Alumni Spotlight

James Kreuger ’97
Associate Professor of Philosophy
University of Redlands

Major: Whittier Scholars, essentially a philosophy major with minors in history and physics

Activities: I was active in the Whittier Scholars Program, serving on its council towards the end of my time at Whittier.

What first attracted you to Whittier College? I wanted to be at a small school where I could work closely with faculty and have the freedom to pursue my interests across a number of disciplines. Whittier, and the Whittier Scholars Program, provided the perfect opportunity to do just that.

Why did you choose to study philosophy? I was interested in philosophy from reading I had done in high school. At the time, I thought it would be a good pre-law major. I had also always been interested in our developing understanding of the natural world. That naturally led me to the sciences. Quantum mechanics, in particular, seemed to challenge some important ideas about how we think of the natural world, and I wanted to understand how those views developed. As I kept studying, I realized these “academic” questions were much more interesting to me than anything that a law career would provide, so I ended up sticking with philosophy and adding in elements of history and physics.

Describe your experience at Whittier College. What is your favorite memory? Who was your favorite professor? As I said earlier, I came to Whittier for the chance to work closely with faculty. Many of my best memories come from those interactions. Whether it was a small class that moved into professor Paul Kjellberg’s office for our regular meetings, or night classes up in Hartley House with professor David Hunt, or hours spend in the physics lounge working on problems and knocking on professor Seamus Lagan’s door for help, I had many great opportunities to get guidance and advice from outstanding teachers and mentors. Much of what I try to do today in my own teaching comes directly from lessons I learned at Whittier.

What was your first job after Whittier? What are you currently up to? How has your Whittier education benefited you professionally? My first real job after Whittier is the job I currently hold. I am a professor in the philosophy department at the University of Redlands. I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for the faculty I was lucky enough to work with at Whittier. I am still in regular touch with professor Kjellberg and continue to look to him for advice and guidance. In all the work I have done, in graduate school and in my current job, I haven’t met a philosopher or teacher that I admire and respect more than him. I owe a great deal to him, professor Hunt, professor Lagan and many other faculty who put in long hours to help me during my time at Whittier. Without their support and encouragement, I doubt I would have been admitted to the graduate school I attended.  More importantly, however, what I learned from them about teaching, about how to run a classroom and the care and dedication needed to work with students has been absolutely crucial. I would not have the job I currently have if it were not for the lessons I learned from them.

What advice would you give to future alumni when they graduate? Be open to future possibilities. While my own path was into academics, many of the lessons learned (careful reading, clear writing, ability to articulate, and analyze ideas) would have translated well to any number of career paths. Be open to a range of possibilities. The joke is usually that philosophy doesn’t prepare you for any job. The flip side of that is that you have not been trained for a particular job - you have been learned to think and read and write in ways that can be useful in any field.

That, and stay in touch with your old teachers.  They have a lot to offer even after you have graduated.

Finish this sentence: I am a 'Poet for Life' because... of the people who taught me so much during my time at Whittier and in the years that have followed.

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