Alumni in Non-Academic Careers
I graduated in philosophy in 1952 under the great teaching of Martin Eshelman. Dr. Eshelman helped me to find my intellectual stride and propensity for comprehending, thinking through, and grasping the larger picture of things. This took me into theology at the University of Chicago and ordination in the United Church of Christ. That took me into pastoral counseling and psychotherapy as well as University Administration where I have stayed throughout my career. Philosophy and philosophical theology have been the ground of my psychotherapeutic work with persons, families, and institutions. I still teach at the University of San Diego with my wife, Ellen Colangelo in the Pastoral Care and Counseling graduate program. In that program I help ground students in the philosophical underpinnings of human functioning and meaning. I am deeply indebted to my beginnings in philosophy at Carleton and the great gifts given to me by Dr. Eshelman.
Dick (Richard) Jacoby
Dale Riepe (sp?) motivated me to major in philosophy in 1949; then Martin Eshelman carried the ball through graduation in '52. A philosophy background has enriched my life.
Now I spend much of my time editing miles of images - video and photo - taken over many years. I'm not bored. Will be taking another scuba trip to the caribbean next month. More images to edit.
I mull a lot, which means many unfinished thoughts clutter my computer. Philosophy, politics, society - the universe(s). I'm an atheist, but that doesn't mean I question anyone's belief system?
Jerome L. Lonnes
I was awarded one of the first NDEA graduate fellowships and went to graduate school in philosophy at Emory University in Atlanta, GA, where I earned an MA and a PhD in philosophy. I taught philosophy at the University of New Orleans, Drake University, Washburn University, Colorado State University, and Virginia Commonwealth University where I was tenured in 1975.
After being tenured, I realized that I was tired of academic philosophy and studied accounting at VCU, passing the CPA exam in 1978 and becoming a CPA in 1982. In 1977, I resigned my tenured position and went to work as an accountant and paralegal for a local (Richmond, VA) law firm. In 1981 I entered William and Mary Law School as a full-time student and worked part time at the Richmond law firm to put myself through. I have practiced tax, estate planning and employee benefits law in Richmond since 1984 and am still working part-time in my own law firm.
Obviously, the philosophy major was very useful for philosophy graduate school. However, I found my philosophy education to be very useful in law school and even in accounting, most of which is simply applied logic. Law and accounting require much the same analytic ability as is (or should be) developed and utilized in the study of philosophy.
I majored in philosophy, but found my real interest was in history. Trying to continue a liberal arts education before making a commitment, I studied for advanced degrees in University of Chicago in various interdisciplinary programs. Boredom with academia set in after four years, I decided on business and entered GE's training program for financial management in 1966. I retired in 2003. For the last twenty-five years, I was in a senior position on the corporate finance staff. Much of my work related to preparing presentations for the CEO and CFO to give the board of directors and the investment community. I found that I was basically writing term papers using charts and graphs. The intellectual discipline I gained from my philosophy major from my humanities study in general was very helpful in organizing the presentation, developing the data, and drawing conclusions. In 1984, I was working on fairly large transactions involving the disposition of the major GE product line. During the lull in discussions, I passed time chatting with my colleagues who were also working on the financial aspect of the transaction. It turned out they also majored in philosophy ( one at Brown and one at Georgetown). So the shareholders' interest in obtaining the best price was in the hands of philosophy majors. .Throughout my career in GE it was not unusual to meet talented legal and financial staff that had majored in anything from art history to musicology. Finally, I would add that business, at least the corporate variety I experienced, is more intellectually challenging that one might expect.
I minored in philosophy, and took some pretty heavy-duty philosophy courses during my time at Carleton. They have helped me in a number of different ways. First, in my subsequent various careers, I was never cowed by any new ideas--if I understood Aristotle and Kant (and I think I did), I could understand anything. Second, the central life issues that can incapacitate people through their lives--what is the right thing to do, why is there suffering--were things I had already faced at Carleton, and did not incapacitate me. Third, I can always check to see if I am deteriorating mentally by rereading Kant; and so far, so good! Philosophy made and keeps my mind supple, and has allowed me to change careers and to adapt to many different circumstances. I ended up in law; about the only problem that I encountered in studying law (and some law is pretty intellectually difficult) was recognizing how bad the reasoning was in some court decisions that purported to be written logically. The only advice I ever give to someone who is entering university is to take philosophy. It is, so far as I know, the only course that cannot be self-taught.
After Carleton, I started down the traditional academic path, obtaining a Ph.D from the University of Chicago in 1972. The first deviation from the traditional path was where I got my first (and only) teaching job, which was at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. After ten years teaching there, I realized that I had achieved what Wittgenstein described as his goal in philosophy, which was to be able to stop doing philosophy. So I resigned my position, came back to the United States, and got a job as a computer programer in 1983. It was probably easier to get in the front door then without any coursework in computer science--all I had to do was pass an aptitude test, and my company took care of the actual training with an intensive six week indoctrination in the basics of Cobol and Assembler. Philosophy helped with that aptitude test, because like Jerome Lonnes '62 found out about law and accounting (described elsewhere on this site), computer programming really is just applied logic. So I've been applying that logic ever since (28 years and counting). It has been an interesting and fulfilling career, with lots of autonomy and some fairly interesting intellectual problems.
I was a philosophy major in the class of '67, but after my brother died in Vietnam in March 1966 I got married almost immediately[ and finished my degree at the University of Iowa, with only two more philosophy courses to go (Reid and Husserl) and no comps to wrestle with. My then husband, Will Valk '65, had been a Carleton philosophy major, but from 1965 to 1969 he was earning an MFA in intermedia, with an eclectic art form, at Iowa.
