Harvard’s Loss is JBU’s Gain

An Interview with Dr. Matt Wilson, our new Faculty Fellow, Gateway Coordinator, and Assistant Professor of Philosophy

3 April 2020



What drew you to JBU?

I love teaching and mentoring students, which I am not able to do at Harvard. I am ready to get back into the classroom. The opportunity to come to JBU was the perfect trifecta. First, my faith in Jesus Christ is the most important and central thing in my life. I am thrilled about the opportunity to teach and work among faculty and students who share a commitment to following Christ, including the shared belief that God’s Word must shape how we learn, think, act, and feel. Second, faith needs to be brought front and center to the conversation of human flourishing! Faith must inform how we think about the various aspects of human flourishing, such as those mentioned below. Since my new position is funded largely through the generosity of those who support the Center, I will have the opportunity to serve and collaborate in the Center’s activities. This fits my current role at Harvard. Finally, part of the Center for Faith and Flourishing’s work is to provide content for, and to assist with, JBU’s Gateway freshman seminar. Part of my job will be to help guide this program. This Gateway seminar is mission critical to how students experience their first year on campus, and I am excited to leverage my leadership and administrative skills to help build and sustain this important program. Like I said: a perfect trifecta.

Can you say more about your current position at Harvard, and where did you work before that?

I serve as the Associate Director at Harvard University’s Human Flourishing Program, an interdisciplinary research program focused on five domains of human life: Happiness and Life Satisfaction, Physical and Mental Health, Meaning and Purpose, Close Social Relationships, and Character and Virtue. Prior to Harvard, I did my Ph.D. in philosophy but, before that, I worked in finance, marketing, and product management for companies like Volvo AB and Danaher Corporation.

What’s your favorite class/subject to teach?

I have many interests, but my favorite subject is philosophy. I love helping students wrestle with questions about what there is, what we can know, and what makes a good life. With that said, I am very excited to teach Gateway, too. Next year a significant portion of the Gateway seminar will be focused on questions concerning vocation. These questions are ones I have wrestled with personally, and, having had exposure to many different kinds of vocations throughout my own career, I look forward to helping students think through this important topic.

What appeals to you about small-town life compared to life in Boston?

My wife and I have a three-year old daughter and a six-month old son. Boston is a great city with a lot to offer, but we found that we couldn’t ever take advantage of it. Having moved to the northeast from Texas, we also found that, culturally, it just wasn’t a good fit. We are looking forward to a slower pace of life and settling into a community where we know our neighbors and where things aren’t so expensive. We both love the outdoors—I was a whitewater rafting and backpacking guide in college, and she loves to hike—so we are excited to experience all that Northwest Arkansas has to offer.

How do you typically order your coffee (or are you a tea drinker)?

Cream and sugar. I used to drink 4–6 cups a day, but I was getting health problems. Now I try to limit myself to one cup of regular and one cup of decaf every morning.

What’s your favorite book (or go-to book recommendation for others)?

I love the Cross and the Switchblade, by David Wilkerson. This book was instrumental in giving me the courage to follow God in leaving my corporate career.

Are there any particular experiences you hope to have while being on faculty at JBU?

I hope to get to know my students and to develop friendships with them that will last throughout college and beyond. Same goes for faculty. I am also excited to see how the Holy Spirit will work in my own life, and in the lives of those within the JBU community, as we worship, learn, and serve together. I guess this last one is not so much a hope as an expectation. I know that when we seek Him in earnest, he shows up!

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