Gathering with Honors Students at Loyola Marymount University: AJCU Honors Conference 2023

Authors: Natalie Loo, first-year; Andy Diaz, sophomore; Olivia Griffin, sophomore; Harry Parks, junior

This spring, the Fordham Honors Program sent four students to Los Angeles for the annual America Jesuit Colleges and Universities Honors Conference. Held at Loyola Marymount University (LMU), the conference brought Jesuit Universities Honors programs from across the nation together. However, our travels from New York to L.A. took an unexpected turn, leaving us with an exciting story to tell. 

Harry, Olivia, Natalie, and Andy at Loyola Marymount University

With just an hour left in our flight, the plane emergency landed in Albuquerque (firefighters even boarded the plane!) and we remained grounded from 7 pm that night to 2 pm the next day. Although we missed a portion of the conference, we like to say that our adventure taught us to apply our Jesuit Honors values in an unpredictable context. Not every experience in life will go perfectly according to schedule, despite the number of hours spent planning. As Jesuit Honors students, it is our responsibility to set an example of patience, wisdom, and kindness that we would like to see in the communities around us. 

We eventually arrived in Los Angeles where we listened to passionate student speakers at Loyola’s gorgeous hilltop campus. Then we had an amazing meal at Grand Central Market where we made friends with various students from around the country. In fact, our group was able to connect with an Honors cohort all the way from the University of San Francisco!

Director of LMU Honors, Trevor Zink, hosting a session at the conference

During our time at the conference, we specifically focused on the theme of curiosity. Curiosity drives us to devote ourselves to the pursuit of knowledge. But we also learned that university-level intellectual cultivation isn’t tied down by your major or classes. Jesuit Honors students from across the country presented about the niche research projects they’ve embarked on, such as redefining story narration through stop-motion or designing a new public transportation system for rural areas. As we listened to these talks, we felt inspired to impart similar creativity and playful curiosity to the Fordham Honors community. 

Andy at the Albuquerque Airport during the delay

Additionally, we discussed our role as Jesuit Honors students in being catalysts for change in the institution, as well as being motivated by compassion and wisdom. The tagline “scholars for justice” embodies this commitment to thoughtful involvement in the university and surrounding communities. In collaboration with the other students at the conference, we revised the “Essential Characteristics of Jesuit Honors Institutions,” a document that lists core values shared by Jesuit Honors programs across the country, to align with our modern ideals of justice. This practice of reflection was helpful in evaluating the aspects of our own community that we want to change or implement throughout Fordham’s Honors Program.

This trip might not have been what we expected, with an emergency landing in Albuquerque and 45-degree rainy weather in Los Angeles. However, the sense of tenacity and friendship we developed, as a result, was incredibly valuable. We’ve discussed the trip many times since, and none of us would give up the formative experience that this AJCU conference granted us. Going forward, we hope to inspire Fordham University with the new patience and compassion that we learned, in tandem with the ever-present goal of cura personalis