New kid in town
When Robert Jones arrived at Chico State’s Trinity Hall on Monday morning, he got a fresh sense of the expression “hitting the ground running.” He found an office stacked with his boxes along the back wall, a half-dozen lamps blocking his bookshelves and paperwork to fill out pronto. Tuesday and Wednesday would bring orientation sessions, followed by two days of meetings with various administrators. So he was harried, yet happy to be one of the two new professors in the Department of Philosophy. Jones got his Ph.D. from Stanford in 2005 and spent the past year at Wesleyan University as part of a team “creating online ethics books for nonphilosophy professors who have to teach ethics.” His areas of study are “animal-rights philosophy, environmental philosophy, philosophy of the mind"—heady stuff, yet he’s grounded enough to head up CAPE, the Center for Applied and Professional Ethics. Jones grew up in Pennsylvania, got his bachelor’s in music from Cal State Northridge and worked as a classical guitarist before discovering his passion for philosophy, which was evident even in the bustle of his first hours on campus.
When did you pull into Chico?
I came on Saturday, dumped a load of stuff in my apartment, then went back to San Francisco for the second load. So last night was the first time I slept in my apartment.
And today [Monday] was the first time in your office?
Still fresh—they haven’t even cut the key yet. But I’m here, and happy to be here. I’m really glad to be out of the snow.
Was that part of the decision process to come to Chico?
I had this job offer at the same time as I got the post-doc job offer, so I spoke to the administration here and they let me go for a year. I’m coming back hopefully a little more skilled than when I left. All the time I was in Connecticut, on my Google page I had the daily weather for Chico—I was in 18-degree weather and Chico was like 85-degree weather, so I was like, “Come on, Chico!”
What kind of difference do you plan to make on campus?
Along with philosophy, focusing specifically on environmental philosophy, part of my duties here include being the director of CAPE, and I’m really excited by that because on one hand I have the work that I do that’s theoretical—professional philosophers’ work—and then CAPE gives me the opportunity to enhance on it and do work here in the Chico community as well as on campus.
Is it a notion of merging pure thought with practicality?
Definitely. In all of my work, there’s always been an applied part—I don’t just stick to theoretical philosophy. It’s important to know theoretical philosophy to inform your applied part, but I feel I have an obligation to do stuff with what I study.