President’s Message: Why Messina matters

By Rev. Brian F. Linnane, S.J.

When I was teaching, I remember my students had this sense that exams were a gauntlet to get over to reach vacation. I used to explain that professors don’t design exams to be a horrible ritual to go through. Exams are intended to help you bring together what you have learned so that at the end of the course you experience pleasure at all you have accomplished.

Eight years ago when I became president of Loyola, I met with every academic department to learn about the joys and challenges of scholarship at Loyola. Several times faculty told me that while our students are extremely prepared and talented academically, they tend to be very focused on the tangible results—grades and careers. That is not surprising, especially with the sacrifices and investments our students and their families are making for them to receive a Loyola education.

What faculty felt was missing for students, however, was the pleasure that comes from academic success, the desire to go deeper intellectually, and with a true love of learning. We started discussing how we could help our campus community become more engaged in the fabric and academic life of the University.

As we considered a solution, we discussed how students frequently don’t get to know faculty well until later in their academic program. If we could help students and professors make those connections earlier, how would that enhance the entire academic experience?

Some of this, we knew, was already occurring in our Alpha and Collegium programs. So, as we created our strategic plan for Loyola’s future, we decided to build on the strengths of those programs and create a living learning initiative. The first seeds were planted then for what would become Messina, which begins for the Class of 2017 this fall.

Messina’s seminar-style classes allow first-year students to connect with faculty from their first days on campus. Because students live in proximity to other students taking the same courses, what happens in the classroom isn’t foreign to what happens in the residence hall.

Messina may be new, but it brings to life what has always been a focus of Jesuit education—and education at Loyola: the idea that students need to make connections with one another, with faculty, and across disciplines, and to gain an appreciation, even a hunger, for knowledge. Although Messina is different, the program is tied to that long-held commitment to enriching the intellectual experience.

Through Messina each of our students will receive personal attention and be pushed at a deeper level. We hope Messina will inspire them to embrace still greater intellectual challenges, perhaps applying for Fulbright Scholarships and other post-graduate opportunities where a love of learning and an ability to make connections across academic areas will lead to innovative and important scholarship.

When I speak with our alumni, they always tell me their favorite professors were the ones who challenged them, who believed the student could do something he or she didn’t think was possible. That is what we hope for—and expect from—Messina. We want it to challenge our students in new ways, instilling in them a deeper way of thinking and a love of learning, while helping them realize that they can accomplish far more than they imagined.

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