Stephen L. Esquith

Professor and Immediate Past Dean

Contact Info

Office: C210G Snyder Hall
Phone: 517-355-0212


Ph.D., Princeton University, Department of Politics and The Program in Political Philosophy
AB, Harvard University
Stephen L. Esquith

Stephen L. Esquith served as the founding dean of the Residential College in the Arts and Humanities at Michigan State University from 2007 to 2021. He is a graduate of Harvard College and Princeton University, where he received his Ph.D. in politics. He served as the chair of the MSU Department of Philosophy before becoming the founding dean of RCAH. Esquith received MSU's Teacher-Scholar Award in 1984 and the Honors College Distinguished Contributions to Honors Students Award for 2008-2009.

He has been a Fulbright Scholar in Poland and then later in Mali. He is the author of Intimacy and Spectacle (Cornell, 1994) and The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2010), the editor of several edited collections on democracy and development, and the author of numerous articles, most recently on children's human rights, democratic political education, and peace building. He is currently working on several local peace building projects in Mali and similar peace education projects for refugee children in Michigan. He has taught philosophy for children in middle schools in Michigan and Mali over the past fifteen years, and has facilitated the co-creation of four children’s picture books in French, Bamanankan, and English for a peace building project in Mali. He teaches courses in RCAH on civic engagement and political theory.



Recent Publications:

“Mali's roadmap for lasting peace has laudable goals: but it doesn't go far enough,” The Conversation, August 24, 2021. 

Image shows the cover of Community Engagement Abroad, with an illustration of a watercolor landscape painting of a town.

"Civic Engagement's Challenges for Study Abroad: An Ethical and Political Perspective," in Crawford, P. & Berquist, B. Eds., Community Engagement Abroad: Perspectives and practices on service, engagement, and learning overseas (Michigan State University Press, 2020). 

“The Ciwara Picture Book Project,” in Philosophy in Classrooms and Beyond: New Approaches to Picture-Book Philosophy, ed. Thomas Wartenberg (Rowman & Littlefield, 2019)
“Peace Building, Political Reconciliation, and Human Security in Transitional Societies:The Localist Turn,” in Routledge Handbook of Development Ethics, eds. Jay Drydyk and Lori Keleher (Routledge, 2019)
“Ethics and Development during the Year of Global Africa,” The Engaged Scholar, Vol.
13, 2018
The Political Responsibilities of Everyday Bystanders (Penn State University Press, 2010)
Capabilities, Power, and Institutions: Toward a More Critical Development Ethics, Stephen L. Esquith and Fred Gifford, eds. (Penn State University Press, 2010)


Recent Courses Taught:

Spring 2021

RCAH 202: Peace Building

Fall 2020 

RCAH 346: Repairs, Reparations, and Responsibilities

Spring 2019

RCAH 492: When Words Lose Their Meaning


Recent Interviews and Media:

"What Engaged Scholarship Looks Like," Chronicle of Higher Education's Teaching Newsletter, May 9, 2019.

"The anti-Engler," Lansing City Pulse, January 24, 2019
"At Michigan State, a Disruptive Presidency That Few Could Muster the Will to End," The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 17, 2019
"Can liberal education survive at a scandal-plagued university? A professor explains why it must." Washington Post, May 1, 2018
Lansing City Pulse Radio Show: May 12, 2018; May 5, 2018; with Moussa Traore, January 21, 2015;  January 7, 2015


Stephen Esquith's Messages from the Dean

June 30, 2021: Dean's Message No. 34

January 7, 2021: Re-Imagining RCAH after 2020

July 1, 2020: Renewing, Re-Imagining, and Redressing

April 6, 2020: Is It a War?

January 29, 2020: The Common Good and DEI

August 27, 2019: Year 13—A Saddle Point for RCAH

May 20, 2019: The Feeling of Commencement

January 17, 2019: Letter to the RCAH Community Following the Resignation of Interim President Engler

August 29, 2018: Our Projects of Mutual Independence

January 9, 2018: When Words Lose Their Meaning

July 17, 2017: Belonging and Betrayal

February 28, 2017: RCAH Peace Game

November 15, 2016: Radical Poise

April 6, 2016: RCAH Griots

October 1, 2015: Building Public Spaces One Story at a Time