Alumni Spotlight

The following are graduates of the Hendrix philosophy program who have gone on to do amazing things. We are very proud of all of our alumni, but these are some who have continued to demonstrate an exceptional commitment to excellence in both personal virtue and academic scholarship. If you are a Hendrix Philosophy Department alumni, please keep us posted on where you are and what you are doing. We would love to hear from you! Please contact Fred Ablondi at ablondi@hendrix.edu.

Zach Manis

Zach Manis

B.A. – Hendrix College (2000)
M.A. – Texas A&M (2002)
Ph.D. – Baylor (2006)

"What have you been doing since you finished at Hendrix?"

ZM: I began my graduate studies in the philosophy M.A. program at Texas A&M.  The program is wonderfully diverse, and it allowed me to sample all different kinds and approaches to philosophy and helped me to see much more clearly what my options in philosophy were.  But it also confirmed for me that the interests I had developed at Hendrix in philosophy of religion and Kierkegaard would remain my central focus.  After finishing up my M.A., I decided to do my Ph.D. work at Baylor—a then brand-new Ph.D. program in philosophy—lured by the prospect of studying with two prominent Kierkegaard scholars, C. Stephen Evans and Robert Roberts.  After two years of coursework, I went to Notre Dame for a semester as a visiting graduate student, where I had the opportunity to study metaphysics and philosophy of religion with Peter van Inwagen, Philip Quinn, and Alvin Plantinga.  I returned to Baylor to write my dissertation on Kierkegaard (entitled “Virtues, Divine Commands, and the Debt of Creation: Towards a Kierkegaardian Christian Ethic”) under the direction of Evans and Roberts.  A year into it, I left ABD to take a job at Southwest Baptist University, where I now teach, and finished up my dissertation a year later.  Since arriving at SBU, I have been working on building up a repertoire of courses.  Since I am “the” philosopher at SBU (in the literal sense: I’m the only one here), I am able to teach broadly in philosophy.  I teach mostly contemporary issues—epistemology, metaphysics, ethics, philosophy of religion, etc.—and I’ve had the opportunity to develop several special topics courses in my areas of research interest (so far, courses on Kierkegaard, the problem of evil, God and freedom, and atheism).  I just finished up working on a book called Philosophy of Religion: Thinking About Faith, coauthored with my dissertation director, Stephen Evans (forthcoming from IVP press October 2009).  It’s a substantially revised second edition of a book that Evans originally wrote in the early eighties.  Other than that, I’ve been working on a few articles, mostly on Kierkegaard, philosophy of religion, and ethics (often the intersection of the three).    

"How did Hendrix prepare you for graduate school?"

ZM: Hendrix prepared me well in a number of ways.  First and foremost, my education at Hendrix instilled in me a passion for the “big questions” and a love of the philosophical approach of seeking answers to them.  It prepared me academically.  The emphasis on strong writing skills and critical thinking at Hendrix served me well to smooth the transition during my first year of grad school.  The liberal approach to education at Hendrix has benefited me greatly, since philosophy bears on so many other disciplines.  Also, Hendrix prepared me for my career through the exemplary teaching of its professors.  It gave me a goal to aim for in my own teaching, and it impressed on me how important professors can be in facilitating the intellectual growth of their students.   

“What is one of your best memories from your time in the Hendrix philosophy department?”

ZM: For me, it’s not a matter of one single best memory that stands out.  My best memories from Hendrix are those of deep philosophical discussions, both inside and outside the classroom.  Conversations with Doug Corbitt and Peg Falls-Corbitt, and with my friend and fellow philosophy major Kevin Thiemann, were especially significant to me and formative of my intellectual and spiritual development.  Doug was my professor in the Western Intellectual Traditions course (the precursor to the current Journeys course), which served as my introduction to philosophy.  Peg introduced me to philosophy of religion and Kierkegaard, which have been my primary research interests in philosophy ever since.  I am certain that without them, I would not be where I am today. 

"What advice would you give to current Hendrix philosophy majors who want to go on to graduate school?"

