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Commitment to Social Justice

Driven by our 500-year-old Jesuit mission to advance social justice locally, regionally and globally, Loyola empowers educators, leaders, and counselors to become change agents, ready to solve systemic and universal challenges in schools through a critical social justice lens, ensuring academic excellence and opportunities for all learners.

Learning, Leading, and Teaching in the Jesuit Tradition

A teacher writing in a notebook as a student reads along

Rev. John Savard, S.J. serves as both a professor of educational leadership in the School of Education and rector of Loyola’s Jesuit community. In this dual capacity as a Jesuit leader and educator, he works to help students understand that leaders have the responsibility to challenge and change systems for the better.

"Education systems can often get stuck or be slow to move forward, but we strive to develop leaders who can be at the forefront of transformation," said Savard.

The change-making mission at the heart of our Jesuit teachings calls on members of the community to be change agents, and to lead with care for others.

Engaging with the Community

For Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) graduate Ashley Conroy, ‘17, the core tenants of Loyola’s Jesuit mission brought her to Baltimore, and they continue to inform her education goals. Engaging in her work in a diverse community like Baltimore further enhanced her understanding as a change agent, guided by Jesuit teachings. "As human beings we are all very nuanced, and having an education system that only considers the mental and academic aspects of students is negligible; it isn’t profound," said Conroy. "The fact that cura personalis, care for the whole person, is a core tenant of the Loyola School of Education really resonated with me."

Carrie Horowitz Lang, ’05, M.Ed. ‘08, an alumna who now serves as Loyola’s Director of Montessori Education, regularly observes the crucial links between Jesuit education and community advocacy in her own work. "The lasting impact of my graduate experience continues to cultivate confidence and curiosity into my daily work as I embrace and engage in the diverse partnerships with students, families and community members in Baltimore City, the United States, and across the globe," said Lang.

Much of this work takes place in the classroom, the school counselor’s office, and the various conversations around school leadership. Our students are prepared to lead within each of those spaces, and set the tone for change among the next generation of learners. After all, the challenge of leading the next generation is what compels so many to enter the world of education.

Identifying Inequities and Enacting Change

"You have to believe you matter to make change. The idea of preparing ‘change agents’ aligns with the Jesuit value of preparing people for others in the community," said Marie Heath, Ed.D., assistant professor of Educational Technology. "Our students receive their professional degrees and realize the way their work is connected with the world, and the power they hold to make space for a more just world."

This is where hard work intersects the heart’s work.

As educators and faculty at a university anchored in Baltimore, we at Loyola are keenly aware of the challenges facing students, and that is why collaborative service in the community is so central to our work. Across all undergraduate and graduate programs in Loyola’s School of Education, students learn to identify systemic inequities, engage in critical self-reflection, and build skills that allow them to enact change within their schools and communities.

"When I first began at Loyola back in 2004, I didn’t have a goal other than getting a master’s degree," shared Elizabeth A. McNeilly, Ph.D., a graduate of the Master’s in Curriculum and Instruction for Social Justice program. "I took a class called Intersectionality, Power, & Privilege which I thought I didn’t need, but later realized I had been blind."

While reflecting on her professional path forward, McNeilly recognized that doctorate-level research presented a chance to deepen her social justice impact. "I wanted to do something with this new understanding of mine and I thought a research study might be more beneficial than passively taking a few more courses. In other words, the courses I took at Loyola gave me the foundation and courage to feel like I could make a difference in the world."

High performance and competency are common goals in any higher education institution, but Loyola’s Jesuit foundation takes these crucial aims a step further. The Jesuit tradition guides faculty toward instruction that cultivates passion and care within our students, leading to a deeper connection with the educational landscape, and more successful outcomes in the field.

"My experience at Loyola not only improved my ability to develop curriculum and evaluate instruction; it grounded me in the reasons why I teach — to hear voices that were silent, to see ideas after a cognitive shift, and to empower students to hear and see themselves," shared McNeilly.

What Sets Loyola Apart

Two students sitting on the floor looking at an open book a teacher is reading

"Some schools offer similar courses to ours, but what I think you won’t get anywhere else is an intentional focus on the mission of justice — it’s a heart and bones experience that informs the thorough intellectual experience Loyola provides," continued Heath.

Unlocking the heart of Loyola’s mission starts by examining and contextualizing the way in which schools continue to uphold injustices, and determining the individual, pedagogical, professional and collective actions needed to achieve equity. We prepare students to be more than the degree they earn, progressing forward as builders, critics, problem-solvers, and brave voices.

In our Educational Technology program, for example, this means addressing the social justice issues evident in online learning disparities. These include defining equity in educational technology, understanding the needs of diverse learners, and determining how to expand access to online learning to all students, while understanding the legal and ethical standards of digital citizenship.

Our students enter their schools and communities ready to lead, teach, and serve on behalf of others. These efforts flourish at the local level, where our students hone their leadership skills in Loyola’s own community of Baltimore City.

A Commitment to Baltimore

Bill Heiser, M.Ed. ‘97, serves as president of Baltimore’s Cristo Rey Jesuit High School, a Jesuit-sponsored institution. Heiser strives to live out that Jesuit sense of the magis, working to transform the lives of his students, one student at a time, always keeping in mind the values and tradition that are integral to Cristo Rey—and which he learned at Loyola. "My role here is a wonderful fit on a number of levels," said Heiser, "with my passion for Jesuit education and serving people in the city, and my belief that education can be transformational."

From leadership efforts with Cristo Rey Jesuit High School and St. Ignatius Loyola Academy, to our Professional Development School partnerships at Baltimore Design School and Lakeland Elementary Middle School, we have multifaceted efforts to ensure equity for Baltimore’s students.

Another recent example of our commitment to Baltimore is our Community Engaged Literacy Project (CELP), which was launched as a direct response to online learning discrepancies made apparent during COVID-19. In the CELP, students collaborate with local K-8 schools to provide additional tutoring in the classroom, working to fill the online disparities that often fall along racial lines.

Our Jesuit teachings call on us to meet our city and world’s challenges with the same commitment, energy, and care that’s on display so prominently in our classrooms. The passion and dedication of Loyola students suits them for this mission, and it is our goal to equip them for success.

"We have a way of educating minds and hearts,'' added Savard. "The passion and soul our students bring to their learning experience—that’s what’s going to make a difference as they take on leadership roles in the years ahead."