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UW Faculty Members Join Innovative Philosophy Network

June 24, 2019
Two men standing together in front of a building
UW Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies faculty members Brad Rettler, left, and Rob Colter are visiting the University of Notre Dame’s campus for the Mellon Philosophy as a Way of Life Network. (Kate Finley Photo)

University of Wyoming faculty members Rob Colter and Brad Rettler are finding time away from the office this summer, but they are making good use of it.

The two members of UW’s Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies are on the campus of the University of Notre Dame for the Mellon Philosophy as a Way of Life Network (PhiLife).

The well-known school and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation have partnered with universities across the world to imagine new and higher-impact ways to teach the traditions of philosophy, including those aimed at helping individuals think more deeply and rigorously about the good life.

The PhiLife Network is a team of more than 100 philosophy faculty members from diverse institutions who research aspects of philosophy as a way of life; share curricula; train one another on key teaching strategies; and support one another to find new ways to serve students and humanities more broadly. This is the first of what is planned to be yearly conferences.

Colter, an academic professional lecturer, and Rettler, an assistant professor, are excited to learn further about progressive ways of teaching philosophy that they have already begun to implement. Rettler recently geared his introductory course more toward philosophy as a way of life and has received positive feedback from his students, while Colter is active with UW’s Pathways from Prison program and a yearly Stoic Camp he hosts.

“I think we are among the departments that have a relatively strong emphasis on this,” Colter says. “I’m interested to see the broad range of approaches and content that people are making use of -- suggestions on everything from course construction to outreach.”

Rettler, likewise, is eager to participate in a program that is focused on improving teaching.

“How can we go beyond the students who come in who live on campus and make philosophy relevant for our community and state?” he asks. “(This is) for everyone we might be able to come into contact with.”

As the PhiLife Network is in its beginning stages, both are eager to see where it goes and what they can bring back to UW.

“I’m approaching this in a very open way -- to see what I can get out of it; to see what I can bring back for my students; to see what I can bring back for the university and for the state,” Colter says. “I’m excited to connect with people in a different sort of way from how we usually do in philosophy, as far as sharing our work.”

“I haven’t thought much about what I can get out of it, as much as what my students will get out of it and what other people in Wyoming will get out of it,” Rettler says. “I think my students will have a better class. They’ll read more relevant things, and they’ll do more relevant assignments.”

For more information on the PhiLife Network, including a daily blog, visit

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