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Nov. 15, 2017

Constance Hunt: Challenge, inclusion and creativity

Nov. 15, 2017

Constance Hunt (above, left with Cynthia Jackson-Elmoore, dean of the Honors College) is an associate professor of social relations and policy in the James Madison College. Her areas of expertise include constitutionalism and law, literature and politics, and the history of political theory, including women and political philosophy. Last year she was the recipient of the Honors College Sustained Commitment to Honors Students Award.

I have been very fortunate to have taught and mentored many Honors College students over my years at MSU – some have been awarded the highest honors of Rhodes, Marshall, Truman and Udall scholarships and many of whom remain friends since they have graduated. What I have always tried to encourage these students to seek in their education is challenge, inclusion and creativity.

I encourage students to seek the challenge to maximize the options that the Honors College and MSU offer to extend their studies to other areas beyond their specific major. I have had students combine such interesting studies as chemistry and international relations; piano performance and social relations; agriculture economics and political theory; computer science and social relations; biochemistry and international relations; finance and comparative politics and cultures; physics and political theory.

These students and others accepted the challenge of resisting the societal pressures to narrow their studies too quickly and crafted their own path of study that brought together myriad interests that were unique to them and not pre-determined by anyone else. In every case it wasn’t easy – it wasn’t what someone else planned – but it was possible with the proper planning and a lot of hard work. In every case, the students were much the better for accepting the challenge and defying the ordinary, regular plan.

I also encourage students to seek greater inclusion in the world around them. In many cases, this has involved students seeking out engagement with others from different religions, races, ethnicities, nationalities, sexual and gender orientations. These students have been at the forefront of establishing and leading multi-faith organizations on campus, cross-cultural organizations and building bridges on campus and in the broader community between multi-national communities.

I am so proud of these students for resisting the inclination to narrow their circle of friends and associates. Instead, these students have been leaders at broadening the circles of inclusion in our community and many have gone on to leadership positions in national and international organizations.

Supporting students to embrace creativity in their education, and frankly in their lives, is another key factor in my teaching and mentoring. As students begin their studies they often think that their chief goal is the mastery of a certain subject matter, which is in part true, but most of the world’s real questions and dilemmas do not fit neatly into a specific disciplinary subject matter.

Creativity is needed to address the complexity of the world around us. Students who approach their studies with this in mind, or who directly embrace creativity with their pursuit of the arts and other creative pursuits, are at the forefront of problem solvers in this complex world in which we find ourselves. Every leader and innovator in medicine, science and politics recognizes how deeply creativity is needed in our world, yet it is often underappreciated by many people.

I am grateful for these many wonderful students whom I have encouraged to seek these facets in their education and who have brought real joy to my life.

Reused with permission from the H Connections, the Honors College magazine