New Faces: Philosophy Department

Meet the 2016 New Faces in Philosophy

The College of Arts and Humanities ( at Fresno State is the largest college on campus, encompassing nine departments, and the Armenian Studies program. Of the 69 new faculty members at Fresno State this fall, about 20% of the new hires are in the College of Arts and Humanities. These new faculty bring innovative research, diverse disciplines and technical expertise to our college, strengthening our programs across many of our disciplines.

Over the next few weeks, we will introduce you to these new faces, by department.

Philosophy Department (

We have two new faculty members who will both teach philosophy and contribute to our pre-law program. Philosophy of Law Professors Dr. Tina Botts and Dr. James Rocha will become the architects of a vibrant pre-law program that will capitalize on our potential to become the premier institution in the Valley that prepares students for law school. 

Dr. Tina Botts

Dr. Tina Botts has a Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Memphis and a J.D. from Rutgers.  She has taught at UNC-Charlotte, the University of Michigan, and Oberlin College. Tina Botts has published a number of articles and book chapters and is working on several book projects: “Philosophy and the Mixed Race Experience” (Lexington), “The Concept of Race, Aristotle’s Proportional Equality, and Equal Protection under the Law” (Lexington) and the 5th edition of “Feminist Thought” (with Rosemarie Tong, from Westview).

Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: What I am most looking forward to here at Fresno State is getting to know my colleagues better.  They seem like a fantastic group of folks and I cannot wait to collaborate with them on both scholarship and innovative and progressive pedagogy in the pre-law option of the philosophy major and beyond.

Q: How did you became involved in your specialty area?

A: I became deeply involved in the philosophy of law when I began to combine my studies in law and hermeneutics [the branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible or literary texts] in order to better understand the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  In this area of jurisprudence, there was overlap between my own studies and critical race theory and I found that exciting.  I wanted to write about it.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Philosophy Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: My background in law and philosophy will help to fortify the pre-law option of the philosophy major here at Fresno State.  Having doctorates in both law and philosophy allows me to bring a substance to the program that my colleagues seem to appreciate.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

A: People might not know that I am an excellent cook.

Q: Anything else you’d like to share?

A: I am very, very happy to be here and am looking forward to a fruitful and rewarding experience here at Fresno State.

Dr. James Rocha

Dr. James Rocha has a Ph.D. in philosophy from UCLA, where he also completed his B.A. and M.A. degrees.  He comes to Fresno State from Louisiana State University, where he was an associate professor. Dr. Rocha has published in Social Theory and Practice, Ratio Juris, Public Affairs Quarterly and the Kennedy Institute of Ethics Journal, among other journals.  He has also contributed to a handful of philosophy and pop culture books including “The Wire and Philosophy,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm and Philosophy,” and others.

Question: What are you most looking forward to here at Fresno State?

Answer: I am incredibly excited to join a university that understands the importance of incorporating the educational mission within a social justice mission. We are educators first, but, as faculty, many of us see ourselves as playing pivotal roles in the community. I am greatly encouraged by the progressive vision of the Fresno State faculty, administrators, and staff, and I am thrilled to work toward enacting the Fresno State mission.

Q: How did you became involved in your specialty area?

A. My specialty is value theory, broadly construed to include ethics, social and political philosophy, philosophy of law, philosophy of race, and feminist philosophy. Philosophy is often seen as an impractical discipline – where philosophers struggle to get their heads out of the clouds. While there’s some truth to that stereotype, I am interested in the philosophical questions that are crucial to navigating a morally precarious world.

For example, my two current book projects involve the ethics of hooking up and the conceptual meaning of institutional racism. In terms of the former, hooking up has become the norm for young adult courtship, but little work has been done on the moral troubles arising from the practice, especially as they relate to consent and respect. In terms of the latter, we tend to recognize that institutional racism is a significant problem, but little conceptual work has been done to identify exactly what that problem is. By working on the philosophy of institutional racism, I hope that my work will enable others to better address and remedy the serious hindrances that make up racist institutions.

Much of my work, then, uses philosophical analysis to assist with the understanding and navigation of social and moral problems that affect many of us.

Q: What will your distinctive background do to elevate the Philosophy Department offerings here at Fresno State?

A: I hope that I can contribute in various ways to the Philosophy curriculum at Fresno State. From a content perspective, I hope to offer courses in ethics, political philosophy, and history of philosophy that will enrich philosophy majors and other students interested in philosophy. In terms of my background, I hope to bring an empathetic perspective that allows me to connect with students who come from diverse backgrounds, including many that overlap with my own history.

My sister and brother were the first among anyone in our family to attend college, and our parents worked diligently to provide us with significant opportunities that empowered us to transition out of an impoverished neighborhood in South Central, Los Angeles. I want to share the tools and skills that brought me through that journey.

It is my hope that I will be able to show students how philosophy can enable them to write, speak, and think more critically and analytically in ways that will bring them success in whatever tasks they pursue. 

Q: What are you reading?

A: I always wish I had more time to read for fun. The comics I’m currently reading are the “Serenity comics” based on Joss Whedon’s TV show, “Firefly.” The book I’m currently reading is David Graeber’s “The Utopia of Rules: On Technology, Stupidity, and the Secret Joy of Bureaucracy.”

Q: What is a book you think everyone should read?

A: Shel Silverstein’s “The Giving Tree.”

Q: What’s your biggest pet peeve in the classroom or a big mistake students tend to make?
A: Students underestimate themselves and the value of their contributions, especially to classroom discussion. I never spoke in class as a student, so I know how quiet students feel. But I strive to get every student engaged in classroom discussions, and, when I succeed, they all have unique and valuable viewpoints that enrich the class for everyone.

Q: What’s a fun fact that people might not know about you?

A: I have a diverse set of hobbies and interests (whether it is watching TV, playing video games, following sports, or reading comics), all of which I analyze with an analytical mind. To this end, in addition to publishing in scholarly journals, I regularly publish in books and other venues on the intersection of popular culture and philosophy.

Q: What are your office hours?

A: Noon to 1 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays, 12:30-1:30 p.m. Tuesdays and 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Thursdays.

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The College of Arts and Humanities provides a diverse student population with the communication skills, humanistic values and cultural awareness that form the foundation of scholarship. The college offers intellectual and artistic programs that engage students and faculty and the community in collaboration, dialog and discovery. These programs help preserve, illuminate and nourish the arts and humanities for the campus and for the wider community.

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