The Department of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies provides excellent integrated education to students at UA Little Rock. We encourage students to approach education as a life-long learning process and as an end in itself by creating a rich mentoring environment and challenging, rewarding curricula. We emphasize the necessity for all our students to learn critical thinking skills, to read well, to write well, and to recognize the importance of reflecting on their ideas and values. We foster situations in which students have opportunities to apply these invaluable skills with both historically-oriented and case-based learning techniques and with continual discussion of real-world implications. The department strongly supports diversity in curriculum and education and aims to extend that commitment to activities outside the classroom, supporting student engagement across campus and explicitly recognizing our roles as student educational advocates.
The Department of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies is committed to strengthening its commitment to student success and broadening its recognition for excellence in teaching and community service.
We will maintain a rigorous, philosophically relevant curriculum and work to build our base of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies majors and minors. We will strive to enhance our curriculum with state of the art technological advances in online and face-to-face instruction and will keep our program responsive to disciplinary, professional, and economic pressures. We will continue to enhance student learning by improving upon and adding to additional departmental facilities and space. A designated student lounge will be available to students and will include computer access, areas for student organization and club activities, and a small library. We will work to increase book donations to the department library.
Community Outreach and Recruitment
Further, we will continue to build our already rich community outreach activities by increasing high school administrator, teacher, and student involvement in the Arkansas High School Ethics Bowl, as well as increasing our UA Little Rock recruitment efforts for the university’s Ethics Bowl Team. We will foster relationships with leaders of the metropolitan community of which UA Little Rock is a part by inviting guests to campus to attend and participate in these events. We will commit to partnering with community organizations when relevant to do so on all conference and related activities.
We will continue to foster contexts in which students are encouraged to spend time outside of the classroom involved in extra-curricular activities and department sponsored events with faculty. We will remain active participants in our students’ academic lives.
Implementation of Mission and Vision
Philosophy Program Goals
The B.A. in Philosophy is designed to enable students to:
- communicate a clear understanding of historical and contemporary philosophical inquiry;
- demonstrate an ability to think independently about a philosophical topic or problem;
- clearly articulate and support their own views.
Student Learning Objectives
Students completing a B.A. in Philosophy will be able to:
- explain how a particular thinker has attempted to address a philosophical problem, and the significance of that thinker’s approach;
- critically analyze a philosophical argument concerning a particular topic or problem;
- articulate arguments of their own in support of a philosophical thesis.
The mass demonstrations over the past few months in the wake of the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and too many others stand as an urgent call for people in the U.S. and around the world to reckon with the violence visited upon racialized groups on a daily basis. The UA Little Rock Department of Philosophy and Interdisciplinary Studies recognizes that Black, indigenous, and people of color face systemic injustices. These injustices also intersect with those faced by LGBTQ+ folk, persons with disabilities, and other marginalized groups that do not stop at the edges of the university campus but exist within our institution as well. We also recognize that, as philosophers and especially as a faculty with no representation of BIPOC communities, we have a particular responsibility to better support our BIPOC students and colleagues. Therefore, in the Fall 2020 semester the faculty of our department will commit to the following first steps:
- exploring ways to diversify and decolonize our curricula by adding more works by BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and other marginalized groups in all our courses;
- reviewing our program and course learning objectives, in order to ensure that they reflect the priorities and support the educational needs of all our students;
- researching equity-minded, anti-racist pedagogical practices that actively affirm the experiences of BIPOC students, LGBTQ+ students, and students with disabilities;
- exploring opportunities for engagement with our local community in order to support and facilitate anti-racist action.
After beginning these initial steps, the department will identify and communicate specific goals for further action in Spring 2021 and beyond.
Report on Anti-Racism Discussion and Actions
Following our department’s Fall 2020 statement concerning the need for reflection, discussion, and action to better support our BIPOC students and colleagues, our faculty present the following as an initial report.
Discussions among department faculty over the course of the Fall 2020 semester centered around three main areas of possible improvement: student experience, curriculum, and alumni/ae relations. The following summarizes points of discussion in each area, and accompanying actions that the faculty have either began to implement or will begin to implement during the Spring 2021 semester:
Our faculty members recognize that we often do not have a clear or thorough understanding of our students’ perspective on their education, both in particular classes and throughout our programs, as well as at UA Little Rock as a whole. We are particularly interested in learning more about the challenges our students face to their educational success, and we recognize that those challenges can arise from factors directly related to courses, from extracurricular aspects of the university experience, and of course from life outside of the university.
- We have recommended that the CHASSE Dean’s Office organize small focus groups consisting of current students in the college, in order to provide spaces in which current students can share their experiences. This information can then be collected, anonymized, and shared with departments as part of continuous improvement.
Our faculty have begun conversations and reflections about both the structure and content of the Philosophy curriculum, with a view toward ways in which it can better represent and better speak to the experiences of our BIPOC students.
- We will review department syllabi for the past three years to determine the level of diversity of authorship among our assigned materials.
- We have already begun implementing changes in the Philosophy curriculum in order to ensure that students engage with a broader diversity of ideas, figures, and cultural backgrounds. Specifically, beginning with the Fall 2021 catalog: Eastern Thought (PHIL 3350) will be classified as a History of Philosophy course; Philosophy of Race (PHIL 4373) and Environmental Philosophy (PHIL 3375) will be classified as Moral and Political Philosophy courses; and Philosophy and Narrative (PHIL 3315), Existentialism (PHIL 3370), and Philosophy and the Arts (PHIL 3372) will be classified as Mind, Knowledge, and Culture courses.
- We will continue to review both the structure and content of our curriculum with the aim that it is welcoming to and speaks to the experiences and concerns of BIPOC students. Data gathered from our current students and alumni/ae will also be an important aspect of this review process going forward.
Our faculty realize that our department must improve our efforts to remain in touch with our programs’ alumni/ae. This is particularly important not only because our graduates represent our department and UA Little Rock in the workforce, in the communities in which they live, and in other educational institutions where they pursue postgraduate studies, but also because their retrospective insight into their own experiences as undergraduate and into the strengths and shortcomings of our programs can be of great benefit to our current students.
- We will establish a process for collecting feedback and contact information for our graduating students, in the form of an exit interview or survey form. We will build a database to collect and organize this information for use in assessment and to stay in touch with our alumni/ae.
- We will begin to contact alumni/ae whose contact information we currently have in order to solicit feedback regarding their experiences in our program, their experiences at UALR in general, and their post-graduate educational or career activities.
- We will ask current student organization leaders to reach out to alumni/ae in order to arrange conversations or interviews to share with other current students.
In addition, the department faculty members recognize the importance of reflecting on our own experiences and behaviors and identifying areas for improvement. The faculty commits itself to identifying and engaging in opportunities for professional development related to anti-racism work, in the upcoming year and beyond.