Political science Professor Cecelia Lynch presented her values, beliefs and motivations at the recent installment of the ”What Matters to Me and Why” series held on April 9 in Humanities Gateway.
Lynch, recognized for her background in religion, ethics and social movements, won the Inaugural “Living Our Values” award in 2007 and was given this opportunity to reflect and appreciate what matters to her and how others can learn from her journey. During her talk, she emphasized four main points: integrity/intellectual openness, sensitivity to injustices, reflexivity, and the importance of not taking life too seriously.
Lynch, who does interpretive research in social sciences and also leads the Institute for International, Global and Regional Studies, emphasized her non-linear career path and how it shaped her values. Growing up from the Midwest in a Catholic family, education was very important.
“My first career goal as a child was to be a Virgin Martyr and I guess that was my early feminist awakening,” Lynch joked.
She explained that her young adulthood and time abroad helped shape strong-mindedness and brought a willingness to take risks. This occurred during her time as a student in Paris, where she began a period of what she called awakening her consciousness. During that time, according to Lynch, there was a lot of social and political activism, and the attitudes of privilege and paternalism fueled the growing social movement of that time.
Lynch also spoke about the need for making connections with other parts of the world and emphasized the importance of leaning from her students and their personal knowledge about other cultures and traditions.
“These kinds of deep cultural connections and knowledge opened my eyes to different combinations of other parts of the world and here, and a lot of students combine these different types of knowledge into their daily lives.”
Highlighting the importance of being centered, Lynch spoke of engaging in scholarship against injustices, while also enjoying life and family. Like many women, she dealt with the struggle and duality of motherhood versus a professional career. She explained that to her, it is vitally important to constantly learn, teach others, and be committed to speaking out against injustices.
Like many students, Professor Lynch has taken different paths on her journey and emphasized taking the road less traveled.
“Your career path can often be random luck sparked by some common interest,” Lynch said.
She emphasized the need to be flexible to changing interests and career paths.
“It was during my grad school at Columbia that sparked the gratification of a career in academia,” she said.
She emphasized the need to be open-minded. For example, when asked about her religions upbringings, she said, “I’ve sort of renounced being Catholic and I think that the problems of many religions is how they try to promote their social justice issues.”
For her the issues of understanding problems in gender and sexuality have kept many religions from being more accepting and democratic. Lynch stated that a lot more religions, especially secular ones, should be acknowledged and studied more to be understood and accepted.
One of the most important issues for Professor Lynch is to not be contradictory in one’s beliefs. For example, as a young mother, she participated in demonstrations and brought her young children with them.
“Even now, I realize the importance of affordability and accessibility of school, having to finance my own school, so I support the activism of students here.”
Lynch also emphasized the importance of studying abroad and learning other cultures.
“It was during my time in France and Belgium that I had my first Helen Keller experience,” she said. After immersing herself in the culture, she explained that she was able to open up her horizons.
“I had no idea what I was getting into but it helped me learn that the other societies do not see things the way we do, and it was absolutely critical to my growth and constant broadening of horizons.”
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