09:25 AM

Political Science Prof Megan Russo in Right Field at Right Time

Restoring reason and friendship to political discourse

Dr. Megan Russo, political science professorSome might describe Dr. Megan Russo as one who is restoring reason and friendship to political discourse, starting in the University of St. Thomas-Houston classrooms. The Core Fellow, who began teaching at UST in the fall of 2023, earned her doctorate in Political Philosophy from the University of Dallas and is a scholar in Catholic social thought.

“Catholic social thought allows us to give voice to what true societies are and how we nurture them,” Russo said.

A love of “true society” is a driver in the young professor’s life. In a time of increasing political polarization, Prof. Russo’s teaching approach upends separation. Her political science classes at UST are theoretical, taking on perennial questions like “what is the nature of man,” “what is a good political community,” and “do we have rights?” Students reframe these questions as they search to understand them in light of the bigger questions that Aristotle and other great thinkers posed. Students find that the answers given by the greatest political philosophers often conflict with their own conclusions.

Russo explained, “In the spirit and dynamic of the classroom, the students ask questions of one another and challenge each other’s conclusions and do it with respect. As they are being challenged effectively, they realize they must reconsider their conclusions.

“Later in the semester, we dedicate our Socratic circles to discussing current societal controversies, like the COVID restrictions. When we learn to keep reason and friendship in mind, we can restore respect and civility to political discourse everywhere.”

A Russo Goal

What Russo aims to accomplish in her classroom is to get students to question some of their pre-conceived ideas, lead more reflective lives, and develop more real friendships. She points out that St. Thomas Aquinas called society a “communication,” a sharing of words, ideas and gifts between friends.

“I hope in my classroom community students get to participate in one of those societies, practice good moral and intellectual habits, and share those with one another,” she offered. “I hope they come to know truth. Come to enjoy beauty. And come to desire goodness.”

Blending the Professional with the Personal

Russo believes it’s good for her students to see that she has a professional and personal life. Given that mindset, she can sometimes be seen on campus with her toddler Mary in tow.

“Mary walks the halls and thinks she is another student,” Russo smiled. “She knows way more people than I do and is very popular when I take her to UST athletic games and festivals.”

Russo and her software engineer husband enjoy raising Mary within a Catholic community.

“I’m the seventh of eight children, and my mother started law school before she gave birth to the fifth. So, we grew up in my mom’s office, and it was very special for me to see her work and become aware of her efforts within the community.”

As for Russo’s efforts in the UST professional community, Executive Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences Dr. George Harne said, “She is an extraordinary faculty member and mother. She teaches within our renewed Core Curriculum, has joined the ranks of the faculty who teach in our Honors Program, and last month presented a paper at the Center for Thomistic Studies.”