On Giving Advice


During Orientation, one of the best questions came from a parent.  She said, “What advice would you give my son on how to be successful in college?”  While my response was “off the cuff,” it caused, me to consider all the families whose children have chosen Loyola, and are hopeful for their student’s success. 

The reality is student success is a commitment between the university and the student; both must do their parts well.  So I have thought about that mom in the last couple weeks and because of that question, here is what I would share:

Dear Successful Student:

Your family is extremely proud right now and they have expressed their hopes to us that you prosper in your classes and have meaningful relationships with faculty, staff and your fellow students.  Your family wants you to be happy, and they want you to feel discomfort! They do not mean “pain” but the kind of discomfort that comes from learning new ideas, principles and figuring out how this fits with your values.  Your family has expectations of you. They told us in meetings and at move-in that they expect you “to do the right thing.”  They want you to make good decisions about your personal life and your college career.  Your parents have sacrificed for you to be a part of the PACK, and as another dad said, “I want her to knock it out of the park.”  Your family is cheering you on, so make yourself proud!

How to Make the Most of YOUR Loyola Experience

1.  Remember:  You chose Loyola and Loyola chose you.  You belong here.  You have a contribution to make to Loyola University New Orleans that is yours alone.  You will have many faculty, staff and students who will help you make lasting connections.  Join SGA, BSU, LUCAP or 97 other student organizations, participate in intramurals, go listen to a speaker, music or theater event on campus. Try new things and meet new people.  After all, you chose Loyola and Loyola chose you.  There is no breaking up!  This is a lifetime relationship.  You are now part of the PACK.

2Remember:  You came to learn something and you came to teach something.  We all have gifts to share with one another. One of the most beautiful things about Loyola is the commitment to curiosity and discovery about self and others. Stay open, listen well and share yourself.  Go to class and sit in a different place each time.  Do not be afraid to speak up in class, add to the conversation and ask questions.  Your professors will remember you and so will your classmates. 

3. Remember:  Call home wherever that may be and whomever might answer!  You will miss your family and your family will miss you.  Whether an immediate family, extended family or your family of friends, stay connected with those you love and who love you.  All of us have moments of doubt, sadness, fear, and it can make us anxious.  Reach out to others; we are so much more alike than different.  Call the counseling center whenever you want to share something confidentially.  Reaching out is a sign of strength; transitions are not easy and you are not alone!

4.  Remember:  Take care of yourself.  As important as your class schedule is, equally as important is the schedule you make for “you” time.  Eat healthy.  Do not skimp on sleep.  Get some exercise every day, even if it’s a walk in Audubon Park (your extended front yard!). Do not wait until the last minute to write a paper, read those four chapters, or study for a quiz when it is all due the next day. Use good judgement when going off campus with friends, know your surroundings, and do not walk home alone. Use the buddy system; the PACK stays together!

Now that you have a few tools to thrive at Loyola, we look forward to supporting you to be your best self.  Keep this list handy, refer to it often, check-in with yourself about your progress, and share how you achieved success with your loved ones.  Who knows, in the future you could be the parent asking that question about your son or daughter’s success when they chose Loyola!   

The Sustainable Past And Fruitful Future

It is early May, the sun is shining brightly, there will be no students lying on the grass or sitting in the Adirondack chairs sprinkled around the campus lawn.  A glorious graduation will come and go: no longer students; they will be off to new and distant challenges.  Endings of all kinds are often bittersweet.  Endings present opportunities for a poignant look back and the anticipatory joy of what tomorrow might bring.

It is hard to believe that after 36 years of loving Loyola University New Orleans, Mr. Robert Reed, Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs, will be saying goodbye. Robbie’s last day in the office is June 30, 2017.  It is undoubtedly true that he has been shaped by the values of the University and the University has, by equal measure, benefitted from his God-given talents, loyalty, and faithfulness.   

When folks share what they love about Robbie, many mention the way he likes to linger on about stories that are decades old and capture the imagination of his listeners.  He knows where all the proverbial bodies are buried!   When he isn’t talking to himself as he walks down the hall (his way of committing things to memory), he can often be found in a colleague’s office discussing why the Saints can’t seem to beat the Falcons.  People also admire and respect Robbie’s consistency. He does what he says he will do.  He is a man of his word. One of Robbie’s greatest strengths is context.  He sees more clearly than others how the past shapes the future.  It’s like glancing in the rear view mirror every now and then to make sense of the current direction.  His deep understanding of context as it relates to “all things Loyola” prevented me, new staff and students from making mistakes.

