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Jesuit Summer Institute fellows bring memories, lessons home from New Orleans

Loyola press release - June 8, 2009

On Friday, June 12, more than two dozen fellows of the first Jesuit Summer Institute for Advanced Study presented reflections on their two-week immersion into the city of New Orleans. During the inaugural institute at Loyola University New Orleans, the fellows, honors students from Jesuit universities across the country, focused on the city’s distinctive culture and its long history of crisis and calamity, with an emphasis on philosophy, ecology, music, literature, art and cuisine.

Fellows participated in a wide array of seminars, met experts and activists and explored post-Katrina New Orleans. They took walking tours of the French Quarter, Garden District and Jean Lafitte National Park; worked on damaged houses in St. Bernard Parish, the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East; watched screenings of iconic New Orleans films and powerful documentaries; and heard from notable guest lecturers, including folklorist and “American Routes” producer Nick Spitzer, education expert Lance Hill, and geographer and “Bienville’s Dilemma” author Richard Campanella.

Led by Loyola’s John Biguenet, acclaimed author and professor of English, and John Clark, award-winning professor of philosophy, the program was meant to provide selected fellows an opportunity for academic and cultural exploration in a setting that fosters continuing dialogue grounded in the mission of Ignatian education.

On their last day at Loyola, students presented writings, reports, poems and artwork representing what will it mean to miss New Orleans. They also discussed how the visit changed their perceptions of the city, what lessons they will take back and how they will put what they have learned to use in their home cities.

Ryan Elizabeth Vale, a Fordham University student from Winston-Salem, N.C., said the sense of passion for community action she witnessed in New Orleans has inspired her to engage youth in her hometown to support a passion of hers, the arts.

“I have a newly-renovated interest in my hometown and myself,” she said. “I’ve begun to miss New Orleans, with Carolina on my mind,” she said.

Another fellow, Marie Perry, an environmental science major from University of Scranton, in Pennsylvania, said, “I’ve never been somewhere where the atmosphere was so deeply enriching. This experience has taught me how to be more than a tourist. It was a transformative experience.”

For more information on the Jesuit Summer Institute for Advanced Study, contact Sean Snyder in Loyola’s Office of Public Affairs at smsnyder@loyno.edu, or call 504-861-5882.