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2017 Outstanding Ignatian Senior - Michael Pashkevich, Biological Sciences

Loyola announcement - May 11, 2017

Personal Statement

As an ambassador, my freshman and sophomore years, the most frequent question I received was, "Do you feel Loyola is providing you a quality education?" I always smiled when asked this, as the inquiry provided me ample opportunity to express how grateful I was (an am) for my Loyola experience.

I didn't want to attend Loyola. I fell in love with it somewhat begrudgingly, surely surprised at the magnitude and speed with which Loyola captured my heart. This initially started through the 9 p.m. Mass Community, First Year Retreat, and Awakening, which compelled me to value my faith more than ever before and, equally rewarding, the faith of others. In the classroom, my mind was broadened as, for the first time, I critically studied social issues and learned to care from the core of my being about racism, sexism, classism, and other -isms of cruelty. The Loyola faculty and staff embodied how to stand with the marginalized, fight for the oppressed, and minister to the needy. Through their example, I came to understand a truer, more full meaning of community that has not left my consciousness since.

It is in this vein of thought — community — that I most value my Loyola experience. I am constantly inspired and challenged by those I encounter on Loyola's campus. Dr. Aimée Thomas, with her infinite enthusiasm for teaching and all-things natural, instilled in me a lifelong academic passion and, consequently, joyous revelry in myriad everyday occurrences. Dr. Yavneh, who is essentially care and intentionality simultaneously personified in a single person, taught me to dedicate each moment to pursuit of the magis. Fr. Ted, in exposing me to various Belizean adventures, imparted to me that I need not always change the world. Sometimes, I am the one needing to be changed.

I was most impacted by my Loyola education in being taught to advocate for those who are most silenced. I manifested this mission thorugh my undergraduate research studying spider biodiversity and conservation. Spiders are truly the epitome of a voiceless community. Even within the animal kingdom, they are distinguished for being especially revolted by humans. My research enables me to sympathize with and fight to protect the most seemingly insignificant of creatures. This ideology easily transliterates into a social justice context, too, and it has ultimately allowed me to act from the cares of my heart rather than the cautions of my mind.

Countless family members and friends have recently asked how I feel about leaving Loyola. The truth is, I will not be leaving Loyola, for the piece of my heart that Loyola captured will affect me indelibly and is the inspiration for my future plans. In the fall, I will start PhD studies on the roles fulfilled by spiders in Indonesian oil palm plantations. I intend to spend a career researching spiders and the various ways in which they can heal the fractured bond between humans and nature. This is the bond that Pope Francis speaks about in Laudato Si' and that my peers discuss daily in the classrooms of Monroe Hall. To these ends, Loyola provided me a foundation from which I happily discerned a personal vocation.

Although no longer an Ambassador, this reflection again invites me to consider my favorite tour question: Do I feel that Loyola has offered me a quality education? I can state with utmost certainty that my four undergraduate years have been, and likely will be, the most formative years of my life. Due to Loyola, I have cultivated an academic passion within a phenomenally compassionate community, both of which deepen my faith, provide personal joy, and compel me to pursue justice in the world from my least significant to most meaningful actions. I am forever grateful to this magnificent university that I call home.

To the professors, to my friends, to the stunning architecture, and to the halls of learning within: thank you.