This piece first appeared in our March 2021 Magazine
Dr. Brynn Welch is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Philosophy at UAB. She specializes in social and political philosophy, with her primary focus being the intersection of family and public policies.
Welch said because there was a lottery system for registration, she took an introductory philosophy class, which was her very last choice. However, she said she was “absolutely hooked” on the first reading, “The Laches.”
She then took Philosophy of Religion and said she was fascinated by the structure of the arguments.
“The deal with my family had always been that my brother and I got four years on our parents, and then we were on our own. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, so I decided to apply to graduate school, thinking that that would buy me some time while I figured out what I wanted to do,” Welch said.
Welch said it never occurred to her that she would want to be a professional philosopher but with a supportive program and great advisor, she was able to find her passion.
As a professor, Welch said she uses a Socratic teaching style with a lot of discussion.
“It’s like ‘Okay, so you say X. But what about…’ and then I challenge student views. I tell them frequently that the class requires a lot of trust. They’ve got to trust each other, none of us can take that lightly,” Welch said. “But usually, it’s a lot of fun, challenging discussion that leaves all of us with more questions than answers when it’s over,” she said.
Welch said her favorite part of teaching is seeing students start thinking in a philosophical style.
“It’s exciting to know that’s one more person in the world who will know better than to make jokes about whether philosophy is pointless. It’s really, really not,” she said.
Welch said one of her major accomplishments was writing a children’s book, Bennie Goes Up! Up! Up!, and a major source of motivation behind this and everything she does was her daughter, Lizzy.
Outside of work, Welch said most of her time is devoted to her family.
“When I can, I get to the gym, and my husband and I have become a bit obsessed with Killing Eve on BBC,” she said.
“It’s exciting to know that’s one more person in the world who will know better than to make jokes about whether philosophy is pointless. It’s really, really not.”Dr. Brynn Welch
Welch said although she feels she has had a smooth career trajectory, there have been many obstacles she has had to overcome.
“There’s being a woman in philosophy, for one thing. I spent a good portion of graduate school waging an unpleasant war with endometriosis,” Welch said. “I was until quite recently a solo parent by choice, which was sort of a constant challenge but not one that I wanted to overcome as much as embrace. Overall, I have an engaging and rewarding career doing exactly what I want to be doing, and it brings me a lot of happiness, and I just try not to take for granted how rare that is,” she said.
Welch said being a woman in the field of philosophy brings mixed feelings.
“On the one hand, I look back at just moments in my career and think ‘No wonder there are so few of us,’” Welch said. “For example, there was the time a program asked to interview me in a hotel room – and not one with a suite or a couch to sit on. It was such an absurd situation. On the other hand, I’m proud to be a woman in this field, and those frustrating memories have really helped shape my views and the way I structure my courses. I include in my courses, for instance, feminist criticisms that ask us to consider the arguments we’ve just studied all semester, but from a woman’s perspective.”