“Socrates defines philosophy as healing the soul and that is an apt characterization of philosophy as we emerge out of our pandemic solitude”
— Mohammad Azadpur, Professor and Department of Philosophy Chair
Distinguished Undergraduate Achievement Award
“That which we manifest is before us; we are the creators of our own destiny. Be it through intention or ignorance, or success and our failures have been brought on by none other than ourselves.” - Garth Stein, The Art of Racing In The Rain
There are some things in life that are under our control and there are those that are not. What I’ve learned during my time at SFSU is to differentiate between the two. If something is not under our control, then there is no sense in worrying about it or dwelling on it. Instead, we must focus on what is under our control. Create our own destiny, set our own path, pursue our chosen endeavors with passion, focus and discipline.
I came to SFSU as a psychology major but on a whim, switched to philosophy - a subject, I now realized, I knew very little about. Little did I know this would be one of the most impactful and positive decisions of my life. Through philosophy, I learned great lessons about myself, my place in the world and my understanding of life.
I want to take a moment to thank everyone who supported and fostered my growth during the past four years. First and foremost, I’d like to thank my mother, father and brother, who encouraged me to always do my best but to also take care of myself and enjoy life. I’d like to thank Dr. Tiwald, the first faculty member I met and who excitedly supported my decision to study philosophy. I’d like to thank Professor Kyle Dupen, my first Philosophy professor, who jump started my interest in Phil 105. I’d like to thank Professors Wendy Salkin and Jamie Lindsay for leading my favorite classes at SFSU; they are both filled with knowledge and very engaging in their class discussion. Last, but not least, I’d like to say thank you to all of my fellow philosophy students whose friendship, kindness and assistance contributed to my success.
Distinction in Undergraduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy
The world and the people around us are the most fertile of soil upon which we can cultivate any mode of thinking with which we engage the world. The pursuit of truth in whatever shape we see it take is one of the most potent builders of character in existence. Thank you to this department for opening my eyes and my mind to that.
Distinguished Graduate Achievement Award
Studying at San Francisco State University in the Philosophy Department has been one of the most cherished experiences of my life. From my unique standpoint, the most fulfilling line of philosophical inquiry has always been at the intersection of ethics and epistemology. My thesis, Being Nonbinary: Epistemic Injustice and Epistemic Defeat explores the epistemic and ethical dimensions of identity and the formation of self-knowledge.
While I worked towards completing my MA degree, I taught PHIL 110: Introduction to Critical Thinking and PHIL 150: Introduction to Moral and Political Issues as a Graduate Teaching Associate during the Fall 2020 and Spring 2021 academic semesters. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with and grow alongside many insightful, passionate, and caring individuals—including SFSU’s amazing faculty, my colleagues in the Graduate Teaching Associate program, and my students as I earned my degrees. The community at San Francisco State University has given me such a wealth of experiences and connections and I am forever grateful for that. Thank you my faculty mentors, Dr. Shelley Wilcox, Dr. Isabelle Peschard, and Dr. Macy Salzberger, and Jen Waller for your support and guidance during my time as a student. It is also a great honor to be a recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Achievement Award for May 2021.
I am deeply grateful for my time in the philosophy master’s program at SFSU. I had the pleasure to work with many great thinkers, both faculty and other students, who showed great insight and challenged me as a philosophical thinker. In the program I became interested in the notions of self and agency that emerge from early modern rationalism and its connection to holistic spirituality and mysticism. I explored theories of truth and deception and other challenges to empiricism. I especially enjoyed researching the rationale behind Lady Mary Shepherd’s charges of “sophistry” against Hume and presenting this at the TEMPO 2020 conference. My master’s thesis, titled “A Cheerful Union of Modes: Spinoza and Rational Friendship” answers criticisms of Spinoza’s doctrine of the necessity of mutual benefit between agents of the same nature by reinterpreting his claims with special attention to how Spinoza’s metaphysics informs his notion of friendship. Some of my most memorable experiences at SFSU were from teaching undergraduate courses as a Graduate Teaching Associate. I taught Intro to Critical Thinking, Intro to Philosophy and Intro to Philosophy and Religion. It cannot be stressed enough how awesome my students are! We had so many great discussions exploring some of the most difficult “big questions” from the perspective of various religious traditions and philosophical figures found throughout the world. I am happy that I will continue teaching at SFSU as a Lecturer in the Fall semester of 2021.
The Department of Philosophy continues with its congratulations...
Alena Chávez (she/her/hers)
My time spent at SFSU, especially as a Philosophy student, was unforgettable. From my first day on campus, to my very last, I have witnessed incredible growth—not only within myself, but within my fellow colleagues, as well. I know I would not be here without the endless support from Courtney Cohen, Andrew Sattui Nolan, Alex Lopez, and Dr. Sowaal—the people who inspired me to continue on my mission to utilize Philosophy within my Social Justice work. This degree is not for me, but for all marginalized folks who came before me and will come after. Thank you to my family and chosen family for all your love and support! To the class of 2021!
This I/he/thing that thinks/feels/moves is grateful for the influences of this program, and is hoping to be on to more of the same—in this endless pursuit.
Andrew Sattui Nolan
My thanks to:
My mentors Dr. Azadpur and the late Dr. Kowsar.
Dr. Dolan, for your brave, tireless allyship.
Friends Nicu Doliber, Caleb Krywenko, Courtney Cohen, Alex Lopez, & Alena Chavez, for crafting spaces where I could belong.
Dr. Peschard for showing me that even while neuroatypical, I could still learn.
Thanks, RuDee Sade, exemplary human, for awakening me from my dogmatic slumber.
To Θεός, my family, for my entire life.
And Dr. Ásta, the women, LGBTQ+, & BIPOC philosophers who paved the way for someone like me even when doing so was unvalued. I am in your debt.