Thinking About A Major? Major In Thinking!
An Exploration of the Philosophy and Religious Studies Department
The philosophy program at Marist is the basis for the entire liberal arts program, yet one of the smallest programs in terms of the number of students enrolled with about 90 students total. Although Philosophy 101 is a core requirement for all new students, many never pursue the field of study past this freshman year class. New students should consider taking advantage of all the resources the philosophy program has to offer, as it is a very flexible and beneficial major or minor to consider.
The word "philosophy" is derived from its roots "philos," which means love, and "sophia," which means wisdom; therefore the word quite literally means "love of wisdom." According to Marist's Philosophical and Religious Studies home page, philosophy seeks to answer existential questions about the nature, value, and scope of human knowledge. It is basically a study of how we know what we know.
Dr. Georganna Ulary, Chair of the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies and Assistant Professor of Philosophy, said that studying philosophy is essential to gaining a deeper understanding of any field that a student is interested in. "It'll teach them the skillset of learning to read critically, to argue persuasively, and to think on your feet. I think that skillset can really help with whatever discipline you're interested in."
To that point, many philosophy students are double majors, coupling this unique way of thinking with a field of study they want to pursue in the future. "It pairs nicely with just about any other major. Philosophy really is the source of all liberal arts and sciences, and it offers a way into all of the major questions you're going to find in the social and behavioral sciences, as well as the humanities. The way we have the major set up here is that it's only 33-36 credits, so it's very, very easy to double major," said Dr. Ulary.
She also spoke about the benefits of a philosophy degree post-graduation, citing the fact that philosophy is the top earning humanities bachelor's degree from early job to mature career.
In terms of students who solely major in philosophy, she said that many of them tend to go on to graduate school to delve deeper into a particular research area that interested them during their undergraduate career. Many of them then go on to become professors, such as herself.
"Many of our students go on to law school. Some go on to graduate school for chemistry, and we've also had a few go on to graduate school just to continue studying philosophy, potentially becoming professors themselves or to pursue applied ethics type of programs. With that, they can go on to be on the ethics boards of hospitals or businesses, etc."
One Marist alumnus, Karl Mill '07, went on to Columbia Law School and credits his time working toward his philosophy degree to his professional success. "People sometimes joke about philosophy being an impractical major, but...my philosophy major made my Marist degree more valuable, not because it had some word written on it that employers were looking for, but because I was fully invested academically and improved my skills significantly as a result."
He also spoke about the quality of the philosophy program at Marist and how that support helped him be successful. "[The] dedication of the faculty and the quality and variety of the classes they put together were what drew me to the philosophy major and made me glad that I chose it."
One of the most common challenges for philosophy students is getting used to this deeper way of thinking. Dr. Ulary said, "First year students in philosophy can have the challenge of, 'I've never taken anything like this before, what is this and why are there no right or wrong answers?' So it kind of goes into the idea of challenging the way they've been educated thus far. For me, I find that students have found that to be really liberating, so I try to have them embrace that."
Aside from the general class work and logistics of the program itself, the Philosophy and Religious studies department also offers a variety of diverse internships related philosophy and ethics. Dr. Ulary spoke about students who have interned in the agriculture field, working on farms to explore the ethical and philosophical background of food production, as well as students who have worked to produce Marist's philosophy journal of research and speculative works.
"The journal is student run. Students take charge of vetting the papers that are submitted. They also format and edit the papers and put it all together. We solicit from students across the country, so it's not only for Marist students, in fact most of the papers are from elsewhere, but it is developed and produced by our students."
Many student authors of the papers featured in the journal also come to Marist's undergraduate philosophy conference to present their work in a collaborative and academic environment. Students from institutions such as Yale, Fordham, MIT, and West Point come together to discuss their theories and research, and provide commentary and support. This is an incredible networking and research opportunity for Marist philosophy students.
In general, there is an incredible amount of opportunities for students to take advantage of within the Philosophy and Religious studies department. As Dr. Ulary states, "Try to be open to navigating this new way of approaching scholarship. Find your passion, and just embrace it and explore it."
Written by Shannon Donohue '17
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