Our People

 

Karen Detlefsen

Karen Detlefsen

Director

Karen is Professor of Philosophy and Education at the University of Pennsylvania. Her research interests lie in early modern (17-18th centuries) philosophy, including the history of philosophy of science, the history and philosophy of education, and women philosophers of the early modern period. She also has teaching and research interests in contemporary philosophy of education. She has held research grants from The National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Australian Research Council, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada. She has been award Penn’s Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Award for Distinguished Teaching by an Assistant Professor (2007) and the Provost’s Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching (2016).

Regarding philosophy for the young: As undergraduate chair in philosophy (2009-13), Karen became interested in philosophy’s potential for public engagement and began researching models for ABCS (academically based community service) teaching. This led to her project in teaching philosophy to high school students, which has since expanded to include middle school students (she aims to eventually reach all students from K-12). She has integrated Penn undergraduates and graduate students alike in this form of public engagement.

Stephen Esser

Stephen Esser

Associate Director

Steve Esser received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Pennsylvania in 2018. Steve’s research focus is philosophy of science. Prior to graduate school, Steve had a 25 year business career as an  investment manager.

Regarding philosophy for the young: I have long been interested in philosophy outreach to the public and K-12 students in particular. Since 2005, I have volunteered with the Greater Philadelphia Philosophy Consortium, helping area philosophers organize an event called the “Public Issues Forum,” one of which focused on philosophy for children. I have also volunteered for several years as a judge at the Delaware Valley Regional High School Ethics Bowl, held annually at Villanova University.

Nick Friedman

Nick Friedman

I serve as an emergency department technician and conduct research in the Department of Emergency Medicine, University of Pennsylvania Health System. I received a B.A. in Chemistry from Skidmore College in 2017 and will begin medical school at the Stanford University School of Medicine in 2019. My primary philosophical interests include the philosophy of science and medicine, biomedical ethics, philosophy of mind, and K-12 philosophy education.

Regarding philosophy for the young: I was first exposed to philosophy through a required ethics course in high school. The course sparked my love of philosophy and ethics and I have since had an intense interest in promoting K-12 philosophy education. With the P4Y team, I designed and implemented a philosophy and ethics of science course for 9th-graders at Science Leadership Academy in Center City, Philadelphia. I strongly believe that K-12 philosophy education can be a powerful tool to help students develop as open-minded, critical thinkers, and I believe that philosophy is particularly important for students with interests in the STEM fields. I am thrilled that P4Y and other programs are beginning to make philosophy accessible, engaging – and maybe even a little fun – for students of all ages and backgrounds. 

Dustin Webster

Dustin Webster

I am a PhD student in Education, Culture, and Society at the University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Education. I received an M.A. in Philosophy and Education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and a B.A. in Political Science from the University of San Diego. My research interests are concerned with how ideas like liberalism, multiculturalism, toleration, and citizenship are conceptualized, and then communicated in the K-12 classroom. This is driven by a broader interest in the role that education serves in society, particularly in a liberal democracy. I am is also interested in exploring the non-cognitive aspects of civics education, and how they relate to and overlap with character education.

Regarding philosophy for the young: I have long been interested in engaging in philosophy with children and pre-college level students. For many years I worked in K-12 education serving in a variety of roles, including in after school programs, teaching English in South Korea, and teaching 5th grade at a school for children with learning disabilities. During those times, I brought philosophy into my classroom whenever possible. I am always amazed at the power these activities and discussions have had not only for my students, but also for me. I have been trained by the Institute for the Advancement of Philosophy for Children in the Lipman-Sharp Community of Inquiry method of philosophy for children. I have also been involved with the National High School Ethics Bowl since 2015.

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