Student Success

Loyola’s Class of 2024 shares top moments and future plans

By Lukas Keapproth

April 18, 2024

Several Polaroid photos are scattered on a white background, including portraits of Loyola University Chicago students and a set of balloons reading Class of 2024

Another commencement season is upon us—graduation gowns are picked up, mortarboards under decoration, and family travel plans finalized. Before our graduating students embark from campus, we sat down with a handful of our outstanding graduates to ask them to reflect on their college journey, offer advice to those following in their footsteps, and share what’s in store for their future.

Arely Tellez

College of Arts and Sciences

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Biology; minor in Bioethics

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

Being an intern with VAW Global Health Alliances this past summer for Loyola’s Medical Outreach team in Guatemala. I had the privilege of traveling to Guatemala and partnering with dynamic people to collectively improve the standard of living of Guatemalan people. It was such an eye opening and rewarding experience seeing so many patients receive the medical attention that they deserved. This experience not only strengthened my passion for medicine but it allowed me to immerse and explore the rich culture of Guatemala.

What will you miss the most?

I will definitely miss the view to the lake.

What are you doing next?

I will be spending the next year working on my clinical hours and traveling before applying to medical school.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Enjoy each moment because time will fly by. Surround yourself by people who motivate you to become a better person, as you will meet some of your closest friends at Loyola.

Ronald Chauca

Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Nursing

Hometown: Queens, New York

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola?

Without a doubt it was the Medical School Gala. It was an evening filled with good food, great people, and a lot of dancing!

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the nursing faculty and the security guards. I have met some of the most encouraging and insightful faculty members in my time here at Loyola. Furthermore, I really appreciated the uplifting conversations I shared with some of the security guards that I saw regularly.

What are you doing next?

I will be working in Loyola’s Burn ICU! I had my eyes set on this unit after a great shadowing experience I had my last semester. I am very excited!

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Whichever major you are pursuing, see your field as a vocation. What calls you to this particular field of studies? Knowing the answer to this question will help you find meaning in the daily grind and to hold on when things get rough.

Joaquin Guzman

Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Public Health; Master of Science, Public Health

Hometown: Aurora, Illinois

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

There are honestly so many comparably great moments to choose from. If I had to pick one, it’d have to be becoming part of a research team with one of my professors. The application of everything I had been learning into practice caused a mental shift in how I perceived Loyola. Suddenly, I was motivated to absorb every piece of knowledge the faculty had to share. We were contributing to the academic field, which was such a rewarding experience.

What will you miss the most?

I’m going to miss the community at Loyola the most. There were so many ways for me to foster relationships, whether through classes, study groups, office hours, clubs, or casual hangouts. I’ll miss how easy it was to create plans on the fly and have everyone get together. Being able to study right by the lake was also a plus.

What are you doing next?

I plan to continue my current internships as a surveillance coordinator at Chicago Public Schools and as a research assistant for Loyola while I begin my job search. However, I have a strong desire to share my knowledge with others. Whether this involves pursuing a PhD or exploring other paths, I’m keeping my options open.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Adopt an optimistic mindset and be interested in random things because everything you learn or do is bound to help you in some way. Try to get out of your comfort zone and allow yourself to explore everything Loyola has to offer. Having study groups and a source of social support is so useful when classwork becomes stringent. Most importantly, remember that you don’t have to have everything figured out. Embrace uncertainty as a part of your journey.

Alexander Sullivan

Quinlan School of Business

Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration, Marketing

Hometown: Grand Rapids, Michigan

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

One of my most cherished moments at Loyola was studying abroad in Madrid, Spain, for marketing and international business. Over the course of the semester, I traveled to 30 countries, including all 27 countries within the European Union. It was such an enlightening and exhilarating experience where I was able to immerse myself in new cultures and bolster my understanding of the business world.

What will you miss the most?

More than anything, I will miss the extraordinarily tight-knit community—the lifelong friendships forged, the mentorship from brilliant professors, and the multicultural Chicago backdrop that expanded my perspectives.

What are you doing next?

I will be joining Goldman Sachs as an analyst within the firm’s Asset & Wealth Management division, specifically focused on business development.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Be intentional about your Loyola journey. Know what you’re not willing to give up and be judicious in how you spend your time. Embrace new experiences, stay intellectually curious, and keep your purpose at the forefront—never lose sight of why you’re here or what you’re working to achieve.

Read more about Alexander Sullivan

Mia Gianfrancesco

School of Education

Degree: Bachelor of Science, Special Education

Hometown: Batavia, Illinois

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

Meeting different groups of people. Because I am a student-athlete at Loyola, I have had the pleasure of building relationships in the athletic department in addition to the relationships that I built within the School of Education.

What will you miss the most?

The campus. Our campus is beautiful and provides the opportunity to walk to the lake while walking to class. I will also miss passing all of my friends while on my way to classes or practice.

