Suzanne Buchholz, Senior Reporter
Assistant professor Katrina Winzeler might not be a familiar face around Pierce College Puyallup, as she started working here this quarter. She’s currently teaching Introduction to Philosophy and Introduction to Ethics after receiving her PhD in philosophy from the University of California, a goal she said she’s been pursuing for the past decade.
“I’ve been dreaming about this my whole life,” Winzeler said. “I’ve always, since college, wanted to be a college professor. I worked on my PhD for 10 years in the hopes of being able to teach at a community college, so it’s been a long time coming. And already being in the classroom, being the professor and stirring people’s ideas together is just, it’s awesome.”
Born and raised in New Hampshire in a house with a lot of land, Winzeler spent much of her childhood playing outside and exploring the forest with her twin sister. She said she’d always been encouraged to use her imagination and ponder big questions, which she believes influenced her career choice.
“My childhood was full of curiosity and people who enabled my curiosity,” Winzeler said.
Winzeler said she’s always liked the idea of attending college and becoming a professor, as she values knowledge and education. However, the idea of being a philosophy professor wasn’t part of her initial plans.
Winzeler first started majoring in biology, and later double-majoring in both biology and philosophy. She had what she considered to be an existential crisis as she began asking herself philosophical questions on how she felt about biology, and how it was shaping her world view.
.“I really started to see things in purely physical biological terms,” Winzeler said. “I’ve always been someone who’s into nature, so I’d go out into a forest and just see photosynthesis happening, or I’d look at people who are having emotions and I would just see what was going on in their brains. I wouldn’t see anything beyond that.”
After taking classes in philosophy and humanities through college and working in a genetics lab where she realized she was more interested in the theoretical side of science, Winzeler decided she wanted to teach philosophy when the time came to apply for grad school. After graduation, she began looking for a job at community colleges rather than four-year universities, as she said this would allow her to engage more in teaching rather than research.
Winzeler said she looked into several schools and had many interviews, and that out of these schools Pierce caught her interest for the feeling of connection and amount of respect she saw between the faculty and administration.
“(Pierce) just seemed like the kind of place that was in line with my personal values,” Winzeler said. “I wanted to be part of a community, I want to fit in somewhere and I want to do good somewhere, and I want other people to be having that same sort of vision. And I felt that the minute I stepped on this campus.”
When she’s not teaching, Winzeler pursues a variety of other interests. One of her biggest passions is spending time outdoors, where she enjoys taking in the scenery and photographing nature. She said when she came to Washington from California for her interview at Pierce, she wanted to enjoy her time in the Pacific Northwest in case she didn’t have an opportunity to come back, so she made sure visiting Olympic National Park was among her experiences here on her first trip.
Another passion of Winzeler’s is music. She plays guitar and is interested in learning to play the fiddle and mandolin. Her taste in music varies greatly.
“I’m into a lot of different types of music, from like really heavy industrial stuff to Baroque classical stuff,” Winzeler said. “It runs the gamut.”
Winzeler said she misses a few aspects of living in California, such as only having to drive half an hour to visit the ocean and enjoying the folk music scene in Berkeley. However, there are many things she’s growing to love about the Pacific Northwest, such as embracing the change of seasons as the autumn leaves change color and the colder weather.
“I’m not a sunshine type person,” Winzeler said. “It’s not that I don’t like the feeling of the sun, but there’s something about fog and rain that is comforting to me. I don’t know if it like coheres with some sort of inner darkness inside of me, I’m not sure.”
Winzeler said she also feels there’s a more mysterious vibe about Washington compared to California that she enjoys. She notices it most when she’s in the forests.
“When you go into the forest here, there’s these huge Evergreens and moss growing on trees and huge ferns and everything’s larger than life,” Winzeler said. “There’s something about here that’s so deeply appealing to me.”
Winzeler said that although she’s only been in the job a few weeks, she loves being a teacher and fulfilling her lifelong dream. She wishes for her students to know this as well, and that she’s always there for them.
“Part of my teaching philosophy is that every single individual student is super important to me,” Winzeler said. “I want to support every single student no matter what, and I’m someone who’s easy to talk to and that they should feel free to come talk to. I’m on their side and not someone that they have to live in fear of in some way.”
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