By Susie Allen
Photo by Robert Kozloff

Kevin Hector studies Christian theology and the philosophy of religions. A UChicago faculty member since 2007, he is the author of Theology Without Metaphysics (2011) and is currently at work on a new book, tentatively titled Modernism as a Theological Problem.

What does this award mean to you?

Receiving this award is deeply humbling, to say the least. I care a lot about teaching and mentoring, and I hope someday to deserve an award like this. In the meantime, my receiving it means, more than anything, that I have wonderful students, for whom and to whom I am overwhelmed with gratitude.

What’s your philosophy/approach to teaching and mentoring graduate students?

My goals are pretty simple: I want my students (a) to have a clear understanding of their subject matter, (b) to become more careful, exacting thinkers, and (c) to become contributors, in their own right, to the sort of disciplined conversations that characterize academic inquiry. My primary way of trying to achieve these goals, in turn, is to cultivate a certain kind of community, one in which we hold one another accountable to rigorous standards of clarity and warrant, work together to make sense of difficult texts and ideas, push one another to achieve higher levels of excellence, and, in sum, see the best in, while helping to make the best of, each other’s projects.

What’s special about working with University of Chicago graduate students in particular?

Our students are exceptionally smart, of course, but what impresses me most about them is how committed they are to their work, how much they care about becoming excellent teachers, and how invested they are in one another’s flourishing. Far and away, though, the most special thing is getting to know particular students, watching (and hopefully helping) them flourish, and seeing them come into their own.

Who or what inspires your teaching?

I am fortunate to have been taught and mentored by several extraordinary teachers, and to have worked alongside many more. They inspire me, though it would be more apt to say that they challenge me, since when I think of their commitment to, and excellence in, teaching, I realize that I have a long, long way to go. I am also inspired by my students, both because they regularly push me to raise my game, and because they so clearly deserve great teachers. And I suppose I am also inspired by a sense that our subject matter is important, and that we have an obligation to do our best to get it right.

Originally published on June 3, 2013.