Marquette English professor honored with Teaching Excellence Award

Aug. 5, 2021

C.J. HribalMILWAUKEE — Prof. C.J. Hribal, professor of English in the Klingler College of Arts and Sciences, is the recipient of a 2021 Robert and Mary Gettel Teaching Excellence Award.

Teaching Excellence Awards are the highest honor bestowed upon Marquette University faculty members. Recipients are nominated by colleagues and students for demonstrating excellence as teacher-scholars.

Hribal is celebrated for his philosophy of teaching through empathetic imagination in which he emphasizes four main styles of learning: lecture, imitation, practice and repetition, and experience and experimentation.

The concept of empathetic imagination in education is so important to him, Hribal said, because the practice in the classroom, especially at a Jesuit institution, is the “true essence of cura-personalis — the Jesuit value of care for the whole individual person.

“If you want to develop the whole person, and to make men and women for others, you have to be able to imagine what life is like for others, as well as understand what your own life is like,” Hribal said.

“Receiving the Teaching Excellence Award is a reminder for me of the love and joy and seriousness that I try to bring to my students, and that I hope to instill in them as well so that they can go out and be the change they seek,” Hribal said. “To quote the poet Thomas Lux, ‘You make the thing because you love the thing and you love the thing because someone else loved it enough to make you love it. And with that your heart like a tent peg pounded toward the earth’s core. And with that your heart on a beam burns through the ionosphere. And with that you go to work.’”

One nominator wrote that “the work C.J. does is so incredibly powerful and unusual because he trains students for survival. Imagination, memory, creativity all come together to help our students to not be silenced by trauma, by fear, by paralysis in all their forms. We have a master storyteller here who has prepared our students to live through anything they might face.”

Hribal said he views teaching as a form of giving back. He sees himself as the product of quality, passionate teachers who invested time in him, taught him to take himself seriously and instilled in him a love of teaching and learning. Now, Hribal lives and works each day to inspire his own students in the same ways.

The volume of nominations Hribal received for the award tells a story of a dedicated professor who is a role model, not just for students, but colleagues across the Marquette community as well.

“As a colleague, I always look forward to talking about teaching with C.J.,” another nominator wrote. “He’s a skilled teacher who offered me wise counsel when I first began, and even in a department filled with award-winning teachers, C.J. stands out as an exceptionally talented and committed educator.”

About Shelby Williamson

Shelby Williamson

Shelby is a senior communication specialist in the Office of Marketing and Communication. Contact Shelby at (414) 288-6712 or