As the new executive director of the American Philosophical Association, I am acutely aware that there are many pressing issues facing both the discipline of philosophy and the APA itself. I am committed to ensuring that the APA is a leader in addressing the problems facing philosophy and philosophers, and I am guest blogging at Leiter Reports this week in an effort to open more lines of communication between the APA and the philosophical community. This blog has been the venue for many discussions about issues in the profession, but the APA has not participated enough in those discussions; I aim to change that. Many thanks to Brian Leiter for offering me this opportunity and sharing this space with me this week.
To start, I would like to introduce myself.
As you likely know, I joined the APA as executive director this past August. Unlike my predecessors, I come to this position not as a philosopher by training, but as a nonprofit administrator.
Immediately before joining the APA, I was the associate director of the Bill of Rights Defense Committee, a national organization advocating for civil liberties in the context of post-9/11 national security policies. My work there and at other past organizations included communications, technology, diversity, and development.
I also have a bachelor’s degree in women’s studies and a master’s degree in public policy and administration, both from the University of Massachusetts Amherst. While at UMass, I served on a faculty search committee and a department diversity committee, and got experience in both research and teaching.
You may have noticed, at this point, that I haven’t yet mentioned philosophy. That’s because, prior to joining the APA, my connection to philosophy was not professional but personal: my husband is a philosopher. I met him during the ABD phase of his pursuit of his Ph.D., which he earned early this year. Together, we watched as the economy collapsed, just as he was preparing to go on the job market for the first time. We reviewed many issues of Jobs for Philosophers together, frustrated at both the lack of opportunities for him and the technology’s limitations. I attended the Eastern Division meeting, offering what moral support I could to both him and our friends in similar circumstances. And I supported him as he searched for adjunct positions, trying to maintain his connection to the profession—and his financial security—as the job market failed to recover.
When the APA began its search for a new executive director last year, it was my husband who noted that the board was looking primarily for an administrator—someone who was familiar with the profession of philosophy but who had the experience to run a national organization—and suggested that I might be the right person for the job. And now, here I am.
All of this is simply to say that while I am not a philosopher by trade, I am keenly aware of and prepared to take on the issues facing the profession: the lack of diversity, the struggling job market, the attacks on tenure and tenuous situation for those without it, the need for improved technology and communication, pluralism in the discipline… the list goes on. I look forward to having a conversation this week—one that will continue throughout my time at the APA—looking closely at what the APA and philosophy as a profession can and must do to make things better. And I look forward to having more conversations in other venues as the APA works to broaden and improve the ways we communicate.
[Please note: My appearance on this blog does not constitute an endorsement by the APA of the blog or its content.]