Professor Jennifer Armstrong admits to at least two loves in her life: being a student and being a lecturer. An avid student of pedagogy, she spends summers training with Academic Technology and winters with the Teaching Excellence program. A committed student of new disciplines, she developed a highly successful business ethics course with Paul College. A dogged student of humanities, she volunteered to teach six different courses spanning three programs in one year. She even views six preps as something of a blessing, notes one colleague, because she loves to learn as much as she does to teach.
And she does love to teach, explaining, “I love setting out and developing ideas that may be new and exciting or uncomfortable; I love playing devil’s advocate; I love inviting people to see things from perspectives not their own.” She adds, “But lecturing is just an invitation to the dance. To master the steps requires practice and, in the context of philosophy, that means students taking on the task of playing and responding to the devil themselves.”
Professor Armstrong encourages this dance through debates, discussion boards and dialogue papers, in which students express and explain their views but also defend them against reasonable and informed alternatives. “Sometimes those reasonable, informed views are my own,” she says, “which is why I love what I do.”
That love of profession has had a profound impact on students over the span of her 25 years at UNH. Writes one: “There is not one day that I can remember when Jen seemed she did not want to be there in front of us. The class almost didn’t seem like a class at times…I felt like I was being told an intricate fairy story. It was as if I was six years old again, with philosophers in place of princesses. Jen did not want us to only know the information. She wanted us to use it for the rest of our lives, to take what we had learned and use it to make each day worth living.”