Welcome Back, Lions!

By Timothy Law Snyder, Ph.D.

Welcome to fall 2020 semester! The past six months have felt like a lifetime. But just as generations of Lions before us overcame other character-defining junctures, together, we will rise from this moment more united and stronger than ever. As we honor 50 years of the AJCU and 500 years of Jesuit higher education, we can emulate our predecessors’ models to: (1) thrive amid a global pandemic as we reimagine the LMU experience through innovation; (2) exemplify the equity and justice we want to see in the world by becoming more proactively anti-racist; (3) invite courageous conversations, varying viewpoints, and mutual respect amid not just the pandemic, but also a tumultuous election season. I am grateful for your dedication, and I am eager to meet the challenges ahead with our love for each other and our Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount mission.

Your health, safety, and well-being remains our North Star, and our faculty and staff have prepared vigorously to deliver on the promise of an LMU education to provide the academic and co-curricular excellence our students expect. Each of us has a role in protecting the Pride, to keep our community safe and healthy, and in adhering to our policies and protocols.

Our LMU education is in higher demand than ever, evidenced by our entering classes. I welcome the Class of 2024, the 2020 fall transfer class, and the 2020 graduate and LMU Loyola Law School classes. You are among the most diverse and qualified in our university’s history, joining a community from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. And our outcomes speak for themselves.

Out of 62 categories in the Princeton Review’s Best Colleges list, LMU ranks in the top 20 in the nation for:

  • Most Engaged in Community Service No. 4
  • Best College Library No. 7
  • Best Science Lab Facilities No. 9
  • Most Beautiful Campus No. 11
  • Happiest Students No. 16
  • Top 50 Entrepreneurship for Undergraduates No. 17
  • Best Counseling Services No. 18

While we earned the No. 23 spot for Top 50 Green Colleges in the Princeton Review, in Great Value Colleges we received the highest honor for our Recycling Program, and we are once again the national champs for Recyclemania. Let us also shine the klieg lights on SFTV for its highest ranking yet: No. 7 by The Hollywood Reporter in its annual listing of the top 25 film schools.

We are thrilled that the U.S. Department of Education recently awarded LMU a $1.2 million grant that will support low-income, first-generation, and students with disabilities in pursuing and graduating with an LMU degree.

This fall marks the first time that LMU will host (virtually) the Millennium Fellowship, a semester-long leadership development program for undergraduates from 80 college campuses across the globe who will work to localize United Nations sustainable development goals. With enthusiasm, I congratulate LMU’s Millennium Fellows, who will focus on the emerging climate-refugee crisis and promotion of green consulting solutions.

Celebrating a milestone, I congratulate our TLC scholars and program coordinators, with whom I had the pleasure of meeting a few weeks ago. For 20 years, this indispensable program has epitomized our mission by cultivating leaders, instilling community consciousness, and promoting academic and co-curricular success. I look forward to expanding the program and seeing its ever-growing impacts in the years to come.

Since March, our lives have been turned upside down. Each of us has contended with the pandemic personally, and each has contributed to our getting through it with grace. With flexibility, patience, ingenuity, and creativity, we have pivoted, innovated, and adapted. I am honored and grateful to be your partner during this extraordinary time.

  • Inspired by the crossroads of COVID-19 and local, national, and global uprisings against racism, BCLA launched the Liberal Arts in Action series featuring discussions and workshops from BCLA’s distinguished faculty members.
  • SOE’s faculty are working with the Center for Service and Action and Speak UP, an advocacy group for parents, to provide LAUSD students with a volunteer tutor and bridge the digital divide that affects marginalized communities.
  • CFA’s Art Therapy/MFT students have volunteered Telehealth services to vulnerable children and families through our Helen B. Landgarten Art Therapy Clinic. In collaboration with the Catholic School Collaborative and the LMU Family of Schools, hundreds of hours of free art therapy services have been provided throughout L.A. County.
  • All incoming first-year STEM majors are automatically enrolled in the iSTEM learning community so that new students feel connected and develop awareness of Seaver College’s resources and the opportunities available in STEM fields.
  • LMU Loyola Law School has expanded its remote event offerings, with the virtual Tax Policy Colloquium set to launch on Sept. 14 with a series of legal luminaries.
  • CBA’s new course, “Business for Good,” launched this summer, resulted in four groups of students presenting business plans for projects in Mexico and Honduras to a panel of business faculty and experts.
  • The William H. Hannon Library continues to serve as the central pillar of research support at LMU through its extensive online collections, services, and the expertise of our librarians while still finding time to promote the scholarship of our faculty through Faculty Pub Night.
  • LMU Magazine launched a series of pandemic-related episodes in itsOff Press podcast, and the website features a breadth of content about racial justice, community engagement, and ethics and politics.
  • The Virtual Student EXP is a hub of all the information students need to navigate life outside the classroom, keeping the Lion community connected, informed, engaged, and supported.
  • Campus Ministry welcomes new first-year and transfer students of all faith traditions to discover the meaning of kinship in a virtual environment by participating in an online retreat for new Lions on Sept. 12.
  • Fall sports may have been postponed, but Lions can remain connected by following LMU Athletics on social @LMULions to stay up to date and get involved with The Cage, the official student group of LMU Athletics. And remember, College Colors Day is around the corner. Be sure to show your Lion Pride on Sept. 4 by wearing crimson and blue.

