJ, is from Cincinnati, Ohio, where both sides of his rather extensive and close family still call home. He grew up with his older brother, David, and twin sister, Tracy, raised by his parents, Bob and Terri. His family was (and still is) very outdoor and nature oriented, and that passion was stoked early and never left. He went to St. Xavier High School, a family legacy, where he first met the Jesuits. He then went on to study zoology and environmental science at Miami University in Ohio, where he was able to learn about and later publish ecology research. That segued him smoothly into graduate studies at the University of Missouri where he investigated the environmental impact of golf courses on ecosystems — and how to manage them to better bolster biodiversity. Mark entered the Jesuits in 2015, the year “Laudato si’” was published, and has been continuing to explore the intersection of faith and a call to environmental stewardship. In the novitiate, Mark taught English to Somali refugees, served as a jail chaplain and spent a summer at Kino Border Initiative in Nogales, Arizona. Mark worked at Arrupe College for three years while studying at Loyola University Chicago, where he helped teach and tutor environmental science. Mark has spent two summers abroad in the Kohima Region of India, in the State of Meghalaya, where he worked at Loyola College of Williamnagar, which works with and serves the Garo tribe. After teaching for an eventful pandemic year at Brebeuf Jesuit Prep in Indianapolis, Mark is now teaching environmental science at Loyola University Chicago’s School of Environmental Sustainability, where he will also be working on projects furthering the Jesuits’ commitment to caring for our common home.


What is your favorite place in nature?

My favorite place in nature is my Grandpa’s cabin in Southeastern, Indiana. We still call it this even though my grandpa has passed away. For most of my life I have bow hunted for deer and have spent hundreds of hours sitting in various trees on the property watching the woods transition from darkness to dawn, and from dusk to nighttime. The property is also intersected by Laughery Creek, where I have caught fish, snakes, and crawdads, swam with friends, seined for minnows, and sat quietly. I also cherish this place in nature because it is a meeting spot for my family, and we host a family reunion there every summer.

Dr. Sinche is originally from Ecuador in South America. He started graduate studies as a Fulbright Scholar (Class of 2010) in the United States. He is an ecotoxicologist by training who has spent his professional life studying how pollutants or stressors impact aquatic systems with biodiverse ecosystems. His experience has allowed him to collaborate with professionals and researchers from diverse science fields and cultural backgrounds. He is committed to science and education and has been involved in higher education at the teaching and research levels for over 10 years. He actively looks for ways to contribute to diversity programs in higher education because he recognizes the value of the assistance he received from faculty mentors, scholarships, and minority student support while he was a student in Ecuador and the United States. He firmly believes that representation for all students and professionals is essential on college campuses and research facilities across the globe.


What does sustainability mean to you?

For me sustainability is an iterative process, in which human activities and Earth's resources are continuously adapting and changing.