By Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.
Tomorrow, we gather in Sacred Heart Chapel, where I will share with you my convocation address: Collaborators in Creation.
Today, I share with you my gratitude for what each of you contributes to our extraordinary campus community. I also highlight our recent accomplishments and our ambitions that catapult us toward exciting new opportunities, invigorating what makes LMU special and demonstrating that LMU is indeed the definitive center for global imagination and its impacts.
As we undertake initiatives that propel our community forward—always in the spirit of the magis—to be our most intellectually rigorous, our most creative, and our most compassionate, we benefit from the extensive experience of Executive Vice President and Provost Thomas Poon and Vice President for Mission and Ministry John Sebastian.
Tom’s reverence for our teacher-scholars and student affairs professionals, his dedication to our mission, and his commitment to increasing our global footprint and international partnerships usher us into an era of expanded campus diversity. John’s deep understanding of our combined founding heritage of the Society of Jesus and the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary, as well as that of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange, galvanizes our campus community. He encourages us to see God in all things, and together, through the Institutional Examen, we will protect, strengthen, and promote LMU’s mission.
ACADEMIC AND CO-CURRICULAR HIGHLIGHTS
Our mission guides our vision, and our vision is sharpened by LMU’s unparalleled learning experience. We offer a breadth of inspiration—from our exceptional faculty to our innovative programs. I honor a sampling of triumphs here:
- Last week, TSEHAI’s imprint Harriet Tubman Press celebrated the launch of its first book, “Voices from Leimert Park Redux: A Los Angeles Poetry Anthology,” as well as TSEHAI’s 20th anniversary and its 10th anniversary at LMU.
- Next week, on Oct. 24, the Bellarmine Forum, in partnership with our Academy for Catholic Thought and Imagination, welcomes John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., president of the University of Notre Dame, for an insightful discussion of the challenges and possibilities for a Catholic university.
- The College of Communications and Fine Arts is showcasing Carolyn Castaño in the Laband Art Gallery, featuring more than 40 artworks highlighting the artist’s ongoing exploration of identity, gender and social conditions facing women. In addition, the Theatre Program’s 2017-18 season will produce seven plays, all by female playwrights.
- In fall 2018, SFTV graduate programs will move into their new home at the LMU Playa Vista Campus. The Hollywood Masters Series deal with Netflix, as well as the recent successes for graduate screenwriting alumni, demonstrate the creative outcomes associated with SFTV.
- This summer, Professor Michael Genovese, Loyola Chair of Leadership and professor of political science, received the American Political Science Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award. He is only the fifth professor nationally to receive this lifetime achievement award. His 50th book, “How Trump Governs,” comes out in November.
- The Frank R. Seaver College of Science and Engineering continues to lead nationally in its work in the environmental sciences, which was recently honored by the Bay Foundation. Professor Jeremy Pal co-wrote a landmark climate change study that was widely cited for its prediction that conditions in Pakistan, Nepal, India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka – home to roughly one-fifth of the global human population – are likely to approach, and in some locations exceed, a human survivability threshold.
- In September, The Daily Journal released its “Top 100 Lawyers in California,” and Loyola Law School topped the list with 13 lawyers—more than any law school, anywhere.
- The College of Business Administration launched the Institute for Business Ethics and Sustainability (IBES) – further bolstering the university’s commitment to sustainability, social responsibility, and ethical leadership.
- LMU CARES continues to build a community based on the creed of the Lion’s Code, where individuals act with integrity, stand in faith, and serve one another.
- LMU’s KXLU celebrates the 60th anniversary of free-form, progressive, commercial-free, independent radio. Our tastemakers continue to revolutionize the music of today and discover the music of tomorrow. Their annual Fundrazor takes place from Oct. 19-28.
- Our rankings continue to reflect that our academic programs are among the nation’s best. The Wall Street Journal places LMU among the top 12 percent of universities in the country, with similar successes across all of our colleges and schools (a comprehensive list is available here).
- Our first to second year retention rate climbed from 88.7 percent last year to 91.2 percent this year, a monumental jump made possible through effective partnerships among our academic and co-curricular colleagues. I thank Robbin Crabtree, dean of Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts, and Jeanne Ortiz, dean of students and vice president for student affairs, for co-chairing the Persistence and Graduation Committee.
Interdisciplinarity is an illustrious pathway toward discovery and wonder. Our Core Integrations courses—Faith and Reason; Ethics and Justice; and Interdisciplinary Connections—showcase our unwavering commitment to engaging in purposeful and open discourse.
The interdisciplinarity that we foster at LMU is championed by all who call on our community to think broadly while challenging our assumptions and cultivating our curiosity. I applaud programs in each of our colleges and schools that interleave scholarship, interdisciplinary research, and creative outreach. Interdisciplinarity is strong at LMU, and we can expect even more creative collaborations in the years to come.
We are aggressively advancing our Brand Development Initiative. Led by Vice President John Kiralla, Marketing and Communications is completing the largest market research study we have ever conducted, surveying more than 90,000 internal and external constituents. In the coming months, we will share the study results and seek your engagement as we review brand platform recommendations and build our marketing and visibility strategies. I encourage you to review our Brand Development Refresher for more information about our efforts and its anticipated impacts.
We have accelerated our media and promotional placements to increase our visibility through local, regional, and national advertising campaigns. Last year, we increased our marketing campaign placements by 228 percent, yielding over 280 million additional unique impressions aimed at increasing awareness and name recognition. In addition to our University of Silicon Beach® visibility campaign, we promote our academic programs, diversity, mission, athletics, and other key messages. Through these endeavors, we elevate our reputation, attract exceptional faculty and students, secure better placement of our graduates, improve the reception of faculty and administrative publications and proposals, and support our fundraising activities.
