UNO philosophy professor’s road to teaching

Photo by Samantha Weideman

Samantha Weideman

Laura Grams is tickled. She enters her office carrying a package, excited to reveal what’s inside. “I think it’s a T-shirt,” she said. “I just met this man who told me he’d send me a T-shirt.”

The perforated plastic is torn from the top and she pulls out a folded white garment. She unfolds the shirt, which is three sizes too big, holding it in front of her to reveal the scene of Socrates drinking the conium.

“I could almost wear this as a dress,” she said, laughing.

The works of Hume, Plato and Socrates line her bookshelf at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, along with books about morality and the limits of consciousness among others. Grams’ love for philosophy is clear to anyone who meets her. This love began when she took a semester-long philosophy class and went to the corresponding Philosophy Club at Lincoln High.

In high school, Grams became worried the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, her first choice for college, would not offer liberal arts. She cites this as her inspiration to pursue her graduate degree in education. Today, Grams teaches philosophy courses at UNO and serves as the Faculty Senate president.

“A big reason I wanted to be a professor was to make sure students can all have that experience,” Grams said. “And (feel) that they don’t have to travel away from home to study liberal arts.”

Although Grams was interested in philosophy, she didn’t always want to pursue it as a career. When she was in high school she wanted to be a doctor. Once she reached college, she changed her focus to neuroscience. She wanted to remain in the medical field but preferred research.

“I just thought it was fascinating,” she said. “There’s so much we don’t know about the brain and the mind and even as we discover more, we find out how much we still don’t know.”

Grams graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and classics, later going on to earn a doctorate in philosophy. She still reads the occasional article about neuroscience and particularly enjoys those relating music and the brain.

She keeps these studies in mind while playing her cello. While Grams doesn’t get a chance to play as much anymore, partially because of her duties as a professor and as the Faculty Senate president, she loves producing music.

“(Playing) puts you in touch with amazingly beautiful things other people have created because you’re playing music somebody else has written,” Grams said. “You get to experience that, sort of from the inside, as opposed to just hearing it with your ears on the radio.”

Grams began playing the cello at age 10 and continued throughout high school, college and part of her time as a professor at UNO.

“I played with the Heartland Philharmonic Orchestra until I became pregnant with my first child, which sort of interfered with the physical playing,” Grams said, laughing.

After that, she stopped playing. Her three children; ages 6, 10, and 14 years; now enjoy violin, clarinet and piano lessons and practicing at home. Grams could not be more excited about the development.

She experienced many changes during her life, but ultimately, she’s satisfied with where she has ended.

“If I could have drawn a plan, I would have done it just like this. Amazing,” Grams said. “I don’t know how this happened, but I’m happy about it.”