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Philosophy and Religious Studies

Department Newsletter


Winter 2016

From the Chair - Dr. Matt Altman

We try to do a lot of different things in Philosophy & Religious Studies classes. We teach students to think critically, read difficult texts, and write clearly. They develop a breadth of knowledge about intellectual history and engage some of the most important issues that face us as human beings. Through all of this, our hope is that students not only gain marketable skills, but also become better and more interesting people.

All of the professors I know here love to be in the classroom, because that’s where we get to talk about the material that drew us to the discipline in the first place. We’re reminded of why we’re here: to teach students. We’re less interested in the administrative side of things, which involves meetings, discussions about university policy, and assessing our performance and the overall performance of our programs. But there’s a reason even for this stuff.

We need to be reminded sometimes that the university as a whole – all of the committees, the paperwork, the university administration – are ultimately here to accomplish that one overarching goal. Faculty use the results of student evaluations to improve their courses, and departments use them to review their faculty and to assist them in improving as teachers. We have learner outcomes in each of our courses. We assess our programs every year to see how well we’ve met certain benchmarks. And when we fall short, we develop plans to address those issues – again, all with the goal of providing the best education that we can. Even outside of the classroom, the needs of students come first.


Spring 2016 Courses

PHIL 101 - Introduction to Philosophy
PHIL 150 - Critical Thinking

PHIL 202 - Global Ethics

PHIL 210 - Current Ethical Issues

PHIL 304 - Business Ethics

PHIL 305 - Philosophy of Religion

PHIL 348 - Social and Political Philosophy

PHIL 354 - Kant and 19th-Cent Philosophy

PHIL 488 - Junior Seminar: Personal Identity

RELS 101 - World Religions

RELS 201 - Sacred Books of the World

RELS 398 - ST: Religion and Humor

RELS 398 - ST: Lost Scrip/Lost Christianity


A Plea: Fill Out the SEOIs!


We’re nowhere near the end of the quarter yet, but if you’re one of those students who tends not to fill out SEOIs (course evaluations), this is for you. Please, please, please fill them out! They are absolutely crucial for faculty members, so that they know what went well and what needs to change about a class. And they are absolutely crucial for the university, so that when we evaluate faculty teaching, we have a good picture of what has happened in a class, day in and day out. Your feedback is the only way for us to get that information. SEOIs are completely anonymous — your name does not appear on anything connected to the summary of course evaluations that faculty members see — and professors can only read them after grades are turned in. So please take five or ten minutes to fill them out!




A Spotlight on... Dr. Michael Goerger

Where did you get your degree(s), and when?
University of Minnesota (BA, 2005 - Philosophy and Psychology, summa cum laude) and UC Riverside (PhD, 2011 - Philosophy).

Where are you originally from?
Born and raised in central Minnesota.

Tell us something about yourself.
I have a small, elderly dog named Suzanne. She was a stray who found her way into our house back in graduate school and has been with me ever since. She’s a mix of 50% devotion and 50% suspicion. For the hour or so a day that she’s awake, she is 100% awesome.

What do you do outside of teaching?
I enjoy almost anything that gets me outside, especially hiking, backpacking, fishing, and mountain biking. I read a lot of natural history, mysteries, and some thrillers. I’m also an active member of First Lutheran Church in Ellensburg. 

What do you love most about teaching?
I enjoy having philosophical conversations and find that students are often the best interlocutors. They’re open-minded, creative, and willing to take risks in their thinking.   The act of coming together to play with ideas, test and press new possibilities, and see what
we can create together brings me back to the classroom each day. For me, few things are as rewarding as walking away from a class discussion feeling like I’ve learned something, and the hours that I spend engaged in those conversations are, with few exceptions, the
high points of my day.

What classes are you teaching now?
I am teaching Ethical Theory and Introduction to Philosophy. Next quarter I will be teaching an upper-division class on Social and Political Philosophy as well as an intro course.

What’s your most embarrassing moment while teaching?
I fall a lot, which is strange because I’m pretty good at staying upright outside of the classroom. I once taught a lecture class with about 200 students in it. There was a little elevated podium in the front of the room with a computer and stuff. I fell off of it at least once every single day. Sometimes it was a quick stumble and other times I would launch myself into the audience, take a few unbalanced steps, and end up on the floor. One day I got to class and some of the students had put a small garden fence around the sides of the podium. Twenty minutes later, I stumbled off the side, completely demolishing the fence as I fell. I was embarrassed, but I got a heck of a good laugh, so no regrets.


Department Events


Tuesday, January 26, 2016
4:30-5:30 PM, Black Hall 151

“Spectacles of Blood: Cicero and Violent Video Games”
- Dr. Michael Goerger

Tuesday, February 23, 2016
4:30-5:30 PM, L&L 343

“Did Jesus Laugh? Humor’s Troubled Relationship with Religion”
- Professor Karen Turcotte


Hello, Lynn Thompson here! I’m the one who put this newsletter together. For those of you who are familiar with Kristy Magdlin, the former secretary, she left Central to help her brother at his business. Kristy reports that work is busy but she’s doing well. I applied for the secretary job when it opened up and am transferring from the same job in the Department of Art. I graduated from Central Washington University in 2012 and took mostly sociology and philosophy classes while a student. It’s good to be back with like-minded people! I’ll miss the eclectic bustling students and coworkers in Art but I enjoy the quietude and gentler pace of L&L, and I hope to have a positive impact on the department. My desk is in the main office, L&L 337. Please feel free to stop by with any questions you have.



What Is Assessment?

You may have heard faculty members talking about assessment. Assessment is what we use to make sure that our programs are doing what we want them to. Every year, the department measures how well we’re meeting our goals, and many of those goals relate to what students are learning. Here is what we hope you get out of our programs:

  • an understanding of the major ideas within philosophical or religious traditions.
  • the ability to advance and support a thesis, as well as analyze and critically evaluate the beliefs and practices of others.
  • the ability to think pluralistically and flexibly, consider new ideas and critically reflect on them, and embrace perplexity.
  • the ability to examine multiple approaches to ethics and recognize their application in local and global communities — for example, by examining the implications of those approaches for specific moral problems, comparing different positions, or identifying their historical and cultural context.

We use various methods to see how well students meet those goals, including the senior thesis, an evaluation of papers in Ethical Theory, and our exit survey (which we ask students to fill out when they’re completing their senior theses). We also pay attention to things that tell us if we’re meeting broader department goals, like how many students present at SOURCE or other conferences and how many students participate in cooperative education or study abroad programs. In 2014-15, we met most of our goals, but here is what we’re going to work on:

  • encouraging more students, especially thesis-writers, to present at SOURCE
  • making sure that more students fill out the exit survey
  • putting on more university-wide events, either sponsored by the club or by the department

We’re always looking to improve the student experience. Let us know if you have ideas on what the department could do better!