Southern California Road Trip: Loyola Marymount University

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You're about to spend four years of your life on a college campus; you need to make sure it feels right. So hit the road—we did! We took three typical road trips: East Coast, West Coast, and in between. By the way, college visits don't have to mean hours on the interstate. Use our Directory to locate schools near you and walk through the gates. You may find what you're looking for.

At Loyola Marymount, it's not uncommon to hear about graduates with science and engineering degrees who enter the Peace Corps or teach in underserved communities. This is not to say that most don't dive right into med school or a high-paying job as an engineering consultant. But a commitment to service and social justice is one of the school's distinguishing characteristics. It's a trait of the Jesuits who founded the school in 1911, and it hasn't been lost even as students from other faiths have flocked to the campus.

Patrick Carter, for example, spent much of his undergraduate career volunteering in the university's backyard as a member of the Crimson Circle (at LMU, service organizations are more popular than fraternities and sororities). Carter's experience made him think about a career that can affect people on a large scale—"concretely, not abstractly."

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Carter, who is now pursuing a master's in environmental engineering, says LMU was also an ideal place to learn about the environment. The campus overlooks the Pacific Ocean near the beaches of Venice and Santa Monica; less than a mile away are the Ballona Wetlands, the largest degraded wetlands in Los Angeles County. As an undergraduate, Carter trekked down to collect soil and water samples to learn more about the impact of human development and pollution.

Environmental science is one of LMU's newer majors, combining biology, chemistry, and civil engineering—a blend professors see as crucial if students are to solve the environmental problems of the future. Students and professors form close bonds at LMU; besides calling students who miss class, professors will invite students to play basketball or go surfing. Richard Plumb, dean of the college of science and engineering, spent one spring break with a group of freshmen at Catalina Island doing volunteer work in ecological restoration. Even LMU's president, Robert Lawton, S.J., who lives on campus, is known for occasionally bringing a bottle of wine over for dinner.

Students report some frustrations—and not just about their inability to find parking at peak hours. The number of science courses strikes some as limited; plans are in the works to build more labs and renovate some existing facilities. In 2009, a new library will open and construction will begin on a research center focused on finding solutions to local environmental problems.

More About Loyola Marymount University

Plus factor: Started recycling in 1990; first college campus to recycle 50% of all its solid waste.
Undergrad enrollment, fall '07: 5,766
Est. annual cost, '08-'09 (tuition, fees, room and board): $46,345

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