What can you do with a philosophy degree? In our case, it was start a theater in New York City when I was 24 with another Carleton friend, Ed Berkeley '66, called the Shade Company, in an eighth-floor loft on Canal Street. Our first show was MACBETH. Members of The Shade Company included Dale Fuller '66 and Diane Quaid '68. We had a diverting four years of doing theater in that loft and we con-founded the Off Off Broadway Alliance, now called the Association of Resident Theaters New York (ART?NY). We made a film based on our production of Ionesco's EXIT THE KING, with Ionesco's blessing. The Shade was the seedbed for our professional careers. Since then I've earned an MFA in theater at Columbia and now am the acting director of the Theater Studies Program at Yale, where my now husband, John Gaddis, teaches history. I'm a director (will be doing OUR TOWN with the Yale Dramat in April), actor (am appearing in a production of THE TEMPEST at the Long Wharf Theater with Olympia Dukakis in December), and a playwright (my FAMILY WOLF will be read at the Goodman in Chicago on Saturday). And in the last capacity I'm working on a play called SEMINARS that features a philosophy professor in an unnamed Midwestern university who falls in love with a student. Plato's "Phaedrus" gets some play in that script, along with a direct quotation from David Sipfle on one of my ethics papers, re-attributed.
The philosophy degree I largely earned at Carleton has been the most nourishing major I can imagine. I'm a fervent exponent of the reciprocal relationship between theory and practice in Yale Theater Studies. Mr.Sipfle had long ago drawn my attention to the logical absurdity of moral relativism so I skittered across the quick sands of "critical theory" with dignity intact. Philosophy raises the right questions. You will never regret majoring in it. You can "do" anything with it. It is a joy forever.
I graduated in 1970, won a Rockefeller that paid for a free year at Yale Divinity School. I spent three years there, graduating with an M. Div., and married Roxanne Scott '70 in 1971. She'd grown up in Turkey--her parents taught at schools for Turkish students sponsored by the United Church of Christ. We decided to go to Turkey, so while at YDS I took math and education courses at Southern Connecticut University to get certified. We taught for 7 years in Turkey and I discovered that I loved teaching math and that I really enjoyed writing problems for math contests. We returned to the States in 1980 and I've been teaching math at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA ever since. I write problems for a number of contests and from 1995 through 2008 I was the head author for a national math contest called ARML = the American Regions Math League. I'm currently helping ARML set up an international branch of the contest. We will retire in 3 years and move to Northfield, living 2 blocks from Watson. Roxy's grandfather lived in Northfield and several of his children stayed there, so Northfield is home to us in many ways.
My work with philosophy has given me an understanding of mathematics and interests in certain aspects of mathematics that are considerably different from other math teachers. A simple example: I've just co-written a geometry textbook and in the section on indirect proof, I insisted that we include Anselm's ontological proof for God's existence. I see issues to discuss and I see depth to ideas that I find others don't share. My studies in philosophy have more than enriched all that I have learned about math and teaching throughout my entire career and I'm very pleased to have majored in philosophy at Carleton.
First career -- US Department of Defense, Information Systems Manager (US, Japan, and NATO/Belgium), 1978-2005, retired.
In academia -- West Chester University, MA in Philosophy, 2008-2011.
Oct 31, 2009--presented paper at Villanova University, Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference, "On the Importance of Caste: Five Arguments".
Nov 30, 2009--presented paper at Monash University--Melbourne Australia, Australasian Society for Continental Philosophy Conference, "The Philosophy of Art? The Art of Philosophy?".
Jan 15, 2010--presented papers at Utah Vally State University--Provo, Utah, Far Western Philosophy of Education Society 57th Annual Conference, "Confessions of an Elementary School Principal" and "The Student"
March 18, 2010--presented paper at University of Hawaii--Manoa, Hawaii, Uehiro Graduate Student Philosophy Conference, “On the Importance of Caste: Five Arguments”
April 9, 2010--presented paper at Tokai University--Honolulu, Hawaii, The 5th Annual Meeting of the Comparative and Continental Philosophy Circle, “The Philosophy of Art? The Art of Philosophy?”
April 30, 2010--presented paper at Dixon Center--Harrisburg, PA, 4th Annual Graduate Research Symposium, “What Has Greater Value Than Money?”
July 18, 2010--presented paper at The University of Melbourne--Melbourne, Australia, The Australasian Philosophy of Religion Association Conference, “Does God Require Our Worship?”
July 20, 2010--presented paper at Jawaharlal Nehru University--New Delhi, India, International and Interdisciplinary Philosophy Conference, “On the Importance of Caste: Five Arguments”
October 9, 2010--presented paper at University of Pennsylvania, PA, Self, Other, and the Social Good in a Cross-Cultural Context: A Conference on Personal Identity and Moral Obligation in Contemporary Eastern and Western Thought, “Marxism and Buddhism: Shared Visions”
October 22, 2010--presented paper at Penn State University--State College, PA, 39th Annual Mid-Atlantic Region Association for Asian Studies Conference, “What Has Greater Value than Money?”
November 12, 2010--presented paper at Davis and Elkins College--West Virginia, The Society for Indian Philosophy and Religion Conference on Crossing Boundaries: Transforming Identities, Cultures, and Human Relations in a Global Village, “What Has Greater Value than Money?”
Currently – Completing thesis on “Knowledge and Wisdom in Theaetetus: Which is the Primary Tool of the Philosopher?”
Concurrently – Traveling the world, by various means of transport including car, train, plane, ship, bus, and foot.
Future – See above, pertaining to traveling, for the next two years or so. After that, it’s a mystery, but will become obvious at the appropriate time.
