Elizabeth Markovits

Mount Holyoke College Faculty Award for Teaching

Elizabeth Markovits "has successfully found her niche in life," one of her students writes in an evaluation. Yes, we respond, she certainly has. In what other Politics and Rhetoric class do the students conduct an extended campaign simulation that is so real and so intense that, one student reports, they "discussed this course extensively, as though it were a vastly relevant piece of work experience" in her successful job interview.

Liz arrived at Mount Holyoke College from Saint Louis University in the fall of 2008. She had received her PhD in Political Science in 2005 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. By 2010, when the senior class asked her to speak at Baccalaureate, it was clear that Liz’ roots had grown deep into the South Hadley soil. Her advice to the graduating class of 2010 came Pericles’ funeral oration when she urged the graduating class: "What I’m telling you tonight is that you must yourselves realize the power of Mount Holyoke, and feed your eyes upon her from day to day, till love of her fills your hearts." In her book The Politics of Sincerity: Plato, Frank Speech, and Democratic Judgment, her numerous refereed publications, conference presentations, and book reviews, Liz calls into question the usefulness of the sincerity ethic for political deliberation. She shows her readers and her students "the trouble with being earnest"--how belief in the importance of straight talk and sincerity is dangerous for democracy. The fact that someone’s sincerity is unknowable means that words and deeds should be the real material of political debate. However, too often the "irresistible" nature of sincerity overwhelms skeptical listening. Liz has been called upon to comment on Romney’s trustworthiness in the presidential debates and on the significance of the fact that Gabriele Giffords had been threatened publically before she was shot. She has contributed to public discourse, writing in the Gazette to advise working mom’s and women voters. She has brought Greek tragedy and Greek democracy to bear on the issues of public life today-- all the while working hard to encourage "rhetorical literacy: in her students and in our community.

From her Feminist Studies classes, her seminars on Politics and Truth and Family Ties, to her classes on Ancient and Medieval Political Thought and her advanced class on Politics and Rhetoric, Liz’ students praise her "approachability", her "passion", her speedy return of the daily response papers, and her "rigor". One writes: "My writing has more clarity now. It’s amazing! I believe I can think independently and critically. Everyone should take this class." Another: "I put more into this class because it was worthwhile." Over and over, they attest to how challenging her classes are, how interactive the class is and how thoroughly engaged they, as students, feel in every class period. "The best part", one student writes, "was that I came to learn who my favorite philosophers were and found myself making connections to real, present-day life and talking about it with my family and friends."

Please join me in celebrating Liz’s work: her compelling and deeply researched scholarship, her brilliant teaching, and her amazing ability to bring the world into the classroom and the classroom to world. For the rest of their lives, our students will continue to draw on and benefit from Liz Markovits classes as they also find their niches in life while simultaneously functioning as good rhetorically literate citizens of the world.