What are you doing next?

I am currently applying to work at middle schools in Chicago Public Schools along with middle schools in the suburbs. I’m still going through the interviewing process at this time.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Go to as many games, clubs, activities, etc. as you can at Loyola. There are so many different events happening every day, and it’s a great opportunity to meet people.

Lori Cornelius

School of Environmental Sustainability

Degree: Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Policy

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

I have many favorite moments, so it is difficult to name just one, especially since I have had a lot of wonderful experiences with my friends and peers at Loyola. If I had to pick one of my favorites though, I think the first Ecoprom that the various SES student organizations put together was a fun and rejuvenating get together. Since I missed my high school prom due to COVID, it was sweet and meaningful to have this kind of fun with my new friends in my department when we came to campus for the first time in sophomore year.

What will you miss the most?

I will most likely miss the serene environment of the lake and the beautiful architecture of the SES building the most. I believe that the visual environments we dwell in greatly affect our state of mind, and I hope to find and work in other beautiful settings in the future.

What are you doing next?

I am currently in a dual degree program, so I will be staying at Loyola to pursue an M.S. in Environmental Science and Sustainability.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

This may sound cliché, but when making decisions, always listen to who you truly are and be realistic about your goals and what sort of experiences you want in life. And if you are not sure what you want, that’s OK! You deserve the time and self-patience to be able to figure that out.

Read more about 2024 graduates from the School of Environmental Sustainability.

Tomer Elkayam

School of Law

Degree: Juris Doctor

Hometown: Encino, California

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

The last few days of studying for our contracts final with my friends Daniel and Lucas. We basically lived in one of the classrooms, slowly losing our minds but somehow getting a good hang of the material. At some point while we were sitting there, going through our notes again, it hit me how much of a bond I had developed with these guys that were complete strangers to me a year before. It felt pretty awesome to see how far we had come as friends getting through our first year of law school together.

What will you miss the most?

I will miss the wisdom and support I received from professors, mentors, and friends inside and outside of the law school. They have been my guiding light over the last three years.

What are you doing next?

I will be joining Severson & Werson in California!

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Two pieces of advice that I have tried to remind myself of over the last three years: (1) Always support and uplift the people around you. (2) There are many ways to achieve your goals. Don’t let your pride stop you from taking meaningful steps.

 

Lori Light

School of Social Work

Degree: Master of Social Work

Hometown: Bakersfield, California

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

My time at Loyola has been short, but my education has been top notch. My favorite moment was getting off the red line at Chicago my first day of class. I’ve loved having classes in the middle of the city!

What will you miss the most?

In the warmer months, I like to come to campus early and walk to Oak Street Beach to drink coffee and watch the sunrise. It’s a great way to start the day. I will also miss reading and working in the Lewis Library.

What are you doing next?

Hopefully finding the perfect balance of clinical work as a therapist, policy work in harm reduction or LGBTQ+ advocacy and research, and occasionally putting on my wings and uniform to do my other work as a flight attendant. I’d also love to find some time to write and read for fun before hopefully returning in a couple of years for a PhD.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

Find ways to engage with your student community. Community is a vital part of our health, and it is essential in surviving the challenges life brings. Also, take classes that excite you and support your interests.

Chidozie Onyiuke

Stritch School of Medicine

Degree: Doctor of Medicine, Master of Business Administration

Hometown: Mount Arlington, New Jersey

What was your favorite moment during your time at Loyola? 

My favorite moment during my time at Loyola was the opportunity to travel to Barbados for a clinical rotation in Correctional Medicine at Dodd’s Prison. This experience lasted almost a month and was incredible and impactful.

I learned about the various factors leading to incarceration, along with the challenges and nuances involved in administering care within such settings. Moreover, it was a chance to immerse myself in the culture and history of Barbados, which was equally rewarding. Overall, the trip changed me in the best ways possible.

What will you miss the most?

What I’ll miss most are the incredible people I’ve met during my journey. It’s a common sentiment, but it’s true for me. Being part of a community dedicated to not only advancing patient care but also addressing broader social determinants of health has been truly inspiring. The talent, kindness, and ambition of my peers and faculty at Stritch have consistently amazed me, making every step of this challenging journey even more enjoyable.

What are you doing next?

I’m heading to Tulane University in New Orleans to start my residency in Internal Medicine. It’s an exciting opportunity to apply my learning and contribute to a community known for its culture and diverse health needs.

What advice do you have for the incoming class?

I have two pieces of advice. First, prioritize self-care and maintain connections with the people and activities that ground you. The demands of medical school/graduate school can be intense, but it’s important to preserve your well-being and relationships during the day-to-day chaos.

Second, never hesitate to seek help. Acknowledging when you need support is not a sign of weakness, it’s a powerful and meaningful acknowledgment of your limitations. This recognition is not only a strength but a foundation for personal and professional growth, never forget that.