Graduate student alumni spotlight: Kyle Thomsen
An interview by Lauren Dennis
Kyle Thomsen graduated from Loyola University Chicago with a Doctorate in Philosophy in fall 2011 after writing a dissertation entitled“Giving Voice to the Vulnerable: Discourse Ethics and Amnesty for Undocumented Immigration.” Kyle is currently an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at St. Francis University in Loretto, Pennsylvania. He recently visited the Philosophy Department to meet with graduate students and answer their questions about job placement and life in academia post-graduate school.
When did you discover your interest in philosophy?
I discovered my interest in philosophy junior year of college at Roanoke College. I was taking a Values class with Dr. Brent Adkins and felt particularly challenged by Spinoza’s Ethics. I followed that class up with a course on Contemporary French Philosophy, and then a Hegel seminar. The Hegel seminar was so difficult that I forced myself to choose between dropping the class and majoring in Philosophy. I feel like I made the right call.
Why did you choose to apply to and attend Loyola University's PhD Program?
I always wanted to teach and felt that pursuing a PhD was the best way to realize my dream. LUC’s strengths in Social/Political Philosophy and Continental Philosophy played to my interests. Everything just fell into place, and LUC felt like the best fit.
How did your research interests evolve during your time at Loyola?
In the beginning, I was focused on Deleuze and Foucault, but over time these interests were complemented by bioethics and discourse ethics. At this point, I am primarily focused on issues surrounding claims to political membership and the ways that Habermas’ theory of deliberative democracy is challenged by undocumented immigration. My experience in grad school was one of transformation: my interests changed a lot. If you had told me that I wouldn’t be writing a dissertation on Deleuze and Spinoza when I first arrived in Chicago, I would not have believed it.
How did Loyola's faculty help shape your path as a scholar and teacher?
The faculty shaped my path in more ways than I can mention. Every professor I worked for had a profound impact on my teaching, whether it was through grading papers for Dr. Hugh Miller or helping Dr. David Ozar with his professional ethics courses. I have to tip my hat to Dr. Jennifer Parks for helping to spark my initial interest in Bioethics. Dr. Crozier made an effort to encourage me to publish early, and with her help I was able to finish short pieces in AJOB [The American Journal of Bioethics] and AJOB Neuroscience. Dr. Ingram unquestionably had the greatest impact in on my development. While serving as my dissertation director, his calm guidance helped me craft a project which still serves as my primary research interest. I wouldn’t have achieved anything without the help of these professors and others.
Please describe briefly what the job placement process was like for you. What were the most exciting and most difficult parts of the process?
I would describe it as a “hurry up and wait” process. You panic when you realize how many applications you have to send out before a deadline, immerse yourself in the reams of material you are mailing, and then you sit back and anxiously wait to hear from someone. I was lucky to have a lot of help from the department, and things turned out alright when I got my first job offer. The most difficult part was the waiting game for sure. Honestly, the most exciting part was knowing that it was over. There are a lot of tough things you go through getting from your undergraduate degree to your first job after your PhD The placement process is one of the tougher experiences and I was one of the lucky ones.
What was something you wish you had known before starting the job placement process?
I wish that I had all of my materials ready before I went on the market. Scrambling to update a CV, create dummy cover letters, compile evaluations, request letters of recommendation, and write a statement of teaching philosophy at the same time may have contributed to my many gray hairs.
How did Loyola's graduate program prepare you for your current position of Assistant Professor at St. Francis?
LUC trained me to be a complete philosopher, a scholar, and a teacher. My development went beyond taking classes and writing research papers. It prepared me to challenge my own students and cultivate the same love of philosophy in them that was given to me during that Values class at Roanoke College. I owe a huge debt to everyone who helped me grow in my capacity as an instructor of philosophy. It really is a dream come true.