My name is Jennifer Sullivan Downey

My name is Jennifer Sullivan Downey

After completing a Masters in English Literature from Miami University, I am currently an English teacher at both a high school and a small college. As an English and History major at Cedarville (graduating in 2005), I had extensive interaction with the Philosophy program both formally and informally. The Philosophy department and its community were foundational to my liberal arts education, and it is one of the main reasons that I was able to enter into and succeed in a strong Masters degree program. My story hopefully demonstrates that the Philosophy department’s importance extents far beyond the philosophy major itself; it is an integral element of the collegial community for anyone pursuing the humanities at the University.

I remember clearly sitting in the Making of the Modern Mind class, a core class for the Honors Program, my freshman year, listening to Dr. Mills introduce epistemology. Something switched on inside of me: “These are the words– words to navigate by.” Every time we had a philosophy lecture, I would leave with my heart so full, so grateful, because I could feel spaces opening up that I didn’t even know were there. Through studying philosophy, I eventually decided to pursue an English degree–a step that has led me to a true sense of my vocation in life as a teacher of humanities.

I spent a school year in Oxford, England– much of it traipsing about art galleries and museums. That previous spring, I had taken an Aesthetics class with Dr. Mills, which introduced me to the philosophy of art. Using the lenses I acquired in that class, I could spend hours with the art, having a sense of the trajectory of ideas that had moved art along through history, the questions that different periods were asking– I knew how to begin to engage art, how to see its beauty. It made me feel just a little less lost in my European adventure where I felt so small and overwhelmed already.

My last year at Cedarville was a year of intense wrestling with faith. I took Philosophy of Literature, a class which helped some of the broken pieces of my framework find a whole again. Dr. Mills’s class again allowed me to navigate through ideas and concepts, to articulate a Christian vision of art. As a high school literature teacher today, I turn to ideas from this class again and again to help my students approach life and literature with compassion, thoughtfulness, and wonder.

Even outside of classes, the philosophy department at Cedarville helped form the backbone of my academic community. I participated actively in Alpha Sigma, the philosophy group that would invite speakers, discuss films, and debate concepts together. I can’t speak about my college years without speaking about the Philosophy department, a department that formed part of my community, my spiritual development, and my vocation in the humanities. There is no tangible way to measure the loss to the University if it is gone.

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