I am writing to you following the Fourth of July holiday. New Orleans is a terrific place to celebrate Independence Day. You just can’t beat a po’boy and fireworks overlooking the Mississippi River! This holiday is a time we naturally think about the past, recent and distant, and the future immediate and out of our grasp. As the sparklers lit the night sky, illuminating this beautiful and resilient community, I thought about all the possibilities that are before us…for Loyola University and the city of New Orleans.
This fall, we welcome a diverse and bright group of first-year students and new faculty and staff members; introduce the new common curriculum, complete renovations on all residential lobbies, and plan with the architects for the Monroe Hall and Student Center/new upperclass Residence Hall projects. The “pardon our progress” signs around campus underscore the robust feeling that is alive on campus. I encourage you to visit our website often for updates, as well as our main Loyola page!
Part of my holiday included a trip to Grand Isle, LA. Following the oil spill I wanted see the beach for myself. I felt sad walking along the fishing pier, the question ‘who is our neighbor?’ echoing in my mind. In many ways the fifth anniversary of Katrina demonstrates the power of neighbors surviving, thriving, and moving beyond renovation to innovation. New Orleans received support from “neighbors” –North to South; East and West…there were no property lines when it came to helping others. This has always been so for Loyola University New Orleans.
As a Jesuit, Catholic institution, our faculty, staff, and students bear witness to the value of being men and women with and for others, and thus it will be so with our Gulf Coast neighbors. It was true in the spring for our brothers and sisters in devastated Haiti; it was true for our brothers and sisters in Midwest floods along the same Mississippi River that inspired me on Independence Day… it was true for our brothers and sisters in the 9th ward. Our university community embraces the idea of ‘magis’ which is about giving more, and too, learning more. The university is a learning laboratory for servant leadership. Our faculty, staff and students lend their expertise and heart to solve a host of problems and issues. This was true for Katrina and will be true as we seek solutions to the Gulf oil spill. We will continue to support our neighbors from ‘sea to shining sea’. For more information on Loyola’s response to the Gulf disaster visit: CRUDE AWAKENING.
Our location shapes our identity in both idyllic and troubled times; our location brings our best even as we face the worst. A sense of place is the topic of the First Year Summer Reading Program selection this summer, John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, A Confederacy of Dunces. The deans of Loyola’s College of Business, College of Music and Fine Arts, College of Humanities and Natural Sciences and College of Social Sciences, have written to our first-year students, “Southern literature is known for its connection to place, and no book better represents a place than this one.” When you have this book as an assignment or have the opportunity to select it as one for your summer reading list, you’ll be caught up in the settings of this powerful book.
Discussions about A Confederacy of Dunces will take place among students, parents and faculty after August Lagniappe (LAN-yap). You may know this two-day event as “orientation” but we have our own vocabulary at Loyola; we’ve adopted a term meaning “a little something extra” from the rich Creole dialect mixture of New Orleans. During Lagniappe, students will meet with their advisers, review their class schedule, and learn more about the university’s First Year Experience and StrengthsQuest programs.
Lagniappe is followed by Wolfpack Welcome; another five days filled with events that help our new students feel that they are settling into a new place to call home. We will commemorate the fifth anniversary of Katrina with our annual “Into the Streets” service project. This project sponsored by Mission & Ministry includes faculty, staff, and students, committing to serve the city we love! Serving our community side by side with new and old friends is the best way to cement relationships that will last a lifetime, too.
Last month our staff reviewed programs, activities and services planned for next year…it was hard to find a single day without a number of things happening. Campus comes truly alive when sophomores, juniors and seniors return and classes begin for the fall semester on Monday, August 30. Returning students are welcome to move back into the residence halls on Saturday, August 28th.
Already the calendar is filling up with events that connect us to our distinctive region. Check out, for example, the Fleur Delirious: A Look at the Saints’ Relationship with New Orleans on September 7, Sophomore Swamp Stomp at the Audubon Zoo, August 29; A Woman’s Work is Never Done: Reforming and Rebuilding in New Orleans on October 7.
Family Weekend, October 1-3, will reunite students with their family members for special programs highlighting events at Loyola and the city. A special event during Family Weekend is the return of the traditional “Senior Ring Ceremony.” Seniors who have completed at least 60 credit hours are eligible to participate in the Ceremony.
The annual Emerging Leaders Welcome Social is on the calendar for Tuesday, September 14. Emerging Leaders is a program designed to identify, prepare, and support new leadership on campus. Students participating in this program will have the opportunity to network with campus and community leaders, develop skills they can apply in their involvement on campus, and participate in experiences that challenge and support their growth as leaders. I hope you’ll encourage your student to attend.
One special event we are planning for September 17 – 18 is the iLIVE (The Ignatius Loyola Institute for Values Education) Common Ground Retreat. A reminder that iLIVE provides each undergraduate student strategic co-curricular experiences and opportunities to discover, develop, and apply principles for building ethical and meaningful lives. Common Ground is an off-campus retreat in which student leaders meet to set goals, establish a collective vision, identify opportunities to collaborate, and articulate a mission for improving campus life.
Finally, it is an exciting year for the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Wellness. We will be adding a men’s tennis program that will begin competing, Spring 2011. The addition of men’s tennis provides the Wolfpack with 12 intercollegiate sports: men and women’s tennis; men and women’s cross-country; men and women’s basketball; women’s volleyball; men’s baseball; and men and women’s indoor and outdoor track. We have also just transitioned to a new league affiliation: The Southern States Athletic Conference of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics.
When you join us in this place that has become the symbol of hope and renewal for all America, we’ll continue this exploration of place together. Until then, my staff and I wish you a joyful and safe summer.