What a tumultuous year this has been for all of us – for our Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies alumni and friends, our students, our staff, and our faculty. While the details of the ways that we’ve been tested are different, the overall pattern of the things we’ve had to confront are similar. Work routines upended; family traditions altered or abandoned; financial and medical well-being threatened. And all this amidst a social and political setting that seems unusually chaotic.
Philosophy and Religious Studies at a Time Like This
One advantage of living in a time when so many things that had seemed settled become unmoored is this: it reminds people what we’ve known all along – that the work our faculty and students do is essential to any well-ordered society.
Philosophy and Religious Studies focus on questions that humans have raised from the beginnings of recorded time. How should we live? What constitutes a good life? What do justice and equality require of us? What role should religion play in public life? What obligations do we have to our neighbors and to future generations? Our faculty and students participate in this centuries-long conversation to explore the different and conflicting answers that these talks produce.
Our students are thus equipped to navigate thoughtfully the contentious issues that roil the current landscape. They write concisely and speak clearly about complicated, nuanced topics. They listen respectfully to those with different opinions and backgrounds. And they imaginatively find ways to bring people together to advance common goals.
This helps explain why The Wall Street Journal and other studies note that students who major in our fields are able to make mid-career decisions that bring them high salaries and high levels of job satisfaction. Here’s a great article worth sharing.
Our students possess the skills employers report are in short supply, and that are the hallmarks of good democratic citizenship. One of the perks of working alongside our students is that we have reason to be optimistic about the future they are helping to build.
Here on campus we’ve found innovative ways to continue to succeed despite the challenges we all face.
Committed to linking our classroom learning to organizations off-campus, our students have recently interacted with 39 community partners, including:
- U.S. Members of Congress
- Second Harvest Food Bank
- The Islamic Center in Washington, D.C.
- WTIU-TV, in Bloomington, Indiana
Dr. Elizabeth Agnew and her students’ documentary film Muslims in Muncie won three awards:
- The 2020 Alice Smith Prize in Public History from the Midwestern History Association
- The 2019 Award for Oral History in a Non-Print Format from the Oral History Association
- The 2019 Faculty Immersive Learning Award for leadership of a Virginia Ball Center Seminar
- A digital archive of the seminar’s interviews with 22 Muslims from different countries is archived in the Ball State Libraries Digital Media Repository. The interviews span individuals’ life stories and building a community in Muncie in the last fifty years.
Dr. Joseph Marchal won Ball State’s Outstanding Researcher of the Year award and secured a $40,00 Lilly Endowment Grant to continue his scholarship.
Dr. Sarah Vitale won Ball State’s prestigious 2019-2020 Lawhead Award, recognizing her outstanding contributions to our University’s Core Curriculum.
Dr. Matthew Hotham’s inclusive-related scholarship received a Diversity Scholar Recognition Certificate. The Certificate signals his success as a scholar and his contribution to advancing goals that Ball State has identified as key to our future success.
Dr. Jeffrey Brackett is working on a book tentatively titled Zen and the Artful Buddhist: Asperger’s, Art, and Academia and coordinating with a gallery for a solo art show displaying his original 36”x 60” drawings associated with that book. You can see his artwork on Instagram and read his new blog on substack, Zen, Disrupted, where he writes about topics related to the book.
Dr. Kibijjo Kalumba has two recent publications in highly regarded journals: “Promoting Stability and Peace in Multi-ethnic African Countries by Reducing the Marginalization of Ethnic Minorities” in The South African Journal of Philosophy, and “”A Defense of Kwame Gyekye’s Moderate Communitarianism” in Philosophical Papers.
Dr. Jeffrey Fry participated in the Faculty Learning Community for Synchronous Learning. He continues to rack up the miles running and has taken up the ukulele.
Dr. Rachel Fredericks recently published an article entitled “The Creeps as a Moral Emotion” in Ergo, a prestigious philosophy journal.
And this doesn’t even cover all of our faculty and student accomplishments. Learn more in our “Good News” post.
Au Revoir Dr. Thorson!
For decades, Dr. Thorson played a key role in the life of our department. Many of you know her as a superb teacher, and her colleagues respect her scholarship and unwavering service to Ball State. She generously shared her impressive talents and her time on the department’s behalf, and served as a mentor for many of you – someone you could turn to for counsel, or for consolation, or for celebration, depending on what was going on in your life.
But even as she takes a well-earned retirement, we don’t say good-bye to Dr. Thorson. We say, instead, au revoir, hopefully invoking its “till we meet again” sentiment.
We give her the last word – here is what she recently shared with us:
Professor Emeriti Juli Thorson is now going by Kate Thorson. She has always wanted to be called “Kate” (Katherine is her middle name) and now in her penultimate transition in life she has made the jump. Now retired she spends much of her time painting in her studio and enjoying red wines. Here is a new painting: