Tell us about your journey to CSU and your experience here.

I did my graduate work in comparative philosophy at the University of Hawaii. After earning my Ph.D., I taught at two small liberal arts colleges before coming to CSU in 2008. I really appreciate our department’s pluralism of approaches to philosophy. We have people researching and teaching in Asian, Islamic, American, and traditional European traditions. We have people doing great work in meta-ethics, applied ethics, history, aesthetics, philosophy of science, and more. It’s been a very congenial place both personally and professionally. 

Describe your current research and teaching interests.

My main research is at the intersection of classical Indian philosophy and philosophy of mind. Thinkers in the Indian tradition have developed some of the most interesting and sophisticated views of mind, self, and consciousness I’ve encountered. I try in my work to better understand these views and to bring them into dialogue with current thinking in philosophy. As for teaching, I regularly teach courses in world philosophies, Indian philosophy, Buddhist philosophy, and philosophy of mind. Sometimes I get to teach in other areas like philosophy of religion and phenomenology.

Moving from a teaching- and research-oriented position to an administrative role is a little strange. I love teaching and interacting with students, and I still have an active research agenda. So, I’ll miss spending as much time on those things. On the other hand, stepping in as chair will allow me to serve students, faculty, and the University in new ways, which is exciting. 

What kind of leader do you envision becoming? 

Hopefully a competent one! Right now I see my role as more of a coordinator and facilitator. A big part of my job is to make sure that stuff happens as smoothly and efficiently as possible. Also, our faculty, students, and staff are all busy doing great things. My job is to help facilitate this work and to help us (faculty, staff, students) move toward our vision of what our department can be. 

Which student-centric initiatives do you think will be worth pursuing for current and future philosophy majors? 

I served as director of undergraduate studies for seven years before becoming chair, so this is an issue close to my heart. A central focus for me will be high-impact practices. We have recently developed a list of education abroad opportunities, which I would like to promote for our students. We are in the beginning stages of developing an internship course and internship opportunities both on campus and in the larger community. Some of our faculty participate in Honors, learning communities, or engage in service-learning projects. I hope to expand on these efforts. Finally, I would like to improve on our capstone experience for students, especially by incorporating more student research (including public presentation of that research).

department chair Matt MacKenzie talking with two philosophy students
Matt MacKenzie advising philosophy majors.


What are your faculty-focused priorities for the coming years?

I see my main role as supporting our faculty who are busy doing great work in teaching, research, and service. A key part of that is helping to connect them to the resources they need (travel funding, professional development opportunities, grant opportunities, etc.) to do their work. There are some really interesting new teaching opportunities at the University that I’d like to encourage our faculty to get involved with. CLA has developed a team-teaching program, as well as the Todos Santos program. Our faculty would be great for these! Additionally, like our tenure-track faculty, our non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) are doing amazing work for our students and the department. A major goal for me is to bring NTTF more fully into the functioning of the department and to foster their development in teaching, service, and research.

More broadly, I would like to foster a greater sense of intellectual community among the faculty and graduate students. One way to do this is through our Bodaken Philosophy Symposium events. I am also working to re-invigorate our department colloquium series. When we are able to bring in philosophers from other places, we have the opportunity to intellectually engage the speaker and each other. I also think it’s important for the graduate and undergraduate students to see their faculty have constructive and critical discussions around important issues.

What is your vision for the future of the department? What would an ideal department look like and how do you propose getting there? 

As a department, our overarching mission is to provide an excellent education for our students, to contribute to our discipline through research, and to be good citizens of the University and the broader community. My ideal department is one that is institutionally and culturally healthy, a place where students, faculty, and staff can all thrive while pursuing our varied goals and projects. A good department is a truly collaborative effort. Lucky for me, I get work with a group of experienced and motivated people who truly care about our educational and research mission!