Graduate Student Testimonials
I am presently in my sixth year of the PhD program in philosophy at Loyola University Chicago, and I’m planning to finish and defend my dissertation this academic year. This means that I am writing this testimonial from the trenches of applying for Assistant Professor jobs in philosophy. Anyone who goes through this process will attest to the tedium of job applications and the emotional roller coaster that it involves. It is a lengthy process, and as professors of philosophy have been saying for the past 40 years, the job market in philosophy is extremely competitive. As such, it also represents a point in my graduate school career where I am especially reflective about my experiences in the PhD program in philosophy at Loyola. Did the program train me sufficiently in philosophical content and methods? Was I supported by my professors in the program? Would I recommend the PhD program in philosophy at Loyola University Chicago to other prospective graduate students? My answer is a resounding yes.
The Philosophy Department at Loyola has especially prepared me to be a scholar by providing some great opportunities for research and teaching while also maintaining rigorous academic standards in a supportive environment. My classwork and research have focused particularly on the areas of ethics, social-political philosophy, and applied ethics, although along the way I have also developed additional specialized interests in situated cognition and the philosophy of technology. I was able to take a range of useful, advanced seminars with professors whom I respected and appreciated for the high standards that they maintained and called me to in class discussions and papers. In several cases, I had especially good professors who worked closely with me throughout the writing process and inducted me into the various methods and stylistic conventions of writing a professional philosophy paper while also helping me to develop my own voice in writing. Often my seminar papers served as early drafts of conference papers or articles to submit to a journal.
My experience has also been distinguished by a number of professors in the department that served as genuine mentors to me and encouraged me throughout in both my teaching and research. This support has been invaluable, and I am deeply thankful for the energy and time those professors invested in me. I was able to pursue research with a trio of professors that resulted in a published book chapter and helped to orient me to the demands and process of publishing. Early on in my graduate student career, professors encouraged me to present papers at major academic conferences such as the American Society for Bioethics and Humanities conference, and now I have a great roster of conference presentations on my CV as I enter the job market. Additionally, several of my mentors are excellent teachers, and I have benefitted considerably from observing them teach and also getting their feedback on my own teaching methods and style.
During my time in the program, I have variously worked as a research assistant and teaching assistant for several professors in the department. As a teaching assistant for Dr. Jennifer Parks, I coached the Loyola Ethics Bowl and Bioethics Bowl teams for several years, which was a deeply formative teaching experience for me. In that time, I learned how to better encourage and support students in developing skills of inquiry and argument while also having a lot of fun and meeting some of the most interesting, thoughtful, and engaged undergraduate students at Loyola. Overall, I have really enjoyed my time in the graduate philosophy program at Loyola, and I would strongly recommend it to prospective graduate students in philosophy.
Rebecca Scott, Current Ph.D. Student
I am currently a Ph.D. student in the philosophy department at Loyola, having received my B.A. from Swarthmore College in 2005 and my M.A. at Loyola in 2011. The philosophy graduate program here has provided me with a solid and diverse philosophical education, a wonderful community, and the opportunity to develop as a teacher and scholar.
In my coursework at Loyola, I found the diversity of the faculty to be one of the department’s greatest strengths. Taking courses from philosophers with a variety of different backgrounds and approaches to philosophy has helped me to learn to appreciate different philosophical methodologies and improve my writing. Although my work is in the ‘continental’ tradition, taking classes with analytic philosophers and historians of philosophy has helped me to appreciate a variety of perspectives and has allowed me to strengthen my own views and arguments. Also, through the distribution requirements, I have developed a strong grasp of the history of philosophy.
In addition to feeling well prepared by my coursework, the graduate student community at Loyola is exceptional. In my time here, I have found my colleagues to be supportive, intellectually stimulating, and a lot of fun. We work hard to develop a community that is welcoming and non-competitive while still academically challenging. I have developed deep friendships with my fellow graduate students that I look forward to maintaining as we move on in our careers.
Finally, from a professional standpoint, Loyola has prepared me well for a career in teaching by giving me the opportunity to teach my own courses. My dissertation is on Emmanuel Levinas’s conception of education, and I am deeply dedicated to rethinking how we understand philosophical pedagogy. Loyola ensures that all Ph.D. students have the chance to teach their own classes, and this opportunity has allowed me to put into practice the work that my dissertation is ultimately aimed at accomplishing.
Reflecting back on my time in the philosophy MA program at Loyola, there are four particular features that I think make it outstanding. First and foremost, the philosophy department at Loyola is committed to providing its students with a robust education in the history of philosophy. Second, as an MA student, I have had the resources to explore my specific interests. One and two make three: I am now prepared to continue studying philosophy at the PhD level with a broad foundation and a focused concentration. And finally four, the faculty and graduate students at Loyola are exceptional.
This spring marks my fourth and final semester in the philosophy MA program. Over the last two years, I have been introduced to topics in metaphysics, phenomenology, ethics, and epistemology and have additionally been encouraged to pursue my primary interest in ancient Greek philosophy. Because of these opportunities I intend to complete my master’s thesis on a topic in Aristotle’s epistemology. By working on ancient philosophy with faculty such as professors Dr. Julie Ward, Dr. Jason Rheins, and Dr. Adrian Peperzak, I am now equipped to approach the analytical, historical, and continental interpretations and receptions of the philosophies of Plato and Aristotle. Additionally, as a MA student, I don’t have any teaching-assistantship responsibilities, meaning I have been able to adjust to the demanding standards of grad seminars without additional academic obligations. I can now confidently begin a PhD program expecting to flourish.