ZM: Grad students tend to be obsessed with the enduring dismal state of the job market in philosophy.  But when my own students express interest in grad school, I encourage them not to be naive about a career in philosophy, but also not to feel overwhelmed or discouraged by the job market.  I remind them that if they feel God’s calling upon them leading them to pursue graduate studies in philosophy, then there is no real risk in doing so.  It may be that they don’t end up being full-time, professional philosophers; perhaps God has some other purpose for leading them to study philosophy for a time.  But it will be used for their good, for their own intellectual and spiritual development, and perhaps also for the vocations for which God is preparing them.  But for those Hendrix students who do not share my religious convictions, I still would advise this: Ask yourself the question, “If I end up not being able to get a job in philosophy after I complete my degree, would I regret having spent all that time in grad school?”  Unless you can answer that question with a resounding and certain “No,” you should not pursue graduate studies in philosophy.  The study of philosophy is like an action of moral worth: it must be valued, in part at least, for its own sake.  If you pick the right school, studying philosophy at the graduate level can be an almost entirely positive experience, full of stimulating conversation, meaningful friendships and mentorships, and the deep satisfaction of continued intellectual growth.  For me, it was that kind of experience from beginning to end. 

Ben Crowe

Ben Crowe pictureB.A. - Hendrix College (c/o 1998)
M.A. - Tulane University, 2000
Ph.D. - Tulane University, 2004
See Ben's Website

“What have you been doing since you finished at Hendrix?"

BC: Between 1998 and 2004 (when I received my Ph.D.) I studied at Tulane University. I primarily worked with Michael Zimmerman, a prominent Heidegger scholar. My dissertation under his direction dealt with the concept of destruction in Heidegger's early thought. Since 2004 I've been a lecturer in philosophy at the University of Utah. In 2006, a version of my dissertation was published as Heidegger's Religious Origins: Destruction and Authenticity/ (Indiana UP). In 2007, I published another book on a related topic, Heidegger's Phenomenology of Religion: Realism and Cultural Criticism (also from Indiana UP). I've also pursued research on Fichte, Dilthey, and early German Romanticism. I'm currently in the midst of a huge project on theories of religion in 18th-century British and German philosophy. While at Utah, my teaching activities have largely centered on philosophy of religion, which I have taught at introductory and advanced levels. I've also helped to develop and lead a new course on comparative religion.

“How did Hendrix prepare you for graduate school?"

BC: It's difficult for me to do full justice to this question. Most obviously, studying at Hendrix - in both the philosophy department and more generally - provided me with a strong background in a variety of intellectual traditions. Perhaps more importantly, the intensity of the inquiries in the classroom instilled a deep intellectual curiosity that proved indispensable in maintaining my motivation through the long hard years of grad school.

“What is one of your best memories from your time in the Hendrix philosophy department?”

BC: A few things come to mind. First, I have fond memories of Prof. Falls-Corbitt's Kierkegaard course, which I took in the spring of my senior year. I remember our class meetings outside on lovely spring days, and this first experience of reading Kierkegaard has made a lasting impression on me. Second, I often find myself recalling my first trip to a real philosophy conference, the Mid-South Conference in Memphis. Professor Schmidt drove me, another student, and Jean Grondin (author of a biography of Hans-Georg Gadamer, among other things) to Memphis in his station wagon. We had two running jokes the whole weekend: (1) why it's OK to eat snails but not slugs (Grondin was puzzled), and (2) a seedy motel in Memphis called Admiral Benbow's, which housed an even seedier bar called "The Escape Hatch," with a large sign announcing BYOB. On the way back, we got caught in one of the massive spring storms so common in the mid-South. When we were safely back in Conway, we learned that we had driven through a string of tornadoes. My third memory isn't strictly a philosophy memory, but it's a Raney Building Memory, so that should count. I distinctly remember once when I was in Dr. Farthing's Greek class, and he switched into Methodist revival mode. He pounded the podium, exclaiming "It's /hoti/, /hoti/!" as everyone in the building peered warily down the hall into our classroom.

“What advice would you give to current Hendrix philosophy majors who want to go on to graduate school?”

BC: I would say, first of all, that Hendrix puts students in a great position to excel in graduate study. I would also urge students to think carefully about their career plans and their commitment to the academic life. Graduate school is very much a different animal in comparison with a liberal arts college. Graduate school, unlike an institution like Hendrix, is not aimed at edification or personal development, but is narrowly professional in intent and structure. It requires a serious commitment, constant effort, and considerable psychological stamina. But, I must say that if, like me, you've "got the bug" for philosophy, go for it. I literally can't imagine myself doing anything else. I find my career extremely rewarding in almost every respect, and I'm especially grateful to my mentors and friends in philosophy at Hendrix for shaping me into who I am today.

Angela Potochnik

Potochnik photoB.A. - Hendrix College (c/o 2002)
M.A. - Stanford University, 2004
Ph.D. - Stanford University, 2007
See Angela's website

"Tell us a little bit about what you have been doing since you graduated from Hendrix - especially as it relates to continued philosophy study."