Robert “Robbie” Reed, came to Loyola from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.  After earning his B.S. and M.Ed., he served at Slippery Rock for six years in a variety of capacities, including Coordinator of International Student Affairs, Assistant Director of Residential Life and Coordinator of Residence Hall Programs.   From 1981-2009, he served as Director of Residential Life at Loyola University New Orleans.  As the director, Robbie developed and implemented major construction, renovation, and remediation of residence halls; created the Loyola Student Cable Network; and initiated and developed the first card access security system which incorporated dining, facility access, bookstore, vending and laundry services for students.  

In 2010, Robbie was appointed as the Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs.  He developed the Department of Student Conduct, which included maintaining and updating the student code of conduct, providing extensive training for judicial hearing boards, investigating Title IX cases, attending to student/parent responses to conduct issues and managing emergencies.  He was the leader for emergency hurricane preparedness, evacuation team training and overall procedures.  Robbie has achieved much for the Loyola community; he personifies “other duties as assigned.”  More than this, Robbie has loved and has been loved by countless colleagues, students, parents, and co-workers.  His spirit is genuine, true, steadfast, and compassionate.

God bless you leader, colleague, and friend, we will miss you. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11 

Good Enough?

This month I signed up for a short writing course offered at my church. The title of the three-week program was "Learning to Write a Lenten Devotion."  I was intrigued and looked forward to our first meeting. At the first meeting, all of us received a copy of the Upper Room, a devotional with a handout that provides guidelines for writing a meditation. The best clues that I gleaned, from the course and the Upper Room reading, are as follows:  find a scripture that means something to you and connect it with your daily life. It seemed so darn simple, until I started to write.

I struggled over which scripture would adequately capture the power of my thoughts and support my experience. I wrote and deleted so many paragraphs on my way to a 250-word devotional limit. I loved the quote in the Upper Room guidelines, "think snapshot, not movie," which was appropriate as I wrote and rewrote the piece. All I wanted was to be authentic and find the right way to express my spiritual truth. This is still in edit mode, and yet, as we move towards Lent I want to share this "draft" with you.

Gracious Goodness                        

I opened the envelope holding my employee evaluation. I glanced down and read compliments about myself and my work. Then, I read two points about improving my communication; I needed to slow down and clarify expectations. All of the compliments about being a good leader went out the window and were completely overshadowed by those two points. I read those two items over and over again thinking, "Am I good enough?"

Isn’t this the way our minds work? Haven’t we at one moment or another wondered if we are good enough? Likely, we have had questions in our relationships … am I a good enough parent, a good enough friend, partner, sibling, employee? What does it mean to be good enough and who decides? Many times the decision is made by a tiny voice reverberating in our minds. The whispers, often self-inflicted, hint to doubts of self-worth.

The question posed in Micah is short and to the point. What is good?

What is Good? And what does the Lord require of you? But to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

God is clear about what is good enough. His expectations are to be men and women with and for others, and good enough is to be completely who God made us to be. It’s that simple and clear.

Gracious Lord, forgive us for not remembering that we are made in your image. Give us the grace to forgive ourselves and others when we miss the mark. Gently remind us being good enough simply means being fair, kind and faithful in our walk with you.

Give it a try; connect your thoughts about your spiritual life and the real events of your daily life. What would your first draft look like?  The most important element is that it becomes an "honest statement of personal faith." Put the pen to paper. I look forward to being encouraged by you. 

Clean Slate

When I was young, I loved going from window to window to watch the falling snow.  It was beautiful as it fell, layer upon layer.  When morning dawned, the scene was spectacular!  The snow, more than a foot deep, sparkled like a field of diamonds.  I would eagerly get ready to go outside and yet would hesitate to take the first step into that clean field of snow.

It was almost too beautiful to mar with my boots, too beautiful to pull a sled through its purity.  I did not want my dad to let the dog outside.  I did not want his paw pads tearing across the landscape of the fresh fallen snow.  I liked the clean slate.  The yard full of fresh snow presented so much promise.  That said, eventually I would venture out and I’d shovel a path.  I made my family walk the path so that the snow would stay gleaming and pure for as long as possible.    

