Double major Amy Cain merges theory and practice
As a cheerful and engaging ambassador for the University of Mississippi College of Liberal Arts, Amy Cain is the opposite of disagreeable. But one thing she values about the university is that “it’s a safe enough space where you can talk with people and still disagree in a respectful way.”
Cain, a double major in philosophy and political science, and a member of the Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College, came to Ole Miss wanting “clear-cut answers to questions.”
That changed when she took a freshman honors seminar with William Lawhead, professor emeritus in the Department of Philosophy and Religion.
“He challenged us with a lot of big ideas and probing questions,” Cain said. “I’d say, ‘I want to know what the answer is,’ and he’d say, ‘Amy, that’s not the point.'”
Cain took the bait. She has relished challenging and debating existing ideas, theorizing new ones, questioning assumptions, including her own, and clearly communicating her ideas – all central to a liberal arts education.
Her deep dive into academia has earned her recognition. She is the recipient of the 2018 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Politics, the 2019 James and Cecelia Lawhead Award in Philosophy and a bronze medal for the Post-Secondary Russian Essay Contest.
When she’s not acing her classes, which include a minor in Russian, Cain has immersed herself in the political – in both theory and practice. Last summer, she worked on a political campaign and spent long, hot days knocking on doors and otherwise gaining supporters as a fundraising strategist for a Mississippi Senate candidate.
Cain also has served as an opinion columnist for The Daily Mississippian and is president of the UM chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honors society, as well as a member of academic honors societies for philosophy and Slavic studies.
“The more I’ve started to discuss politics and news with those around me, the more I felt connected to the mechanisms of actual change,” she said.
Cain, whose honors thesis is “Education in Liberal Political Theories,” will be working for Teach for America in Cleveland, Ohio, next fall, relocating there from her native Southaven.
“Cleveland revamped its public education,” Cain said. “The city has gone to almost all specialized schools that are charter-style. They’ve been doing whatever they can to give kids the best possible education.
“I also felt so at home in Cleveland when I visited. It’s a friendly and ethnically diverse city.”
Her ultimate career goal is a work in progress, but she’s passionate about equality in educational opportunity.
“If I ever move back down to Mississippi, I’d like to take some ideas from Cleveland’s schools and bring them here,” she said.
By Abigail Meisel/College of Liberal Arts