When the Sacred Heart University community thinks of influential faculty members, Dr. Michelle Loris is one of the first to come to mind.
Loris, a 1970 alumna and first-generation college student, is an Associate Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Chair of the Department of Catholic Studies and a professor in the Department of Languages and Literature.
Loris acquired two doctorates after her undergraduate: American literature from Fordham University and clinical psychology from Antioch New England University. While working towards her doctorates, Loris taught part-time at SHU and eventually received tenure from the university.
During her time at SHU, Loris has seen the campus evolve from a small commuter institution to its current stature. Loris recalled three things that characterized the university’s culture for her as an undergraduate.
“One was a tight-knit community that still, in some ways, exists even though we are almost at 10,000 students,” said Loris. “The second is how the bishop’s foundation allowed the university to become an entrepreneurial, innovative institution to be led and staffed by lay people. The third is that it was contemporary catholic. The kind of faculty I had here as a student is still our mission.”
In her career, Loris has published two books, several peer-reviewed articles on contemporary literature and papers dealing with post-traumatic stress, her area of expertise. Loris is also a licensed clinical psychologist and a marriage and family therapist.
Loris has helped develop multiple aspects of Sacred Heart. She has been the founding director of the Jandrisevits Learning Center, the director of the freshman writing program and the university’s Honors program, an interim chair of the Department of Languages and Literature, a founding member of the university’s Academic Governance structure and a member of the university’s Rank and Tenure Committee.
One of Loris’s proudest accomplishments at SHU was her foundation and direction of the Department of Catholic Studies. Loris created the Human Journey Seminars: Great Books in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition, the Human Journey Colloquia series and the Center for Catholic Studies.
“It reflects the mission directly: Sacred Heart University rooted in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition and the liberal arts, with a vision toward social justice,” said Loris. “The idea was to provide students with courses which reflected the mission and help them engage in what the meaning of the mission is. It was always my intention that students would see how learning goes beyond the classroom.”
Loris has received multiple grants, fellowships and awards. This past June, Loris was awarded the highest honor at the university’s Distinguished Alumni Awards. At the ceremony, it was announced that the Martire Center forum would be named the Dr. Michelle Loris ‘70 Forum.
Colleagues of Loris admire her love for the university and students.
“She is really dedicated to the institution, to her area and field, higher education, students and colleagues,” said Dr. William Yousman, assistant professor in communication and media studies. “Sacred Heart is a really special place for her, and I think she very seriously, organically and legitimately wants it to be the best place it possibly can be.”
Students of Dr. Loris spoke highly of her impact on their academic careers.
“I am extremely grateful to have met Dr. Loris,” said sophomore Emma Grady. “Her passion and energy are contagious and extremely motivational. Having the ability to consider her a mentor in terms of my education is something I wish everyone could experience.”
“Dr. Loris genuinely cares about her students and wants to see them succeed,” said sophomore Kelsey Donnelly. “She goes out of her way to present students with opportunities that I think really enhance their experience at SHU.”
For students, Loris hopes they find passion in learning.
“Do not be afraid to take a course that might be a little different,” said Loris. “Keep your minds open and be passionate about learning. I know that is what drove me.”