Through the enthusiastic guidance of Dr. Susana Badiola, ASU’s philosophy program has grown and flourished since her arrival in 2004.
A native of the Basque Country in Spain, Badiola has been the driving force behind the philosophy program’s evolution from a minor component of the Government Department to a full-fledged partner in the Department of Political Science and Philosophy. In recognition of her efforts, she has four times been named a Wonderful Woman of ASU, has three times been nominated for the Gary and Pat Rodgers Distinguished Faculty Award, and this year won the President’s Award for Faculty Excellence in Teaching.
But when her President’s Award was announced at the Faculty Recognition Dinner in May, Badiola didn’t exactly wax philosophical.
“I cried,” she said. “It was a complete surprise. Just the nomination process was very moving because it came from my colleagues. It’s important to me that they were willing to support me and put in all the work to make this happen. Current and former students also wrote letters supporting me. They had nothing to gain from it, but they went out of their way to do that. I’m delighted, and I feel a lot of gratitude.”
“I make the students think for themselves, and sometimes they just need to feel like they are having fun in the classroom. I’m open to anything that is conducive to better learning.”
Among the many accomplishments that led to her award, Badiola established the curriculum that took the philosophy program from a simple minor to a bachelor’s degree program in 2013 and has developed nearly a dozen courses that allow philosophy students to tailor their degree plans to fit their individual interests.
“We want our majors to have a core in philosophy, so there are several courses that they have to take,” Badiola said. “For the electives, we want to make sure there are classes that can suit students’ different interests within philosophy. Philosophy can attract very different types of students, and we have a wide variety of classes so they can all take courses that they actually like. Each of these courses gives students a chance to delve into relevant issues facing the world today.”
“It’s also important to create a space where students can think about things they have always taken for granted,” she added. “Philosophy helps you think about the world around you, and I try to create in my classes that space to help students think for themselves about everyday things.”
Not afraid to try new ideas, Badiola uses any method possible to help her students learn and stay engaged – from computer programs like Top Hat and Collaborate to toys like silly putty, a plastic pumpkin or a stuffed Socrates doll.
“When explaining philosophical concepts, I sometimes find that if students have fun, it’s easier for them to understand abstract ideas,” Badiola said. “I make the students think for themselves, and sometimes they just need to feel like they are having fun in the classroom. I’m open to anything that is conducive to better learning.”
Badiola was also open to a complete life change when she moved from Madrid to West Texas with her husband, Rodney Stephens, who teaches English at Howard Payne University in Brownwood. To cut their respective commuting times, the couple settled roughly midway in Ballinger, which is a far cry from the teeming streets of the Spanish capital city.
Though she is still getting used to the extremes of West Texas weather and the prevalence of gun ownership, Badiola has taken to Mexican food, baseball and other cultural aspects of the area – except football.
“I don’t understand it, it’s very brutal,” she laughed. “The idea that it is okay for someone to grab your legs while you are running so your nose smashes into the ground is too violent for me.”
But while she may never comprehend the allure of Friday night lights, Badiola does enjoy her ASU colleagues and remains fully committed to her students and the university.
“I promote critical thinking on controversial issues,” Badiola said. “For many students here, that is new. They are not used to questioning things and that it is okay to do so. One of the great things about teaching at ASU is that I realize I can make a difference and help students think for themselves. I feel like I’m relevant here.”