TEACHING

My goal in each of my courses is to foster a healthy learning community that supports diverse perspectives, creative questioning, and peer-to-peer learning. I assign a mix of traditional scholarly readings, documentaries, podcasts, and popular news articles to show students how our course topics can apply to modern life. Students are expected to address questions and comments to the class as a whole, and to actively dialogue with each other on our materials. My role as instructor is to keep students on the right track, refine students' understanding of concepts, introduce new perspectives, and maintain a healthy atmosphere in the classroom. To see examples of my syllabi, you can see my Buddhism and Social Justice course, my Ethics and Technology course for incoming freshmen, or my Comparative Philosophy course.

Here are some things students have said about my teaching:

 

"Professor Culbertson was very knowledgeable about the subject matter, but more importantly, she was able to explain complex and, for many students, foreign ideologies in an accessible way. She did a really good job of sparking great classroom discussions!"

“Kristin Culbertson was able to make difficult theories understandable by asking thought provoking questions to teach us how to understand these theories ourselves. A great method that many other teachers should learn as well.”

"The teaching was great at moving those with just superficial knowledge on Buddhism and Social Justice along to the point of being able to challenge, critique, and support arguments in both academic and social conversation. Always available with quick and especially complete answers to questions."

  • For a full list of courses taught, please download my CV.

  • For my thoughts on teaching philosophy in general education, see my post on the APA Blog.

Some courses I have taught:

Buddhism and Social Justice: Welseyan University, Spring 2020

In this course students were introduced to foundational Buddhist texts including the Dhammapada, selected suttas, and the Bodhicaryāvatāra, as well as contemporary work on Buddhist approaches to social justice issues. The course covered topics such as moral anger, prison reform, non-violence, and racial justice. Students were assigned informal reflection papers throughout the semester, and two major formal essays. Here are some things my students said about this course:

"I learned a lot about Buddhist karma and interdependence which I have applied loosely to my own life which I have found very rewarding and helpful. I was very fascinated by the Buddhist beliefs on anger and non–violence; although I agreed with these beliefs at the broad level, the strictness of these beliefs I found the most challenging. This course also changed my opinion on the death penalty, an opinion that gave me discomfort but I could not come to terms with until taking this course. The Buddhist teachings of cause and effect when applied to the death penalty have permanently changed my outlook on this issue."

"I loved Professor Culbertson's course on Buddhism and Social Justice! It was insightful, engaging, and thought–provoking. Professor Culbertson had clear expectations and the assignments were helpful for learning. Overall, this was a wonderful course!"

Ethics and Technology: UConn Storrs, Summer 2019

I taught this course as part of UConn's Student Support Services summer program, which helps first generation college students get extra preparation for their freshman year. In this course, I combined theory with particular applications regarding modern technology. I assigned a mix of scholarly readings, news articles, podcasts and documentaries. We discussed drone warfare, online privacy, genetic engineering, and artificial intelligence, as well as classic theories such as utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Here are a few comments from students on this course:

 

"Two things stood out: the material and the actual class itself. The material provided very interesting ideas and thought experiments, which I'd like to believe improved my view of the world around me. Next is the actual class, which allowed for constructive debate. It never felt like an argument, purely a discussion about the reading that let students get their thoughts out in the air and converse.”

“I rather enjoyed being able to speak with my fellow students and the instructor about each topic in a rather organised manner. It allowed for well thought discussions and an expansion of my own knowledge.”

Comparative and Non-Western Philosophy: UConn Avery Point, Fall 2019

This intro-level course covered four major philosophical traditions: Confucianism, Daoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. I assigned a mix of primary and secondary texts. Assignments included short reflection papers, a formal essay, and a presentation. 

Some courses I plan to teach:

Environmental Philosophy

This is an introductory to intermediate course in which students will explore different ways thinking about the human relationship to the environment. This is primarily an applied ethics course, in which we will be investigating the unique features of environmental ethics rather than applying general theories. We will try to understand what kind of value natural objects and non-human beings have, and what kind of ethical demands they have on us. We will think about the animal nature of human beings, the role of humans in ecosystems, the economical demands of environmental policies, and many other related topics. The goal of this course is to help students think more deeply and creatively about their own interactions with nature so that they can make informed environmental decisions as individuals and as global citizens.

You are What You Eat: Philosophy of Consumption and Nourishment

This course offers a cross-cultural exploration of philosophical issues surrounding food. We will address ethical questions such as, "is hunting for food ethically different from hunting for sport?" "are we obligated to change our diets in order to minimize environmental harm?" and "do we have obligations towards ourselves to eat healthy foods?" We will also investigate rituals and beliefs about food across the world. We will examine religious practices of food deprivation, food rituals such as the Eucharist, and purity doctrines such as the avoidance of beef in Hinduism and the avoidance of pork in Islam. The purpose of this course is to explore the significance of food and consumption in the human experience, and achieve a better understanding of the impact that our food-consumption practices have on our environment and ourselves. 

Business Ethics

In this course we will analyze ethical questions that arise in business and professional fields. We will discuss the moral foundations for and limits on business activities, professional responsibility, and the relationship between professional and business obligations and general moral obligations. We will look at real-world business models and professional scenarios, and get an understanding of the ethical role of businesses in our society. For their final project, students will outline their own business idea and provide an analysis of the ethical goals, responsibilities, and challenges that their business will face, accompanied by their proposed solutions to these problems. The goal of this course is to help business students become more aware not just of their special duties as professionals, but of the unique platform that business provides for making the world a better place.

Existentialism

The feeling that our lives are meaningless, and we are just small specks in a massive chaotic universe is nothing new. This feeling can be provoked by a traumatic event, loss of a loved one, or anxiety and depression. In 1950’s France, existentialism gave philosophical import to this feeling, reacting against the traditional assumptions that human beings are rational creatures living in a meaningful and well-ordered universe. Instead, existentialists make the claims that our lives are not inherently meaningful, and that human beings are deeply troubled by the chaotic and absurd nature of reality. These feelings are not abstract or theoretical, they are palpable within the human experience. Thus, fiction provides a unique entry point into existentialist ideas, and this will be an essential element of this course. Students will have one creative project and one paper in this course. For their creative project, students may choose any artistic medium (fiction writing, visual art, film, etc.) to create a piece that illustrates any existentialist idea. For the paper, students will meet with me individually to discuss a fictional story of their choice and how it can be interpreted from an existentialist perspective. 

© 2020 Kristin Culbertson.

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