Skip to body

Philosophy and Religious Studies

Department Newsletter



Spring 2017

From the Chair - Dr. Matt Altman

I have exciting news: Beginning in Fall 2017, the department will officially be offering a major in Religious Studies, to replace the Philosophy major with a Religious Studies specialization! The specialization has been in place since the mid-1970s, and at a few points there was talk of doing away with it altogether. However, the program is strong enough and generates enough interest from students that we finally decided to develop a standalone program, which we successfully proposed to the Faculty Senate this academic year. The department will now offer the Philosophy major and minor, Religious Studies major and minor, and Ethics minor. Most of the credit goes to Jeff Dippmann and Lily Vuong, who formulated the requirements and proposed the major. They both deserve to have confetti thrown at them – hard and unexpectedly. 

On a sadder note, this is the last newsletter that I will be publishing as chair, since my four-year term is coming to an end. I have enjoyed being chair of the department, and I’ve accomplished many of my major goals, including increasing the visibility of the department, making decisions in a transparent and collaborative way, and managing the department during a time of change around both funding and staffing. Even though I never got the private jet that I was promised, I’m still glad that I took the job. 

The good news is that Jeff Dippmann was unanimously elected to be our new chair, beginning in the fall. My colleagues and I are confident that Dr. Dippmann will do a wonderful job in leading the department. Please join me in wishing him well by emailing him a bunch of emojis.



Philosophy & Religious Studies Club News

This weekend, April 21 and 22, our Philosophy & Religious Studies Club will be attending  the Pacific University Undergraduate Philosophy Conference.  The keynote speaker is Alva Noë, Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Our own Susan Camacho will be presenting her paper, “Ignorance Is Bliss: Three Forms of White Ignorance That Are Used to Maintain White Privilege.” Be sure to wish our students luck before they leave.


Life of Brian

Screening and discussion
Monday, April 24
5:00 PM, Black 151
Free Admission




Fall 2017 Course Schedule

PHIL 101. Philosophical Inquiry
PHIL 104. Moral Controversies
PHIL 106. Asian Philosophy
PHIL 150. Critical Thinking
PHIL 324. Philosophy & Science Fiction
PHIL 352. Greek and Roman Philosophy
PHIL 358. Existentialism
PHIL 398. Philosophy of Sport

RELS 101. World Religions
RELS 353. Judaism
RELS 351. Religions of China and Japan


Summer 2017 Course Schedule

All summer courses are online


PHIL 101. Philosophical Inquiry
PHIL 150. Critical Thinking
PHIL 378. Philosophy of Love

RELS 101. World Religions




A Spotlight on... Karen Turcotte

Where did you get your degree(s), and when?
I got my first degree at Wenatchee Valley College. It is an Associate of Applied Science in Medical Laboratory Technology. That was in 1982, and I worked as Lab Tech for ten years. I earned my Bachelor of Arts at Central Washington University in 1996. I had a major in Philosophy with a Religious Studies specialization. I had the distinct honor of studying under the venerable, and irreplaceable, Rae Heimbeck. I also earned a minor in French. I know that French is not really a useful language to know in Ellensburg, WA where no one speaks it outside of academia, but it was my father’s first language so I learned it as a matter of heritage and nostalgia. I earned my Master of Arts degree in the History of Continental Philosophy at Central Washington University in 2000. I’ve been teaching at Central ever since.

Where are you originally from?
I am from Quincy, WA. I was born there and graduated from high school there. I went to college in Wenatchee, then moved back to Quincy. From there I moved to Ellensburg. So, I’m not exactly a world traveler. But neither was Kant, and we’re still talking about him, aren’t we?

Tell us something about yourself.
I guess the most obvious thing is that I teach philosophy and religious studies and have been doing that for 17 years. I guess this informs most everything about me. My early Lab Tech experience is still an important part of me and not really something I meant to leave behind. I had originally intended to work as a Lab Tech and study religion and philosophy as a sort of hobby. Years went by with no job openings at the hospital, and I eventually earned my degrees and began to teach. It would be difficult to go back to the Lab Tech career as so much time has gone by and I would essentially need additional schooling. So I incorporate what I can into my teaching. I’ve lived in Ellensburg for almost 25 years now and have three grown sons. They all live in Ellensburg and that makes me happy. I think currently the most important thing about me is that I am going to be a grandmother in July when my first grandson is due. And, yes, I am collecting dual language (English/French) books for him as well as world religions books for kids. 

What do you do outside of teaching?
Sometimes I think there is no “outside of teaching” for me. It seems that I’m always in some stage of prep work. But, I do like to hike and camp. I also love to cook and if I had the time and the money I would seriously consider studying to become a chef. And, for reasons I can’t really explain, I recently taught myself to knit and that has become a surprisingly important, if not an exceptionally ordinary, means of relaxation and even meditation for me. If anyone wants a scarf or a hat, just let me know. 

What do you love most about teaching?
I love the research that goes into the lecture writing process. I’m always updating my lectures, so the research never ends. Philosophy and religion are so integral to everything that we do, so the sources for lectures are endless. In fact, I can be a little annoying to my family when I see these elements in just about any movie or TV show we watch. I like the interaction with students, and I’ve gained some important friendships over the years. The students always teach me a lot and this has played a valuable role in my development as a teacher. I wish I could put grading on the list, but I can’t. However, I do like to read my students’ views on the various topics we discuss in class.

What classes are you teaching now?
I am teaching PHIL 104: Moral Controversies in person and PHIL 101: Philosophical Inquiry online. 

What’s your most embarrassing moment while teaching?
That’s a hard one. I don’t think anything dramatically funny happens in my classes. For some reason I manage to (unintentionally) wander into class with my shirt on inside out at some point during every quarter, and that usually generates quite a few laughs. But, outside of that, any funny moments are typically the result of rather mundane mistakes. I think one of the most embarrassing of these mistakes was one I made while teaching a unit on Sexual Morality in what is now the Moral Controversies class. Dr. Bartlett was reviewing my class for my annual review. I noticed that the students were unusually attentive, smiling, and even laughing from time to time. Of course, I assumed I was killing it and that, finally, I was getting some appreciation for the hilarious jokes I tell during my lectures. But, Dr. Bartlett informed me after class that my slide on Public Aspects of Sexuality contained a typo and read Pubic Aspects of Sexuality. I brought it up the next day in class and told the students to feel free to correct my typos. They laughed.


Take the Next Step to Becoming a Wildcat.