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Faculty member discusses love of philosophy

Dr. Sarah Mattice wearing all blackDr. Sarah Mattice, chair-professor in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies, discovered her love of teaching as an undergraduate. Specializing in comparative philosophy, Mattice has taught various courses on East Asian philosophy. Additionally, she is a published author and experienced musician. In her free time, the Wisconsin native enjoys reading and cooking among other activities.
Why did you decide to major in philosophy and further pursue a career in teaching?
My first college professor suggested that I take a philosophy course — he said that I liked to argue and ask questions, so he thought I'd like philosophy. He was right. I found philosophy challenging in ways that were, and continue to be, exciting to me. As an undergraduate, I was a double major in philosophy and Spanish literature. I decided to go to graduate school because I liked being a student and didn't really want to get a job just yet. As a graduate student, I worked with a program called Philosophy for Children (p4c) and in doing that, fell in love with teaching.
How has your experience studying philosophy influenced the way you view the world?
My experience studying philosophy has profoundly shaped the way I view the world. Philosophers are lovers of wisdom, always asking questions, examining arguments and trying to figure out how to live well. As someone who studies comparative philosophy, especially East Asian traditions, my education leads me to be interested in perspective, power dynamics and questions of interpretation. I tend to view the world as more complicated than it appears on the surface. My first book, for instance, looks at the role of metaphor in how we understand argumentation across different cultural contexts, suggesting that ways of understanding that might seem "natural" may in fact be artifacts of habit, such that real change is possible.
What were your career aspirations growing up?
I wanted to be an astronaut.
Describe your teaching style and how you engage with your students?
I take great joy from being in the classroom. I'm passionate about teaching and learning, and I understand teaching and learning to be co-transformative experiences based in community inquiry. My roots are in critical, contemplative and postcolonial pedagogies. I see these pedagogical theories and practices as crucial for our students and the contemporary world. Most of my course classes involve a significant amount of inquiry that arises from the students themselves and I think this is one of the most important things I can do as a teacher — set up the conditions for students to fully embrace their own educational agency.
I think building relationships is key to engaging students. I try to get to know each of my students and show them that I care about them — as students and as people. I also think students engage when they see me engaged, when they know how passionate I am about a subject, how neat it can be to be fascinated by an idea and that we can do so together. I try hard to help students learn to be comfortable pushing the boundaries of the familiar, which is a key skill as they engage texts, ideas and practices from other cultures.
What courses do you currently teach?
This spring I am teaching PHI 3940 Mindfulness and Meditation Practicum, a course focused on experiential learning with respect to secular, evidence-based mindfulness and meditation practices. My expertise is in Asian and comparative philosophy, so I regularly teach courses like Chinese philosophy, Japanese philosophy, Introduction to Buddhism, Zen Buddhism and Introduction to Philosophy. Occasionally I teach Philosophy through Science Fiction. This summer, I will teach a course in Public Philosophy, centering on skills of facilitating conversations among disparate groups in the public sphere, and I will be a co-lead for the second annual UNF Ethics Academy, a high school day camp.
What are your current research interests/previous interests?
My research is in East Asian and comparative philosophy and religion. My 2021 book, "Exploring the Heart Sutra," focuses on the Mahayana Buddhist text the Heart Sutra, providing a new translation and commentary. Much of my research focuses on early China, including both Ruism/Confucianism and Daoism and aesthetics and hermeneutics. I also work at the intersection of Asian philosophy and feminism, especially focusing on the ways in which women philosophers have historically been left out of the canon.
What are your duties as chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies?
One of the things that I enjoy about being chair is that there is a lot of variation day to day — no two days look exactly the same. That said, on any given day I might be: grading or teaching, meeting with students, meeting with colleagues in my department, meeting with faculty or chairs from other programs, attending an event, planning an event, troubleshooting for students or faculty, attending a committee meeting, working on the course schedule, responding to email or working on my own research.
What do you like best about teaching at UNF?
Teaching is a great job. Every semester I get to meet new and interesting people, share something that I love with them and see how their worlds can open, change and transform as a result of our time together.
What jobs have you had before teaching at UNF?
Before joining UNF, in terms of academic posts, I was a visiting professor at Renmin University in China and an instructor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Outside of academia, I've been a musician, an RA, a glassblower, a meditation instructor, a yoga teacher and a recycling coordinator.
What brought you to UNF?
This job — the opportunity to take a position that was explicitly focused on my area of expertise in comparative philosophy. The prospect of not shoveling snow was also a big draw.
What book(s) are you currently reading or recently read?
I'm currently reading Yuriko Saito's "Aesthetics of Care: Practice in Everyday Life," for an upcoming research project and conference presentation. In terms of nonwork reading, I just finished Daniel Abraham's "Long Price Quartet" and I definitely recommend it. 
What do you like to do in your free time (hobbies)?
I like to walk, hike, read, cook (vegetarian food), do yoga, play music, travel and embroider (my pandemic hobby).
What is one thing people may not know about you?
I play the harp and I am learning how to play the ukulele and banjo.