All good things come to an end. After five years as chair of the Department of Philosophy, I’ve stepped down and will resume my regular duties as a professor. Andrea Woody has been appointed as the new chair and I am thrilled for her and for the Department. We will be in capable hands.
My goal when I started this job was to help each member of the Department and the Department as a whole to flourish. When you are in the administrative trenches, sometimes it is hard to see the big picture. But when you look down from above, it is possible to get a sense of the terrain and map whatever progress has been made. The end of the year is a great moment to reflect and see what we have accomplished, and it is a great deal, as this edition of the newsletter attests. So many awards and honors! You need to read all of the articles to learn about the wonderful things that our faculty and students are doing.
We have also managed to maintain our enrollment numbers, which is no small feat in an anxious time when students are flocking to STEM fields rather than the social sciences or humanities. Thanks to our dedicated and engaging teachers we are still attracting thousands of students to philosophy. Once they are in our classes, undergraduates quickly realize both the practical and intellectual value of our field.
One of the challenges for the future will be to maintain the size of our faculty as we lose some of our most accomplished and distinguished faculty to retirement. We have hired some fantastic new faculty. But we have not been able to hire enough of them. The budget of the College of Arts and Sciences is under great stress. Even as the state economy grows, our government is reducing its commitment to fund higher education. We need to continue in our efforts to persuade our legislature and fellow citizens of the value of a liberal arts education.
In many of my contributions to the newsletters over the years I have tried to stress the importance of our philosophical community. We really are in this enterprise together. I could not have done my job without the support of the Deans, my fellow faculty members, our dedicated staff, the energetic group of graduate students who both learn and teach, the wonderful advisory board, chaired by Jana Mohr Lone, and all our devoted alumni and friends. I want to thank you all for your support in whatever form it has taken. I have been privileged to hold this position and I am confident that our new chair will lead us to an even brighter future.
If you are reading this letter, then philosophy must have touched you in some positive way. Now more than ever our society needs the skills of rational analysis and systematic reflection on our values. I encourage you to continue and deepen your engagement with the Department of Philosophy at the UW.