Professor Daniel Adsett, who is part of the Business Department, is among our newest faculty members. Originally from Canada, he decided to come to Bulgaria and teach Business Ethics at AUBG. Professor Adsett has obtained three educational degrees, is passionate about philosophy and has self-published a sci-fi romance novel. Read our interview with him to learn more about his academic background, work experience and favorite free-time activities.
Interest in philosophy
I’ve been interested in philosophy and ethics for much of my life. When I was young my family would host some university students for dinner. Some of them were studying philosophy and I think that might have been when I first learned about it. In high school, though, I read a short introductory history of philosophy. I consumed the book and craved more. I then read Plato, Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach, and at least parts, if not all, of J. S. Mill’s Utilitarianism. I wanted to learn from others how best to act and I also wanted to know how the universe is organized.
I have three degrees. My first is a double major in history and philosophy from St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. It’s a small liberal arts university but, because of its small size and because it is an almost exclusively undergraduate university, I was able to work closely with several professors from whom I ended up learning a lot.
After finishing my undergraduate degree, I moved to St. John’s, Newfoundland where I completed a Master’s in philosophy. The philosophy department there is very lively, creative, and unconventional, and I enjoyed the freedom I had there to investigate and combine ideas in novel ways.
In 2013 I started my Ph.D. in philosophy at Marquette University. The philosophy Ph.D. program at Marquette is very rigorous and thorough. During the first two years, I had to take ten graduate courses. Each graduate course had extensive writing and research assignments. After finishing coursework, I then had to submit a ‘qualifying paper’ – roughly a publishable paper on any topic in philosophy. This paper had to be approved by a committee. Following this, I had to write a dissertation proposal and it, also, had to be approved by a committee. Then I had to write my dissertation. In addition to these academic requirements, during my first year at Marquette, I worked as a research assistant, editing papers, books and, in one case, examining how the word ‘compassio’ was used by the Latin church fathers. From my second to the fifth year in the program I taught two courses each semester and sometimes one in the summer. This is where I acquired my teaching experience. Though still graduate students, we had full responsibility for the courses we taught – from designing the syllabus (adhering to departmental and university requirements) to teaching and grading. During my final two years, I finished writing my dissertation in Canada and Germany. Overall, the most enjoyable part of my Ph.D. experience was writing my dissertation. I got along very well with my supervisor, Pol Vandevelde, and the whole writing and editing process was very smooth. Though the philosophy Ph.D. program at Marquette is quite demanding and there were many times when I felt overwhelmed by all the work I had to do, in hindsight, I’m thankful for the experience and skills I acquired while being there.
At this point in my career, being a relatively freshly minted academic, my dissertation is my greatest achievement in my area of specialization. While working on it, I had to read a lot of Karl Jaspers’ work in the original German because several of his works are not yet translated into English, and even the translations that do exist aren’t always of the highest quality. Plus, it’s almost always preferable, when possible, to read a philosopher in the original language. While working on my dissertation I had the opportunity to spend time at the Jaspers Haus in Oldenburg, Germany. The Jaspers Haus now contains Karl Jaspers’ personal library and has two apartments on the third floor available for researchers. Oldenburg is a very beautiful city, just over twice as large as Blagoevgrad. Unlike so many North American cities but like Blagoevgrad, it is very walkable and I thoroughly enjoyed researching and living there for a time.
When I was nearing graduation and looking for jobs, I came across AUBG when I was searching for universities I’d be interested in teaching at. I thought it would be fun to teach and work in Bulgaria but I figured it would be difficult to get a job here because the university is relatively small and unlikely to have many openings. But as I kept my eyes open for jobs, I noticed AUBG was hiring someone to teach business ethics. I have quite a bit of experience teaching business ethics and so I was happy to apply.
Teaching at AUBG
I really enjoy teaching at AUBG. Now that I’m in Bulgaria in person, I can actually meet with students and other professors face-to-face. The students here are very bright and generally great writers and I’m continually impressed with the quality of the work they produce. I find teaching business ethics itself to be very rewarding. Business students typically don’t have a lot of exposure to philosophy and I find asking and evaluating philosophical questions with them to be very fulfilling.
Currently, though, teaching in the hybrid format can be a bit tricky. It’s probably the most challenging aspect of teaching right now. You have to continually shift your gaze from the students in the classroom to the screen with the online students, to the chat, and then to the power-point or whiteboard.
If not a teacher, then what?
If I hadn’t become a philosophy professor, I would likely have become a computer scientist. For much of my life, I’ve been drawn to programming. When I was young, I tried my hand at some programming and, in high school, I learned Visual Basic and Java. But I pretty much abandoned programming after high school. During the pandemic, though, I re-learned Java and ended up working on problems at projecteuler.net. I actually had to force myself to stop visiting that website because I was spending so much of my time working on the problems that I wasn’t getting my real work done.
That being said, I’m still confident studying philosophy and becoming a professor was the better decision for myself.