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Emily Johnson

What is it like returning to teach at your alma mater? For Maria Kulp, visiting professor of religion and philosophy, it’s awesome. “I’m the luckiest person,” she says, “I love this college. It did really wonderful things for me.” Now that she’s back, Maria is repaying that favor. Maria attended Roanoke College from 2001 to 2005, and is now working towards a doctorate in bioethics of assisted suicide at Loyola University of Chicago. This semester she is teaching several philosophy classes and next semester will be teaching an INQ 120 called “In Socrates’ Footsteps” and a philosophy course on death.

Philosophy hasn’t always been Maria’s passion. She came to Roanoke expecting to become a chemistry or math major, but found that she had questions that couldn’t be answered by those subjects. After taking a philosophy course with Dr. Atkins, she decided philosophy was for her.

Maria creates a fun learning environment in her classes. The lectures are interspersed with discussion and ideas that contribute to the conversation are sometimes rewarded with trinkets like little plastic frogs or “Way to Go” buttons. “The students in Chicago were kind of cynical about the trinkets, but at Roanoke the students are more willing to be excited,” Maria professes.

When she’s not philosophizing, Maria is an accomplished storyteller. She was a member of a story telling troupe in Chicago and is excited to bring that experience to her students in her INQ 120, which will focus a lot of oral presentations. Story telling is so important to Maria because it provides a compelling narrative that works across all disciplines.