By Celeste Durant, Mason Stockstill and Kristin Agostoni, Loyola Marymount University Media Relations
The interests of these four Loyola Marymount University (LMU) professors are wide-ranging; they specialize in environmental science, world religions, gender and politics, and teacher education. But they are bound by a love of learning, and that passion motivates them to make extraordinary contributions to academic life at LMU.
Jeremy Pal, Professor of Civil Engineering and Environmental Science, Seaver College of Science and Engineering
Jeremy Pal, Ph.D. admits he was a mediocre student until he took a class in human ecology at a local community college. There he found his passion for environmental work, which led him to Loyola Marymount University for his bachelor’s degree and to Massachusetts Institute of Technology for his master’s and doctoral degrees.
Pal is now a leading expert on the impacts of climate change on society and one of a group of international scientists who shared a Nobel Peace Prize with former Vice President Al Gore in 2007.
In addition to his work on climate change, Pal has devoted a lot of his attention to LMU students’ environmental engineering service projects. He is the faculty adviser for LMU’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders, through which students worked two years to design and build a water filtration system for a village in Malawi, Africa.
Group members are currently working with De Colores, a weekend student service/immersion program that focuses on building houses and community centers in Tijuana, Mexico. The area is plagued by flash floods and Pal’s students are developing a drainage plan to protect the community.
Pal is also the co-developer of Program for Engineering Education Community, a living and learning community for first-year engineering students that includes a community-based project. Students from last year’s freshman class are currently creating a greywater (drawn from laundry) and stormwater capture system to help maintain a small lake at the Holy Spirit Retreat Center. Previous projects include a greywater irrigation system and playground for a lawn at Alexandria House, a home for battered women and children.
“The students pick which projects are taken up,” says Pal. “I try to stay behind the scenes as much as possible and simply adjust their sails to make sure they are going in the right direction.”
Amir Hussain, Professor of Theological Studies, Bellarmine College of Liberal Arts
To be a Muslim teaching theology at a Catholic university is not a position most people will ever find themselves in. But for Amir Hussain, Ph.D., the mix of different faith traditions is what makes the job ideal. He says, “We are in each other’s lives as Muslims and Christians, and it is important that we learn about each other and learn from each other.”
Hussain enjoys straddling different worlds: a Muslim in a Catholic university, a dual citizen – Canadian/American – writing about what it means to be American. His ability to take a broader perspective hasn’t gone unnoticed. He has served as editor of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, and has published several books on the intersection of faiths, most recently Muslims and the Making of America (Baylor University Press, 2016).
He is also a regular commentator in the news media, appearing in newspapers, on radio and TV shows such as The Tavis Smiley Show, and has served as a consultant and on-camera participant in the recent National Geographic Channel series, The Story of God with Morgan Freeman.
“Los Angeles is at once the largest Catholic archdiocese in the United States, and the most religiously diverse city in the world. It also has one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States.” Hussain says. “I can’t imagine a better place to be.”
Nina M. Lozano-Reich, Associate Professor of Communication Studies,
College of Communication and Fine Arts
Joined by family members of the murdered and disappeared on a trip to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, Nina Lozano-Reich, Ph.D., painted black crosses onto pink backgrounds where the bodies of eight women were found in a river canal along the Juárez-El Paso border.
The crosses are meant to challenge the rhetoric of the state – which denies that these women were the victims of femicide – and offer a warning to others, says Lozano-Reich, an expert in critical rhetorical theory and gender politics.
She has been studying the issue of femicide in Ciudad Juárez since 2003, and for several years traveled to the city with LMU students until escalating crime and violence derailed the alternative break trips. Her work has also put her in touch with human rights groups and the victims’ families, and Lozano-Reich last year invited a mother who has spent eight years searching for her missing daughter to speak on LMU’s campus.
“Our students should have an opportunity to engage. It’s about working for social justice and gaining awareness,” says Lozano-Reich, who discusses femicide and gender violence in her social justice classes. “I’m just a vehicle, a mechanism to get the mothers’ stories out.”
Reich’s recent journey will be part of her book, ¡Ni Una Más! (Not One More!): The Materiality of Femicide in Ciudád Juárez. It is slated for release through Ohio State University Press in Fall 2017.
Magaly Lavadenz, Professor of Educational Leadership and Founding Executive Director of the Center for Equity for English Learners, School of Education
Magaly Lavadenz, Ph.D. knows firsthand the struggles English language learners face in traditional classrooms. Lavadenz, whose family moved to the United States from Cuba, started first grade in a New York public school with challenges. She says, “I was in a complete immersion experience and didn’t understand what was going on.”
Her introduction to bilingual education came one year later when her family tried home schooling; she learned Spanish by reading the newspaper with her father and picked up English on television. It was an unconventional approach, but in time she became a good reader. After returning to the school system, she eventually worked her way up to gifted classes.
Now, as director of LMU’s Center for Equity for English Learners, Lavadenz will lead an initiative with the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) to implement the Sobrato Early Academic Literacy (SEAL) model and increase the pipeline of highly qualified bilingual teachers.
“My hope is that all children have the opportunity not to lose their first language, but to build on it and become proficient in English and achieve academic success,” she says.
Thanks to a $2.7 million federal grant, the partnership between LMU’s School of Education and LAUSD will support professional development for up to 84 teachers annually at elementary schools with large populations of English learners. Eighteen LMU students will participate in professional development and complete their state credential and bilingual authorization in Spanish. LMU will conduct research on the SEAL model as to how students’ English language and literacy skills develop.