Dr. Nirmala Pillay has lectured at institutions in South Africa, New Zealand, the United Kingdom—and now, Holland, Michigan.
As visiting exchange professor in the department of political science, Dr. Pillay has been lecturing Hope College undergraduates in the Democracy and Human Rights course since late February 2015.
“When I was invited here, I jumped at the opportunity because I could interact with scholars in another discipline which will enrich my work in constitutional law,” Dr. Pillay said. Dr. Pillay is currently Senior Lecturer in Public Law and Human Rights in the School of Law at Liverpool John Moores University in England.
“My main focus is human rights, public law, constitutional law and jurisprudence,” she said. “You could call me a public lawyer.”
Her expertise has earned Dr. Pillay numerous accolades, and she is well published. She is excited to be teaching at Hope College for part of the semester.
“There’s been a huge benefit to me from teaching and preparing lectures in the political science department,” said Dr. Pillay. “It’s been a new experience to teach students in a general education class ranging from freshmen to seniors.” At Liverpool John Moores, Dr. Pillay lectures undergraduates pursuing their Bachelor of Laws (LL.B.) degrees, as well as post-graduate and Ph.D. students.
“I’ve felt extremely welcome here,” said Dr. Pillay. “Not only because everyone is so friendly, but because so many people on campus have reached out. It’s been a lovely experience.” It’s helped her feel less homesick, she said.
“We’re delighted to have her,” said Dr. Annie Dandavati chairperson and professor of political science, and director of international studies at Hope College. “It’s been an enriching and engaging experience for all of us.” The two professors plan to continue their professional collaboration into the future. They also expect that Dr. Pillay’s visit will mark a step forward in Hope College’s international partnerships.
“I’ll be going this winter to Liverpool Hope University, and I’m also hoping to give a guest lecture at Liverpool John Moores University,” said Dr. Dandavati. She plans to teach a six- to eight-week post-graduate class on gender and development in Liverpool Hope University’s international relations department.
The two institutions share more than a name: both are ecumenically Christian and share a common mission and values. Hope College has an 18-year partnership with Liverpool Hope University, a formal relationship that is just one part of Hope College’s goal to “equip every student to lead and serve in a global society by orienting all areas of the college toward greater global engagement.”
Although the two schools have been exchanging students and guest lecturers for years — with additional faculty from Liverpool Hope coming to Hope College later this year — Drs. Pillay and Dandavati are excited that the institutions are moving on to the next stage of collaboration, with faculty staying for longer periods instead of simply visiting for lectures and events.
A distinguished voice
Dr. Pillay will conclude her stay at Hope with a public lecture titled “Islam, Democracy and the Rule of Law: With Special Reference to Egypt.” The lecture will be held on Wednesday, April 22, 2015, at 3 p.m. in the Fried-Hemenway Auditorium of the Martha Miller Center for Global Communication.
“In part, the lecture is going to center around some of the contemporary questions of the Middle East, including human rights,” said Alfredo Gonzales, dean of international and multicultural education and associate provost at Hope College. “With this lecture, Dr. Pillay will push the Hope community to begin a deeper reflection on, and understanding of, the Middle East.”
The conversation will continue during the Critical Issues Symposium (CIS) on September 22 and 23, 2015. The focus for the 35th Annual event is “Engaging the Middle East: Understanding Contemporary Changes.”
“We want to make sure we get the ball rolling with someone like Dr. Pillay,” said Dr. Dandavati. “It will be interesting to examine this topic through the lens of rule of law. She will introduce the subject with a lot of expertise, writing and scholarship of a very high caliber.”
“Other experts will be discussing the topic,” she continued, “but not necessarily examining the new constitution in Egypt within the context of democracy and the rule of law.”
The keynote CIS address will be delivered by Shibley Telhami, Anwar Sadat Professor for Peace and Development at the University of Maryland, College Park, and non-resident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution.
Dr. Dandavati and Dean Gonzales point out that Pillay’s visit and lecture, and the broader topic being explored by CIS, fit the mission of Hope College to prepare students for lives of leadership and service in a global society. “Students can’t examine their vocation and calling in a global world if we don’t expose them to issues of Islam and the cultural traditions and political situations in the Middle East,” said Dr. Dandavati. “It’s no longer a matter of curiosity or an exotic culture to examine. It’s having a very real impact on the West, including global policy. It’s not only out there, it’s part of our world.”
In many ways, Dr. Pillay’s time at Hope College has been another part of the institution’s commitment to international and multicultural education: welcoming a scholar with a unique perspective on cultural differences—not only to learn, but to explore differences, develop understanding and nurture relationships.
Dr. Nirmala Pillay’s husband, Dr. Gerald Pillay, vice-chancellor and rector at Liverpool Hope University, will also be on the Hope College campus this spring. Dr. Gerald Pillay will deliver the Baccalaureate sermon on May 3, 2015. He a member of the Hope College Board of Trustees and was awarded an honorary degree from Hope College in 2013.