September 22, 2021
Teaching spotlight: Dr Elena Walsh
What is your area of interest?
Philosophy, especially the philosophies of science, mind, and morality. I also have a keen interest in Buddhist and comparative philosophies, and the role of virtue ethics in our contemporary landscape.
What have you enjoyed most about teaching the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation?
I am continually humbled and inspired by the insight, graciousness, enthusiasm, and deep intellectual curiosity of our students. It has been, and continues to be, a great privilege to work alongside them studying and interrogating great works of philosophy and religion. The unique understandings and insight they bring to our small classroom discussions provide a continual source of renewal and inspiration.
What do you think sets UOW’s Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation apart from other courses?
We are extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to engage in sustained intellectual debate in small tutorials comprising 6 to 8 students. I have found that the space afforded by a smaller classroom setting makes it possible to move beyond what might be called ‘standard’ or ‘typical’ interpretations of great works, and to give students the chance to develop and defend their own interpretations. Ultimately, we seek to encourage our students to use the works they encounter as springboards for their own ideas. The intellectual histories they come to understand through studying great works is important, but more important is the intellectual independence they develop as a result of this engagement.
Is there anything about the course or the students that has surprised you?
I continue to be deeply impressed by the brilliance and open-mindedness of our students, but this has not come as a surprise. I have, however, been surprised by the feeling of having become newly intimate with a text I thought I already knew – a feeling that frequently arises at the end of our small classroom discussions. I credit this with the intrinsic value of an in-depth discussion of a text, alongside the thoughtfulness and reflectiveness of our students.
What type of student would you recommend a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation to?
I think this course would be well-suited to individuals who are driven by a sense of curiosity and inquisitiveness about the world around them. It is also a good fit for individuals who think that we cannot successfully address the challenges that confront us today without understanding our past.
What career options are available for students upon graduating?
This course provides students with a knowledge of intellectual and literary movements that have shaped the modern world, and with conceptual tools to critique ideas that dominate our social imaginary. This knowledge and skill set places students in a strong position to engage in positions of leadership and service that demand independent and creative thinking, and the ability to engage in collaborative problem-solving. The course will benefit students who seek careers that demand the ability to think critically and creatively, and to express the products of their thinking with clarity and conviction.