Astute and vivacious, Dr. Cedar Mansour has had an extremely successful career as a lawyer in both the United States and Lebanon. She now brings her considerable expertise, and novel outlook as the new Dean of the Faculty of Law & Political Science at Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU).
How and when did you know that embarking on a law career was your vocation?
You know, I’m a licensed lawyer here in Lebanon and in the US too, so I did it twice. Dr. Mansour laughs. So you can say that I’m a professional law school person. I didn’t think I wanted to be a lawyer, when I was young. I always had this very great sense of the need for justice and defending others. I was always told that I have very good logic and that I am very good at arguing, and that I have this courage of standing up for what I believed in.
My dad was the one who really saw the lawyer in me. He always said: “lawyering is what you should do,” and I always felt, no I want to be a writer. Then I thought I’d go to law school to make him happy. He never asked me to do anything in my life, so I owed him that. I went and I loved it. I started law school and was good at it, and really loved being a lawyer. I love the knowledge that gives you power to stand for those who do not have the ability to stand for themselves.
I believe in social justice, equal rights to the core of my being, and that is not only gender and race it’s also social class, and I think that being a lawyer makes you very powerful if you want to stand for what is right. Knowledge is power in this arena if you use it the right way. You can use it the wrong way very easily and you can make a lot of money and a lot of people wealthier than they are preying on weaker people. I never felt this is something that enticed me. I did very well, thank God, I never compromised what I believed in.
I can still trace the teenage rebel who went to law school and what she believed in. Of course, now I know more and have the ability to articulate and choose my battles but never stopped fighting, and never will.
Following your successful career in the field, what are your current aims in your position as dean?
My aims tie very closely to why I decided to come here. I do believe that you have phases in your life, and that there is always a purpose and a goal for what you do and what you are entrusted with. I have faith that the reason why I am here now is because this is the place that I am required to be. I have a lot of work, things to change, lives I can influence, and young souls I can relate to, shape and mold, and this is such a huge privilege and responsibility. Working with young men and women, is a privilege and I always check that I am worthy to do it. You always have to test so that you don’t become complaisant.
I do believe that we are at a pivotal moment in education. Education is changing. It’s no longer an ivory tower from which you sit and pontificate. It’s going down to the ground, preparing your students to be responsible professionals, able to be ethical, and be the best they can be in their profession whatever it is. I think the new philosophy in education and how the whole process is moving is something I believe in. Education has to be reconciled to the town and gown. It does not have to be a question of “I know the truth and you come to me and I teach you what truth is.” Truth is something we’re all seeking and we all have a piece of it regardless of where we are in life. This is amplified in education, because the purpose of why you’re here is to learn and it’s fascinating and it gives my work a dimension that is beyond what I’m doing.
Would you say you experienced mentoring that helped shape your career?
A few of my professors, whom I still cherish, really left a lasting impression on me. I think they fashioned my philosophy of education. The best way to learn is modeling. You always have people in your life that if you focus and see the value they bring to you, will be a lasting value.
We all have special talents. What do you think are your strongest?
The ability to listen. I love to listen and learn from people. I think the best school in life is getting to know people and having a genuine relationship with them.
What are your expectations for the Faculty this year? Have you set definite goals to propel the Faculty forward?
Yes! We are revising the whole program and changing the way we teach Law in particular and Political Science in general. Our aim is for it to be hands on and prepare our young generation for the needs of the market. This is the motto we are following. I want my students to be very confident they know law, but more importantly know how to use it and how it can be used to benefit others. I love everybody who graduates from this school to have the highest ethical standards in their practice.