2020 Hindsight: A Glimpse Back into the Lives of Our Seniors

Friday, May 15, 2020


2020 Hindsight: A Glimpse Back into the Lives of Our Seniors
by Megan Loreto

This year has challenged us in many ways, but parting with the LMU graduating class of 2020 was never going to be easy, regardless of the circumstances. This year’s formal commencement ceremony was postponed due to the Safer at Home orders in LA County and other social distancing mandates around the world. Celebrating from afar has been hard, but not impossible. 

On Friday, May 8 some students popped bottles of champagne in their front yards, tossed up their graduation caps in their childhood bedrooms, and saluted each other over Zoom. It was moving to see our friends celebrating even in less than ideal conditions. It speaks to something more profound about LMU’s resilience as a community and our ongoing support for one another. 

In that spirit, Agency asked our Instagram followers to share the name of a senior that they thought deserved recognition. We reached out to some of the people who appeared more than once to reflect with them on their time spent on LMU’s campus. Below you will find power and wisdom that truly seems beyond their years. Here’s who they are and what they said: 

Our featured students: 
  • Isaac Cardenas, a theology major and sociology minor from Arleta, CA
  • Fati Beck, a multimedia arts major from Palm Springs, CA
  • Kaylene Loretto, a Chicana/o Latina/o studies and women's and gender studies double major from Santa Fe, New Mexico
  • Phaedra Johnson, a Spanish major from Atlanta, GA
  • Manna Zel, a journalism major from Atlanta, GA
  • Eva Baudler, a history and English double major, German minor from Temple City/San Gabriel, CA
  • Donovan Moini, a computer science major, philosophy minor from Redondo Beach, CA

What footprint are you happy to have left on campus? 

Isaac: I think I've left an impact through hugs! I grew up shy so I never really liked socializing, but some sort of love grew out of me in the beginning of high school that I've continued to develop today. I hope that I've made LMU a more loving and welcoming place through my bubbly presence!

Fati: I think the time I have spent and the community I have made with Agapé Service Organization and the LGBTQ+ community on campus is where I've felt most involved and like I made an impact. I would be happy to hear that I've spread a bit more self-compassion, community, and conscientiousness in those circles. 

Kaylene: The creation of Indigenous Student Union (ISU) and how this organization is a stepping stone for future change at LMU in regard to Indigenous students. Prior to fall of 2019, there was not a Native/Indigenous student organization at LMU. Today, there is still not a Native American or Indigenous student services center within Ethnic and Intercultural Services (EIS). LMU doesn’t have a dedicated department to Native and/or Indigenous studies. LMU does not actively recruit Native students to attend LMU. LMU barely recognizes the Tongva peoples, who are the original stewards of the Los Angeles basin and whose land LMU is on. 

I was angry at not being represented on campus and angry at LMU for not recognizing Indigenous students and the Native land we are all on. So, I said fuck it. I’m going to make space not only for myself but for current and future Indigenous students at LMU. Representation matters and creating safe spaces for students of color is essential in surviving as well as navigating a predominantly white and colonial institution. I am more than happy that Indigenous Student Union has been established. Creating this student organization was a labor of love and wouldn’t have been possible without Liz Guhl, Kiana Liu, Quetzali Lopez and Camila Solorio.

Phaedra: I'm really proud of all of the people who helped in some way, shape, or form with the Menstrual Hygiene Initiative. It was great to collaborate within a team of individuals that were passionate about creating access to free menstrual products in the bathrooms and be a part of a (hopefully) lasting legacy. I also worked with university staff to get a sustainability and Fair Trade pod in the bookstore and worked with students to get the LMU bookstore affiliated with the Workers' Right Consortium to hold them accountable in making sure that the items they supply are made under fair labor conditions.

Manna: Being president of Belles, a community I love, was really transformative because I was challenged by the position, but always supported by [them]. They made me feel safe when everything felt confusing. I grew and learned and felt a lot that year.

Eva: I am beyond happy with my contributions and engagement with the History Department, which sent me on a journey to discovering family history, committing myself to memory work,especially in regards to mass atrocities and exploitation, and expanding my sense of self. I made some lifelong friends and learned more than I can ever give back. 

I'm also proud of the work I did and the people I met in Belles Service Organization. I served as the 2019 Membership Chair, and the class I brought in made me so proud. In fact, some of the new members I remember interviewing and supporting are now on the 2020 Executive Board, which made all the long hours and dedication worth it. Seeing the way they lead and advocate for others brings me such joy.

Donovan: This past year I was an RA and my hope for the year was to be the supportive RA to my residents that I had while I was a resident. Throughout the year I felt like I was not fulfilling that goal and making more mistakes than successes in the RA role. At the end of the year though, multiple residents told me how thankful they were for my support throughout the year and how much that positively impacted their experience at LMU. The impact my RAs had on me has helped me so much throughout my time at LMU, and knowing that I was able to support my residents like my RAs did for me and positively impact those residents for the rest of their LMU careers made me very happy.

What are you taking away from your four years on the Bluff?

Isaac: I'll just highlight three things here. 

