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"I wish to inspire students to achieve their fullest potential in life by broadening their understanding of themselves and the world."
Luke McLaurin points to the day he lost two close friends in a tragic accident as the day that he began to question the focus and direction of his own life. He asked himself, "What was I living for? What did I value? Where did I want my life to go?"
Acutely aware of the importance of friendship, Luke began to attend more closely to the way he related to others, for he knew that only in such relations could he discover what was really important to him. He says, "The most important part of my life has always been the relationships that define and shape it. It is these relationships with God, family, and friends that give meaning and motivation to all of my endeavors." Some of his friends at Notre Dame came from sports, some from Liturgical Choir and drama. Religion and service work were two more sources of rewarding contact.
Luke was already involved in the Little Flower Catholic Church Youth Ministry, where he led discussions about faith and service and organized summer service trips to West Virginia, Phoenix, and Mexico. He volunteered at the South Bend Center for the Homeless and had spent a summer as a camp counselor for the Legionaries of Christ.
But what made the greatest impression on Luke was a summer of volunteer work at Covenant House Florida (a shelter for homeless and troubled young people, ages 13-21), where Luke counseled and tutored residents in academic and life skills, and organized recreational activities. He also heard their life stories, which brought him to reflect on the roots of injustice.
Luke writes, "I realized that while our ministry to those in need and our political work to change unjust societal structures are indeed necessary, the deeper sources of injustice are found in the negative ways that individuals and societies relate to one another." What would be the best way to spark a change? Teaching struck Luke as his best path: "Educators are the ones who challenge us to see our world and the problems in it in new ways. Professors have the wonderful opportunity of opening minds to new perspectives." And so he decided to serve society as a member of the academic community. "Universities," Luke says, "provide unique environments where conceptual tools and paradigms from various disciplines can be brought together in a way that will shed light on the pressing social problems of our world."
Luke's field is philosophy, which he says "helps unite conceptions, ideas and insights from all fields into a comprehensive understanding of human reality." As a professor of philosophy participating in interdisciplinary work in Italian studies, Luke hopes to increase the dialogue between Anglo-American and Italian philosophers. And as a teacher, he wants to "inspire young minds and offer them the nourishment they need for their growth into the leaders of tomorrow."
Paulina Ponce de Leon Barido
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
New York University
Stony Brook University
University of Oxford