Thoughts and experience.
Chemeketa Community College instructor Patrick Williams loves to share with students in his philosophy and religious studies courses how the difference between his thinking and his experiences – including time as a U.S. Marine and a planned trip to law school – has influenced his life.
“Experience is what set me on the path of philosophy,” Williams said.
Williams grew up in Roseburg. His preparation for entering the Marines out of high school was to research the Corps’ history in order to understand the experience. But, as he learned, you can only prepare so much for the actual experience.
“I could have told you all about the boot camp experience — what would happen and that it would be physically demanding and intense,” Williams said. “Then there was the actual experience of the drill instructors and the actual experience of the sweat burning my eyes, being at my physical and mental limits, not knowing if I’d physically pass out or not.”
The “fullness” of his experience was powerful, forcing him to question what his place was in the world and what is true.
“Those kinds of questions are philosophical questions,” Williams said.
He spent six years in the Marines, with stints in San Diego, Okinawa, the Philippines and as part of Operation Desert Shield during the first Gulf War, among other locations.
After leaving active duty, Williams attended community college in Maryland before transferring to Oregon State University, with the intention of eventually heading to law school.
“It made sense on the surface,” he said. “I loved to read, I loved to write, might as well do something I could make good money with utilizing those skills in a thorough, rigorous way.”
Then, experience came into play once more, clerking for a judge in Benton County during a summer.
“What I realized in all this is that it wasn’t for me,” Williams said. “That there was a way in which on paper it made sense, but it ultimately wasn’t something I wanted to do.”
So Williams went on to pursue a graduate degree in philosophy at OSU, where he received the opportunity to teach introductory writing composition classes.
“I wound up loving teaching writing,” he said. “I loved being in the classroom, I loved going through the learning process with students and reading their essays and giving them critical feedback and talking with them about their ideas…I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing.”
He began at Chemeketa teaching online courses before being hired as a full-time, on-campus faculty member in fall 2005.
And the concept of thought versus experience comes into play in his courses.
“That distinction is a powerful learning experience for me in terms of knowledge,” he said. “Experience was such a powerful teacher for me, I want to help students see that and that their stories matter. Their stories are articulations of their experiences, and their experiences influence people.”
But when it comes to the experience of teaching at Chemeketa, Williams is enjoying where this idea is taking him.
“I was seeking one thing,” he said, “but what resulted and what I actually obtained was even better.”
If you know of a Chemeketa faculty or staff member who would be a great person to feature in Chemeketa Spotlight, contact Robert LaHue, social media coordinator.