Alumni Spotlight: Jay Spitzley
Jay Spitzley graduated in Spring 2021 with his doctorate from the Department of Philosophy, part of the Florida State University College of Arts and Sciences. Prior to attending FSU, Spitzley earned a master’s degree from Georgia State University in 2015 and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in 2012. He worked as a research and teaching assistant at FSU, and his research contributes to debates in ethics, moral responsibility and human intuition. Spitzley also taught at Florida A&M University in Fall 2020 and has worked as an adjunct professor at Stetson University since January 2021.
Where are you from? What brought you to FSU?
I am originally from Michigan, and I attended undergrad at the University of Michigan. During this time, I became very interested in the intersection of science and philosophy. This interest later brought me to Florida State University, where I have many opportunities to do interdisciplinary work on this topic.
What inspired you to choose your major and your specific area of research?
My deep curiosity about people led me to do research in moral philosophy. At first, I wanted to be an engineer, but I became more curious about the principles of engineering than engineering itself. Because of this, I considered a degree in physics, but realized I wanted to learn more about the fundamentals of physics instead of its physical application. This eventually led me to a philosophy class. Once I established my interest in philosophy, I became curious about the philosophical explanations of the social world, leading to my specialization in moral philosophy.
What aspect of your area of study do you find most fascinating?
I am most fascinated by how much more there is to learn in my field. The more research I do, the more questions and appreciation I have for the puzzles that other philosophers are trying to solve. Studying philosophy is great because of its wide variety of projects, ideas and problem-solving strategies that are constantly checked by other fields. It is a unique discipline in this way.
You currently work as an adjunct professor at Stetson University. What is that experience like, and how does your passion for philosophy assist you? Are you continuing your research alongside this position?
My experience at Stetson University has been great. Despite that everything is remote due to COVID-19, their philosophy department works hard to maintain a feeling of community. I am also continuing with my research. I have some ideas from my dissertation I am working to publish, along with a couple new projects. It has been great to be supported by FSU and Stetson as I take on these projects, especially given the difficulties everyone has faced this past year.
How have your various academic instructor roles helped prepare you for academic and professional success?
Because I have taught at four different universities as a graduate student, I have become skilled in time management and task prioritization. I have also developed a deep appreciation for diverse student populations. Each university has a unique goal for the courses they offer, and I have learned to tailor my instructional style and methods to ensure these goals are met for my students. Overall, my instructional roles have taught me to balance structure and flexibility, which has aided my success in all areas of life.
Who are the faculty or staff members who helped or inspired you during your time at FSU?
I have always felt support from the entire Department of Philosophy at Florida State, but I am particularly inspired by my dissertation committee: Alfred Mele - William H. and Lucyle T. Werkmeister Professor, Piers Rawling - Professor and Department Chair of the Department of Philosophy, Jack Justus - Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Department of Philosophy, and Jens Grosser - Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science. I recall my discussion with them about my dissertation topic and remember the feeling in the room was “we don’t know if this will work, but we’re willing to help you figure out if it can.” This committee’s trust and advising has given me confidence during my time at FSU.
What are your favorite experiences from your time at FSU?
My favorite experiences at FSU are the moments of camaraderie I’ve had with fellow philosophy students over the years. It has been fun to constantly exchange philosophical ideas in class, social gatherings and hallway conversations. I have enjoyed debating ethics in the middle of a murder mystery party or brainstorming an analysis of what classifies as a sandwich minutes before class starts.
What do you like to do when you’re not doing academic work or research?
When I need to relax, popcorn and a movie always do the trick. I also work out a lot and play games with my friends such as ultimate frisbee, board games or video games.
Since graduation, where has your academic path led you? Although you might miss FSU, what do you enjoy most about your post-graduate life?
I’m keeping an open mind about my post-graduation plans and exploring new opportunities I may not have pre-pandemic. I’m looking forward to taking the lessons I’ve learned from Florida State University and making advancements in the problems of my field.
What advice do you have for fellow students?
Be curious. Ask questions and be open to unexpected answers. Everyone at FSU wants to help you succeed, and most professors are willing to go the extra mile for an inquisitive student. Don’t be your own road block on the path to discovery.