I am thrilled to share that LMU was awarded $10.2 million in externally sponsored projects in FY 2017. This is LMU’s highest year in total awards, and nearly double the amount awarded in 2014. The Office of Research Advancement and Compliance deserves our praise for helping faculty take their research to the next level.
Our road to heightened distinction is also paved with the creativity and imagination of our students. We received a record-setting 18,183 applications (including first-year and transfers) for fall 2017, a 15 percent increase over last year. Our excellent recruitment efforts also made the Class of 2021 the most accomplished and diverse in LMU’s history. Nine percent of this year’s first-year students are international, as are 14 percent of our incoming transfer students. Our first-year African American enrollments rose from 91 to 110 students (proportionally, from 8 percent to 9 percent), while Latina/o enrollments rose from 285 to 304 students (maintaining our current proportional percentage).
In last year’s convocation, I mentioned that diversity is the font of human creativity; I also noted that harvesting success through diversity takes work. As Lions, we celebrate, honor, and cherish diversity, inclusivity, and justice rooted in the belief that we are all sacred children of God. We must fight to ensure that dignity and respect prevail on our campus and in the world. This is the backbone of our mission, and we vigorously work to expand our campus diversity. Below are a few impactful ways that we strive for diversity and inclusivity:
- Student Affairs colleagues in Ethnic and Intercultural Services participated in the National Dialogue on Race by holding a community forum on Sept. 28 for students, faculty and staff who came to engage in conversation around recent events, including DACA executive orders and the national debate on public monuments.
- Last week, we co-hosted the 2017 Catholic Immigrant Integration Initiative Conference: “Strengthening the Catholic Response to Immigrant Integration, Participation, and Empowerment in an Era of Challenge and Uncertainty.”
- I am proud of, and grateful for, our LMU students for their bold leadership on the DACA issue; for spearheading DREAM ACTion week; and for ASLMU President Hayden Tanabe’s joint statement with Seattle University’s student body president in response to the DACA rescission. All 28 AJCU student body presidents signed the letter.
- This Friday, Oct. 20, LMU hosts a Summit on Internationalization and Global Learning.
- Loyola Law School’s Immigrant Justice Clinic, with support from the Mexican Consulate, hosted a free DACA renewal workshop, and processed close to 100 DACA renewals. Overall, the IJC has helped over 400 DACA recipients.
- Intercultural Affairs advocates for diversity and inclusivity every day. Our Implicit Bias Initiative continues to improve bias literacy and our understanding of implicit bias, using that knowledge to produce change in cultural norms across the university. We continue to engage the initiative this year, and over the next three years, with workshops for faculty, staff, and students.
- Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Abbie Robinson-Armstrong and Vice President for Mission and Ministry John Sebastian conducted workshops for faculty search committees in September and October with the goal of recruiting faculty for mission, which includes increased diversity and gender balance.
- In last year’s promotion and tenure process, 56 percent of those promoted or tenured were persons of color.
FUNDRAISING TO SUPPORT OUR VISION
Thanks to our University Relations colleagues, led by Senior Vice President Dennis Slon, in partnership with our deans and other campus leaders, we surpassed our Scholarship Initiative goal earlier this year, raising $103 million. As we approach our comprehensive fundraising campaign, we are pursuing bold ideas to increase our creativity, interdisciplinarity, diversity, and global reach. Looking toward the future but grounded thoughtfully in the present, we are engaging our Campaign Planning Council, chaired by Mitch Butier ’93, CEO of Avery Dennison, to help us imagine pathways to LMU’s future. In the coming months, I will share more about these efforts.
Ever-mindful of our mission and heeding Pope Francis’ call in Ladato si’, we seek to catalyze education, innovation, and stewardship initiatives that benefit humankind. One way we do this is through our excellence in sustainability:
- We were the first Jesuit institution to join the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Investment.
- We rank 6th on the Sierra Club’s 2017 list of “Cool Schools.”
- We rank 21st for Top 50 Green Colleges in the 2017 Princeton Review.
- We placed 1st in the nation in the annual collegiate RecycleMania competition.
We thank Executive Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer Lynne Scarboro and Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Thomas O. Fleming Jr., their teams, and our campus community for contributing to these successes.
FREE SPEECH, ACADEMIC FREEDOM, AND INFORMATION LITERACY
Civil discourse thrives when it synthesizes discernment, listening, questioning, and learning. This is our opportunity to be champions of the LMU way and to model behaviors others will adopt as we uphold the values of free speech by cultivating practices that boost respectful and stimulating dialogue in the classroom, the office, the library, and online.
Academic freedom is essential to our LMU foundation. We encourage our faculty to be thought leaders and to undertake public engagement that seeks to address issues of significance in our world. I applaud our faculty’s passion for and devotion to carrying out this great tradition. Because we expect our faculty to be leaders in thought and expression, we will remain committed, fully, to protecting them and their work.
Access to accurate information is a pillar of our democracy. At the William H. Hannon Library, our librarians help students navigate the complexities of the information ecosystem, asking them to consider the voices present in information sources and to identify—and seek out—the voices that are missing. The act of questioning is critical for information literacy; it too is weaved into the fabric of free speech, academic freedom, and our LMU mission. Without our questions, the mysteries of the universe have no place to play.
Anticipating our time together tomorrow, I am heartened by the intrepid spirit and boundless light that each of us brings. As collaborators in creation, we shape our story with love, curiosity, and infinite wonder. Together, we are a beacon of academic excellence and global imagination, radiating brightly on and from the bluff.