Mylan Engel Jr.

Professor of Philosophy

Mylan Engel Jr.

Mylan Engel Jr. has been sharing his passion for philosophy with Huskie students for more than two decades. A 2018 Presidential Teaching Professor, Engel is admired for his ability to inspire students in the classroom and in their everyday lives.

“People tend to think of philosophy as a deeply obscure discipline with little practical relevance,” Engel said. “Nothing could be further from the truth.”

What is true, Engel says, is that philosophy challenges us to assess whether our beliefs, attitudes, and practices are justifiable, with an eye toward abandoning or revising those beliefs and practices found to be unjustifiable.

“This critical Socratic self-examination helps us to identify our most fundamental values, which in turn helps us to live authentic meaningful lives,” Engel said. “It’s incredibly rewarding to provide students with the critical skills and conceptual tools needed for self-improvement and then watch as they transform into their better selves.”

And they do.

Former student Markos Moulitsas, founder and publisher of Daily Kos, said he continued to take Engel’s philosophy courses because they challenged him, and he “wasn't taught what to think, but how to think.”

Other former students share the sentiment, calling Engel “an outstanding professor.” One describes him as having “a true passion for what he teaches and a contagious curiosity to explore and learn differences.” Other students said they would recommend him as a professor to anyone, and many reported that taking Engel’s courses made them better people.

In fact, Engel’s undergraduate students have frequently chosen to major in philosophy after taking one of his classes, and many opt to pursue graduate study in philosophy because of what they’ve experienced in his class.

Students praise his ability to make course topics relevant. And while he applies rigorous standards in his courses and expects a lot from his students, he is a professor who commands their respect rather than merely being popular.

“I really enjoy working with such a diverse group of students - many of whom are first-generation college students - and witnessing them grow and mature academically as the semester progresses,” Engel said. “It’s a joy watching them repeatedly rise to the challenge of my classes, seeing their writing and critical thinking skills improve, and watching them go on to successful careers after NIU.”

Engel also rises to the challenge, and peers laud him for “pushing the envelope of his instructional expertise” on a consistent basis.

“Great teachers aren’t born, they’re made,” Engel said. “We can all become better teachers by taking advantage of various opportunities to improve our teaching.”

Engel said he is deeply grateful to NIU for the many opportunities that it has afforded him, from a Lillian Cobb Faculty Fellowship for International Teaching to an NIU Service-Learning Faculty Fellowship and many teaching workshops hosted by NIU.

“Collectively, these resources have helped me create innovative courses that provide engaged- and experiential-learning opportunities for my students and enhance their understanding of and appreciation for philosophy,” Engel said.

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