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Diane L. Redleaf
A philosophy major really does teach excellent analytical thinking skills and an ability to think more deeply and in a more wide-ranging way about problems than many other majors would provide. I credit my philosophy major with not only getting me interested in law (thinking I would be a legal philosopher at the time) but getting me interested in the sorts of ethical/political/social change issues that I have pursued throughout my career. To be sure, I was pretty much in the clouds when I was in college but that changed in law school and after law school. I have been viewed (sometimes castigated) as an "intellectual lawyer." I especially like applying concepts from one area of law to another, like applying civil procedure and constitutional law to juvenile law areas to which these concepts have not yet been applied. Philosophy training makes for pretty good civil rights lawyers. Complex legal cases are much easier to understand than a whole lot of the philosophy texts one reads at Carleton, so while many people find law school and law practice a challenge (law for me involves a lot of writing and deadlines), a philosophy background makes it all much easier. The magic phrase I heard in law school--learning to think like a lawyer--is not much different from thinking like a philosophy major. Philosophy is also a great major for being a parent! My own kids are very deeply interested in philosophy and it is great fun to talk to them about the host of issues philosophers think about. However, they are ahead of me in their understanding of post-modernism, which was not yet in vogue when I was a philosophy major. They think I'm hopelessly old when I tell them that the most exciting recent philosophers I studied were Wittgenstein and Rawls. Now it's Foucault, Derrida, Beaudriard Baudrillard (very interesting stuff--I've learned a lot from my kids' own papers), and Habermas. I'd love to take a philosophy refresher course on the post-1976 philosophers.
Although I believe I would think like a philosopher (whether successfully or not) no matter what I did, my philosophy training is especially directly relevant to the everyday practice of my profession of psychoanalysis/psychotherapy. After Carleton, I went on to complete an interdisciplinary PhD that was essentially in philosophy (dissertation on Freud, Kant and Husserl, supervised by Paul Ricoeur), but managed to squeak through the requirements for licensure in psychology as well. I now teach, write and practice, and am an advanced candidate at a psychoanalytic institute (i.e., will earn certification sometime in the next 20 years, given the rate I'm going). For many years, I was staff psychologist and director of training of a university teaching clinic offering in-depth psychotherapy to adults with severe and persistent mental illness (schizophrenia, sever "character disorders," and the like), and am currently on the clinical faculty of a psychology graduate program in a medical school.
I attended Yale Law School immediately after my Carleton graduation. (In my 300-word admissions essay to Yale, I argued that my Math/Philosophy double major was the perfect preparation for studying law.) After graduating from law school in 1982, I clerked for a judge on the Minnesota Supreme Court, and then entered private practice in Chicago. For the last two years, I have been Deputy General Counsel for ExteNet Systems, Inc., which designs, builds and operates infrastructure for wireless phone companies in the U.S. and Canada. In structuring and negotiating business transaction and drafting contracts, I employ daily the skills of critical reasoning and precise expression I honed throughout my Carleton years, especially in my Philosophy classes, for which skills and years I remain constantly thankful.”
My older brother, David Newkirk, was also a Math/Philosophy double major at Carleton (1974) (go figure), and is now in academic administration at UVa’s Darden School of Business
Two great things happened the summer I graduated from Carleton: I got married and I started law school. I attended Loyola University Law School in Chicago, IL, and after graduation had a very successful three years working at a litigation firm, Pretzel & Stouffer, doing mostly medical malpractice defense work. Toward the end of my third year, I embarked upon what ended up being an even better career: motherhood. Though I was very torn about leaving the practice of law, I found being a mom even more rewarding and fulfilling. Twenty-three years later, I am still enjoying the career path I chose and feel most fortunate I was able to pursue it.
Throughout the years, I have been very active in our community. Among other things, from 1999-2005, I served on the North Shore School District 112 Board of Education, which governs all of the K-8th grade public schools in Highland Park & Highwood, IL. In the middle of my second term, I was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Highland Park City Council. I served two years in that capacity and was elected to serve a full term in 2007. Being a City Councilwoman has been a most wonderful way to help my community, and I plan to run for re-election in 2011.
There is no question majoring in philosophy prepared me well for what I have done with my life. Learning to be a critical thinker, while having an open mind to others’ thoughts and opinions, gave me the foundation I needed to succeed in all of my major undertakings: law, motherhood, School Board member, and now City Council member.
I have been married to Rob for 29 years and have three children, Drew (23, Pomona ‘08), Alix (21, Harvard ‘11), and Josh (18, Highland Park High School ‘10).
Philosophy teaches critical thinking, writing, logic, and open-mindedness to alternative positions about life's greatest questions. When I decided to major in Philosophy I "sold" it to my parents as the perfect major for pre-law...though I was never all that interested in law school! Instead, I've worked in business, where I have been involved in software design and development (directed logic), marketing (persuasive argumentation), investor relations (persuasive argumentation backed by math, which is an exercise in logic), strategic planning (critical thinking and persuasion), entrepreneurship (persuasive argumentation underpinned by a leap of faith--think Kierkegaard), and investing (a leap of faith underpinned by someone else's ability to make a persuasive argument). To me, Philosophy is the quintessential Liberal Arts major. It asks you to assume nothing, prove everything, and to exercise your brain at all times.
When I told my Dad I would be majoring in Philosophy at Carleton, he told me in his best old Jewish man, (which he was) affect, "Philosophy? Philosophy? What are you going to do when you graduate? Open a little philosophy shop?" Apparently, he was a little concerned about the practicality and usefulness of studying philosophy. I responded then, and I hold to these words even today, that philosophy helps you out in every area of your life and work. Studying the topic, especially at Carleton, teaches you how to think about thinking, how to solve problems, how to examine your life and the world around you. I can honestly say that it has been beneficial to me in every job I have ever held; it gave me an analytical advantage to understanding and performing the job better, from waitressing, to managing, to teaching. And knowing how to approach different issues has also worked to approach other aspects of life, such as volunteering, gaining additional education, considering world events, and even arguing successfully with my husband, (who also holds a philosophy degree)!
As I recall, the Philo. department at Carleton was quite small when I studied there, (8 students?), and I was the only female. I had been lucky enough to study philosophy at Washburn High School in Minneapolis, and knew I appreciated this approach to thinking. The quality of my college studies of philosophy was superb, if not a little overwhelming. I distinctly remember reading lines from Heiddiger and Kirkegaard (sp? on both) over and over and over again until I thought my head might pop off. The studies were intense and not easy for me, but I feel as if the department faculty stood by me and helped make sure that I would come out with a solid education, and I did. I also remember almost failing a course in ethical relativism, because, at that age, I was such an idealist and had already established firm moral judgments on everything. I just could not figure out how other cultures might come up with different conclusions. Getting older and wiser has helped clear that up quite a bit.
