2009 Keynote Speakers: Diane P. Michelfelder


Diane P. Michelfelder, Professor of Philosophy and former Provost and Dean of the Faculty at Macalester College, and President for the Society for Philosophy and Technology

Engineering and the Liberal Arts:  Toward Academic Cosmopolitanism 
(click title for pdf)

ABSTRACT:  What needs to be done to create engineers whose skills, knowledge, and intellectual appetites enable them to respond thoughtfully and innovatively to the challenges of sustainability and other pressingly complex social issues?  This question invites thinking not only about how to integrate more of the liberal arts into the educational pathways for future engineers, but also, in the context of bringing such integration, about what might be done differently within liberal arts education itself. Currently the liberal arts themselves do a better job in general at introducing technology itself into the classroom than they do at focusing on technology as a subject-matter for examination and reflection. Much more could be done by way of cultivating epistemic respect for technology and its significance in shaping our world; and more emphasis could be placed on building capacity for curiosity, shaping good questions, and creative problem-framing. The development of such broad, "cosmopolitan" affordances of mind would I propose help engineering and non-engineering students alike to see themselves as part of a single academic culture of inquiry within an ever-increasingly unpredictable world.

BIOGRAPHY: Diane P. Michelfelder is Professor of Philosophy and the former Dean of the Faculty and Provost at Macalester College. She received her A.B. degree from Bryn Mawr College and her Ph.D. from The Univeristy of Texas at Austin.

Prior to coming to Macalester College, she was Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Indiana State University. From 1981-1997, she was a faculty member in the Department of Philosophy at California Polytechnic State University. While at Cal Poly she oversaw the launch of a major in philosophy, developed and directed a university forum on ethics, technology, and the professions, and became one of the first faculty members in the US to teach a course on the ethics of the Internet. Her publications and research interests span 20th-century European philosophy, applied ethics, and the philosophy of technology. Within the philosophy of technology, her work focuses on ethical issues connected to the use of information technologies in everyday life. She has been a board member of the International Association for Environmental Philosophy and a member of the Forum for Innovation and Excellence in Higher Education. Currently, she is a board member of Scholars at Risk and the president of the Society for Philosophy and Technology.