New Year’s Eve represents a bit of the magic of freshly fallen snow.  As the seconds tick toward a new year, I feel that same familiar anticipatory tug:  a clean slate is almost here. I treasure the transition from one year to the next; I value the notion that it’s indeed a new beginning.  Like the path through the fresh snow, the New Year brings an opportunity to chart a fresh start. 

What does a clean slate signify and how is it important?

There are many times in life when we wish we could press a reset button.  All of us have said things we cannot take back.  We have, each of us, done things that we are embarrassed about and wish we’d made a different decision.  We momentarily, or all together, have lost faith, sense of self, and trust of others.  These are the dark moments when the snow is muddied and we cannot remember the peace of the first wintery blanket. 

And then the ball drops, the confetti falls, glasses clink and a New Year begins.  We forgive ourselves and others for being less than perfect and realize in that moment that anything is possible.  The gift of the New Year is the gift of a clean slate, a fresh beginning!  What hopes and dreams do you have for 2017?  What promises will you keep?  Who will you positively impact this year? 

365 new days.   365 new chances.

A Safe and Tolerant Campus

As we embark on the 2016 holiday season, let us take a moment to reflect on and acknowledge our Jesuit values and the commitments we have made through them. This year has proved to be a divisive time for the nation, and it is imperative that we stand together in solidarity. At Loyola we are men and women with each other, for each other. In ensuring that our campus continues to be safe and tolerant, we take incidents of harassment and/or discrimination very seriously, and Loyola takes an uncompromising stance against both. A portion of Loyola’s Discrimination and Harassment Policy is below: 

“Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability, status, military/veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, citizenship status, or any other characteristic is prohibited by a variety of federal, state, and local laws, including Title VI and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Educational Amendments of 1972, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1975, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Equal Pay Act, and Louisiana statutes.

It is a violation of this policy to harass individuals in the provision of employment of educational opportunities. Harassment is defined as verbal and/or physical conduct that threatens, intimidates, coerces, and creates a hostile environment on the basis of the prohibited classifications (the person’s race, color, sex, national origin, age, religion, disability status, military/veteran status, sexual orientation, genetic information, marital status, citizenship status, or any other characteristic). 

A person found responsible for discrimination or sexual harassment may face: student disciplinary action, letter of reprimand, or suspension.” 

If you are discriminated against or harassed on or off Loyola’s campus, please know that support is available. If you would like to report the incident, please do so at https://cm.maxient.com/reportingform.php?LoyolaUnivNO&layout_id=7 

If you witness an incident, please use the same link above.  For more information about bystander intervention and Loyola’s approach, please visit http://stepupprogram.org/topics/discrimination/

Loyola University is part of an amazing and diverse community with a place for all perspectives and worldviews. Please do your part and make our campus, country, and world a respectful and peaceful place for everyone. After all, that is what the holidays are truly about.

Thank you and Happy Holidays!  

Risky Business

According to my grandmother and Emily Post (both were always right) my sister and I were admonished to never discuss three things in polite conversation:

  • Money
  • Religion
  • Politics

So here I sit, my blog is due and it is the eve of the 2016 Presidential Election.  I can hear MSNBC in the background and it all sounds like gibberish at this point. It doesn’t matter what channel you turn on, whether it’s FOX or CNN, all have declared that this election is the most fractious in history. So yes, my grandmother would be horrified to know that I am discussing this political event in polite company.

I like the sound fractious of and by that I mean how it rolls off the tongue, not the actual definition. Although the dictionary definition gives a pretty good overview on how the debates went … temperamental and cantankerous; Saturday Night Live wins with the replay of absolute ill-humor in the most hilarious way. I laughed until I felt like crying. I wonder if you have been shocked in similar ways. This is where we have landed; a political conversation with innuendos, name-calling and words that should never have been mentioned.

When there are “firsts” of any kind…first African American president, first woman president, the status quo gets shaken to its core. Major change causes folks to be fearful and with fear comes distrust.  We are smack into fear, and the first electoral vote has not yet been cast. 