After Carleton, I went off to graduate school in Israel to become a rabbi. My life's path eventually took a very different direction, but I certainly feel that philosophy was an excellent preparation for theological studies. Back in the states, with two children to support, I knew I needed to get to work fast and went into something I knew I could enjoy -- managing retail toy stores. I was able to expand on my creative skills by moving to management within the Minnesota Children's Museum. My big break in this type of business came when the LEGO company came to town needing someone to make their very recognizable product into an attraction that people would visit. Thus began my foray into working with corporations and entrepreneurs to develop, open, and manage this type of "family attraction". I earned my MBA in my late thirties and went on to develop many of these attractions.
But philosophy, and particularly ethics, was never far from my mind and heart. As I had been the most eager of the business ethics MBA students, all professional managers in this program, I was offered the opportunity to take over when the instructors retired from the University of St. Thomas. I had already been teaching a course in "Spirituality at Work" to younger MBA students at the graduate school there, which dealt with the challenges of maintaining our personal values in the workplace. But I felt it was especially useful to get a strong message about practicing business ethics to these established managers, who were required to take the course. I am happy to say that this teaching made a big impact on those students over the years, and that I know there are better practices in place at businesses all over the area due to our work.
Most recently I have moved on to teaching philosophy and ethics at a local community college in the Twin Cities. Truly an amazing group of students -- all ages, all abilities, all ethnicities, all religions --- some of whom are the first members of their family ever to attend college, all gathered together to learn how philosophy applies to their lives. I had to dust off my old mental archives to get back to some of the philosophical theories, but it is wonderful watching the students turn on to these concepts and teaching them how philosophy applies and why it is important. The ethics have been always been front and center throughout my life and my teaching, and getting it across to these particular students, who are actually the future of our country, has been an incredible gift. I consider what I am doing now to be truly good work and my best work yet. I know it matters, and that I am making a real difference. And I am grateful for the opportunity to spread the word about how important it is to do as Socrates instructed, and examine your life!
It took about twenty years before I came to clearly recognize how that major in philosophy I earned at Carleton, and the liberal arts experience in general I'd received there influenced my path in life. After blissfully exploring the mental world for four years via Kant, Quine, & Heidegger, I went off to Architecture school to try my hand at influencing the mechanics of the physical world, eventually becoming a Registered Architect. After mastering many of the aspects of professional architectural practice, however, the philosopher-ecologist buried inside me coaxed me on to explore critical issues of community sustainability as a means of repairing the damage we humans are doing to the earth. I credit the critical thinking skills I honed at Carleton with helping me appreciate the inter-relatedness of the social-physical changes required of humanity to allow us to survive our end of the on-going industrial revolution. Though I didn't read it until I left Carleton, the understandings I gleaned from Professors Sipfle, Mason, Elveton, Iseminger, and Lugones helped me appreciate that the final chapter of Aldo Leopold's A Sand County Almanac is a radical ethical manifesto, which every inhabitant of the Western world should read. Under the auspices of a non-profit parent organization, I currently operate a one-year-old surplus, Salvaged, and green building materials store in the Washington, D.C. area called "Community Forklift." (www.CommunityForklift.com )
This recent bio of me may be interesting for some - I may be the only co-chair of
a national political party in the US from Carleton...
I was interested in being a trial lawyer since I was young. When I came to Carleton I was interested in many majors, (none of them philosophy), but I ended up being a philosophy major. I enjoyed the courses that I took in the Philosophy Department and I believe that it was valuable preparation for my legal career: I learned to analyze written and verbal arguments, premises, and conclusions. I learned to write persuasive and concise arguments, and I even had some practice in public speaking and defending one's arguments from attack. For me, it was very beneficial training for my legal career.
Steven Cash Nickerson
I attended Carleton from 1977-81 and while there I was Editor of Pegasus, the then Philosophy Journal produced by students.
I am an entrepreneur and lawyer and I buy companies or pieces of companies and work to develop them into something more valuable over a few to several years and then sell them. I am a professional negotiator.
I do believe what you study in College has an impact on how you view the world and therefore what opportunities you see and pursue in your life. College is such a formative time for the brain which is relatively uncluttered at that time. Careers are the result of a combination of opportunities. I recall taking a course from Gary Iseminger in Metaphysics - personal identity. It was David Hume who in pure empiricist fashion said that a "person" was simply a bundle of experiences and I think modern careers are bundles of opportunities pursued.
Philosophy taught me not only to think about things in different ways, but also to understand that people approach issues and ideas in different ways. I have found this skill to be extremely helpful as an entrepreneur, lawyer and all around capitalist. I find myself in any given business situation - especially in negotiations - trying to determine whether I am sitting across from a rationalist, a teleologist, an empiricist, a deontologist, an existentialist, etc. I find people really have a predominant view or philosophy and knowing what that is helps in business negotiations, dealing with employees, bosses, banks, you name it. And people by and large are dying to tell you what they are. For example, if someone is an empiricist, they tend to be skeptical and they are going to want to see proof of an idea - not a study - but they are going to want to see it, taste it, touch it. You can present them with as many studies as you want and their eyes will glaze over.
When it comes to how people will act in any given situation, knowing whether they think it is all about the end or whether some steps must be followed is crucial. If you try to sell someone who is a teleologist based on crossing certain items on a list that are important, they won't buy from you. They just want to know how it ends, what they will get in the end and don't bore them about all the details. If you are dealing with someone who believes that certain principles in a deal are sacred and must be followed and don't take those seriously, you will again lose the deal.
The process of learning how someone thinks is basically Socratic - you ask lots of questions. But unlike the Socratic approach, you should not force them down a path. Philosophy helped me hone my ability to get to the heart of an issue by asking probing questions, listening, following up with other questions and coming to a sense of what kind of "philosopher" I am sitting across from.
Not only that, but Sipfle's Zeno's Paradoxes of Motion is still a good bar riddle and having had a Philosophy professor named Perry Mason is bragging rights in my circles.
