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Professor of the Year passionate about politics

  Mary Boone  

Professor of the Year passionate about politics

Helping students grasp the many ways in which government affects their lives is a passion of Constance Mixon '88, a political science
professor at Chicago's Richard J. Daley College.

"Three-quarters of the students who enroll in my classes don't know there are three branches of government," says Mixon. "They need to understand that virtually every aspect of their lives is touched by government-from the roads they drive on to the tap water that comes from their kitchen sinks."

Mixon's ability to connect with students has earned her the 2001 Illinois Professor of the Year award from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the only national program that recognizes professors for their teaching.

Mixon planned to study law after earning a political science degree at Cornell, but finances sent her into the job market instead. She worked for the University of Illinois-Chicago while earning a master's degree in public administration. That's when she headed into the classroom as a teaching assistant.

"For me, that was a life-changing event," she says. "There's something so magical about explaining a difficult concept and seeing a student 'get it' for the first time."

Mixon joined the Daley College faculty in 1999, where she sponsors the school's award-winning Model Illinois Government team. She's finishing doctoral studies at the University of Illinois-Chicago, where she was chosen by the American Political Science Association to teach a course for future professors. In that class she hands down some of what she learned at the feet of Cornell faculty.

"I have a great appreciation for what Cornell professors do in 3 1/2 weeks," says Mixon, "and I have modeled much of my teaching after Cornell professors, notably Craig Allin and Dave Loebsack."

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