My choice this year is to stay true to our process; to commit to not undermining democracy by shouting about election rigging or an FBI misstep stealing an election.  I have no idea who will win tomorrow, but I do have great respect for the Office of the Presidency. And no matter who holds the office, at the end of the day it is our democratic process, and it deserves our respect. 


Walking on Eggshells

“Creating environments that promote justice and healing while fostering an emerging culture of respect and belonging.”  www.world-trust.org

There is a great deal of good news to share—from a terrific family weekend with over 400 guests on campus, to the first-ever swim meet held in our  pool between Loyola and LSU.  Yes, the SEC was in the house and it was a wonderful way to launch a brand new sport!  Students are past mid-terms, and from my window I can see them studying on the quad.  It is a beautiful afternoon, with a slight cool breeze; we are well on our way through October and on to the holidays.  Amidst all of the joys of being a part of an academic community, I have had a hard time writing this month’s blog post.  In late summer, I hit “writer’s block” hard; the national news regarding race in America overwhelmed me. There was so much I wanted to say, but when the heart is full, often words seem empty.

More than a week ago, I invited African-American Student Affairs staff members to join me for a conversation.  I admit I felt vulnerable sending the invite out.  I hoped that my invitation was read as intended; it was a risk I needed to take, and my team needed to know they have my support.

The invitations simply said, “The news continues to unfold day by day, with one senseless African-American death after another.  I do not pretend to know how you feel, and I want to acknowledge that there are stresses that face each of you, that do not face me.  The work you are doing day-in and day-out for our Loyola community, during what seems to be a siege on African-American civil rights, is remarkable and too, must be exhausting and draining.  Thank you, on behalf of all of us in Student Affairs, for all that you are doing during these difficult times.  It has not gone unnoticed, and in part, although I have no clear answers I do want to reach out and offer a space and support.”  

We sat together, minute by minute, gaining courage to tell our truths and stories.  We acknowledged that by and large it’s hard to have authentic, difficult conversations about race. Together we acknowledged the fear of being misunderstood, later quoted out of context, and at the worst labeled. When uncomfortable conversations arise, often we walk on eggshells around issues. “Make nice”, my mom would often say at the dinner table as my dad and I talked politics, “we don’t want to break any eggs.”  When this happens, the moment to lean into understanding is lost. We need to learn to stay in the process of deep listening, reflection, and response.  We need to risk breaking eggs.

My take away from our 90-minute conversation was the goodwill shared in the room. We decided when an “eggshell” moment happened that it would be an opportunity for us to dive deeper into our stories, experiences and truths.  We agreed to keep replicating that goodwill, step by step.  There were tears, laughter, and lots of sharing -- and we made two agreements:  no more silence when we are hurting and no more walking on eggshells.

In our families and offices, in classrooms, playing fields and residence halls, we often face crucial and difficult conversations. I encourage us to recognize our own discomfort and resist the urge to smooth over what is difficult. We can draw strength from I Corinthians 16:13-14: “Be brave, be strong, and let everything you do be done in love.”  Lean in…have the conversation that matters.

A New School Year

reaching out photo.jpg

As a community, Loyola gathered on August 19, 2016 to welcome our newest members.  The Class of 2020 took their seats and the stage party processed down the aisle of Holy Name of Jesus Church; it was both an exhilarating and profound moment.  Every year, faculty, staff and University leaders meet in that inspiring space, along with first year students, to greet and challenge one another to live out our Jesuit mission.  This year, I chose to write my own prayer for First Year Convocation and this is what I shared:

Let us pause for a moment and ask God’s blessing for those affected by the devastating flood waters just 45 miles away from us. 

Let us also pray for the victims and their families who suffered the horrific tragedies that took place in Orlando, Nice, Baton Rouge, and Syria.

God of New Beginnings, we gather in this place to start anew—we gather as a community committed to the Jesuit ideal of being the people of God, with and for others.

Help open our eyes in new ways to see what that ideal means at Loyola.

God, give us the courage to Step Up when we see someone in trouble;

Give us the courage to Step In when we have the power to protect and give assistance. 

Lord, remind us:  Reaching out isn’t weak. It’s strong.

God of New Beginnings, lift up Loyola. Amen.