Architecture: I guess we choose some things in life, and other things choose us. Buildings chose me as a kid, through legos and building blocks first, then through the idea of what architecture is later. But I didn't know how to pursue an architectural design career, and my father was a History Professor, so we knew about Liberal Arts, and everyone assumed that that is what an academic, intellectual kid does - goes to a Liberal Arts college. So I did. Ironically, in my academic family, I had never actually run across Philosophy as a topic, but I signed up for freshman seminar with Professor Roy Elveton...and....well.....I guess it grabbed me and wouldn't let go. I kept coming back (interspersed with geology classes and art and art history classes) because the fundamentals of it seemed to cut to the core of everything: The Self, the Mind, God, Nature of the Arts, Ethics, Knowledge, etc...And what Architect isn't, in the end, interested in the fundamental principles of just about Everything!
We all have a few chances in life to give ourselves great presents, and allowing Philosophy to choose me, without resistance, made college a great treat. I found other friends ahead of me who also became architects with a Philosophy degree, and there are probably many behind me. The Department was one of the great treasures of Carleton in my day: Professors Elveton, Mason, Iseminger and others. When the Art History Department refused to sponsor an architectural club, the Philosophy Department said an instant yes (Roy Elveton - if the club was truly intellectual), and surely that is proof positive to the old adage: What can you do with a Philosophy Degree? Answer: Anything you want. It worked for me.
My Philosophy degree still urges me towards the elegant and comprehensive, and away from the vapid in my daily work as an architectural designer. I have been highly fortunate, in turbulent times (the recession of 2008 has hit us hard) to see work come to fruition, including a Women's Hospital under construction and the New NYC 911 Call Center about to go into the ground. This building is direct result of the terrorist attacks of 9/11, in which the Fire and Police departments could not speak with each other, and many people died. Last year our work opened on the Smithsonian American History Museum in DC. Our "Abstract Flag" sculpture, based on the mathematical concepts of "unstable structures" and incorporating 960 translucent "pixels" was featured in the Carleton Voice magazine.
I am delighted to report that my own daughter, Hannah Rothblatt, will enter Carleton as a freshman in September. Doubtless she will struggle with the great existential questions of Carleton Life: whether to take Philosophy classes or become a Geology Major. However, as a native New Yorker, let's hope she steers closer to the larger, indoor questions of life! I am constantly having to remind myself that, as an aging Boomer, I don't actually get to go to college again, but perhaps live a bit vicariously through her.
John Estey is Chief of Staff to Edward G. Rendell, the 45th Governor of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. As Chief of Staff, he serves as the top advisor to the Governor and manages the day-to-day activities of the executive branch of state government, including 18 cabinet agencies and the Governor's Office. For more information, visit the web-site: www.governor.state.pa.us/governor/cwp/view.asp?a=1110&q+437965]
My training in philosophy taught me the importance of critical thinking, which was invaluable in my experience in law school and is a key skill (probably the most important skill) in my current position.
Mark T. Gilbert
Anything can be done with a philosophy major. It's just like life. You can make of it whatever you want. I became a philosophy major because I wanted to learn what the philosophers said. It taught me how to think, how to grow and started me on the path to finding out what is important to me in life. That's the beauty of a Liberal Arts education: It teaches you how to learn and how to communicate. With those two skills you can become whatever you want. Just follow your passion and it can lead you to amazing places.
Susan Hammel Joyce
What a great question ["What can you do with a philosophy degree?"]. I think my mother asked it when I was a sophomore and changed from maybe majoring in physics or math to philosophy. Her exact words were "what are you going to do with that?". Here's my answer 20 years later:
- Think big thoughts--learning philosophy makes life infinitely interesting.
- Bring analytical rigor to every conversation, project, and book.
- Ask "why" all the time (although not quite as much as my kids...:).
I thought you might like the following excerpt from my standard project proposal. I'm a strategic and financial consultant working mainly with nonprofits. While regular financial people tend to be so deep into details that they can't see concepts, a philosophy major combined with financial expertise has proven to be an effective and winning combination. From my proposal:
"My approach: I combine a bottom line focus on results with the big picture brain of a philosophy major and the heart of someone determined to make the world a better place. I left the mainstream financial industry long ago to pursue my passion of helping nonprofit entrepreneurs achieve more of their mission. I bring cutting edge skills to help the nonprofit community strengthen their management capacity around financial issues. Having worked at the Prudential Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and consulted for the Minneapolis Foundation, I'm familiar with the funding community. As a consultant I've worked with many organizations to help them assess their financial position, design effective reports and pursue new funding strategies. I invite you to visit my website to see case studies of nonprofits I've helped become more effective: www.cogentconsulting.net. Most recently I've been named to the Selection Committee for the Washington Post Awards for Excellence in Nonprofit Management, a project of the Center for Nonprofit Advancement."
Last, what can I say except it is true what they tell you at Carleton: if you're trained how to think you can learn anything. How else could a philosophy major succeed in learning finance along with accounting, finance and econ majors from Wharton, the Carlson School, Princeton, Harvard, Yale, Brown, Stanford, etc. in a management training program at Prudential Financial?
Good luck to one and all. It's a great major no matter what career you choose.
I'm currently the Senior Manager, Research Liaison for Information Technology at the Jackson Laboratory (http://www.jax.org). I've been working in the information technology field ever since graduating in '87, however my philosophy training has been an important part of my success in the field.
Without question the most valuable aspect of my philosophy study at Carleton is the ability to think and communicate rationally, clearly, and concisely. In particular the ability to write well has been key to my advancement from operational, technical work into a more strategic role focused on planning. My current position is in large part structured around my ability to understand and translate between the information technology and biological sciences, helping the two groups understand the capabilities, limitations, and needs of the other.
