The Art of Service

Preview Day student speaker Samantha Burton is already filling her post-grad canvas with splashes of the LMU mission and a passion for service. Hailing from Las Vegas, Nevada, Samantha is set to dive into a year of post-graduate service with PLACE Corps (Partners in Los Angeles Catholic Education) this June, teaching fifth grade at an under-resourced Catholic elementary while pursuing a Master of Arts in Urban Education degree on the bluff.

“My LMU experience has really shown me who I am as a person and who I want to be,” Samantha said, who learned of the PLACE Corps opportunity through LMU’s Center for Service and Action. “It exposed me to a way of thinking about the world in which social justice is embedded in everything that we do.”

Double-majoring in Screenwriting and Classics & Archeology, Samantha is currently an education intern for The Getty Villa, where she says her passion for museums is rivaled only by her desire to make them more accessible to marginalized communities.

“Museums are spaces for education outside of the classroom,” Samantha said. “They are places where kids from an underperforming school can have the same experience as kids from a privileged one if they feel welcome in the space.”

She added that she believes engaging with art can connect people, transcending cultural and socioeconomic boundaries, an experience every student should have within their reach.

Originally drawn to the bluff for its Jesuit roots and welcoming community of students, Samantha says her LMU experience enriched her storytelling abilities and expanded her horizons both in the classroom and abroad, starting with her First Year Seminar, “Strange Loops,” taught by Professor Brad Stone of the Philosophy department.

“The class focused on the concept of recursion and set the tone for my entire college experience,” Samantha said, describing it as the idea of a circular pattern that comes back to where it began. “It was a class focused on making interdisciplinary connections – taking ideas, opening them up and applying them to the world in different ways. The whole experience really opened my eyes to what learning in the classroom could be.”

Another highlight of Samantha’s academic experience was being afforded the opportunity to venture on research trips abroad to Rome and Greece, thanks to grant funds awarded to her by the University Honors Program.

While in Greece, Samantha explored the representation of ethnocultural Greek identity in museums to non-Greek visitors following the 2008 financial crisis.

“My Greece trip really affirmed my desire to work in museums,” Samantha said, describing Grecian museums as repositories of national identity, culture and of great significance to the communities that create and patronize them.

She added that her time in Rome was equally enlightening, as she used it to investigate the cultural phenomenon of winemaking scenes on ancient Roman sarcophagi and tombs.

“I came to the conclusion that Christianity’s arrival in Rome brought with it ideas of a joyous afterlife,” she said. “The sarcophagi are portraying scenes of what the afterlife will be like… feasting, drinking, dancing!”

Outside of her rigorous coursework, Samantha is active in a number of campus pursuits, including Gryphon Circle, a women’s service organization, and the Jesuit Honors Society Alpha Sigma Nu. She also sits on the Executive Board for the University Honors Program.

Looking to the future, Samantha hopes to one day work in the education department at a museum and eventually earn her Ph.D. in Classics or Art History.

As for what advice she has for future Lions?

“Go into your college experience with an open heart and invest yourself fully in experiences you think you’ll love,” Samantha said. “You get out of the LMU experience what you put into it, and mine was incredible!”