This is the 10th in a series of Garfield Log stories that feature students and professors who share the type of connections that define the ideal college, just as famous Hiram alumnus President James A. Garfield intended. Today on the Garfield Log, Heather Brant, a senior double majoring in philosophy and political science, also minoring in ethics, joins her favorite professor, Colin Anderson, Ph.D., an associate professor of philosophy at Hiram.
Professor Anderson, how long have you taught a Hiram College?
Hmmmm. I started in 2002—so this is my 14th year.
Heather, how would you describe Professor Anderson’s class(es) to someone who has never taken his courses?
Colin’s courses always seem to change my perspective on the world, because they provide new ways of looking at situations, while challenging your default mode of understanding. His courses are thought-provoking and challenging, but always worth the effort.
Professor Anderson, what were you like as a college student? Did you see yourself becoming a professor? If not, which profession did you see yourself pursuing and why?
I guess I was serious about thinking, not always so serious about other things. I received an exceptional liberal arts education, which means that I was educated to understand the difference between learning in order to make a living and learning for its own sake. I did not have particular vocational plans as an undergraduate, but knew that I did not want to stop learning how to live when I graduated. I’ve been more than fortunate that thus far no one has made me stop.
Heather, why is Professor Anderson your favorite professor?
He is my favorite professor because he is not only a great professor as far as being knowledgeable and helpful, but also such a great human being. He has continually inspired me to be a better person in a world that is filled with suffering and thoughtlessness.
Professor Anderson, how does it feel to be selected to join this student on the log?
Flattered and honored, of course. Heather is incredibly involved and accomplished.
Heather, what is your favorite memory or a favorite quote from this professor?
It’s funny you ask. Another student and I made a book for Colin filled with all of his best quotes just last year. One of my favorites is from when I took Logic with him and he reassured us, “If things get depressing, you can always do categorical logic.”
Professor Anderson, why should people study philosophy?
Majoring in philosophy is majoring in thinking. If you want, or like, to think about questions of human existence, philosophy offers you both contemporary examples and several thousand years of models for how to do this well. It will make you better able to analyze problems, articulate arguments, conceptualize phenomena, and express yourself in speech and writing effectively–and all of these things will prepare you in the most important ways to make a living. There is no doubt that philosophy majors are well prepared to pursue any career that interests them. But, the real reason to study philosophy is because human existence, the life we live, is strange, uncertain, and more mysterious than we are told.
Heather, how do you define the ideal college? If Hiram fits the bill, please explain how it does.
My ideal college is a small liberal arts school where I can create meaningful relationships with my peers and professors in an environment that genuinely values education and open discussions. Additionally, my ideal school provides opportunities to study abroad and help my community. Hiram very much meets the criteria for my ideal school, which is why I am here.
Professor Anderson, how do you define the ideal college? If Hiram fits the bill, please explain how it does.
An ideal college is a liberal arts college, which means, I think, that it is community devoted to the serious study of human existing, which includes not only our capacities for action, but also to understand the universe. I think it is best done in small groups of individuals who work together in the struggle to understand. The best education is broad and deep and cultivates a curiosity that goes beyond the instrumental purposes of learning.
Professor Anderson, what is your dream class to teach and why?
As an undergraduate I studied the history of mathematics and science and I have never gotten over the experience of studying Euclid’s Geometry, Ptolemy and Copernicus, Maxwell’s electromagnetic equations and Einstein’s “On the Electrodynamics of Moving Bodies.” I was taught these subjects with both scientific rigor and philosophical wonder in ways that 30 years later still leaves me awestruck. I would dream about being smart enough to teach a great philosophy of science course.
Professor Anderson, related to what you study/teach, what is a quick fun fact that most people don’t know?
In philosophy, unlike other disciplines, we want you to know less when you finish the class than you (thought you) did at the beginning.