My liberal arts education also set the stage for a wide range of interests and activities beyond my career. I met my wife through a mutual interest in tropical plants, and we maintain a collection of orchids and bromeliads. I played in several bands at Carleton, most notably Josh and the Senators, and have continued my musical interests, learning dobro, voice, mandolin, and bass. My band Blue Northern has recorded a collection of all original material including some of my songs, and we're working on a second collection of originals. We live in an old house in rural Maine, where many folks do their own tradework. My most ambitious effort has been designing and building a two-story barn and studio, which is almost completed. In the last several years I've rediscovered an old interest in photography, and have been utilizing the latest technology advancements in digital processing to produce images that more closely capture the dynamic light range my eye sees. Perhaps most importantly, my son seems to be picking up the curiosity and motivation my wife and I share - he is an accomplished musician and athlete - and hopefully I'll be back in Northfield in seven years for a tour with him.
I teach worship and preaching at Eden Theological Seminary in St. Louis. A couple of weeks ago in an introductory worship class, I led a discussion about liturgical language. I was trying to help students begin to see the limitations of language, and the metaphorical nature of all liturgical language, as they began thinking about composing prayers. I chose to use Wittgenstein's theory of language games, and his metaphor of language as a raft, as a way of helping to explain this difficult and, for some, unsettling perspective.
When I was a philosophy major at Carleton, I took a course that was on nothing but Wittgenstein. I have used that knowledge numerous times along the way.
David La Raus
Currently an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington, representing the state in child welfare litigation. Previously an Attorney for the City of Chicago. Before that I spent several years working on a fishing boat in the Bering Sea, which made law school seem increasingly palatable. Before that I wandered through several states as a mendicant barista/odd-jobber. Philosophical questioning has continued to plague me throughout my life. Eventually I hope to complete an illustrated comic about philosophy, narrated by mice. The essence of philosophy should be rigorously-critical thinking and a sense of inquiry - honing these skills will never fill to have practical implications, as well as providing entertainment for those who are metaphysically-minded.
How did philosophy play a role in my life after Carleton? The question brings to mind a recent dinner conversation with a friend's uncle, a good-humored lawyer who enjoys sailing and learning all he can about the French Revolution. We discovered that we had both majored in philosophy, and we both agreed that the subject was completely useless. I think that philosophy may be useless at age 40 (me) and 60-plus (him). But I have no regrets about majoring in philosophy. It was very useful to me at age 20. I think many of us philosophy majors spent our teenage years reading deep books and listening to dark music, trying to solve the mysteries of life, death and the universe. For us serious and logical types, studying philosophy is a way to get all of this out of our system (less serious types watch Woody Allen movies). You realize that so many people over so many centuries have been tortured by the same questions, have tried to answer them, and have failed brilliantly.
Then it's time to do something useful. I know one guy from Carleton who started his own window-washing company, one who defends people on death row in the South, and another who designs web-sites. You could become a philosophy professor and guide tortured adolescent souls through the same rocky passages. I went on from Carleton to graduate school in economics. I now teach undergraduate economics at Seattle University and do research on women's education and employment. I also spend a lot of my time with my children and husband simply living.
Winter term of my senior year, I started thinking of how to make a living doing Philosophy. There were only two jobs I could think of where one can be paid to do philosophy- academics, and being a supreme court justice. Not a lawyer, not a judge either, really. A supreme court justice. Neither option seemed palatable at the time, as I had lost my taste for the academic situation, and absolutely did not want to endure a career as a lawyer and a judge to get to, by the grace of the President, the supreme court. So I looked in the Yellow Pages at the Sayles-Hill switchboard, and shopped for a two-year school in electronics. I had fixed all the stuff at KRLX, and thought maybe I should finally learn how. Logic and reason are definitely involved, and circuit boards are so pretty! Just so you prospective majors don’t get too discouraged, I have learned of a third way to make money in philosophy; writing quality policy manuals for ISO9001-certified corporations. So there’s definitely hope for an exciting career doing philosophy!
With my electronics technology degree, I angled for jobs with variety and creativity involved, and began pursuing one of my deepest passions; invention. I have spent all of my career in research and development, though often for companies so small that I wore many other hats, too. As a philosopher, I loved wisdom, and thus treasured my hat collection. Is that vain? Hmm. I am now versed in electronic, mechanical, hydraulic, and process-control design, production engineering, field and factory service and coordination, and customer phone support in a medical environment.
I have started my own company, !!!MANIC Salamander, to sell motorcycle accessories that I design. I had hoped to pay myself to invent, but it would appear that first I need to become adept at running a small business, before things can settle down enough for this to happen. I have engaged this challenge, we’ll see how I do.
My education in philosophy has reverberated through my life in several ways. First off, I really dig the close investigation of the human experience in a philosophical manner. This worked against me at the custom food-processing conveyor factory, where it was considered vain to use more than the minimum of language, or ask difficult questions. It was all I could do to operate without talking, or to talk in short sentences with common words. The slightest lapse of concentration, and some word, like, “ambiguous” would come out. That happened once at tech school, and the guy across from me at lunch said, “What are you, some kind of goddamned intellectual?” I admitted it.
Once I had graduated to a development-phase company, I was complimented more than once on the precision, spelling and complete sentences of my emails. Even by 1997, complete sentences and good spelling had fallen out of fashion in business, but there were still enough folks there who were nostalgic for the old ways. I credit my education in philosophy for the clarity and precision of my prose, such as it may be, and have used it often in technical writing. Unfortunately, the last ten years of my career have been at a place where clear and careful prose was utterly undetectable and unvalued by anyone else in the organization, so that little advantage has been on hiatus.
Another advantage of the philosophical mind is in customer service. Good business requires making and keeping promises. The ability of an organization to keep a promise is limited by myriad factors. A customer service representative can assist good business by formulating the promises so that the business can meet them, and so that the customer is satisfied. This requires a good working knowledge of the capabilities of the organization, the factors limiting it, and the ability to think on one’s feet and use carefully-chosen words to formulate a well-made promise. Logical self-consistency and clear, nuanced expression are critical. All marketing concerns aside, this skill is critical to the reputation of a business.
