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Scholar-in-Residence Valerie Hardcastle Brings Strong Background in Philosophy, Neuroscience to the Weaver Institute


 In her first semester with the Weaver Institute, Scholar-In-Residence Valerie Hardcastle said she is “loving it!”

“The students are fabulous – interested, smart, dedicated, curious – you couldn’t ask for a better bunch,” Hardcastle said. “And the faculty involved with the Weaver institute are wonderful too. They have been extremely welcoming to me, especially considering I am a non-lawyer and a non-psychiatrist.”

Hardcastle came to the Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry with a background in philosophy, neuroscience and neuropsychology, psychiatry, and policy. In her first few months as a scholar at the College’s law and psychiatry institute, she has learned “a tremendous amount so far.”

The former dean of UC’s McMicken College of Arts & Sciences explains her role as Scholar-in-Residence as doing research in the area of psychiatry and law for the Institute, while also helping to organize some of its activities such as the brown bag speaker series and a large seminar conference.

Hardcastle is not currently teaching any classes, since she is technically on leave this year after stepping down as the McMicken dean. Working at the Weaver Institute is part of her leave activities, she said, and it was Dean Louis Bilionis who had initially approached her about getting involved.

Enhancing a Strong Academic Professional Career

Cincinnati has been home for Hardcastle the last five years, though having spent most of her professional career at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.

Hardcastle grew up in Houston before receiving philosophy and political science degrees from Cal-Berkeley in 1986. After earning a master’s degree in philosophy and a teaching fellowship at the University of Houston the next year, Hardcastle began work and a PhD program at the University of California, San Diego.

In 1992, Hardcastle started at Virginia Tech, where she remained until a humanities and social sciences teaching fellowship brought her to UC for a sabbatical year in 1998-1999. Hardcastle returned to Virginia Tech but found her way back to Cincinnati in 2007 to become the McMicken dean.

“I’ve had a pretty traditional academic career, starting as an assistant professor at Virginia Tech, then getting promoted up through the ranks to full professor. On the administrative side, I became a Center director, graduate program director, department head, associate dean, and then moved to UC to become a dean,” Hardcastle said. “What is different about me, I suppose, is that I’ve always been highly interdisciplinary and I move between and among departments. So while my appointment was in philosophy at Virginia Tech, I was head of the Department of the Study of Science in Society.”

It was the dean’s position that brought Hardcastle to UC, who said she wanted to work with Nancy Zimpher, the university’s former president.  

Returning to UC in 2007, after nearly a decade away, Hardcastle said it was as if she was “coming to a different campus.

“It seemed as though, except for McMicken Hall, all the places I knew were no longer here,” Hardcastle said.

Kicking Research Program into High Gear

After five years as dean, which is about the average length for an arts and science dean, she said, Hardcastle left her post there and is now “ready to return to the faculty to engage more fully with students and to kick-start my research program into high gear.”

While Hardcastle has an accomplished professional career, she said she is most proud of her family. She and her husband have three children, two currently attending UC and one who will be graduating this year from the College of William & Mary in Virginia. She and her husband also own 175 acres of farmland in Campbell County.

Outside of her work, family and the farmland, Hardcastle – a former amateur bodybuilder – enjoys running and other exercise. She also bikes, lifts weights and is “trying to learn to love yoga, which so far has been a failure of a project.”

In addition to her work at the Weaver Institute, Hardcastle is writing several articles and also a book on how to build theories in neuroscience. She hopes to begin another one soon after on the nature of violence.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13