1) Pursue your fulfillment. Nothing is more important than really finding and doing what fulfills all of you. I know many of our parents want us to study something that will bring us success. But I did not want to prioritize that goal. I wanted to love every second of my education. That’s why I chose theology, because I love God and I think there’s so much to learn about our interconnection as humans. Find that thing that nourishes you when everything else falls away. 

2) Speak up. Go against the grain and assert your truth! This is a time to grow up while challenging the way institutions have oppressed communities. There is also a fair share of staff and faculty that are doing this already, so get in touch with them. The fight for justice is easier in community. 

3) Say hi! You know that weird feeling you get halfway through the semester when you keep running into the same strangers, but you avoid eye contact with them? Why not just smile at them and say ‘hey!’

Fati: To learn how to say no, but learn how to not always say no to yourself. I say this kind of in the spirit of all-LMU-students-are-hyper-involved humour, and that I was that hyper-involved student that over time learned how to respect my own boundaries and have a healthy balance. But also, I have equally learned not to deny myself of opportunities and to really pursue the things that excite my heart, and I think LMU allows a lot of space for that. 

Kaylene: LMU taught me that college is fucking hard. For many students of color, you’re not only adjusting to college classes, getting used to the workload, and being on your own for the first time but you’re also having to navigate predominately white spaces in an institution that was never created for students of color. I learned to advocate for myself and my education because if I don’t then who will? I learned that it is not my job to constantly educate others on Indigenous issues and/or the oppression of people of color. I learned to pick and choose my battles. I learned from my professors of color to be critical of colonial systems and institutions, which include LMU. 

But most importantly, I learned that LMU is not my home, my home is back in New Mexico with my Native people. While I am grateful for the friends, memories, experiences and education I’ve received at LMU, I’m ready to bring what I have learned back home. I’m ready to be with my community again and make radical change.

Phaedra: One thing that I've learned is the importance of having a strong support system to help you get through rough semesters and obstacles. Another thing is that I understand now what being "with and for others" means. It's important to meet people where they're at and not where you expect them to be, whether it's with the people you meet when engaging in service or in your own personal relationships.

Manna: Duality. To express myself in different ways, loudly and quietly. That it's okay to keep parts of myself hidden away if it means staying protected. That not everyone deserves an answer. And not everything deserves my energy.

Eva: My four years here have taught me about resilience and solidarity, making me more empathetic and self-aware as a person. While I have struggled with institutional powers, adversity, and financial strain as a student of color and woman at this wealthy university, I have made so much progress in my activism and education. My love for other people and learning has only expanded over the years, and I feel that not only do I know myself better, but I also recognize how much important work still needs to be done to create change on and off the Bluff.

Donovan: LMU has taught me about the importance of relationships. I have found the most important relationships in my life at LMU and they have been so foundational in helping me grow into the person I am today. From challenging me to be my best self, supporting me during my lows, celebrating me during my highs, and making me feel comfortable enough to be my genuine self, I would not have grown as much as I have these past four years without these relationships in my life and I am so grateful for each one of them.

What is your happiest memory at LMU?

Isaac: One of my happiest memories during my time at LMU happened while I was leading a De Colores trip. We were fortunate enough to join the Casa del Migrante community for a quinceañera! It was amazing to dance to some of my favorite songs alongside a group of strangers that really became a family that night.

Fati: I really couldn't pick one. I have so many happy memories from Agape, Casa de la Mateada, MESA, and so so many more things I've been able to be a part of. I would say I'm most proud of my work with the Laband Gallery for the “Finding Heart” exhibit, and having a fellow artistic nonbinary person of color’s presence on campus, it was such a moment of joy and affirmation having Antonius Tín-Bui here, and being able to work closely with them as a graphic designer. I think that is really a memory that forever has affected me.

Kaylene: Being on the Bluff for 3 hours creating a dance routine with my bestie Luvia.

Phaedra: Oh goodness, there are so many! I'm definitely going to miss watching the sunsets on the bluff with friends and doing spontaneous adventures in the middle of the day.

Manna: Every moment I felt loved and gave love.

Eva: I have two! The first is sitting outside Dr. Elizabeth Drummond's office in the History Department with my friends for hours working on homework and personal things, as well as drinking boba. The second is more abstract: I can only describe it as the feeling of knowing that I was fully accepted and loved as a person every time I hugged a member of Belles.

Donovan: I was able to lead Kairos during my final semester at LMU, and I loved all of it. I loved spending time with the other leaders through preparing our talks, joking around with them, and the drive to and from the campsite. The weekend of the retreat was even more amazing. The atmosphere was so calm, the campsite was amazing, I was able to make such genuine and vulnerable connections with the other students, and I had many conversations discussing what truly defines a sandwich. Overall, that weekend felt nearly perfect and that weekend will always hold such a special place in my heart.

A very special thanks to those who participated in these interviews and to those who sent in nominations. This is just a brief sample of a few out of the many incredible individuals that have left their mark on our university. Thank you for all you have done for our campus and community.

We love you, we miss you, and we hope to see you very soon.

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