Paul Kjellerg's final year as a faculty master

Leah Boynton

The sun pours into the front entryway of the Hartley House on a Monday afternoon. Professor of Philosophy Paul Kjellberg sits in his office with his dog Rusty and one of three cats, Bunny, who climbs over stacks of books and papers that are piled high on his desk. Grunts from tennis players outside are audible from the living room, and the Jumpstart Program is conducting a weekly meeting in the dining room.

The Hartley House, along with the Garrett house are the two faculty master houses on campus. These houses are occupied by a faculty member for a period of three years. New master members are chosen based on applications submitted to the president’s office when a space opens up. Faculty members chosen are given a budget for programming events such as guest speakers, and the house acts as a space for students to extend their education outside of the classroom.

This fall, all first-year students will attend a dinner with their first-year writing seminar class at either the Hartley or Garrett House. These dinners will include students from clubs with similar interests and first-year groups to encourage conversations about the Whittier College experience.

This year is Kjellberg’s third and final year as faculty master of the Hartley House. He has taught at Whittier College since 1993, specializing in Chinese and Greek philosophy, while also teaching courses in Buddhism and first-year writing seminars.

His appreciation of diversity has kept him at Whittier College for the past 23 years. “I like work- ing at Whittier because I feel like the work makes a difference,” Kjellberg said. “There aren’t many places like Whittier in the country; small, expensive liberal arts colleges tend to typically work with a much narrower range of people.”

Kjellberg’s interest in Whittier’s Quaker heritage and values has enhanced his appreciation for the college and his passion for giving back. He described Quaker meetings: church services without a minister that enable every voice a chance to speak.

“I’m intrigued by that notion that everyone has something to add and everyone has something to contribute and we all have an inner light that we can see more when we put our lights together than when we follow one person’s light, no matter how bright that

light may be,” Kjellberg said. The opportunity to become a faculty master appealed to Kjellberg, excited for the chance to live within the Whittier College community. “I’ve been here for a long time, but I’ve been in that same office in Wardman Hall for all those years,” Kjellberg said. “I would walk to my office and then back to my car and leave. There were a lot of sides of the campus I had never really explored, so I was glad for the opportunity to come here and live down here for awhile and see more sides of the campus than I had been able to see from my office as a faculty member.”

Over the past two years, Kjellberg has been able to work with more student groups and departments on campus such as the math club, physics club, ASWC Senate, the Black Student Union, TOBGLAD, Bon Appétit, facilities, and more.

Kjellberg mentioned that when the upper campus parking lot was closed for the construction of the Science and Learning Center, he really enjoyed watching the campus move throughout the day and watching students walk past his house.

He hopes that the faculty master program can encourage development and conversations within the community to share experiences and knowledge. “What’s different about Whittier is the ground those seeds get planted in, which is the community,” Kjellberg said. “I’ve come to really believe that group work and the opportunity for students to talk is at the heart of the Whit- tier education.”

In his last year as a master, Kjellberg hopes to continue connecting with students and opening his front door to any Poet. He says that observing students and listening to their conversations over the years has been one of his favorite parts of the job. “The degree to which students were looking out for each other and sharing what they had learned and helping each other along — it was really very nice to see and be a part of,” Kjellberg said. “That made me feel a whole lot more excited and enthusiastic and better about Whittier as a place. The sense of helpfulness and concern and thoughtfulness displayed by people really meant a lot to me.”

Throughout the remainder of the fall semester, Kjellberg will be hosting “College Mixers,” or meals that give random collections of individuals from across campus the opportunity to break bread together and get to know one another. These groups include faculty, students, alumni, and friends of the college, but Kjellberg emphasizes that any- one is welcome. Students, staff, and faculty that are interested in attending can email Kjellberg at

If students are interested in using the Hartley House for an event or meeting, Kjellberg is happy to host. The master houses also have a budget for the year, and can often help student groups looking to plan programs. “You’re always invited even if you’re not invited,” Kjellberg said. “If you see food you’re always welcome to poke your way on in. The Master’s Houses are here for you; consider us a resource for you guys and your interests and suggest to us your ideas, we’d love to hear them.”