Alumni Spotlight: Jason Eberl, 1998

By

Rachel Bunning

Alumnus Jason Eberl graduated from SHPRS with his master’s degree in philosophy in 1998.

Eberl answered a few questions about his current position, his time with SHPRS and tips for current students.

Tell us a little bit about your current position and you found yourself here.

I'm currently the semler endowed chair for medical ethics and professor of philosophy at Marian University in Indianapolis. I primarily teach clinical ethics to medical students in Marian's College of Osteopathic Medicine. Prior to coming to Marian, I spent ten years teaching and directing a master's degree program in philosophy, with a concentration in bioethics, at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. I received my doctorate in philosophy from Saint Louis University after having received my master's degree from ASU.

Growing up, were you always interested in philosophy?

I developed an interest in philosophy early in my life thanks to my being a die-hard fan of science-fiction, particularly Star Trek and Star Wars, which were tremendously huge pop culture influences when I was growing up -- and of course still are today. Ray Bradbury famously said that science-fiction may be the last realm in our society where the philosopher can roam as freely as he or she chooses. I believe that's because sci-fi allows us to entertain thought-experiments that take us out of our everyday practical concerns to focus on fundamental questions of ontology, epistemology, ethics, and related philosophical subdisciplines. I've carried this love of sci-fi into my professional life by writing essays and editing various books that utilize sci-fi and other pop culture media to expose readers to philosophical theories and thinkers in a fun, engaging manner. My most recent book in this arena collects essays by philosophers and film theorists discussing the films of writer/director Christopher Nolan.

What attracted you to the graduate philosophy program at ASU?

The philosophy department offered a master's degree and was considered one of the top programs in the country. The program's academic reputation, plus my having grown up in Phoenix and still having family there, made ASU a logical (no pun intended!) choice for me. Coming out of my undergraduate program, I had a strong interest in analytic metaphysics, philosophy of mind and classical philosophy, and ASU's philosophy department had particularly strong faculty in these areas.

Tell us about your time with SHPRS

My time at ASU was probably more life-changing than for most students as the day I arrived for the graduate student orientation in the philosophy department, I set eyes on my wife for the first time. A few weeks later, I asked her out during our advanced symbolic logic class -- nerd that I am, I even asked her out in a note written in symbolic notation! We were married the day after I graduated with my master's degree at the All Saints Catholic Newman Center on campus.

Did SHPRS and your degree help in preparing you for your current position?

In addition to the wonderful graduate courses I took during my two years at ASU, I had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant and the program did a very smart thing in assigning me to TA for courses I hadn't taken as an undergrad -- such as philosophy of science and modern philosophy. While this entailed a lot of work on my part to be ahead of the students taking the class in mastering the material, it doubled the learning experience for me. The initial pedagogical lessons I learned from the professors with whom I worked during my two years at ASU have continued to inform my teaching nearly twenty years later. Also, while I didn't formally study bioethics myself at ASU, my wife did in the religious studies department and she encouraged me to delve into this area of study that has since driven my career.

Was there a defining moment with your academic career?

A singular defining moment has to be when Prof. Jeffrie Murphy asked me, while I was applying to doctoral programs if I knew of Eleonore Stump at Saint Louis University. While I knew of her and wanted to work with her, I hadn't applied to SLU and it was well past the application deadline. Prof. Jeffrie Murphy reached out to Prof. Eleonore Stump and asked if SLU would be willing to look at a late application. That I had the opportunity to go on from ASU to SLU, which has shaped my entire career, can be credited to the attentive professional mentorship I received from ASU professors such as Profs.  Michael White, Bernard Kobes, Tom Blackson, among others.

What is the most useful thing you learned that you can still apply today?

My first TA assignment was with Professors Brad Armendt and Michael White for two 300-level courses, both of which required me to do the initial grading on term papers. Their guidance on how to give constructive feedback to students that will not discourage them, but yet push them to the next level of critical thinking and writing, still informs how I give feedback to my students today.

Were there any extracurricular activities you were involved in at ASU?

I was involved with the All Saints Catholic Newman Center and organized a couple of spiritual retreats while I was there. My wife and I were married there the day after I received my master's degree from ASU.

Do you have any tips for current students?

For undergrads, I'll offer the same advice I gave to my daughter when she left for college last year: don't be afraid to approach your professors to ask for help when needed or just to discuss topics that interest you and which their expertise could help you develop a more enriched understanding. For graduate students, my advice is to focus not just on your studies, but start learning the field you're entering and what it takes to be successful as a professional in that field. Knowledge is the first essential step, but there are broader professional skills that are also important and your mentors at ASU can be a tremendous resource in helping you to achieve them.