Dr. Bertha Alvarez Manninen recently was a featured guest on the 15th episode of the Philosophy Bakes Bread radio show and podcast, a production of the Society of Philosophers in America (SOPHIA). While at a conference in Birmingham, Alabama, Dr. Manninen joined Dr. Jackie Kegley of California State University for an interview on the topic of “Teaching Philosophy to First-Gen College Students.”
As a first-generation, minority college student, from a challenging socio-economic status, Dr. Manninen has been able to relate to many of her students’ unique experiences. She expressed, “It’s not hard to sell philosophy, but it can be a challenge. How do you make students who want to escape poverty be attracted to a major typically associated with poverty?” When asked about unexpected barriers, Dr. Manninen added that some students face “crippling self-doubt” and can experience family barriers. “While parents want their child to succeed because they see college as a way to reach economic stability, they genuinely don’t know how to support their child or have the tools to do it.”
The discussion evolved to the importance of integrating philosophy into any chosen major. Dr. Manninen cited a pre-med student who is a Biology major, minoring in Philosophy, and is finishing her thesis on how disease affects someone’s personal identity. “When people survive a lethal disease like cancer, they take on the identity of a cancer survivor, and that infuses on how they will interact with the world. Doctors who understand that become better doctors. My student repeatedly [talks about] how philosophy is going to make her a better physician.”
Bertha Alvarez Manninen is an associate professor of philosophy in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.