What Investing in the Future Looks Like

When I first arrived at Loyola University Chicago in August 2007, I had not anticipated that I was about to become a member of an academic community that was so profoundly committed to environmental justice.  Just a few months after I began my undergraduate course of study, the Richard J. Klarchek Information Commons opened its doors to the university community as the first digital library on the Lake Shore Campus.  Towering just a few feet from Lake Michigan, it offers an unobstructed view of one of the most expansive and beautiful lakes in the country.  And even though it’s the ideal place to catch a breathtaking sunrise after pulling an all-nighter during finals week, the Information Commons offers something more.  Every inch of the building was constructed with the environment in mind, leading to its silver-level certification from the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System, the nationally accepted benchmark for the design, construction, and operation of high-performance green buildings.

Since the opening of the Information Commons in 2008, many inefficient, aging, dysfunctional buildings have been razed and a series of beautiful, state-of-the-art buildings have been designed and constructed in their place.  Cuneo Hall is one such example, among many others.  Because it was designed to match its tried and true neighbors, Cudahy Science Hall and Dumbach Hall, the building looks as if it has always been there.  But constructing LEED certified buildings is only one part of a pressing solution that demands global participation.  While Loyola has remained committed to building green for over a decade, its commitment to the environment goes far deeper than what its campus indicates.

Last Friday, Loyola opened the doors of the Institute for Environmental Sustainability.  Once again, the university’s commitment to environmental stewardship soared to a new and unprecedented height; a height that goes unmatched in the city of Chicago and throughout the entire Midwest.  The IES will surely draw talent and passion from around the world as dedicated and concerned people come together to collaborate and inspire real solutions to some of the earth’s most pressing problems.  As an alum dedicated to pursuing and enacting social justice – which I learned precisely from my four years at Loyola, no doubt – I am inspired by Loyola’s commitment to serve as one of the environment’s most vocal allies, at least among colleges and universities, in the United States of America and throughout the world.

At its core, a university functions for the service of humanity, for the expansion of knowledge, and for the pursuit of justice. Loyola has committed itself to this and more by expanding its mission to preserve, protect, and promote the earth and its precious resources.  No matter what major one elects to pursue, no matter what career path one chooses, no matter where one studies on campus, every Loyola student will be steeped in the fundamental, deep-seated, critical awareness that the earth’s peril matters a great deal and that every voice, every talent, every contribution – no matter how small – matters.

If I could apply to colleges all over again, I would be even more eager to attend Loyola.  Yes, it’s a beautiful campus that sits right on the shore of Lake Michigan.  Sure, it’s located in a booming metropolis that has much to offer a young student exploring the world on their own for the very first time.  It goes without saying that I would want to study at a place where I am not just a number, but actually count as a person.  But more than all of that, Loyola is a place of palpable energy, excitement, and growth that is unabashedly invested in the future.  And not just its own future, but our shared future – which is to say, the inseparability of the world’s future and the earth’s future.  I would choose Loyola again in a heartbeat, without thinking twice.  Not because of its name or stature, but because of a distinct ethic that pervades and impacts every commitment of the university, the very same ethic that pervaded my own studies and transformed me into becoming the person I am today.

+ CMJ

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