Faculty Profile! Dr. Gonzalo Obelleiro, Ph.D.

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Dr. Gonzalo Obelleiro was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, but early on he experienced an itch for understanding the world. This led him to study art and the artistic traditions underlying design, and eventually to the theory of art, aesthetics, and philosophy. At the same time, he grew in awareness of social injustice and developed an interest in politics, ethics, and education. All of this happened during his time at Soka University of America (SUA).

He attended SUA as part of its first graduating class, and his experience there inspired him to pursue advanced studies in the theory of education.  This was mainly motivated by the desire to understand both the meaning of his educational experiences, which he identifies as privileged, and to find a way of contributing to the lives of people who did not have the same opportunities that he enjoyed. He went on to Teachers College at Columbia University where he received his Ph.D. in Philosophy and Education. While at Teachers College, he studied with David Hansen and Megan Laverty, taught courses in educational theory and philosophy, and was part of EdLab, where he did research, design, and development for online educational tools, art exhibitions, and curriculum projects.

Dr. Obelleiro’s research focuses on cosmopolitan education, theory of values, and the educational philosophies of John Dewey and Daisaku Ikeda. Recently, he’s been thinking about the idea of a curriculum for cosmopolitan education and the various forms it might take in different cultural contexts; in particular, he is interested in the context of Latino populations in the United States. He believes that in the 21st century, the core Vincentian commitment to social justice as a moral imperative must be approached from a global perspective. It is the central ethical concern of his research on cosmopolitan education: “How are we to educate for moral responsibility in a world where our social, political, economic, and environmental destinies are entangled across geographical distances and cultural differences? In a world deeply interconnected and fast-changing like ours, dogmatic responses fail to meet the moral challenges that define our times: we must learn to hold our moral commitments reflectively.”

As someone who has decided to devote a great deal of time to the theory of education, Dr. Obelleiro believes in the power of ideas. He explains, “Ideas can affect change in the world in many different ways, sometimes dramatic, and often subtle. An idea might capture the imagination of an entire generation and change social practices, institutions, and policies; or it might render practices, relationships, and circumstances more meaningful, and our responses wiser, more humble, and more sensitive, even without creating outwardly apparent change.” One way of articulating what he envisions is that students take away from his courses a deeper understanding of thinking as a set of powerful tools for education and for life, coming to appreciate and put into practice the varieties of ways in which ideas can affect practice.

His main pedagogical commitment is to enable shared experiences of critical and creative thought. In his graduate level courses he creates and values experiential moments of thinking together. He explains that he “encourage[s] a comfortable and collegial, yet rigorous environment in which students feel safe and welcome to speak their minds and argue openly.” His goal is to make his classes a fertile ground for thinking ethically about education and for learning to uphold moral values reflectively, not only for students, for also for himself.   He has found an intellectually dynamic community of inquiry in the LLC Department, with a unique combination of fields of expertise and theoretical perspectives, and he looks forward to learning from everyone.

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