Me watching the sunrise over the Bosphorus

A more personal biography

I began as an alien in many respects at this northern, lutheran, liberal arts college (there are three respects right there). I am from the south, and my ancestors fought on the losing side in the American Civil War. A generous description of my religious history might be metho-bap-terian. Raised and baptized in the Presbyterian church, educated in the methodist church, and revived (and re-baptized - twice) in various Baptist churches. The best religious description for me today would be Benedictine (a monastic order begun in the 6th century). I have never officially studied "the liberal arts" though after many years now I think I have acquired a love for them. .

My educational history is about as checkered as my religious past. Until high school, I was a product of the Florida education system, whose administrators thank God every day that Mississippi exists to take up the rear. During the civil rights boom times of the late sixties, my mother sent me (with my collaboration) to the high school academy at Bob Jones University. I met there Dr. Bob Jones III, who explained to me the concept of grace in terms my adolescent imagination could understand. I then proceeded to discover the law in the incarnation of the academy's minute and exacting rules. After a year, I left Bob Jones for the more liberal social and intellectual life at Riverside Military Academy (where I received my high school degree). At least at Riverside I only had to march when I broke the rules -- at Bob Jones, I also had to repent.

I drifted into college because, well ... because. I applied to only one school, Georgia Southern College in Statesboro, GA. Several mentors there convinced me that psychology was a great place to solve puzzles about human nature, and that I was a reasonably competent puzzler. My immersion in the "Jesus" movement (hippies on Jesus & endorphins) led me to seminary with a short stopover in Savannah Georgia as first, a youth minister and second, a steel fitter in a local shipyard. At Asbury Theological Seminary I began, inexplicably, to think about my religion. This led to my dropping out and laying brick for a while, and then enrolling in the Philosophy Masters program at the University of South Florida. While there, I decided that the puzzles I really liked were about how people think about each other, and that psychology was a better place to pursue those puzzles than language analytic philosophy (the only reasonable philosophy being sold at USF during the 1980s).

So, off to William and Mary to pursue a Master's degree in experimental psychology, then off to Princeton to do a PhD in Social Psychology. While at Princeton I did some summer work at Bell Labs looking at social psychological issues in computing. This early experience got me hooked on studying the social issues associated with technology (it was 1984, the year the Mac came out). I started a research program there about how our social stereotypes of gender influence computing, and how the way computing is done effects how we think about gender. This work led to a 2 year post-doc at Carnegie-Mellon, one of the temples of technology. While there, I saw the ad for a social psychologist at St. Olaf College.

Now, psychology is a notoriously secular discipline, constantly on the watch for bias to creep in from soft-headed humanist or religious types. This neurosis is fueled, I believe, by science-envy. If we have to prove we are scientific (and we have to, constantly) then let's toss off all the oddities of religion so we at least do not look suspect. Though my orthodoxy is mostly evident in the gap, I pined for a Almut und Ich in Berchtesgartenplace where I could think about psychology and religion in the same mental breath. St. Olaf seemed to be (and is) that place.

As a part of my journey to the Midwest, I discovered the riches of the monastic tradition at St. John's Abbey in the northwoods of Minnesota. More than any other religious tradition, I think it is best to describe be as a Benedictine. I have, in fact taken a lay version of the benedictine vows to become what is called an oblate.

I teach courses in The Psychology of Good and Evil and Ethical Issues in Software Design (a required course in the CS program here) and Research Methods. My research on social issues in computing and on moral reasoning have merged in my project on the moral reasoning of computer scientists.

In the Fall of 2007 I led a group of students on Term in the Middle East, a rigorous semester of studying political science (in Istanbul), sociology (in Fez), history (in Cairo), and cross-cultural moral psychology (in all three places) The top picture is from Istanbul.

I spent my last sabbatical (2008-2009) at the Hochschule für Philosophy in Munich. I was there for several reasons, the first being to spend the year with my fiancée, Almut Furchert, a clinical psychologist who was finishing a second doctoral-level degree (this time in the philosophy of Kierkegaard) at the Hochschule. I also co-taught a course on professional ethics with Prof. Funiok an internationally known expert in the field of media ethics.

Almut and I are now both back in Northfield, where Almut is a Fellow in the Kierkegaard Library and I am back at teaching and doing research. We were married during the first Sunday service at St. Olaf's Boe Chapel. Dr. phil. Almut Furchert has published her dissertation and a variety of other papers, and maintains her clinical psychology practice. It is a great joy to be here, to be thinking philosophy and psychology together with Almut and with my students, and to continue life's journey together with Almut.
St. Olaf College
Psychology Department
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Research Projects