In the last two years, the seeds which are my knowledge of philosophy have begun to sprout, in the form of a book. Don’t get excited, it’s not serious yet. I currently conceive of it as a treatise on epistemology, meant for a popular audience, and informed in its methods and core concepts by my experience as a technician, engineer, and developer of new things. My intention to write it to a popular audience means I have little hope it will find traction in academia. On the other hand, my approach is at once unusual and obvious, which seems auspicious. Most inventions that are popular, unusual, and obvious (once you have seen one) are blockbusters, so if it should end up being popular, watch out! My friends and relations who are artisans and technicians of various stripes see the sense in what I’m doing, immediately. My hope is that the artisan’s close, careful, pragmatic connection with reality, necessary to do the work they do, will keep my work close enough to common experience that people will get it, even if they don’t normally think of such things. Currently this work is in the “bit bucket” stage; I just pound out ideas and sections as the inspiration hits me, awaiting the moment when I have enough material to make a skeletal book, at which point I will organize it, and see what it is. Maybe it is something. Maybe it is not worth completing. We’ll see.
In the years since Carleton, I have come to realize just how precious a gift Carleton’s admissions process of the late ‘80’s and early ‘90’s bestowed upon its student body, merely by collecting the right people together to learn. Of the people I know, the vast majority of those with deep, broad, abiding curiosity about all things, are Carleton alums. Even as adults and parents, they maintain a hunger for understanding and insight, and a ready comprehension of new ideas, which sets them apart from almost everybody else. They are my kind of people.
At Carleton I majored in philosophy and then received a doctorate in philosophy at Northwestern University (1998). While teaching at University College, Northwestern's night school, I decided against a career teaching philosophy full time. So I attended medical school at the University of Illinois at Chicago, graduated in 2003, and decided to train as a surgeon. Somehow all those years studying philosophy made me realize that I wanted my job to have both physical as well as intellectual components. I finished a residency in urology at Georgetown University in 2009 and now practice as a urologist in the Washington DC metro area. Because I would otherwise miss teaching, I have taught an elective class on the history of medicine at University of Illinois College of Medicine and now occasionally teach philosophy of medicine at Georgetown University College of Medicine.
I found this question difficult to answer for several years after my graduation from Carleton. But I think what I have found since is that the question is wrongly phrased. Undergraduates seeking a liberal arts degree should not ask what can be done with a major in philosophy. After all, isn't the meaning of the word "liberal" in the liberal arts to distinguish it from vocational training? It's a period of liberation from professional concerns, and those who are lucky enough to be able to have that time shouldn't squander it learning how to be anything but a good student. If you enjoy philosophy, devote yourself to philosophy and become a good philosopher. When you get your job at the widget factory, worry about being a good widget-maker then.
But students may well ask what, if not widget making, they can do that will gratify a person with a love for reading and talking about philosophy and philosophers. It's an obvious option to return to academia, get an advanced degree in philosophy and become a professor. For me, over time, the prospect of retuning to school started to seem unattractive and expensive. I applied to one program, only to be rejected and told that there was no point in reapplying: there were so few jobs available that, on principle, they had reduced the size of their incoming Master's Degree students to two or three at most, so that the admissions percentage rate was around .12 percent. (The decimal point is intentional.)
I began to work in journalism as a fallback, having worked on the college newspaper while at Carleton. I found very quickly that the job suited me, and that my degree in philosophy was more relevant to the work than my experience at the student newspaper. Reporters construct arguments, by reporting out individual facts and building them into a story. They work with editors on questions of whether the evidence supports the thesis of the piece--and what surprised me is how often this turns out to be not a purely pragmatic, evidentiary exercise but a philosophical one.
Over time as I became an editor, and than managing editor, my main work was to convene groups of editors arguing and debating: Was Hillary Clinton's position on the war in Iraq cynical or merely practical? Does the city of New York have a moral obligation to provide affordable housing to its workforce? What is Alan Ball saying, and what is the point of "Six Feet Under"?
Being able to construct logical arguments helps, but in terms of satisfaction becomes secondary to the pleasure one takes in that exercise. The same goes with the desire to apply those arguments to material of a fundamentally human nature, and the desire to move the terms of discussion about life and society forward rather than backward or sideways. These are all basic parts of my daily routine. I was not hired because I had been a philosophy major. But I love my job for many of the same reasons I loved majoring in philosophy.
My job is, in effect, to predict the future. It is a precarious undertaking, filled with knowable and unknowable risks in which I must constantly adapt to success and failure in near equal measure. However, after ~13 years as a professional investor, I have come to understand that my study of philosophy has uniquely positioned me to accept new information, respond to the unexpected and constantly challenge my beliefs about what “is” versus “what will be”. My peers at most Wall Street firms were, by and large, trained to believe that the world “should” work in a specific manner; Carleton’s philosophy department trained me to think otherwise. As a philosophy major, I was forced to put aside what I had been told about how the world worked and think critically, abstractly and dispassionately about arguments presented to me, and then respond with my own thoughts and interpretations about those arguments in a succinct, understandable matter. I had to learn to abandon dogma and become open to new points of view, not allowing prior theories to skew what new information was telling me. This approach is, of course, the ultimate the goal of any liberal arts education, to teach you to become a student for life, not just for that short time when you are in school; however, unlike other liberal arts degrees, a degree in philosophy forces you to constantly re-examine your beliefs and adapt to an ever changing world.
I never intended to become a senior member of the portfolio management team of a multi-billion dollar hedge fund or, before this, lead investment teams at other, larger, more traditional investment firms. However, by being highly responsive to a dynamic world (that does not always conform to so called “rules”), and willing to act quickly when information changed, I have been able to find opportunities in all kinds of markets, lead people though the thick and the thin and found a myself in a position that challenges and excites me every day of the week. I am fortunate in that I love what I do for a living. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate that Professors Mason, Iseminger, and the rest of the department trained me to be constantly thinking, challenging my current beliefs and, above all else, open to new ideas; that training has, in no small part, been directly responsible for my professional success.
