Graduate student alumni spotlight: Maggie Labinski
Dr. Maggie Labinski graduated from Loyola University in 2014 with her PhD in Philosophy. She is now an Assistant Professor at Fairfield University. Her research interests include Feminist Philosophies and Early Medieval Philosophy.
When did you discover your interest in philosophy?
I first encountered philosophy as an undergraduate. I attended an all-women’s university in Wisconsin called Mount Mary. I remember sitting in my First Year philosophy course and thinking to myself, “I have no idea what’s going on, but I don’t want it to stop!”
Why did you choose to apply to and attend Loyola University's PhD Program?
I was largely drawn by the plurality of the department. The professors at Loyola are experts in Historic, Continental, and Analytic philosophies. I was excited by the prospect of being exposed to such philosophical diversity, and I believe that it has broadened the way that I approach my research.
How did your research interests evolve during your time at Loyola?
When I began at Loyola, I was divided about my research. On the one hand, I hoped to continue to explore early medieval philosophy—especially the works of Augustine. On the other hand, I was finding myself increasingly drawn to the social/political frameworks of feminism/s. The scholarly mentoring I received from the faculty was incredibly helpful; they advised me to consider the moments of overlap that might exist between the theories of the past and the needs of the present. Such conversations ultimately played an integral role in the development of my dissertation.
How did Loyola's faculty help shape your path as a scholar and teacher?
The professors at Loyola were instrumental in helping me to unpack the relationship between my scholarship and my teaching. For example, Dr. Jackie Scott visited my classroom and encouraged me to see teaching as a natural extension of my research. This eventually led to several co-authored projects with my students. Last year, a student and I traveled to Washington DC and presented a paper that examined the role of race/ethnicity in the construction of classroom ‘safety’ at the Humanities Education and Research Association.
What was the process like of writing your dissertation, "Augustine and Feminisms: A Dialogue about Education"?
What surprised me the most about the dissertation was how much I ended up enjoying the process. Initially, I found it very tempting to approach the dissertation as one last academic hoop to jump through. However, by the time I finished writing, I felt like I had not only been able to deepen my knowledge about a philosophical area that I loved. I had also been able to develop my own “voice” as a researcher. I credit this entirely to my director, Dr. Vicki Wike. Dr. Wike taught me to see the relationship between philosophical rigor and creativity. She encouraged me to follow “the text” but not in such a way that leaves behind the social/political world. It is a way of researching that I now try to pass on to my own students.
What advice would you give to a PhD student beginning his or her dissertation?
Loyola is an incredibly supportive place to write a dissertation. I think the best advice I could give would be to take advantage of this support. Join a student led Writing Accountability Group. Participate in the Summer Dissertation Boot Camp sessions hosted by the Graduate School. Ask faculty where they do the most writing on campus. Ask students about the pedagogical style of their dissertation directors. For me, the dissertation was very much a community effort, and I continue to use many of the strategies I learned along the way in my current research.
How did Loyola's graduate program prepare you for your current position of Assistant Professor at Fairfield University?
One the most valuable things that Loyola’s program taught me was how to think of myself—including my research and my teaching—as one part of a wider department. For example, I was advised to keep in mind the ways in which my courses might compliment a department’s broader curriculum. I was also encouraged to think about co-authoring articles or participating on conference panels with my colleagues. There is a lot about graduate school that can be very isolating, and the pressure to “publish or perish” certainly doesn’t help. However, most departments need faculty who can contribute to a community that is already well in motion. By giving me the space to think about these kinds of questions, Loyola made my transition to Fairfield University much smoother.
What are you passionate about besides Philosophy?
I was born in Wisconsin, and I think my “passions” reflect this. In my spare time I enjoy watching the Green Bay Packers, bottling homebrew, and beating my partner at Ping Pong.