About Me

High School and College

I was born in North Vancouver, Canada and grew up in the interior of British Columbia. My parents were working class, and neither went to college, but they always encouraged and expected me to do so. I got my first taste of philosophy in high school when a quirky literature teacher assigned us some Platonic dialogues (I forget which, but I do recall that other materials that semester included lyrics by Billy Joel and the Beatles). In my senior year, another kindly literature teacher encouraged me to look into some of the smaller liberal arts colleges in the maritime provinces. Because I was very fond of her, and because my family was from that region anyway, I took her advice. Naïvely, I submitted a single application to the one that most appealed to my sensibility at that time. To my great good fortune, I was accepted and began immediately to devour courses in literature, philosophy, and religious studies. It was only much later that I came to fully appreciate how lucky I had been - both to have landed a spot at all, and to have ended up where I did. 

The breadth of course offerings on philosophical topics was amazing; between just and handful of permanent faculty and the odd visiting professor I was able to take courses in the Western tradition from Plato to Kant, as well as several courses on Hindu and Buddhist philosophy and upper-level seminars on figures like Marx, Heidegger, and Merleau-Ponty, for example. I also took courses in the history and philosophy of science, and the philosophy of biology and developed a strong interest in a range of issues relating to naturalism/anti-naturalism debates in the context of both empirical science and moral philosophy. I wrote a thesis on the evolution of morality and freedom with the generous support and guidance of Dr. Paul Bogaard. It's hard to overstate the effect of this early experience in terms of shaping my basic philosophical orientation, values, and sense for the discipline, as well as for what a career in philosophy might look like. 

Work and Travel

And yet, by the time I finished up, in the spring of 2008, I was more than ready for a break. Having thrown myself entirely into finishing my thesis on time, I had made no preparations to apply to graduate school, and realized it could be a good moment to take some time away from the classroom. I recall entertaining some worries about "losing momentum" but was too exhausted to really care, and more than a little eager to try something different, even if it was just working odd jobs to save some money and travel. I also recall being pleasantly surprised when my advisors seemed to think this was not an utterly foolish choice. It would be four years before I eventually returned to university for my master's in the fall of 2012. 

In the months immediately following my BA, I was able to raise some few thousand dollars which I put toward a one-way ticket to Delhi and several months of travel throughout India with some close friends from high school and college. When I returned to Canada in 2009, I worked construction and labor jobs for a good while to fund an extended solo trip overland through the Americas, from Vancouver, British Columbia to the southern tip of Chile. We were well into the era of the "personal blog" at this point, and I recorded some highlights from this latter trip using that format. Looking back on those entries now (some fifteen years later) induces more than a few cringes - and plenty of opportunities to reflect on what philosopher Shannon Sullivan has called white ontological expansiveness, not to mention various other forms of privilege and entitlement - but I am happy to have the record, and may link excerpts of it here at some point. 

Grad School and Beyond

Though I have no regrets about the lengthy pause in my academic career (quite the contrary), it's worth noting that I did in fact lose a good deal of momentum, and despite having the sense to apply to more than one program this time, I was rejected across the board in my first shot at grad school. This was doubly distressing to me given that I had meanwhile been awarded some master's funding from SSHRC and it looked like I might not have a program to take it to. A little later, UBC reached out to me retracting their earlier rejection and offering me a spot if I was still interested. While I suppose I would have simply put in another round of applications the following year, at the time this felt like a kind of miracle rescue and I accepted immediately. My experience at UBC was fantastic. Over a two year non-thesis MA, I took courses in the philosophy of science, mind, and language (with Chris Stephens, Eric Margolis, Chris Mole, and Ori Simchen) as well as my first courses in contemporary moral and political theory (with Sylvia Berryman, Paul Russell, Scott Anderson, Matt Bedke, and Dom Lopes). I also made some good friends, and learned a lot more about what it would really mean to pursue a PhD - something I was now more resolved than ever to do. 

My second round of grad school applications was far more thoroughly researched and strategic than the first, but no less harrowing. Once again, I was rejected across the board, and only very late in the season received a last-minute notification from Boston University that I was on their waitlist. A little over a month later I received a follow-up email making a formal offer of acceptance with just one afternoon to think it over. Thankfully, that was all I needed. I started planning the move to Boston right away, and was thrilled when about a month later word came through that I had been awarded SSHRC doctoral funding which would end up covering most of my living costs over the next few years. While at BU, I was able to develop my early interest in the philosophy of natural and social science through a range of courses on key concepts like truth, perception, and meaning, as well as on central figures in the analytic tradition like Sellars, Carnap, and Quine (with Juliet Floyd, Walter Hopp, Tian Yu Cao, and Dan Dahlstrom). I was also able to deepen my training in the history of philosophy, taking several seminars on Aristotle and Plato, Kant's first Critique, and the history of moral philosophy (with David Roochnik, Judson Webb, and Aaron Garrett), plus several courses in contemporary normative theory (with Dan Star). 

Most significant, however, were a pair of seminars I took with David Lyons in the first two years of my degree: one on anarchism and political obligation, and another cross-listed in BU's school of law entitled "The Color Line and Reparations." It was in the context of these classes that I began to develop the ideas that would grow into my dissertation work. It was also around this time that I started to appreciate the depth and complexity of reparations as a philosophical topic: combining thorny issues in moral and political theory with the messy concreteness of social psychology and what is now called political epistemology, all against the backdrop of several hundred years of material and cultural history, both within the United States and across the globe. Despite having recently retired, David generously agreed to serve on my committee. Around this time, Ann Cudd had been hired on as Dean of Arts and Sciences at BU, and after a few meetings to discuss some of my ideas, she also agreed to join my committee. Having by now taken two impactful courses with Juliet Floyd, I was delighted when she agreed to come aboard as well. 

In the summer of 2017, with my committee in place and ABD, I moved to Boulder, Colorado where I would live and work for the next three years. During much of that time, I served as a Lecturer in philosophy at CU Boulder while completing my dissertation. The change of scenery and climate was refreshing and reminiscent of growing up near the Rockies of British Columbia. I made a number of good friends among the graduate students and faculty at CU, thanks largely to my involvement in several reading groups in contemporary feminist philosophy. In spring 2020, as the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, I defended my dissertation remotely over Zoom and wondered what would come next. After a brief stint in rural South Carolina, circumstances took me to Claremont, California, where I started as a part-time Visiting Assistant Professor at Claremont McKenna College in fall 2021 (I was promoted to full-time in 2023). The CMC philosophy department is overrun with brilliant people, and has been among the most friendly and welcoming I have ever visited. I have profited a great deal from the mentorship and kindness of the faculty here, and have found myself reflecting once again on my sheer good fortune in having had the chance to be part of this community over the past few years.