By ALLY AQUINO
Professor Nash-Marshall let down her long, light brown hair. She ran her fingers through it as she explained that a person seeing it as she usually kept it, wrapped and held up by an ornate pin, would never know that it was so long. Sensory data can be deceiving.
Nash-Marshall’s teaching style is unlike any other. She is able to explain material so that she makes sure that students are truly able to make a clear connection to what they’re being taught. There are so many examples of this, as she teaches that way on a consistent basis.
She critiques the typical education system. Each student is different, she insists, and each should be taught differently. She believes in giving her students the chance to truly connect with the material, instead of wanting them to regurgitate what she had said in class. She always says, “this is about you, not about me” meaning that her student’s education should be truly about them obtaining knowledge in a way that is meaningful to them. She believes that students who are preoccupied with tests aren’t receiving a proper education.
Nash-Marshall’s vision of education does not flow in one direction. She learns from her students even as she teaches them. Discussing a boredom seminar that she taught in the fall of 2014, she explained, “I learned so much in the class. The wonderful thing about the Socratic method of teaching – asking questions and analyzing the responses with the responder(s) – is that you as a professor learn as much as your students. The topic of the class made this especially true. I was more interested in learning what students thought and knew about boredom than I was about teaching a specific theory. None of the literature I had read on this issue adequately addressed the problems inherent in it.”
Rebecca Stroud, a student of Professor Nash-Marshall’s for four years, says, “Her teaching style is versatile and suits many, because if someone doesn’t understand something she states it in many different ways so that they can grasp the subject matter.”
Nash-Marshall is anything but the ‘average professor.’ Better known by some of her students as Nash, she is the Chair of the Philosophy Department at Manhattanville College, holder of the Mary T. Clark Chair of Christian Philosophy, and Professor of Philosophy at the College.
A circle of five chairs surround Professor Nash-Marshall in her office but that’s rarely enough. Students find room on the floor and stand at the edge of the room. Nash-Marshall sits on a puffy green chair near her desk or sometimes even on her desk. Students come to her about everything from romantic problems to parental expectations and grades. When they need to discuss fears about their post-Manhattanville futures or have questions about Philosophy department events and homework, they go to Nash.
Stroud explained, “Professor Nash-Marshall always makes sure that everyone is okay and has what they need. If not, she’ll offer to get whatever it may be that they’re missing. This goes for both emotional and intellectual support. She’s good at reading people and being able to tell if a student’s in a bad mood or if they’re not understanding a subject. It is comforting to know that she truly cares and is willing to give so much to her students.”
Nash-Marshall is bit of a nomad, constantly traveling across the United States and the world attending conferences and meetings on philosophy and ethics and traveling the world to visit relatives and enjoy new experiences. She is recognizable by her rollaway backpack, a blush-colored carry-on bag that often trails behind her when she needs to catch a flight right after class. Whether for business or pleasure, she is a traveler because she is a philosopher, and experiencing life in Italy, Ireland, and Armenia is as much about acquiring knowledge and understanding as vacation. Nash-Marshall does not let her location determine her availability to her students, however. She is always available to her students via email.
Nash-Marshall says she is extremely passionate about the study of Philosophy, as Philosophy is the “love of wisdom”. She knows that the goal of the philosopher is to seek the truth. She teaches that when you find that truth, you are truly free. This journey is the path that she explains to her students is so important as they continue to grow. When speaking with Professor Nash-Marshall in regards to Philosophy, and the significance that it holds in life she explains, “Philosophy is love of wisdom. The life of the philosopher is like a treasure hunt. You are looking for something: truth…You know that when you can concentrate on the hunt, other things that might otherwise seem important to you simply do not matter.”