Welcome to my site!

Joel-179-e-200pxIf you’re a student, have you ever been intimidated by having to speak in a class discussion? Or unsure of how to “get” the reading? Or lost in the thickets of writing an essay?

If you’re a high school student–or the parent of a high school student–do you believe that an Honor program or college might be for you (or your child), but aren’t quite sure?

If you’re a teacher, do you wish you had a mentor to give you simple, practical advice about your pedagogy, course design, and professional development?

I created this blog because I’ve been that student and that teacher, too. And I’ve met many students who had believed (or had been told) that Honors education was probably not for them.

My passion is to instruct and encourage students to reach beyond what they’ve been told is their academic ceiling. I am your “Online Mentor for Honors Education” because I believe that any motivated student can get into and succeed in an Honors program or college and I know how to help them do it.

I want to help all students succeed in their most challenging humanities, liberal arts, or interdisciplinary courses. In my posts you’ll find guidance, tips, and tools for better reading, writing, and critical thinking. I like to write about questions and problems that my students have, but are sometimes afraid to ask.

And I am a teacher specializing in humanistic and interdisciplinary education. I have particular expertise in setting up and running discussion seminars in a Socratic style, teaching critical thinking skills, and fostering writing excellence in argumentative essays and theses. I’ve been the beneficiary of excellent peer mentoring and I am eager to share what I’ve learned with all of my teacher colleagues.

On this site you will find information about courses I’ve taught and my publications. You can also take my comprehensive tutorial about how to succeed in the Honors College.

You can check out all of teaching and research materials on my Academia.edu site. You are also welcome to connect with me on my Facebook page.

My most recent appointment was at Barrett Honors College at ASU, where I was awarded for teaching excellence and contributions to the ASU community two years in a row (2013, 2014) by the Devils Advocates, exceptional academic service by the Office of the Dean at Barrett in 2012, and recognition for faculty mentoring by the Director of the Barrett Mentoring Program in 2014. I served as the Director of the Barrett Writing Center in 2013-14.

My scholarly area is in Philosophy. (CV)

In my former life I was an electrical engineer and worked in environmental consulting (resume). I designed and built systems like this to clean up hazardous compounds at contaminated sites all over the country:

Typical example of a system I designed, fabricated, installed, and operated to cleanup soil and groundwater contamination

I enjoyed getting my hands dirty and turning a wrench every now and then..


I have loads of other personal interests, from homebrewing to creative writing, cooking (especially baking), and tinkering with mechanical and electrical stuff, sometimes even fixing them.

And last, but certainly not least, I am frightfully enthusiastic about fantasy literature, especially the Harry Potter saga, Lord of the Rings, and many other authors and popular series. You can find my posts and pages devoted to all things literary at Hogwarts Prep.