In this space, I want to reiterate to all who call Loyola their “home away from home,” that when in need, reach out to a friend, colleague, or family member.  The word “home” doesn’t always mean the place that you grew up.  As the daughter of an Army Colonel, my family moved almost every three years.  Home wasn’t necessarily a house, it became the places that I felt safe and secure to share my deepest thoughts, fears and successes.  Sometimes “home” was my neighbor’s kitchen table, sometimes it was with my sorority sister in a coffee house, sometimes it was at my college lifeguarding job at Florida State University.  The pool was “home” to me, and the folks that worked there took time to listen to a young girl’s dreams. 

No one is immune from needing; I thank God for so many that have given me so much, including their time and their prayers.  

Here is a reminder of where hope and help can be found when the stresses of life seem hard to handle:

Good News Worth Sharing

Lift UP Loyola is a campaign which reminds us of our responsibility to one another. Loyola University New Orleans has a long and rich tradition of being a community with and for others. Mollie Marti writes,“Helping others in need is not only a responsibility of life; it is what gives meaning to life.”  Serving others is an important component of Jesuit education; sometimes we can do this best by paying attention to one another.  Step Up - if you see something, say something.  As the Lift UP Loyola campaign reminds us:  Reaching out isn’t weak.  It’s strong.  If you or someone you know needs help, tell someone. It gives me great pleasure to share our commitment to delivering student programs and services that connect traditional Jesuit values with our contemporary University mission.

The Office of Student Affairs is pleased to introduce the following new staff to you:

  • Haniyyah “Honey” Bashir, Community Director, M.Ed. in higher education: Student Affairs, University of Buffalo SUNY.
  • Meghan deBaroncelli, Assistant Tennis Coach, B.S. in psychology, Loyola University New Orleans.
  • Nick Dodson, Head Track and Cross-Country Coach, B.S. in media studies, Shorter College.
  • Stephanie Hignojos, Community Director, M.Ed. in Higher Education, University of Houston.
  • Rickey Hill, Head Cheer and Dance Coach, B.S. in physical education, Methodist University.
  • Margaret "Maggie" Lunn, Office Manager, Athletics and University Sports Complex, M.B.A., University of Nebraska at Omaha.
  • Livia Mahaffie, Assistant Track and Cross-Country Coach, B.S. in exercise and sport science, University of North Carolina at Pembroke.
  • Moira Phippen, Assistant Director of Leadership and Social Justice, M.Ed. in higher education, Loyola University Chicago.
  • Courtnie Prather, Assistant Athletic Director, M.S. in child and adolescent psychology, William Carey University.
  • Clayton Shelvin, Career Coach; CMFA, BFA in theatre arts and dance, University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
  • Elise Walter, Internship and Recruitment Manager, Career Development Center.

I am pleased to share the following good news: Kellie Kennedy, Loyola’s Head Women’s basketball coach, set the record for all-time wins in the program’s history; Jill Boatright, assistant director of Career Services,  received the Southern Association of Colleges and Employers New Professional award; Beck Flannigan, Loyola’s assistant women’s basketball coach, received the NAIA Assistant Coach of the Year; Tamara Baker, director of Career Services, was recognized by Loyola’s Black Student Union as the outstanding staff member; and Amy Boyle, director of Residential Life, served as president of the Louisiana Association of Housing Officers. Furthermore, I am honored to have received the 2016 Reverend Victor Yanitelli, S.J., Award, the highest award given by the Jesuit Association of Student Personnel Administrators (JASPA). 

In addition to this good news we've also recently:

  • Secured a $1.5 million gift from First NBC Bank for the naming rights of the game court in the University Sports Complex. The gift will fund renovations including permanent seating, improved lighting, and enhanced Wolf Pack branding in the facility.
  • Ranked as high as 13th in the country in women’s basketball and captured its second-straight SSAC Tournament Championship.
  • Finished second in the SSAC Championships for women's track and field. It was the highest finish in the program’s history.
  • Qualified for the SSAC Championship in Loyola baseball for the first time in program history. Loyola also led the SSAC with 14 All-Academic honorees.
  • Received votes in the NAIA Coaches’ Top Poll for men's tennis for the first time in program history.
  • Developed a model for four-year academic and career advising/planning integrating the work of faculty advisors and Career Center staff for all programs of study as part of the advising and career workgroup.
  • Managed the reporting and evaluation of over 300 for-academic-credit internships for the following programs:  School of Mass Communication, College of Music and Fine Arts, and the College of Business.
  • Created a resource for faculty in the new Food Policy, Commerce and Cultureacademic degree program. Provided information on market trends, occupational job titles, employers, educational requirements, and skills needed to enter the job market.  Data collected was used to help create academic learning outcomes.
  • Implemented The Outcomes Survey to gather first destination data of graduates.
  • Hosted two on-campus internship and part-time job fairs.  Approximately 130 employers participated.
  • Received a nomination for the 2015 Program of the Year award by LACUSPA for the "Recipes from Home" program.
  • Welcomed Kelsey Rosenbaum to the Sodexo Campus Services team as our district dietitian. Her goal for Loyola Dining Services is to educate through programming on how to make healthy choices on campus. 
  • Continued the Annual Stop Hunger Campaign in fall 2016 with Sodexo and also introduces a food recovery program to campus. All of the donations collected will be donated to homeless shelters in the Greater New Orleans area. 
  • Introduced a student manager-training program that allowed students to get hands-on experience while getting them involved in the Loyola community. 
  • Increased the level of Student Conduct training by utilizing the Association for Student Conduct Administration standards for the Board of Review and Student Justice Board.
  • Developed Standard Operation Procedures for all Student Conduct Officers and Boards.
  • Created a Student Affairs Title IX website in conjunction with a poster campaign pertaining to issues of consent, alcohol, and illegal drug use.
  • Enhanced enforcement of the University Drug Policy in conjunction with private canine units and university police.
  • Increased participation of new students participation in the online Think About It program to 99 percent, an online training program to fullfill Title IX and the Campus Save Act requirements.
  • Increased Family Weekend attendance by 16 percent from the previous year.
  • Increased overall satisfaction in Themed Living Communities by 8 percent from the previous year.
  • Reduced annual vandalism and residence hall damage assessments by 45 percent compared to last academic year.
  • Increased total number of RA applicants by 22 percent from the previous year.
  • Processed student conduct cases (from date of incident to adjudication) 38 percent faster than previous year due to centralized oversiting and administration from the assistant director of Residential Community Standards.
  • Led a full revision of the student organization adviser job description, including adviser expectations and Campus Security Authority responsibilities.
  • Implemented the Get Fit Pledge with over 100 students committing to a semester-long fitness and wellness program.
  • Hosted Get to NOLA excursions for over 350 students to explore the history, culture, and traditions of New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.
  • Launched the Omicron Delta Kappa and LEAD Themed Living Community mentorship program.
  • Hosted keynote presentation, “Retaking Our Story: Reframing the Sexual Assault Conversation” for fraternity and sorority chapter members.
  • Conducted review of best practices and created strategic plans suitable for university’s need regarding suicide prevention.
  • Implemented ProtoCall 24/7/365 phone-in counseling sessions system. 
  • Established the Beyond Compliance Sexual Assault Prevention Task Force, reviewed best practices, and made recommendations to the president. 
  • Implemented weekly anxiety management workshops during the fall 2015 and spring 2016 semesters.
  • Continued enhancement of customer service satisfaction in Student Health Services,including streamlined check-in process, reduced paperwork and addition of walk-in nurse consultation.

The Office of Student Affairs continues to provide students with high-quality, values-based programs, experiential leadership, and service opportunities that are rooted in our Jesuit mission and are fundamental to a rich campus life experience.

M.L. “Cissy” Petty, Ph.D.
Vice President for Student Affairs &
Associate Provost


Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors

I have been church-shopping off-and-on (more off than on) for the last decade.  I was brought up Episcopal, referred to by my Catholic friends as “Catholic-light.” I joined the Presbyterian Church through my young adult years, and during my post-doctoral fellowship as the Distinguished Scholar in Counseling, I volunteered at St. Timothy’s Methodist Church, Salem College and Wake Forest University’s college student Methodist ministries.  Before moving to New Orleans, I worked at St. Lawrence University.  St. Lawrence was founded in 1856 by Universalist leaders, a progressive group of Christians who were early proponents for civil rights.  Eventually the Universalists merged with the Unitarians, and in Canton, NY, I attended, on occasion, the Unitarian Universalist Church.  

