Master of Arts in Liberal Studies

Student Profiles

Michael Andersen

Michael Anderson

Life beyond Reed

Before, during and after coming to Reed, Michael (MALS 2009) was a teacher in the International Baccalaureate Program at Columbia River High School in Vancouver, WA. He taught literature and philosophy courses, has coached Ethics Bowl teams, and helped organize the first Oregon High School Ethics Bowl at Portland State University. Currently, he is pursuing a Graduate Certificate in Sustainability at PSU.

Academic interests

My passion is for literature, art and philosophy, in particular ethics and moral psychology. My current goal is to become a Sustainability Specialist and use the tools of philosophy and art to help citizens reflect more clearly and deeply about their social and environmental responsibilities. I hope to work with local schools to nurture more philosophy clubs and ecology programs, to help young people and adults learn about (and act effectively on) our shared ethical challenges.  Changing ingrained habits is difficult. Leaders who wish to foster positive changes in social behavior must not only learn how people think and feel, with all the complexity and diversity that entails, they must also understand the very concepts that societies have used to make sense of human and animal experience. That means diving into philosophy, psychology, art, economics, biology and related fields that give shape to our current politics, our various religious and ethical codes, and our cultural narratives.


In my professional life as a high school teacher, I found that the opportunities for personal and academic enrichment were too narrowly instrumental in their application. The Reed MALS program, with its superb professors and varied curriculum, broadened and deepened my grasp of art, history, philosophy and science. In particular, my courses ignited my curiosity about what constitutes a virtuous, flourishing life. My professors challenged me to study the various answers supplied by local and distant traditions. They inspired me to engage with my community more effectively, and to understand with a deeper humility the organic and inorganic relationships that make life on this planet possible. The rich possibilities for scholarship, for new friendships, and for sharpening one’s mind surpassed my already-high expectations for quality graduate-level learning. My life is markedly better as a result of my MALS experience. Reed truly made me a better teacher for my students, and the skills I honed there prepared me for the good work I am now engaged in. I cherish the community of professors and colleagues I found at Reed, and I would highly recommend to those seeking a wide-ranging, and yet customizable, graduate program to seek out all that Reed has to offer.