By Anna Gaynor, Erinn Connor & Evangeline Politis, Loyola University Chicago
Loyola University Chicago’s Arrupe College was a last-minute decision for Ramatoulaye Diallo. Originally from the West African country of Mauritania, Diallo spent some time living in Paris before moving to Chicago with her mother in 2012. In high school, she decided she wanted to go to Loyola after graduation, but her ACT score wasn’t quite high enough. “We share the same values—care for self, others, and community,” Diallo says of Loyola.
When she didn’t get in, she gave up on applying to schools. “In my head, I was just going to go back home and study,” she says. “And then my advisor calls me one day and says, ‘Have you heard of Arrupe?’”
Diallo’s advisor explained that Arrupe was part of Loyola, that she’d be a part of the first class, and she might be able to transfer to Loyola after graduating. That call came at the end of her senior year.
Now, as a member of the inaugural graduating class, she is planning the move into Bellarmine Hall on Loyola’s Lake Shore Campus with four of her Arrupe classmates. And like many of her fellow Arrupe graduates from the class of 2017, Diallo will receive a continuum scholarship from Loyola to cover the costs of her tuition and housing. “I can’t stress it enough—it helps a whole lot,” she says.
Arrupe was established as a two-year Associate’s degree program to provide a rigorous liberal arts education to motivated students with limited financial resources and an interest in later attending a four-year institution. The College is one of the cornerstones of Loyola’s strategic plan and directly supports its priority to continue extending access to education for those from under-served communities.
In 2015, Diallo was among nearly 160 Chicago teenagers who started taking classes on Loyola’s Water Tower Campus. On August 12, 2017, 52 percent of the inaugural cohort (82 students) received their degrees at Arrupe’s first commencement ceremony. The graduation rate is noteworthy, as it far exceeds the national average reported by Complete College America—only five percent of full-time community college students earn an Associate’s degree within two years. In addition, another 16 percent is on track to graduate in December 2017.
“I’m grateful particularly to this group of graduates because they took a risk to pioneer this with us,” says Rev. Stephen Katsouros, S.J., dean and executive director of Arrupe.
Arrupe offers small class sizes, one-on-one time with faculty and advisors, and the resources to thrive and earn an Associate’s degree. In his two years at Arrupe, Carlos Luna became involved in student government, started the Dreamers and Allies Student Organization, and was awarded Loyola’s President’s Medallion. For him, Arrupe provided the chance to get on the path toward Georgetown University where he will be matriculating in the fall.
When in high school, Luna originally focused on applying to schools outside of Chicago, primarily the East Coast. “It was decision after decision of being denied or wait-listed, so that was really tough on me,” he says. But now he will make the move from Chicago to Washington, D.C., with plans to major in government and minor in either Mandarin Chinese or philosophy. “What I had hoped for in the beginning,” Luna says, “has come true.”
Arrupe graduate Blanca Rodriguez, who will be heading to Dominican University, echoes this sentiment.
“I feel like Arrupe has given us that chance,” says Rodriguez. “You can do it—it doesn’t matter where you come from, what culture you are from, or what your background is. You can go to whatever school you want to and succeed wherever you want to go.”
This fall, seventy-three graduates of the Class of 2017 are pursuing further education to earn Bachelor’s degrees at colleges and universities across the country, including Loyola University Chicago, Regis University, Loyola University New Orleans, Georgetown University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Dominican University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and more.
In addition to celebrating this historic milestone and these students’ successes, the University also announced earlier this month that it had received a $6 million gift to assist Arrupe students and graduates in their individual pursuits of higher education, specifically students who do not qualify for state or federal aid because of their immigration status.
Photos from Arrupe College’s inaugural commencement ceremony can be found here: http://bit.ly/2fP1WNs.
Loyola’s Health Sciences Division Launches Science Sisters Day
Loyola is also bridging the gap for an even younger population. In May, Loyola’s biomedical graduate students hosted the first Science Sisters Day, a full-day event that brought 30 middle-school girls from local schools—Stevenson Middle School in Maywood and Irving Middle School in Melrose Park—to the Center for Translational Research and Education on the Health Sciences Campus. The day’s activities ranged from educational science experiments to learning about women science pioneers.
“Interest in science drops off at this age, so we wanted to target these girls and hopefully help keep up their interest in science as they get closer to high school and college,” says Abby Cannon, one of the Science Sisters Day organizers.
Cannon and Anya Nikolai, both immunology graduate students who also founded the Women in Science group at Loyola, wanted this event to address the underrepresentation of girls pursuing education and careers in the sciences.
Research from the U.S. Department of Education shows that girls lose interest in math and science some time around middle school. A report from the National Research Center for College and University Admissions found that only 20 percent of women intend to major in a STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) field.
“This event gave young girls hands-on experience with the types of biomedical research we do at the Health Sciences Division and taught them about successful female scientists with the hope that these students will realize they too can aspire to careers in science and medicine,” says Leanne Cribbs, Ph.D., associate dean for graduate education at Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine and an associate professor in the department of cell and molecular physiology.
The event was funded by the University’s strategic plan along with support from BioLegend, a lab supply company.
“I’m so proud of our biomedical graduate students who are sharing their enthusiasm for science with these middle school girls from our surrounding community,” says Margaret Faut Callahan, CRNA, Ph.D., FNAP, FAAN, provost of Loyola's Health Sciences Division. “Their commitment and passion is what makes these biomedical programs a shining example of outreach on our Health Sciences campus.”
Cannon and Nikolai are planning more events with their growing Women in Science organization, including seminars and lectures hosted by prominent female scientists in many different fields.
“We really want to see what we can do to keep our female scientists interested and invested in their career and moving up the ladder into leadership positions,” says Nikolai.