How long have you been at UOW?
I have been teaching at the University of Wollongong, for the BA in Western Civilisation program since January 2020, having completed almost two full academic years.
What is your area of interest?
My areas of interest, both for teaching and research, lie primarily in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy and literature, and particularly the intersection between the two fields. I am also interested in ancient Chinese philosophy, and especially Daoism.
What have you enjoyed most about teaching the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation?
The most enjoyable aspect of teaching for the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation is helping students to articulate and develop their thinking concerning issues most pressing to the human condition. As for the authors of the great books which are the program’s central concern, it is clear from the offset that each of our students has valuable, unique contributions to the evolving, essential conversation regarding these matters. It is extraordinary to help these students grant their initial impressions a clear structure, to help them state them strongly, to submit them to critique, and, as a result, watch them attain robustness and sophistication. It is a procedure which will never cease to delight and astound me, and to be a party to.
What do you think sets UOW’s Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation apart from other courses?
In characterising what sets the Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation apart from other courses, I am immediately tempted to list four features: i) the dedication of our students to their studies; ii) our focus on small-class discussions; iii) the emphasis on students developing their own positions regarding the texts we consider and the issues they raise; and iv) a dedicated, attentive, world-standard teaching staff. The issue with this approach is that none of these features is properly separable from the other. The program is a confluence of structure, content, staff and student body, dedicated to the pursuit and achievement of excellence in its participants.
Is there anything about the course or the students that has surprised you?
I am continually surprised by how much I learn from my students. The students in our program are among the most dedicated, sophisticated, and insightful undergraduates in any program at any university in the world. There is not a week that goes by in which my students do not offer some comment that causes me to re-evaluate, and even revolutionise my own thinking about topics to which I have committed years of study. Although it should not come as a surprise to any teacher, I am grateful that my students always hammer home the lesson for me, as much as for each other (and themselves), regarding how much more there is to learn.
What type of student would you recommend a Bachelor of Arts in Western Civilisation to?
Plato and Aristotle rarely agreed, but they were both committed to the idea that our curiosity regarding the world begins in wonder. And there is not a single person in the world who is not, at certain times, struck by some aspect of the world: its beauty, its grandeur, its order, and, more often than not, its obscurity. Ours is a program which does not aim to resolve or transcend this wonder, but to confirm it and indulge it, and make the world seem more wonderous. I would recommend this program to anyone who wishes to share in the dedicated pursuit of the wonder of the world with a group of other like-minded students.
What career pathways are available for students upon graduating?
The key benefit of a liberal arts program like that of a BA in Western Civilisation is that it imparts our graduates with skills that are invaluable to every industry conceivable. Although it may sound twee, I have fallen into aphorism when addressing this issue, declaring to those who ask: A vocational degree places you in a position to do that one thing; a program like the BA in Western Civilisation places you in a position to do anything!