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Nancy McHugh named Fitz Center for Leadership in Community executive director

By Dave Larsen

Community-engaged educator and leader Nancy McHugh will become executive director of the University of Dayton’s Fitz Center for Leadership in Community on Aug. 2.

Established in 2002 and named in honor of former University president Brother Raymond L. Fitz, S.M., the Fitz Center is a national leader in civic engagement and community-based learning and scholarship. The center partners with urban neighborhoods and regional communities to promote comprehensive community building, provides a context for broadly connected learning and scholarship, and develops students and faculty as community leaders.

McHugh is founding director of the Wittenberg Institute for Public Humanities and Sciences, where she works to create social change through critical, compassionate and creative partnerships that address local injustices and inequities. She is a professor and chairperson of the philosophy department at Wittenberg University, and a fellow in the Hagen Center for Civic and Urban Engagement.

"I am excited about the rich experience and capability that Nancy McHugh will bring to UD and the Fitz Center,” said University of Dayton Provost Paul Benson. “Nancy has excellent faculty credentials as a community-engaged teacher and scholar, broad administrative skill and deep experience in cultivating and sustaining community partnerships. She embraces the core values and influential history of the Fitz Center, and is well prepared to advance the Fitz Center's work across Dayton as well as throughout campus.

“Nancy's existing relationships with many of our faculty and staff, her knowledge of Dayton's neighborhoods, and her distinctive perspective as a public, action-oriented philosopher are among the many assets she will bring to the Fitz Center," he said.

In her two decades as an educator and administrator, McHugh has worked at the local and national levels to train and mentor faculty to partner with communities in ways that are just and responsive. She has developed toolkits and workshops for faculty on approaches to ethical and responsive community-engaged teaching. In addition, she has trained an extensive number of students from a range of disciplines on how to engage communities in just, ethical and responsive manners that start from community-identified needs.

At Wittenberg, McHugh led the Restorative Justice Initiative (RJI), a collaboration among faculty, students and Springfield agencies and organizations that trained 43 community members, students and faculty in restorative and transformative justice. The initiative received funding from the U.S. Department of Juvenile Justice, The United Way and others. RJI impacted the Clark County Juvenile Court and the Clark County Juvenile Detention Center, and helped to reduce youth incarceration. The training also empowered local schools to shift to restorative disciplinary practices and led to ongoing restorative justice training in Clark County.

McHugh’s research, teaching and civic engagement efforts are based on meeting the needs of communities, with a particular emphasis on marginalized communities. 

“There are many aspects of the Fitz Center that excite me, but the fact that these same values and practices serve as the bedrock of the center is particularly inspiring because they are becoming increasingly lost in higher education, even while at the same time our students are asking for education, training and opportunities in these areas,” McHugh said.

“My experience with 21st century students is not that they want an education to guide them toward a job, but they want an education to guide them toward a purpose. The deep integration of the Fitz Center in the University of Dayton’s educational mission creates these conditions for developing critical, creative, compassionate and socially responsive engaged citizens.”

In her new role at the Fitz Center, McHugh will mobilize UD faculty and students to engage in partnerships with members of the Dayton community to address important community needs and advance the University’s commitment to civic engagement, community-engaged learning and student leadership development.

She also will join the College of Arts and Sciences faculty as a tenured professor in the Department of Philosophy.

“I am delighted that from a highly competitive search Nancy joins UD to lead the Fitz Center for Leadership in Community,” said College Dean Jason Pierce. “Having served in a number of administrative and faculty leadership roles, she brings decades of experience working with a wide range of community partners and preparing faculty and students for community-engaged scholarship and learning.  She has an ambitious and compelling vision for the Fitz Center as a place where UD's Catholic and Marianist mission distinctly manifests itself. Driven by collaboration, equity and justice, Nancy is clearly committed to working with and across Dayton's diverse communities and organizations. I'm excited to see the Fitz Center's contributions to our campus and community deepen and expand under her leadership."

McHugh holds a doctoral degree in philosophy from Temple University. She is the author of The Limits of Knowledge: Generating Pragmatist Feminist Cases for Situated Knowing, which was funded by a $70,000 National Science Foundation grant for ethics in science and technology studies. She also is the co-editor of three volumes, including the forthcoming Blackwell Companion to Public Philosophy.

Co-located at 1401 S. Main St. with the Dayton Foundation and the Dayton Development Coalition, the Fitz Center serves as a connecting point and campus-wide partner for community partnerships, leadership, community-engaged learning and scholarship, and innovative solution-based strategies to civic needs through an asset-based approach. From its beginnings, the Fitz Center remains grounded in the University of Dayton’s Catholic, Marianist values of preference for marginalized people, reciprocal relationships and shared dialogue for vital community-engaged leadership.

For more information, visit the Fitz Center website.

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