Faculty Profile

  • Dianne Rothleder

    A teacher who interrupts a European vacation to respond to a student’s email — and apologizes for not replying a few hours sooner — clearly never puts her students out of mind.

    “When I emailed Dr. Rothleder asking if she would be my thesis adviser, I was impressed that she got back to me the very same day — and then she even apologized for not getting back to me sooner,” says Matt Wos (MPPA ’09). “And then she explained she was overseas. She was checking her email from Italy!”

    Wos is hardly the only student for whom Dianne Rothleder, the 2011 SCS Distinguished Teaching Award winner, has gone above and beyond. Rothleder is known for her quick and detailed replies to student questions and requests — as well as for passion for her subject, spot-on blend of challenge and encouragement, openness to opinions, and lively discussions even in online courses. In fact, the comments below from her students could be responses to the question, What makes a great teacher?

    Rothleder has been a lecturer in the Master of Arts in Public Policy and Administration (MPPA) Program since 2004. She currently teaches The Legislative Process (both the on-campus and online classes), Political Theory and Public Policy, and Scope and Dynamics of Public Policy. A PhD in political science alumna of the University of Chicago, she also teaches part-time at Loyola University Chicago. “I teach part-time as a full-time job,” she quips. “I’m an academic through and through.”

    Rothleder is the second person in her family to receive the continuing education best teacher award. Her husband, Andrew Cutrofello (PhD89), now a tenured professor at Loyola, received the award in 1989 when he taught philosophy at the former University College. “He is thrilled about our matching crystal paperweights,” says Rothleder, who received her award at a faculty meeting in September.

    In her own words: Dianne Rothleder on teaching

    My teaching philosophy? Knowing the importance of harboring deep respect for students as human beings; for helping students see complexities, puzzles, and difficulties even when things look kind of simple at first; for reading and presenting multiple perspectives on any and every topic so that every thought one carries is destabilized. Aiding students in a journey from received opinion, through destabilization, to something that one day might be more securely held, is a Socratic ideal. Destabilization is risky and uncomfortable, yet the most important thing.

    If I do anything right as a teacher, it is to allow safe space for students to read, question, and think through massive amounts of material to see that multiplicity and uncertainty reign; to make space for people to pursue their own interests while encouraging them to wonder about the insights of others.

    I am passionate about the topics I teach. I love Congress as an institution. I have had numerous students who start out thinking Congress is corrupt and a dysfunctional mess, and by the end, they have a deep respect for how members of Congress represent their districts, try to carry out their responsibilities, and contend with pressures, informational issues, scheduling issues, and a range of structural limitations. They end up seeing there is a lovely logic to the way congressional structures play out.

    Continuing ed students are amazing. Many have real-world experience that helps shed light on the texts. They all have less time than full-time students, they take their classes at night when everyone is just a little more tired, and yet they do amazing work. The scholarship they produce in their theses has frequently changed my thinking.

    My successes as a teacher are all caught up in the worth of the texts I’m privileged to present and the students I’m privileged to encourage. From Socrates to Sarah Binder, from John Rawls to John Kingdon, the texts and the students make the class.