This year Hamilton welcomed six new tenure-track faculty members. Communications office student writer Majestic Terhune ’21 spent more than two hours interviewing these newest members of the faculty to find out why they chose Hamilton and what they think so far. Here’s her interview with Justin Clark, assistant professor of philosophy (Some answers edited for brevity.)
Why did you start teaching?
When I was in undergrad at Iowa, I think originally I had no idea what I wanted to do as far as a major or career, but I had two or three outstanding professors in philosophy and in religious studies. When you see a professor who loves to teach in action and the joy that comes with it, once I had a few professors who emanated that joy of teaching and were really good at it, right away I could see myself doing it and it kind of made it a live option and it was kind of unexpected for me.
Why did you choose Hamilton?
In philosophy, the job market decides some things for you. It’s not like you can pick and choose where you’d like to work. Once I had the offer at Hamilton, it felt like a no-brainer just because the way Hamilton emphasizes the importance of teaching and community and although it was new to me, I was really intrigued by the idea of smaller classrooms and a more close-knit community because I had been teaching at larger state schools. All of that was really appealing to me, and when I came here for a visit, I liked the feel on campus. I liked how friendly everyone was and how it seemed as though it was a good college for supporting faculty. For me, it was by far the best offer I got, in terms of teaching load and quality of students and support for faculty. Hamilton’s kind of unique as a college. I feel pretty lucky to be here.
Where have you previously studied and worked?
I’ve been teaching now for five or six years and had two visiting positions before I came here. I taught at the University of Illinois for a few years and I taught at Utah State. I’ve been teaching mostly in large state schools before coming to Hamilton. I taught in grad school for a little bit and all along teaching has been something that I’ve loved, so I’ve had a handful of teaching experiences coming into this.
How has your time here been so far?
Moving is always an adjustment … I mentioned I had been teaching at large state schools and as a teacher, it’s an adjustment to come to a small liberal arts school with smaller classes. The students here have surprised me because it seems as though they are more eager and more prepared than some of the students I’ve had in the past. And all of those are good things to have to adjust to as a teacher.
Has there been anything that’s surprised you?
The eagerness and the preparation of the students. That’s a good surprise. The students here are really good. And so from the teaching standpoint, that kind of changes where you aim your classes, and I learned in this first semester that I can aim higher. I can challenge students and they’ll meet those challenges because they’re really good students.
It’s a new thing living in a smaller community. There are some surprises like that, and this is probably the smallest community that I’ve ever lived in.
Could you talk about your research?
Some of my research is aimed at trying to understand Plato correctly or Socrates correctly and making sure we have an accurate understanding of what they thought. And the other side of it is to revive their ancient way of seeing things. In a lot of these current ethical issues and debates the question of what it takes to be a good person or a bad person can offer solutions. In some of my research, I’m arguing that some of this ancient, virtue ethical is correct and accurate and a better way of understanding morality than some of the typical ways we do.
What’s one of your favorite places on campus?
One of my favorite spots is Opus 2. Although, my favorite spot on campus has slowly but surely become my office. At first, I didn’t feel like it was mine—I kind of had to rearrange things—but my office is now probably one of my favorite places on campus to get work done and feel productive. I’m still in the process of making campus my home.
What’s one of your favorite things about Hamilton?
There are a lot of things that have been pleasant surprises … I like the whole package of Hamilton. Hamilton has opened the door for me to make teaching my career, and I like teaching so much that I feel like I’ll be forever grateful that I get to do it here. When you’re working as a philosopher and you’re trying to do it in academia, a lot of times you’re trying to do it in temporary positions and you’re not sure whether it will pan out in the long-term. I guess what’s most exciting to me is not only do I have the opportunity to do it at such a great college, but I have the opportunity to do it as my career.