Philosophy professor receives the 2013 Dux Academicus award
Melissa Hirsch, A'12, said that philosophy professor Constance Mui powerfully impacted her time at Loyola.
"This sounds weird, but she's the type of professor who allowed me to not apologize for who I am," Hirsch said.
With experiences like Hirsch's in mind, Mui was recently recognized with the 2013 Dux Academicus Award, Loyola's top faculty honor. She is the 36th professor to receive the honor, which is presented annually to an outstanding member of the Loyola faculty who has demonstrated an aptitude for imparting knowledge on students in a way that reflects Jesuit values of higher education.
In addition to teaching courses in philosophy, Mui serves as chairwoman of the philosophy department and founding co-chair of the Women's Studies Program, and holds the S. Youree Watson, S.J., Distinguished Professorship of Arts and Sciences. She completed her undergraduate degree at Loyola University Chicago before obtaining her masters and doctorate degrees from Brown University.
"I have had first-hand experience of the transformative nature of a Jesuit education," Mui said. "Loyola is the community that has nourished me over the years, and helped me to grow and flourish as a teacher, a scholar and a person. Being recognized by a community to which I owe so much is indeed a humbling experience."
Mui said her primary academic interest is continental philosophy, with particular emphasis on applying the theories of Jean-Paul Sartre to modern feminism, post-modernism and globalization. She also publishes on feminist theory, particularly that of Simone de Beauvoir, she said.
"I am very much indebted to the Jesuits for introducing me to philosophy, a discipline that has kept me in a perpetual state of humility," Mui said in her acceptance speech at the President's Convocation for Faculty and Staff.
Mui said that Sartre's concept of the "engaged intellectual" is applicable to Loyola's mission, and something that she hopes to instill in her students.
"If I understand Sartre correctly, to be engaged in the world is to see every instance of oppression, inequality and injustice as an irresistible invitation to effect positive social change, an opportunity to make a difference," Mui said. "Sartre's vision of an engaged intellectual fits perfectly with the Jesuit ideal of liberal education."
During the presentation of the award, provost and vice president for academic affairs Marc Manganaro said Mui goes far beyond teaching applied critical thinking and other trademarks of a Jesuit education.
"The real contribution of her teaching is not only that she equips students with the skills they need to make a living, but that she shows her students how to make their lives worth living," Manganaro said.
Hirsch said that Mui was always willing to listen and offer guidance, despite Hirsch not being a philosophy major.
"She would always engage me in conversations and respect me - even though I am in no way a philosophy major and don't know much about feminist theory, she would help me understand things and take time to talk about them," Hirsch said.
Because of this attention and respect, Hirsch said that she learned things from Mui that were not only applicable in the classroom, but would also prove to be life-changing.
"I could ramble off the Jesuit principles and say how I learned them from her, but she teaches you to challenge what you see around you and to really question everything," Hirsch said. "Once you start to think about the world in a different lens, it's really hard to go back."
In her acceptance speech, Mui offered a potential solution to the enrollment deficit that reflects her belief in the ideals at the core of a Jesuit education.
"We need to offer students a compelling reason to come to Loyola by stressing what is truly distinctive about us," Mui said. "I am going to close by saying, holding firmly to our identity, we can build on our proud history for a bright future."
Alexandra Kennon may be reached at email@example.com
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