As many of you know, I arrived at Loyola University New Orleans almost 10 years ago.  I visited quite a few churches over the years; however my faith did not suffer from a lack of church fellowship. I am immensely grateful for the ways in which my spiritual life has grown.  I connected immediately to the principles of Ignatian spirituality and dove into an online two-year certificate program on Spiritual Studies, through the School of Theology and Ministry at the University of St. Thomas in Miami, Florida. The program was grounded in Catholic Christian theology and covered the history of Christian spirituality, as well as all the great Christian mystics.  I learned a great deal about the rich, historical tradition of the early church and contemplative life.  I credit Loyola University New Orleans for providing me with opportunities, such as the Ignatian Colleagues Program, which enlarged my view of social justice and the importance of seeing God in all things and people.  I have actually had opportunities now to live my life as a contemplative in action.

On Palm Sunday, March 20, 2016, I joined Rayne Memorial United Methodist Church on St. Charles Avenue.  I have been visiting the church for more than three months and increasingly felt called to be a part of this community.   Borrowing from the church motto Open Hearts, Open Minds, Open Doors for the title of this piece, this is what I experience each Sunday as Pastor Callie Winn Crawford delivers her message.  Rayne has become not just a place of worship, but a place where I am experiencing the shining light of God’s love and grace.  In their mission statement, Rayne Memorial United Methodist church declares itself as “ a community of faith and love representing, celebrating, and embracing all God’s children as persons of sacred worth regardless of race, gender, ethnicity, national origin, culture, tradition, sexual orientation or gender identity, personal and family history, or station in life. In the full expression of the radically-transforming and all-inclusive love of God as revealed through Jesus Christ, all are welcome!”

As I walked forward to signify my desire to join the church, I was met with hundreds of welcoming smiles and a Loyola colleague ran down from the choir loft to greet me.  I have found my church home.  Cheryl A. Esplin writes, “Every home is different, but every home where even one individual seeks for truth can make a difference.”

And as we say at the end of every Rayne service:
Be strong.
Be brave.
Let everything you do be done with love.

Losses In Our Lives Break Us Wide Open

Losses in our lives break us wide open.  Sudden losses leave us momentarily fragile, with the final recognition that we are not in control. Anticipated loss gives us time to make sense of what is happening and too, how we might respond to the impending emptiness.  When we have time to consider what the loss will mean, we have time to prepare our hearts and our minds.  We have time to talk with loved ones, and make meaning of the critical role their lives mean to us.  Impending losses allow for both sadness and celebration to co-exist in the ways that sudden loss does not.

A sudden loss reminds me of driving through a northeastern “white-out.”  You aren’t sure how fast or slow to go; you cannot see what is in front of you or how close someone is following behind you.  You do not know if you should turn right, left or come to a complete stop.  Unexpected losses grab us and squeeze our hearts, leaving us momentarily without breath; we are often unsure if we should sit, stand or just fall down.  When these times have happened in my life, I just wanted time to stop.  I needed time to catch up with all that was unfolding in the “now.”

Dr. Brene’ Brown, research professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work and NY Times bestselling author, teaches us to recognize the power of our emotions and to not be afraid to lean in to the discomfort.  Leaning into our disbelief, grief and sadness help us to rise strong from our pain and to become more wholehearted in the process. 

The quote below honors Dr. Jon Altschul, who left us too soon; he is remembered for seeing the good in all people and cultivating kindness and excellence. 

The quote in the graphic by Gail Galdwell, author of Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship.

Fierce Conversation: How to Discuss What Matters Most

By Rose Spaziani

M.L. "Cissy" Petty, Ph.D., vice president for student affairs and associate provost at Loyola University New Orleans, believes authentic communication is critical to leadership success. She shares her advice and perspective on the subject at "Table Talk: Speaking Truth to Power," NYIT's next leadership lecture on Friday, Feb. 5. Petty has more than 35 years of experience in her field and received the "Pillar of the Profession" award from the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators in 2014. She spoke to The Box about her career path and leadership values.

What does it mean for leaders to speak truth to power?

Speaking truth to power is about having a fierce conversation in which you are willing to come out from behind yourself and speak meaningfully about reality. In other words, you are willing to risk being seen; authenticity is not something you have, it's something you choose. In a conversation, it is important to remember that everyone has a piece of reality. Over time reality changes, so it's important to keep asking new questions. English poet David Whyte says, "No one has to change, but everyone has to have the conversation."

