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Alumni College 2012
Alumni College 2012

By Shelby Schultheis ’14

Alumni relived their college days during the first annual Alumni College this summer.

While many of the students went home for the summer, Loyola’s Alumni Association took back the university to host its first ever Alumni College, “Experience Loyola Again!,” June 22 – 24. The Enrichment Committee planned and hosted the program to coincide with the year-long centennial celebration on campus.

Amy Sins ’98 (communication), president of the Alumni Association and the Enrichment Committee, says that establishing a theme was the first major challenge the committee faced. After looking at many of the freshmen orientation classes that Loyola offers, they decided to utilize a theme that would mesh well with the centennial celebration.

“Since it was the initial alumni college, we wanted to focus on New Orleans, on the centennial, and Loyola and Ignatian spirituality,” Sins says.
This decision helped them pick three of the four tracks: New Orleans and the World, Loyola and the Jesuit Mission, and Art and Culture. The fourth track, Politics and Society, was added after a thorough discussion of other possibilities.

Loyola’s Alumni College was modeled after an already successful program hosted by Rice University. Loyola’s program has been in the planning stages for a few years ever since Sins and Monique Gaudin Gardner, director of Alumni Relations, went to Rice University to talk with their alumni college committee about their program.

“When you think about it, once you graduate from college, if you’re not coming on campus for an alumni event and you’re not participating, then you’re just writing your check for your donation and you don’t really know what the teachers are like and what the students are experiencing,” Sins says.

For three days, alumni and their guests got to relive their college days. Rising early for classes and going to bed late after a full night of events proved challenging for a few of the guests. Sins signed her mother up for classes and felt that the schedule was a little tough for her.

“She hasn’t had to sit still in class that long for a very long time, so that was a little bit shocking for her,” Sins says. “She had to go from class to class and get up early and do dinners late, so I think she didn’t catch up on her sleep like she would like to, but she got to act like a true college student.”

Quite a few alumni brought along a parent, sibling, or friend to join them for a weekend of learning. J.T. Hannan ’99 (political science), who was also on the Enrichment Committee, brought several friends to attend the sessions with him. For him, the Alumni College was a step back into academic life.

“That was a fun experience, and the time you spend at Loyola is some of the best time of your life,” Hannan says. “It’s never a bad thing to reconnect with that.”

Hannan enjoyed the variety of the courses. He focused mainly on the New Orleans track while incorporating some classes in politics in history. Dennis Lauscha’s, M.B.A. ’93, class on the New Orleans Saints and the Business of Football and Dr. Peter Burns’ class on the Politics and Policies of Rebuilding New Orleans were among Hannan’s favorites.

Sins and her mother also focused on the New Orleans track, taking classes on New Orleans and Louisiana history. Her mother took classes on New Orleans music and the history behind it, while Sins took Dr. Bob Thomas’ class on the Louisiana wetlands and ecosystems. Her favorite classes were Vive La France: Louisiana as a French Colony, taught by Dr. David Moore and Creole Crossroads, which was taught by Dr. Judith Hunt.

Ted Stacey ’70 (economics), who was also on the Enrichment Committee, was unable to attend the Alumni College, but says he would have looked forward to Fr. Carter’s class, Faith, Science, and Theology.

A total of 70 people attended the Alumni College, but the committee is looking to procure an even bigger turnout for next year.

“We’d love to have double the number of participants next year if we could,” Sins says.

Those in attendance enjoyed plenty of extracurricular activities as well. Several events were offered on campus, including a small reception in the Thomas Hall Visitor Center and an early dinner/cocktail reception in the Danna Student Center. On Friday evening, the alumni met at Arnaud’s Restaurant in the French Quarter where they enjoyed traditional New Orleans dishes and were treated to a history of the restaurant by their waiter. A concert was also offered by the music department.

Other activities included field trips to the Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden at the New Orleans Museum of Art, a post-Katrina tour conducted by Dr. Bob Thomas, and a visit to the National WWII Museum.

Both Sins and Hannan attended the trip to the National WWII Museum, where they got to meet several of the major donors for the museum and hear about their plans for the next five years. They also got to meet several WWII veterans and speak with them while touring the museum. The alumni also enjoyed a screening of the movie Beyond All Boundaries while at the museum.

Planning is already underway for the 2013 Alumni College, scheduled for June 7 – 9, 2013, and the Enrichment Committee hopes to make it an annual event. Next year’s college will incorporate the same essential elements as this year’s college.

“With anything that’s new, we have to tweak it and improve it, and we’re in the process of making those right now, but the evaluations came back overwhelmingly positive. People are really excited and they want this program to continue,” Hannan says.

The challenge with planning a second Alumni College is deciding whether to start fresh and offer all new classes, to offer the same classes as the first Alumni College, or to mesh the two options together.

“I think we’ll try to meld the best reviewed courses from this year with some new courses,” Hannans says.

He adds that the committee’s choices hinge on the availability of the faculty, along with other variables.

“I think it’s going to be a really neat, new tradition that puts us on a whole new level when it comes to engaging alumni,” Hannan says.

Sins feels that many of the teachers would be willing to teach for the Alumni College again.

“I would imagine, if I were a teacher and I had a class full of people who really, truly wanted to be there on a Saturday afternoon to learn, then that’s got to be pretty invigorating as a teacher,” Sins says.

When one of the classes ran over the allotted time, none of the weekend students seemed to notice. According to Sins, it wasn’t like a usual college class where the students were on the edge of their seats, closing their notebooks, and staring at the door. Everyone was intrigued by the lecture and likely would have continued to sit there. Sins felt that she could have spent an additional two hours in certain classes because of her interest in the topics.

The committee is also considering new field trip sites for next year’s Alumni College since the returning alumni who attended this year’s college will want to explore new places. However, those new to the program might want to attend the original trips. Sins says that the committee is definitely keeping the field trip element because people enjoyed it so much. Those who attended felt that it was a productive and rewarding weekend, especially for those life-long learners who are curious about topics other than their line of employment. Sins thoroughly enjoyed the learning aspect of the weekend.

“Aside from the occasional show on one of those learning channels, where else am I going to get to talk to someone who’s a leader in their field about New Orleans history and actually learn from that?” Sins says. “I think what was most exciting for me was to just have that opportunity available to me, so I knew if I just cut a weekend out of my schedule that I could have a lot of fun, but I could learn some stuff that actually I could use later.”

Shelby Schultheis ’14 (English) is the publications intern for the Office of Marketing and Communications during the fall 2012 semester.

View photos from the Friday dinner at Arnaud’s Restaurant.

View photos from the Alumni College weekend.

View the complete fall 2012 issue of LOYNO.

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