Lastly, the faculty and other graduate students have proven themselves great collaborators and mentors. As an incoming MA student, I was disoriented and intimidated. But the professional yet friendly climate among scholars and aspiring-scholars quickly became evident. During these two years at Loyola, I have fostered valuable academic relationships and look forward to developing even after I leave Loyola.
If my experience piques your curiosity and you have any further questions about the philosophy MA program at Loyola, please feel free to email me: firstname.lastname@example.org
Christopher Grodecki, S.J., Current M.A. Student
I am currently in my last semester in the M.A. program in Philosophy at Loyola Chicago. In my two years here, I have found the philosophy department and the masters program to be constantly surprising in me in its diversity and depth. I also happen to be in my fifth year as a Jesuit who is studying philosophy as part of his training for Catholic priesthood. I am confident that my studies in philosophy at Loyola have prepared me well for future work in ministry and have laid a solid foundation for further graduate studies.
It has been a wonderful experience not only to learn what other philosophers have thought and why, but, perhaps, more importantly, to struggle with broader questions: Why do we philosophize? How might be go about thinking? What is the future of philosophy, and why is it important that there be a future in philosophy? The department encourages students to examine what answers others may have developed in the past and cultivate further ways of thinking about these questions.
My classes in the Loyola philosophy department have not only proposed the consideration of such questions but also provoked my own interest and desire to participate in this great historical and cultural dialogue about our lives’ meaning. Additionally, I’ve found there to be good balance between the historical course requirements and elective courses. That balance has brought me to encounter various philosophical traditions and methodologies that I perhaps would not have chosen to pursue on my own.
More importantly, my experience with the people in the department has been exceptional. It has been inspiring for me to witness the faculty’s passion for philosophy and to see that passion passed on to the graduate students. The graduate students themselves have a great variety of backgrounds, and everyone is encouraged to share their thinking in and beyond the classroom. While we may have different issues that drive our thinking, we share a true love of the search for knowledge. My experience as an M.A. student at Loyola has allowed me to grow in my own thinking and depth, not just as a student, but as a human being.
Ashley Karcher, Current M.A. Student
Currently, I’m completing my fourth and final semester in the M.A. philosophy program here at Loyola. Over the course of my time here, I’ve noticed two main characteristics that make this department invaluable. Aside from the department’s strong emphasis on the history of philosophy in its curricular requirements and pedagogical aims, and aside from its welcoming staff, faculty and colleagues, I’d like to share why I think this department stands out and has made a significant impact on my intellectual and professional development.
First, I want to highlight the department’s focus on social issues in addition to the traditional philosophical issues within the discipline. The expression of this commitment goes further than simply writing papers about possible theoretical solutions to social issues. Specifically, the department’s attentiveness to social issues has led me to develop a better sense of how the history of philosophy, and particularly the problems that are specific to academic philosophy, are relevant to issues beyond the academic debate setting. For me, this has been an incredibly valuable feature of the department, mainly because of my interest in applying for administrative jobs outside of the field of philosophy after I graduate.
In the time I’ve been in the program, I’ve used the skills I’ve learned in the M.A. philosophy program to prepare myself for an administrative job outside of academic philosophy. The skills I’ve developed are particularly useful for doing what I think is one of the most important qualities of someone in an administrative position, whether in higher education or elsewhere: the ability to persistently consider the ways in which one’s decisions, policies, and social interactions in everyday life are shaped by underlying assumptions and standard approaches of what it is to “know” something. The M.A. program has given me the opportunity to consider such things in my own interest areas, such as philosophy of education, race theory, feminist theory, phenomenology, and social epistemology. I’ve also had the time to think through some of my own positions while, at the same time, expanding my knowledge about the canon philosophical figures and paradigms of the past. In my philosophical training at Loyola I have been exposed to various approaches in textual analysis, hermeneutic exercises, writing strategies, and argumentation techniques. Practicing these methods has improved my ability to think beyond standard ways of problem solving. With the knowledge and skills I’ve developed during my time here, I now feel more qualified and confident to apply my skills to projects that require close attention to detail and thoughtful collaboration.
Secondly, I want to mention the department’s flexibility and its commitment to philosophical pluralism. . I came to the program with an interdisciplinary background, specializing in “Philosophical Development and Education.” So, having the opportunity to work across various schools that are housed within the university is integral to my educational fulfillment. The Graduate Program Director granted me permission to count credit hours from a Philosophy of Education course offered by the School of Education toward my M.A. degree. Without such flexibility and understanding, I would feel less satisfied with my graduate education. Another indicator of the program’s pluralism is the way it handles the longstanding division between “analytic” and “continental” philosophy that has been the source of many irreconcilable differences in the field. I’ve had professors who are trained in continental philosophy incorporate analytic figures in their course readings, and vice versa. Learning environments of this kind creates a safe space for graduate students on both sides of the fence, and also an opportunity to learn more about “the other side.” Overall, I’d recommend the M.A. program to prospective applicants who are seeking to strengthen their skills in an environment that is both academically accommodating and philosophically diverse.