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Faculty Mentors

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Peter Forrest, Ph.D.

Dean of Humanities

Peter Forrest, Ph.D., received his doctorate in philosophy from the University of Oxford in 2015, after having previously received a B.Phil. in philosophy from Oxford in 2011, a M.A. in philosophical theology from Yale University Divinity School in 2009, and a B.A. in English from Yale University in 2005. His primary area of research has been in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science. Dr. Forrest has spent the past five years teaching undergraduates in the philosophy department at Auburn University. He is married and is father to two young children, and in his spare time he enjoys coaching his son’s soccer team.

“I am excited to be joining the faculty of Thales College at its inception, because I believe that the status quo of American higher education is ineffectual and unsustainable, and that the vision of Thales College offers students a better path forward to a life well-lived. I believe ideas can change the world, that training in wisdom and training in practical skills are not in conflict, and indeed that gaining wisdom is the most practical goal a student can pursue while in college. I also believe that the artistic and intellectual treasures of our cultural heritage are a great gift to aid us in this pursuit, a gift we must steward and pass on to the next generation. I look forward to exploring these treasures together with the bright and pioneering students of Thales College’s inaugural class.”

Phillip Johnson, Ph.D.

Engineering & Sciences Professor

Phillip Johnson, Ph.D., received a doctorate in Energy, Environment, and Chemical Engineering from Washington University in St. Louis in 2020. Previously, he completed a B.S. in Engineering with a Mechanical concentration from Union University and also worked as an HVAC Manufacturing Engineer in West Tennessee. He comes to Thales College from the University of Alabama, where he was a post-doctoral researcher. His research topics have included combustion, nanoparticle formation, internal combustion engines, and turbomachinery. He brings with him to Raleigh his wife and two children with a third on the way.

“I joined Thales College as a faculty member due to the promise it has to innovatively train and educate engineering students. With its strong connections to the world of classical education and its ties to local industry, Thales College offers engineering students the unique ability to both engage in historic disputations of the natural philosophers and solve modern engineering problems during their courses and integrated co-op experiences. I look forward to seeing our students learn to think in a critical, creative, and innovative fashion.”

Sydney Leonard

Humanities Instructor,
Director of Admissions,
Admissions & Student Life Counselor

Sydney Leonard received a B.A. in English and a B.A. in History from the University of Rochester in 2013 and then earned a M.A. in Literature from George Washington University in 2014. She has spent the past eight years teaching history and literature courses in a variety of private K-12 schools, most recently Thales Academy Apex JH/HS. Ms. Leonard is passionate about education and enjoys helping students develop self-confidence and leadership skills. She is a voracious reader, with interests in the classics, literary fiction, memoirs, and translated fiction. In her free time, she enjoys reviewing books and traveling.

“I am thrilled to join the Thales College team. I truly believe in the mission of Thales College: providing high quality, affordable education and assisting students in succeeding in a wide range of areas of life beyond college. I initially pursued a career in education because I wanted to be a part of the movement that inspires young minds to fulfill their potential. I am excited to have the opportunity to bring this energy and mindset to the college level, and I look forward to working with students and developing their unique skillsets both inside and outside of the classroom.”

Karen Palasek, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor

Dr. Karen Palasek completed her undergraduate degree at the Hartt College of Music at the University of Hartford, earning a Bachelor of Music Education degree, before going on to earn an M.A. in Economics from the University of Connecticut and a Ph.D. in Economics from George Mason University. In 2008, Dr. Palasek returned to graduate school to complete a Certificate in Non-Profit Management from Duke University, and in 2010 completed a Master of Organization Development degree from Bowling Green State University. Dr. Palasek has served in a variety of roles including both faculty and adjunct positions at a number of prestigious colleges and universities, as an independent consultant, as a staffer in the U.S. House of Representatives, and as a policy analyst and director of several foundations. Dr. Palasek is married and is mother to adult children.