As we celebrate our achievements, we also recognize the ample work ahead of us. If you are like me, you will have “up” days and “down” days; each of these, when any of us is down, can benefit from our continual working together as a community, no matter what our formal role at the university.

The recent shooting of Jacob Blake and the related protests across the country show us that racism persists, despite the public’s recent awakenings. In Beyond Words, I outlined the steps to which I am committed to address systemic oppression and anti-Black racism in a comprehensive manner. Our efforts will focus on hiring, climate and culture, and education. These commitments comprise our Anti-Racism Project.

The Anti-Racism Project is in step with our Catholic, Jesuit, and Marymount identity and university mission. We are called to be persons for and with others—inclusive of our varied religious traditions and worldviews—toward social justice for all. To this end, we are centering the experiences of our Black community members in our commitment to dismantling structural racism. While focused, the impact of these actions will benefit all groups in the promotion of an anti-racist climate, culture, and education at LMU. I am indebted to the recently formed Coordinated Actions Council (CAC), and its chair, Professor Stefan Bradley of African American Studies, who will provide guidance, feedback, and accountability to honor this centering.

This project requires all campus units to work together to identify issues emerging through listening sessions and through data, and to collaborate so that cross-sector solutions may be implemented. We recognize that the impacts of systemic racism are experienced in numerous, intersecting ways given the multiplicity of our identities based on, for instance, race/ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic standing, age, profession, and other demographic categories. Therefore, a nuanced whole-person understanding, and recognition of the validity of each individual’s experiences will be necessary as we engage in this work.

Throughout summer, LMU leadership has engaged in conversations with Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Our discussions with Black student leaders have been essential as we seek actionable steps and make progress in our plans. Vice President for Intercultural Affairs Jennifer Abe will share our progress with the community in regular updates during the semester in LMU This Week.

I thank Black at LMU and the Black Faculty and Staff Association for their leadership, their investment in LMU, and for calling on the university to reach for a higher standard of achievement. Their respective lists of goals and demands have afforded the university an opportunity to reflect deeply and be true to who we are, especially in light of our mission. We plan to respond to Black at LMU and the BFSA’s calls for meaningful and lasting change soon.

As part of our learning, I encourage you to join me on Sept. 15, from 2-3:30 p.m. for our first virtual forum as part of our anti-racism series, “Whose Free Speech?: A Campus-Wide Dialogue on Free Speech, Personal Responsibility, and Impacts on Anti-Black Racism.” Often, events like these are attended by what we often refer to as “the choir”; we can succeed only through broadening participation. No matter our individual histories in attending such fora, we each have a responsibility to learn more so that we can unravel and dismantle the racist prejudices and evils that have been woven into us.

Everything we approach this fall will be with an eye toward exemplifying our mission to create a more equitable and just LMU. I hope each of you will take time out of your busy schedules to enjoy and learn from your colleagues, professors, friends, and mentors. For a full list of offerings, see the University Calendar.

Our votes make a difference. Lions, let your vote roar! With the 2020 presidential election season underway, our faculty’s expertise on issues pivotal to the moment helps ensure that voters are informed and engaged. Meanwhile, Student Affairs continues to make voting a seamless experience for all LMU students. Please check out the TurboVote application, which provides us with information and tools to assist with voting in every election.

Obviously, this year is like no other we have experienced. Together, we—students, faculty, staff, administration, and alumni—must take advantage of this opportunity to realize fully who we are in every way possible, and to work restlessly to create the world we want to live in. Please know that I am with you as we continue to navigate the moment. Let’s indeed rise from it for the better.

Go Lions!