Matthew Applegate, Ph.D. (08)

Headshot of Matthew Applegate

Matthew Applegate, Ph.D. (08) has used his philosophy education to open opportunities to a variety of academic areas.

Applegate is an associate professor and associate dean of Arts and Sciences at Malloy University. He has studied several disciplines within the humanities umbrella, including philosophy, English, new media, and digital humanities. Applegate explained that the philosophy program at PLNU helped lay the perfect foundation to branch out to other academic fields.

“Point Loma and philosophy in particular helped prepare me for that interdisciplinary background,” Applegate said. “Philosophy allowed me to hone analytical skills that I’ve been able to apply in a lot of different concepts.”

Although his aunt had attended PLNU, Applegate mainly decided based on the gorgeous campus location, class sizes, and tight-knit community. He entered as a psychology major, but quickly discovered it wasn’t a good fit. His friend encouraged him to take a philosophy class, specifically with Heather Ross, professor of philosophy at PLNU.

“What drew me to philosophy was how well the content matched with my interests,” he said. He quickly discovered that a big part of philosophy was “thinking deeply about being in the world, and thinking deeply about art, writing, and media.”

One of Applegate’s favorite foundational philosophers from Ross’s class was Jacques Derrida, which helped him think about literary and philosophical concepts at the same time. 

“It really served as a foundation for me throughout grad school because of how Derrida is able to think about the intersection of literary concepts and philosophical concepts.”

This interdisciplinary approach to Philosophy led him to study English and literature, and eventually received his Ph.D. in comparative literature. 

“What philosophy provided for me was a set of analytical tools and a framework to think about difficult and deep conceptual problems which I was able to apply in different areas of academic thought and practice.”

The way Professor Ross led classes deeply influenced him, especially as he navigates his career in education. As an undergrad in Ross’s class, Applegate always felt comfortable admitting when he didn’t understand something. Now, he wants the classes he leads to be places of encouragement and collaborative learning.

“In almost every class I took with her, it was a round table discussion-type course,” he said. “It influenced my own teaching because I can’t ever remember feeling judged for not understanding something — she was effective about drawing out thoughts and feelings, individually and collectively.”

Applegate found that learning philosophy develops valuable skills that can be applied to a variety of places, including business, education, and other higher learning.

“There’s an assumption that philosophy can’t provide you with practical skills or it won’t lead to a job,” Applegate said. “It’s not true! Not just from a personal standpoint, but from a disciplinary standpoint. Because what philosophy teaches you is critical thinking. Communication. How to effectively read and analyze difficult texts.”

To current and future philosophy students, Applegate encourages leaning into the sense of freedom when asking big questions and encountering new ideas, and described that PLNU faculty is very supportive of that process.

“Be prepared for philosophy to change the way that you think,” Applegate said.