Below are brief testimonials from some of the Department of Philosophy alums who have gone on to careers at non-profits and in the public sector, describing in their own words how studying philosophy at the University of Chicago has shaped their careers and day-to-day work.
Emily Hatch, Global Campaigns Manager, Asia, Mercy for Animals (BA 2015)
Though I cannot possibly do justice to my wonderful experience studying philosophy at UChicago in such a short passage, I can say this: it is without a doubt thanks to UChicago Philosophy that I found my way to a career that is both profoundly fulfilling and unrelentingly engaging. I walked away from the philosophy major with a critical eye and significant expertise in my subfield of choice (animal ethics), and was rewarded with a coveted role at an international animal protection organization. Because my organization is an “effective altruist” nonprofit, I continue to use utilitarian reasoning on a daily basis (in order to determine how my team can reduce the most suffering per dollar spent). More importantly, the intellectual challenge of studying philosophy encouraged me to grow immensely, to question the status quo, and to see and synthesize connections between seemingly disparate matters. These core skills are invaluable to my success in organizing for social change.
Daniel Nasaw, Managing Editor, Capital Journal Website, The Wall Street Journal (BA 2002)
A good journalist needs to look underneath a news story, to analyze its underpinnings and place it in a cultural, intellectual and historical context. From Heraclitus to Husserl, my University of Chicago undergraduate education in philosophy prepared me to wrest ideas from the mundane, consider them in the abstract and reapply them elsewhere, "to ask," borrowing a metaphor from Heidegger, "the first of all questions." In "Being and Time," Heidegger describes Dasein—roughly, the Being of a human being—as thrown helplessly out of its past and into its future. "Its own past . . . is not something which follows along after Dasein, but something which already goes ahead of it." For a journalist, especially an editor guiding news coverage, it isn't sufficient merely to grasp what's going on and, proximately, why. Rather, a journalist must endeavor to understand how cultural and political-economic currents landed us all here and where we're going—how America's past "already goes ahead of it." A history degree would have offered a set of data points useful for reference and a means of systematizing them, and a journalism degree (though not at UChicago!) training in a craft I ultimately got paid to hone. But my philosophy degree taught me something even greater: How to think.
Megan Wade, 350 Seattle (BA 2005)
What are our obligations to future generations, to other species, or to the land? Can we make rational plans about the course of our lives, or the course of a given day, in an era of heightened uncertainty and instability? Theoretical questions, sure, but ones that carry obvious weight when your job is persuading and organizing others to take action on climate change. I've also found the skills gained through my study of philosophy to be not only practical, but sometimes surprisingly popular. Recently at a meeting, another participant spoke for several minutes, trying to explain an idea to the group. At last they stopped and looked at me and asked, "Hey Meg, can you do that thing you do, that summarizing thing that makes it all clear?" I smiled, "Yeah, I think you were trying to propose that ..."