When speaking truth to power it is important to remember that both character and competence come into play. Character is a constant—you either have integrity or you don't. Competence, on the other hand, is situational and depends on results and skills. As a leader, your intent and behavior must match for there to be trust in a crucial conversation.

How did you find a sense of purpose in your career?

From early on, I was taking the lead, either as a child with my band of buddies or as a college student planning campus activities. I've always wanted to make things happen.

I was getting ready to graduate from Florida State University (FSU), and on my way to law school at Stetson University, when I had a conversation with Phil Barco, dean of students at FSU. The conversation changed everything for me. He encouraged me to consider a career in the student affairs field. I hadn't really thought about it before, but I knew I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. My first chief student affairs role was in my early thirties and I have never looked back.

What is your brand of leadership?

I'm a relational leader, skilled in talent identification and capacity building. I have learned to trust myself and can extend trust to others. American writer Stephen M.R. Covey describes that as "smart trust." I also believe that staff members who are able to "talk straight" with one another get us to succeed much quicker.

When was the moment (or moments) that you came into your own as a leader?

Any time I've said yes has been an opportunity for me to break through and become a better leader. Since saying yes to a career in student affairs instead of law, I've had many different positions and learned from all of them. I said yes to serving as dean for student development at Mississippi University for Women, where I learned a great deal about class and race. I said yes to serving as vice president for co-curricular education at St. Lawrence University in New York, though I had never lived east of the Mason-Dixon Line. What's important is that you say yes to the unknown and learn from it. Saying "yes" is life affirming.

How did NYIT get on your radar?

NYIT's Vice President for Student Affairs Patrick Love is a champion in our field. I've gotten to know him better over the last few years. NYIT-Manhattan Campus Dean Ann Marie Klotz and I met several years ago. As a young professional, I found Ann Marie smart and dynamic; I am pleased we became both friends and colleagues.

Who has inspired you and influenced you to inspire others?

My grandmother was probably the most pivotal person in my life. She was national vice president of Alpha Xi Delta and traveled the country checking on various chapters. Later in life she was house mother for a fraternity at Rollins College. As a 5th grader, I'd ride my bike to visit her at the house and watch her interact with the young men … and had my eyes opened!

As a leader, you interact with people 24/7 and must get to know others well. What would people be surprised to learn about you?

Publicly I'm an extrovert, but privately I like to be alone. I enjoy traveling and often take solo trips. I recently did an eight-day silent retreat at the Eastern Point Retreat House run by the Jesuits in Massachusetts. When I tell people, they can't believe I could be quiet for that long.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I know at least 30 former students who are making a positive impact in the student affairs field. I'm thrilled to see them moving up to director-level positions and beyond! Helping to build the foundation for our field's future is extremely rewarding.

R.S.V.P. for "Table Talk: Speaking Truth to Power" to learn more about positive change through powerful communication.

Rose Spaziani is editor of The Box in NYIT's Office of Communications + Marketing.

A Blank Slate

I have been struggling with writing my New Year’s post.  I do not want to write about New Year’s resolutions.  Frankly, the subject has been exhausted.  What I do find interesting is how a new year signifies a beginning, and a beginning is most often a blank slate! 

A blank slate means just that—nothing yet has been written, said, or with finality, decided.  It’s fresh; there is an unknown quality to a brand new year.  We are often uncomfortable with the unknown, so perhaps that’s why we quickly fill the blank slate with clutter.  Often the clutter looks like a list of resolutions, a series of decisions to do or not to do.  We just can’t stay in the moment, waiting and watching and letting the New Year unfold.

Maybe a new year conjures up for us a need to get busy solving problems, mending fences, or settling scores. So we make plans, enumerating each way that we might “fix” what is broken in us or around us. Having resolve centers on “getting to the bottom” of something or finding out answers at all costs. Is this any way to start a new year?

Last month we were content to wait. We wanted to experience and celebrate our family, friends and most importantly the miraculous birth of the Christ child.  I am not ready to move from a space filled with peace and possibilities to a “to do” list.  Maybe it’s the “starting fresh” approach that seems a bit off-putting. Maybe we have it all wrong.  Instead of making a list of resolutions, perhaps we ought to only ask one simple question:

A year from now what will you wish that you had started today?