Faculty Spotlight: Dr. Jeffrey Dill

For Dr. Dill, “Sociology helps us understand what it means to be human.” He says that sociology is one tool he uses to better understand how humans interact with each other, both in how they shape their cultures and how they are shaped by their cultures.  

Dr. Dill is a professor of two courses in the Honors College, “Honors Capstone” and “Modernity & the Good Society,” the latter of which provides students the opportunity to explore theories within classical sociology. In reflecting on teaching Modernity, Dr. Dill notes that many of the questions in the modern age have their roots in the classical era. His class serves to bridge this gap between the ancient texts students read in their first few years and the more modern thinkers they encounter in their later classes. Many of these questions are very practical questions that college students wrestle with daily, questions of religious belief, family, marriage, consumer choices. He says these questions can be paralyzing to students but that he seeks to create a space to have a conversation together, rather than to simply look for easy answers. His hope is that his course allows students to think about how to pursue the good life in a modern world.

A defining feature of Dr. Dill’s course on modernity is that he incorporates Christ into the social world. He points to the idea of the Imago Dei and how from this we see that there is a creative aspect in every human being. According to Dr. Dill, “The social worlds that we create, and the material ones, are all fruit of this great gift of creativity that God has given us.” This is the lens through which we can see our own role in a modern society.  

Aside from his time as professor in the Honors college, Dr. Dill is continuing his research on homeschooling and has a chapter coming out in November in an edited volume about this research. He also has submitted a paper with Mary Elliot, Templeton alumna, for publication. This paper grew out of the presentation that Dr. Dill and Mary gave on Hannah Arendt in Honors Forum this past spring. Mary and Dr. Dill are currently working on a literature review which focuses on the different ways psychologists attempt to measure character. Dr Dill’s future plans include transforming his homeschooling research into a book.   

In talking about research and teaching, Dr. Dill shared with me the challenge of balancing research, teaching, and family.  He says that it is good to remind himself that we cannot do it all as well as we would like. Sometimes the kitchen is not as clean as we would hope, or the paper is not graded as quickly as students may hope. It’s in these times that he reminds himself to be grateful. As he puts it, “to live in gratitude that I have things to balance.” He references a short story by Tolkien, Leaf by Niggle, in which the character Niggle goes through the whole story too busy and preoccupied with his painting to understand the gift he had in front of him. Dr. Dill says that he hopes to live his life seeing what he has been given as gifts.

Emily Matzinger (’19) is a Templeton scholar studying Social Work. She enjoys working in community gardens, hiking, reading, and volunteering at an after school program. She hopes to get her MSW after she graduates and to continue to work with the immigrant and Latino population.

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