Pedagogical Fellow Showcase: Daniel R. Siakel

Daniel Siakel Daniel R. Siakel presently serves as a Lecturer in UCI’s Humanities Core Course, was recently hired by UCI’s School of Humanities as Co-Director of Pedagogy for the Andrew W. Mellon 5+2 Program, and was selected to be the Director of Practice and Education at Orange County’s Shambhala Meditation Center. He served as a Pedagogical Fellow in 2014-15, a Senior Pedagogical Fellow in 2015-16, received UCI’s Most Promising Future Faculty Member Award in 2015-16 and K. Patricia Cross Future Leaders Award in 2016, and was chosen to be the Pedagogical Fellow for UCI’s Andrew W. Mellon Teaching Institute in 2016-17. Dan’s research concerns the relationship between unities and multiplicities constituted in lived experience, particularly as it pertains to the (experienced) unity of mind, temporal awareness, and personal identity. More specifically, Dan’s current research focuses on the metaphysical, epistemological, and psychological dynamics of meditation, in concert with Buddhist philosophy, ethics, and psychology.

What motivates you to invest so much in your teaching?

We—humans—are in trouble. Attachment to the materialism(s) of modern civilization has brought us to the brink. Yet, I feel confidently in our ability to recognize and act upon this. To that end, we could use more than a bit of wisdom; and philosophy, lest we forget—philosophy proper, as distinct from the profession of philosophy—means love of wisdom. The most significant contribution that I can make, as I see it now, is to interact directly and practically (not merely theoretically) with people, including especially young people, about what Socrates refers to as “the most important things”: virtues, including compassion, courage, and patience, in addition to justice, friendship, and (dare I say?) “the good.” What I mean, more specifically, is the basic goodness of human beings and human society, which grounds our ability to flourish—or decline. Teaching is the primary means by which I can encourage and empower young people to think for themselves—not what to think, but how to think, meaning carefully, clearly, critically, precisely, and rigorously—while honoring the feelings and experiences that underlie their thinking. Teaching thus serves as the “saving grace” (if I may) of academia, in this respect: it enables us to contribute directly to the constitution of a new, diverse, and better world.

What did you get out of the PF Program? (Feel free to include teaching and non-teaching related outcomes for you.)

The most significant initial effect involved being introduced to student-based, active-learning pedagogy via empirical studies. This enabled me and other PF’s to consider the evidence before deciding how to proceed. The significant effect over time was enabling me to fully embrace the view that a life devoted to teaching could form the basis of “a good life” vis-à-vis society, especially since my research during graduate school was quite abstract and had limited immediate applications for improving our world.

Did the PF Program open up new opportunities for you?

Yes, much more so than anticipated. The PF Program has been the “primary mover” for the positions that I was offered both during and after graduate school.

What would you tell someone who is interested in the PF Program?

If you truly care about teaching, want to improve markedly as a pedagogue, and are willing to invest a somewhat significant portion of your graduate education doing so, then do not hesitate; do it!

What three words would your closest friends use to describe you?

Imaginary-projective-identification-1; imaginary-projective-identification-2; imaginary-projective-identification-3

It’s obvious that you devote a lot of your time to your scholarship and teaching.  What do you do for fun and relaxation?

Meditation practice, physical training, and listening to and playing (rarely, these days) music.

What are some ways outside of TAing that you’d recommend for graduate students/post docs that need teaching experience?

I would strongly recommend pursuing pedagogical training programs offered both within and outside of UCI’s intellectual community. The more you proactively develop your teaching skills, the better good you will be able to inspire in the world.