by Dr. Maria Calzada
Dear Loyola community,
As I prepare to welcome my second daughter to campus this fall, I write to let you know I am very confident in the future of Loyola University New Orleans. My daughter had her choice of attending several of our sister AJCU colleges and universities, with full and partial scholarships, and she selected Loyola University New Orleans as her first choice. That decision makes me very happy and very proud. I would not have allowed this decision if I were not completely confident in the quality of our programs, the dedication of our faculty and staff, and our ability to meet our challenges and opportunities with creative solutions.
The recent town halls with faculty, staff, and students have been engaging and dynamic, and I look forward to continuing conversations with all of you. The town halls have been valuable forums for airing concerns and sharing information, but they also have drawn attention to the need for more communication about the great progress we have made with Project Magis and a need for more clarity on the enduring stability of our university. I want to help rectify that through blog posts like this one.
Having been involved with Magis over the past year as both a sponsor and a contributor to several workstreams, I am writing to share some of the achievements that our dedicated faculty and staff have accomplished through Project Magis that are worth celebrating. In my roles as dean and now interim provost, I continue to have great confidence in the work we are doing and our ability not only to sustain Loyola but also to set the university on a path of growth.
Some of the key learnings and major successes that Loyola has experienced through Magis over the past year include:
- We have experienced increasing interest in Loyola New Orleans and larger classes.
In Fall 2017, we saw a 30 percent bump in our first-year class (801 enrolled students compared with 630 enrolled students in Fall 2016).
- We are working toward an even larger class in Fall 2018.
Joint efforts of Academic Affairs and the offices of Enrollment Management and Marketing and Communications have led to new tools and strategies for reaching and recruiting students. (Thank you to everyone who wrote postcards to admitted students and to all who are conducting interviews for the first-year free books program!)
- Our students love Loyola and want to graduate from here.
In Fall 2016, 77 percent of our first-year students returned to campus as sophomores. In Fall 2017, 79.9 percent of our first-year students returned as sophomores, marking a nearly 3 percent increase in retention of first-year students.
- We are working hard to ensure our students have an even better university experience and feel supported during their time at Loyola.
As we continuously improve, the goal for Magis is to have at least 84 percent of our first-year students return to campus as sophomores, and in order to do so, we have put in place multiple services that were not previously available:
- Success coaching that has been made available and accessed by over 80 percent of first-year students this year
- A dedicated advising team to support students with academic advising
- The completely new Pan-American Life Student Success Center to serve as a welcoming one-stop shop readily accessible to students
- A Global Ambassador Scholarship to enable students with financial constraints to study abroad in Summer 2018
- Improved access to financial aid services and trainings
- We are widening our mission to serve new populations.
We have built upon our existing online nursing programs and launched some of our traditional programs online in order to serve adult students who want to advance their educations and complete their degrees while meeting obligations in their personal and professional lives. It has been a tremendous effort to move this project forward, and the dedication and creativity that our faculty and staff have shown in getting us to this point is commendable. Furthermore, the students in our new online programs believe that we are “light years ahead of other online programs” in terms of our quality.
- We have committed to improving the university and serving our students more effectively.
We also have made some tough decisions as part of Magis and over the course of the year secured $4 million in operational savings by new and better use of resources and our faculty and staff.
- We also are being wiser with our spending and dedicating resources to the most essential student services.
We have changed several policies this year to trim our year-to-year spending by more than $1 million.
- We are seeing immense support from our alumni and the broader New Orleans community.
We recently had the most successful giving day in our history this year with 571 gifts in 24 hours. Thank you, everyone, who contributed and who helped to make Loyola Loyal Day a success!
- We are heavily engaged with the broader New Orleans community.
We are a fun, safe environment located in one of the most exciting cities in the world. New Orleans was recently named the No. 1 destination of the year by the New York Times. And the Loyola community is heavily involved with the community and activities in New Orleans – giving back to the community through volunteerism as well as celebrating the city’s rich cultural traditions. For instance, we are quite proud of the fact that more than 50 faculty, staff, alumni, and students are performing this year at Jazz Fest.
These are some of the highlights I have seen, and while there is still more work to be done, I would love for you to know and feel assured that Loyola New Orleans is not only here to stay but also is growing stronger.
As you interact with prospective students and parents, alumni, or friends and family in the community, please share these facts with others. Tell students how much they will learn and develop here, what wonderful programs we have to offer, and what it’s like to be a part of the Wolf Pack!
Maria E. Calzada