After completing Connecticut's Alternate Route to Certification Program, I am eligible to switch careers from my current positions as Grocery stock clerk at a local supermarket and substitute teacher in the local school district to become a middle or high school English teacher.
I help run our family's General Store in the hamlet of Wassaic, NY, and I live with my mother on our family farm, where we raise six sheep and some vegetables. I am also participating as chair of the W. Mass Carleton Alumni Club.
Weirdly, everyone in architecture thinks that studying philosophy is a great jumping-off point for the field. They’re wrong and right. If the study of philosophy is more concerned with the art of asking good questions (rather than the diligence of finding good answers), then it's a great jumping-off point for any field that requires inquiry. Architecture and design are such fields, to a point. Anyone creative (whether in engineering, the humanities, or design) has to ask "what if,"--and then have the tenacity to test the hypothesis. The nuts and bolts of design, especially a technical field like architecture, have to be learned outside the discipline of philosophy. Luckily, the field of architecture understands this and provides numerous masters of architecture programs for individuals without a prior degree in design or architecture. I took that path and found that the people that studied something other than architecture (including those who studied philosophy) were far more interesting and intellectually balanced. And besides, after you've struggled with passage after passage of Derrida, a technical manual on soils is a piece of cake.
I'm employed as a legislative assistant in the United States Senate. Because politics involves lots of conflicts, choices, and decisions, I feel I constantly rely on my training in philosophy to sort sound arguments from specious ones. Following my time at Carleton, I spent time working in New York City and Washington, DC. I also spent a couple years in grad school at Glasgow and Cambridge in the UK. These days I live back in my home state of South Dakota with my wife (Maggie) and daughter (Willa).
Not having had enough, I went on to earn my MA in Philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder. While I ultimately did not pursue academia, I continue to be dependent on the critical thinking, clear writing, and intellectual rigor that Carleton philosophy ingrained in me and demanded of me. Rather than pursuing philosophy, I chose to fall back on another positive Carleton experience--tennis. I currently work in the sports industry for the USTA where I manage NJTL, a nationwide network of tennis and education non-profit organizations.
So far I've found my philosophy degree has provided an excellent grounding and the most solid platform from which I can do any number of things. Attaining an advanced degree, learning new skills on the job, taking on entirely new and expanded responsibilities, all are possible because of how Professors Mason, Iseminger, Sipfle, Elveton, Crouter and others put us through the paces.
While writing this update, I've looked at the website and have been reminded of the level of commitment and dedication of the philosophy department and major. Thank you very much for keeping us in touch with current goings on. Perhaps the Facebook page is just the thing so we can hear updates from faculty and students.
My name is Poppi Ritacco (formerly Hagan). I graduated from Carleton in 1999. I went directly to law school at Harvard. I believe that I was the only philosophy major my year who did not go on to philosophy grad school. I think that the logic component of philosophy, though it was not my particular strength, nonetheless prepared me really well for LSATs. Likewise, the intense discussions we had in the small seminar classes in the philosophy department helped me to develop my argument and analysis skills. Of course, the writing required as a philosophy major made me a strong enough writer that I was selected to teach legal writing at HLS during my second and third years. I can honestly say that I felt the "smartest" I have ever felt after graduating from Carleton. Some of that may have been a function of age, but I found law school to be intellectually dull compared to studying philosphy at Carleton.
I have worked most of my career as a criminal prosecutor. I am now an instructor of criminal law and procedure at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (essentially the police academy for most federal law enforcement agencies) in Glynco, GA (by the coast just south of Savannah).
Holger A. Tistad
I work as a performing arts lighting designer based in Stockholm, but I do work all over Sweden and sometime abroad as well. I work mostly with dance and theatre, but I branch out to do some concert work too. As for my philosophy degree, it doesn’t apply directly to work, I spend most of my time carrying things and making somewhat artistical choices as to where I put them down J. But as Kurt pointed out, building a design concept is in some ways similar to constructing a philosophical argument—it does call for the same attention to detail and the ability to step back an observe the larger picture. Having an academic degree, specifically in philosophy, also allows me to participate in discussions with directors, choreographers and playwrights at an equal level, and contribute as well… it is also a great conversation piece at dinner parties. Jokes aside, I have a unique background among my peers in my field and sometimes it is appreciated, sometimes not, but that the ability to read, write and construct an argument benefits me on the job (even if the issue at hand is the method for loading the semi) as well as in my private life.
I am currently enrolled in the Masters of Architecture program at the University of Washington in Seattle. At Carleton, I majored in philosophy, but took additional courses in physics, math, art and art history.
I have found that building a 'visual argument' for an architectural object (e.g. a building) bears a number of fundamental similarities to the process of developing a 'philosophical argument,' in theoretical terms. In fact, contemporary design pedagogies emphasize beginning with a 'design concept' from which the design is generated - a theoretical object, not a physical one. Beyond that, the pragmatic ability to defend a building design is critical when it comes to dealing with clients and citizen design review boards. To some extent such defenses rely as much on verbal as on visual arguments.
One of my professors is fond of the following anecdote, passed on from a practicing architect: It is easy to find a new employee who knows how to design and/or render well, but amazingly difficult to find someone you can trust to write a letter to a client.
Increasingly, graduate programs in architecture see people who have liberal arts backgrounds, rather than strictly architectural ones. After all, architecture synthesizes many fields and requires more than mere technical or graphic skills. It also involves developing theoretical frameworks for understanding spatiality and temporality (Foucault and Heidegger have come up more than once in my coursework).
Because of my background, I have excelled at architectural theory, ultimately developing both a professional and academic portfolio in graduate school. In turn, this experience will serve as the basis for potential future work as both a practicing architect and, potentially, a professor of architecture.
One thing you can do with a philosophy degree is have a second major. For two years I worked as a professional geologist after college. I got a little tired of this, so I am now teaching English in Inner Mongolia. But I think I may use philosophy yet. I hope to go to graduate school in a year or two, hopefully doing something with philosophy or philosophy of science. And epistemology and metaphysics will always have a place near and dear to my heart.