AP: After graduating from Hendrix in 2002, I began a PhD program in philosophy at Stanford University. I graduated this past summer (2007) and am currently in the midst of interviewing for faculty positions in philosophy.

"Say a little bit about how Hendrix prepared you for graduate school."

AP: When I showed up to Stanford, I was delighted to find that I was quite well prepared for graduate study there. In some respects, it is challenging to move from a small liberal arts college to graduate school at a strong research university. Nonetheless, the philosophy education I received at Hendrix compared favorably to my peers' educations from much larger, more prominent departments. The members of the philosophy faculty at Hendrix are quite amazing in their breadth, their intelligence and their warmth.

"What is your fondest memory of your time in the philosophy department at Hendrix?"

AP: I have no single best memory; the entire experience was enjoyable. My favorite recent memory was when, the day after I successfully defended my dissertation last spring, a large bunch of flowers was delivered to my home in San Francisco. The attached note expressed the congratulations of each member of the Hendrix philosophy department. This is the story I tell people to illustrate what an amazing place Hendrix is.

"If you could give a piece of advice to current Hendrix philosophy majors, what would it be?"

AP: If you are majoring in philosophy in order to clarify your thinking in preparation for law school--or any other field, or even simply for life itself--then congratulations. You've made a wise choice. If you are majoring in philosophy because you want to become a professional philosopher, then be warned. I once heard it said that if you can imagine doing anything else, you should not pursue a career in philosophy. I think this is good advice. The road to a successful career in philosophy is quite long, and there is no assurance of success. Even success brings with it relatively little in the way of external rewards. However, if you are willing to make sacrifices along the way; if you find yourself drawn to the questions that you find the most difficult; and if you simply cannot imagine doing anything else, then you have no other choice than to allow yourself to be a philosopher. Resign yourself to a future of confounding your parents and being incomprehensible to most people you encounter. But you'll have loads of fun along the way.

C.J. Sentell

CJ Sentell PhotoB.A. – Hendrix College (c/o 2003)
M.Phil – Cambridge University
Ph.D. in progress – Vanderbilt University

“What have you been doing since you finished at Hendrix?

CJ: After graduating, I worked a year for a lawyer in Little Rock, after which I moved to England to attend the University of Cambridge where I read for an M.Phil. in the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. My dissertation at Cambridge concerned the "products of nature" doctrine within U.S. intellectual property law, and examined the legal and philosophical devolution of this doctrine over the last century in light of developing technology and corporate and governmental interests. After receiving this degree I moved back to the states and taught English for a brief time at the University of Arkansas, before returning to philosophy at Vanderbilt.

At Vanderbilt, my work is generally focusing on twentieth-century social and political philosophy. Historically, I am interested in working at the intersection of the American pragmatic traditions and the European traditions of hermeneutics, critical theory, and post-structuralism.

Topically, I am interested in exploring the connections between the philosophy of nature (which I take to be a broad mixture of philosophy of science and technology and environmental philosophy), the philosophy of education, and radical democratic theory.

“How did Hendrix prepare you for graduate school?”

CJ: Hendrix was a great preparation for graduate school in a number of ways. Because its faculty and curriculum are so firmly dedicated to the liberal arts, I feel as though I got a very broad-based education in the best spirit of that tradition. In terms of philosophy, the department was excellent because, despite its size, it offers such a wide variety of courses that exposed me to the many different possibilities for philosophical thinking. Finally, and most importantly, the faculty were so generous and genuinely interested in the education of its students.

Whether it was over a meal, in an independent study, or on the porch of the Raney building, my personal relationships with faculty members were the single most important factor in me continuing studies in this field.

“What is one of your best memories from your time in the Hendrix philosophy department?”

CJ: One of my fondest memories of the department was a road trip several faculty and students took my sophomore year to the Mid-South Philosophy Conference in Memphis, where several folks presented papers. The whole experience was wonderful, really, but I remember quite vividly riding in the back of Dr. Ablondi's car, drifting in and out of sleep, dreaming - if I remember correctly - of Nelson Goodman's "Ways of Worldmaking", while tornadoes were popping in and out of the sky all along I-40. During some of the worst parts of the storm, we stopped along the interstate at an abandoned gas station and all stood staring at the sky in the gathering dark.

“What advice would you give to current Hendrix philosophy majors who want to go on to graduate school?”

CJ: Learn Greek. Or, just shy of that, begin learning a philosophical language sooner rather than later.