M.A., Ph.D., University of Georgia
B.A., Auburn University
My No. 1 goal when I entered Auburn University was to make the first team in basketball by my sophomore year. I was able to do this halfway through my sophomore year, but then something strange happened: I started liking academics. This was a result of having a few inspiring professors who clearly had a passion for what they were teaching, whether a seminar on Milton, Old South history or symbolic logic. I went from majoring in journalism to history to finally settling on philosophy in my junior year.
After graduating from Auburn, I was invited to Australia for two years to play basketball in their national Olympic league. This was not a professional league, so I taught middle school to support myself, often teaching courses I knew little about—such as Australian geography. What I found out in two wonderful years in Australia was that I loved teaching but missed philosophy. The best way to combine these two passions was to go to graduate school, earn my Ph.D. and find a place that would hire an ex-basketball junkie to teach philosophy to college students. Fortunately, the University of Baltimore gave me that chance. Here I am, and here I've been for the past 32 years.
My grandfather was a Methodist minister, and my father was a typical "son of a preacher man," so I have always been interested in debating certain questions about ethics, philosophy and religion. My primary research interests at present are looking into ways to teach philosophy and ethics that interest and inspire students to think about these topics with greater depth and clarity in their own lives.
We do not have a philosophy major at UB, and most of our students have never had a previous philosophy course, so our main concern is to convey to students both the intellectual and practical joys of reading and studying philosophy. To this end, I am working on articles that demonstrate the uses of film and literature in teaching philosophy and ethics. A major interest is how students (or others) make ethical decisions, and how we can offer ways to improve ethical decision making in their personal and professional lives.
In my ethics courses, we conduct mock trials on literary figures (Camus' the Stranger) to probe in more depth the nature of evil. This works very well and is a memorable part of the course each time I offer it. In Ancient Philosophy, we put Socrates on trial again to see if he is a moral hero or just an arrogant old know-it-all. In Philosophy of Religion, I invite guest speakers representing Islam, Judaism, Christianity and Buddhism to share their views on central questions in all religions: the nature of God, the problem of evil, free will and afterlife. In my Professional Ethics classes, students must construct their own code of professional ethics for their present or chosen profession.
I also enjoy my role as core coordinator for Ethical Issues in Business and Society, a required general education course. The central focus of the course is to develop students' awareness of the kinds of ethical issues that may arise in business, the professions and their own personal lives; to expose them to a number of traditional moral frameworks to revive and revise their own personal ethics and to provide them with a practical guideline for making thoughtful and responsible ethical decisions. I have also served as the director of UB's Hoffberger Center for Professional Ethics since 1994.