While I’m currently taking a (possibly permanent) break from teaching in a university context, helping people learn will always be a part of who I am.
In undergraduate classes, I focus on building core philosophical skills that are transferable to other contexts, while examining philosophical issues that lie under the surface in what people say, do, and read in everyday life (as, for example, in news media). In more advanced classes, we continue developing our core skills by focusing on close examination of more philosophically sophisticated texts and by honing our ability to write accurate, clear, and persuasive academic prose.
I have facilitated student projects that involve collaboration with community partners in my Environmental Ethics, Bioethics, and Justice courses (Red Tail Land Conservancy and Forward STEPS, a poverty alleviation initiative of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Central Indiana).
Previously, I taught full-time as an Assistant Professor at Ball State University and at Colby-Sawyer College and as Visiting Assistant Professor at Fort Lewis College. Before that, I was a Graduate Instructor and Teaching Assistant at the University of Washington.
My past courses
BALL STATE UNIVERSITY
Introduction to Philosophy
Emotions, Character, & Moral Responsibility
Introduction to Gender Studies
Logic and Critical Thinking
Philosophy of Mind
Philosophy Capstone: Senior Thesis
FORT LEWIS COLLEGE
Introduction to Philosophy
Senior Seminar: Moral Partiality, Special Relationships, & Special Obligations
UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON
Contemporary Moral Problems
Introduction to Ethics
Philosophy of Mind
Graduate Seminar in Teaching Philosophy (co-taught with Dr. Ann Baker)
Courses Assisted at UW
Introduction to Philosophy with Ann Baker
Introduction to Philosophy with Michael Rosenthal
Introduction to Philosophy with Jonathan Peeters
Contemporary Moral Problems with Adam Moore
Philosophical Issues in the Law with Ronald Moore
Philosophies of Feminism with Alison Wylie
Introduction to Ethics with Angela Smith
Introduction to Medical Ethics with Ingra Schellenberg
Environmental Ethics with Andrew Light
Introduction to Philosophy of Religion with Kenneth Clatterbaugh
(three times, including one Honors section)
Materials for students
Guides to help build philosophical skills
Philosophy classes, at their best, push students beyond their comfort zones. For one thing, when most college students take a math or literature or history or science class, they have already taken many other classes in those subject areas, so they have quite a bit of knowledge about what they can expect. However, most students in my philosophy classes have never taken a philosophy class before, so they don’t already have a basic knowledge about what we will discuss, what kinds of texts we will read, what kinds of assignments we will do, and what it takes to be successful. That can make a philosophy class an intimidating place. But you can be successful even in an intimidating place! I have put together a few documents that give you some guidelines for how to do just that, which are available below.
Guide to Philosophical Reading and Questioning
Guide to Philosophical Note-taking
Guide to Philosophical Writing
Guide to Studying for Philosophy Exams
Advice for (potential) philosophy majors and minors
Philosophy is a great thing to major or minor in! The following is just one little argument (inspired by this article) for why that is:
- Nowadays, youngish people in places like the US have good reason to believe that they will change jobs (or even careers) multiple times during their adult life.
- To be employable under those conditions, youngish people in places like the US have good reason to develop skills that are useful in a variety of different jobs and contexts.
- Philosophy, more so than many other disciplines, teaches skills that are useful in a variety on jobs and contexts, such as the ability to: read and comprehend complex texts, solve problems independently, express oneself clearly and persuasively (both in writing and verbally), define terms unambiguously, test claims for accuracy, learn from people with different beliefs and values, and many more.
- Therefore if you are a youngish person in a place like the US who wants to be employable, you have good reason to study philosophy in college.
Now suppose that someone makes the following objection to this argument:
- Even if I believe you that philosophy helps students develop those skills that are so useful in so many contexts, that doesn’t change the fact that lots of people believe that philosophy is frivolous and useless because it is nothing more than a club for nerds who like to give their opinions about things that don’t matter in the “real” world. No matter how useful philosophy actually is, if I want to get hired by a person who thinks like that, having a philosophy major (or minor) won’t help me get my foot in the door, so there is no point in studying it!
How could a philosopher respond to that objection? Well, they would have a few options:
- This, at most, gives you a reason to study philosophy AND something else “more practical.” The “more practical” major or minor can help you get your foot in the door in some particular job or industry, but the philosophy major or minor can help you excel in whatever job you get, and thus keep it, get promoted, and/or easily transition into another job, if that is what you desire.
- But maybe double-majoring isn’t so important after all. For philosophy teaches students how to argue in favor of claims by giving good reasons for believing that those claims are true. So, if one wants to get hired by someone who thinks philosophy is useless, having studied philosophy gives one exactly the tools one would need to convince that person of the usefulness of philosophy!
- Maybe even more importantly, both the original argument and the objection seem to assume that the best (or main or only) reason to go to college has to do with being employable. That is certainly one important type of reason, but it isn’t the only thing that college has to offer. Here is a good article for thinking about that (and about how to be successful in college).
What I just did there was construct an argument, consider an objection that someone might make to it, and then respond to that objection. These are some of the core skills we learn in philosophy classes!
There are lots of great (and good and not-so-good) philosophical resources on the internet. Some are great for helping you find what you need to write a philosophy paper. Some are great to help you build specific skills relating to philosophical reading, writing, thinking, and/or speaking. Others are great for just having fun while getting your brain juices flowing!
If you need a rule of thumb to help you sort the philosophical material that you find on the internet that is high quality from that which is not, I recommend this: if the resource is written by someone with a PhD in philosophy and/or posted on a website maintained by a college or university, you should (probably, most of the time) be safe in relying on it (though you should still always think critically about it), and if not, you should be more cautious (critical) in thinking about it (which doesn’t necessarily mean ignore or shun it). That is, of course, a very general rule, subject to lots of exceptions, so you’ll need to use your best judgment and/or ask someone who is in the know to ensure that you are finding the best resources you can.
Here are just some of the philosophy-related websites that I sometimes refer students to:
Wireless Philosophy (video lessons on key philosophical ideas in bite-sized chunks)
PhilPapers (the first place I go when looking for recent philosophical works on a subject)
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (the gold standard online philosophical encyclopedia)
Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (also a good encyclopedia)
The Up Directory (a database with information about philosophers who are members of traditionally underrepresented groups in philosophy)
History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps (podcasts about the history of philosophy)
The Partially Examined Life (podcasts & blog)
Philosophy Now (a popular magazine with podcasts, videos, etc. on its website)