By RII Staff

The Center for the Philosophy of Freedom, also known as the Freedom Center, has a new leadership team in Director Mary Rigdon and Associate Director Saura Masconale. Rigdon is an associate professor, and Masconale is an assistant professor in the Department of Political Economy and Moral Science.

Both are scholars whose research is on the cutting edge of efforts to address significant societal challenges.

Mary is a nationally recognized scholar on gender equity. Her research is motivated by the belief that:

“Gender equity, with diversity and inclusion, is foundational to freedom, opportunity, and sustainability
in an interconnected world. Understanding what motivates women and the value they provide is critical as organizations seek to build a diverse and sustainable leadership structure.”

Mary’s research is helping close the gender opportunity and wage gap. The World Economic Forum estimates it will take 135.6 years to close the gender gap. Understanding what motivates women – which is at the core of Mary’s research – is one of their recommended 15 solution strategies. Mary will be a featured speaker at the University of Arizona Wonder House at SXSW on March 12, to deliver a call to action: change the system, not the women. It is a myth that women are not as competitive as men. Mary’s research shows that women are just as competitive as men when the incentive for winning includes factors that matter to them. These incentives include an option to share their rewards after winning a competition and bonuses paid to charities. Mary has been interviewed recently about her research by the Australian Broadcasting Network, Rosemary Counter for the Financial Times, KOLD News 13, KVOA News 4, Arizona Public Media, KJZZ, and The Daily Beast.

Saura’s most recent research – which has received both national and international attention – examines the evolution of the corporation from an economic agent to a new political actor. Corporations today take sides on highly divisive issues: gun control, gender and race, immigration, abortion – the list keeps growing,” she says. “Like citizens, corporations now engage with focal points of moral and political disagreement. But unlike ordinary citizens, they are not required to abide by the rules of democratic engagement, while having the size and resources to influence the public debate in a way individuals cannot.” This conclusion, her research shows, raises important questions about the impact of the new “corporate activism” not just on corporate governance but democratic governance – including questions on freedom of speech, both within and outside corporations, and on the risk of increased political polarization.

Saura Masconale

Mary and Saura also lead the Center’s flagship Public Discussion Forum (PDF) series, which brings local and national leaders together to share unique perspectives and engage with the general public to address timely and critical societal issues at free events. As part of the PDF series, in Spring 2023 the Center will host two panels on the Great Reshuffling of the global workforce and Women’s Equity in Sports:

February 20 at the Tucson Museum of Art: The Great Reshuffling: A Perfect Storm or the New Norm?

April 5 at the Fox Tucson Theatre: Women’s Equity in Sports: The Fight, the Scars, and the Thrill of Victory.

Mary and Saura were recruited by Freedom Center Founding Director David Schmidtz, who will remain affiliated with the Center as Editor of Social Philosophy & Policy. Long-term stability and leadership continuity will ensure that the Center can continue to be a model for intellectual inclusivity, viewpoint diversity, scholarship, and community engagement programs that make an impact. As put by Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation, “The ideals of the Freedom Center – freedom and responsibility – are two rich areas of exploration for those of us in a university environment, both philosophically and practically.” Mary and Saura will continue to advance critical thinking and transdisciplinary discussion in these areas and make sure the Center continues to be a resource for the University, the state of Arizona and beyond.