Grad Students in Their Own Words
Find out what they say about our program.
I’m currently working on teleological and ethical naturalism – do organisms and their parts/features have proper functions? do such functions depend on the etiology of the organism/part/feature in question (e.g., intelligent design, natural selection, etc.)? is moral goodness (the goodness of human practical reason) to be understood in relation to a human function? and does the resulting picture support the goodness of the familiar virtues?
Philosophy is hard. But, of course, the challenges that come with most any upper-level program in philosophy aren’t just philosophical, though ideally they do serve a point. GSU’s MA program was challenging in ways that, I think, helped me become a better thinker and teacher. What’s required to do well is good philosophy, and the faculty hold you to this, while doing what they reasonably can to show you how. In a discipline characterized by pressure to specialize earlier and earlier, mentors at GSU supported me in developing a range of interests, from ancient, to Nietzsche, to contemporary moral and experimental stuff; and, along with the department’s diverse course offerings, grads can attend classes at nearby institutions, including Classical Greek and Latin at Emory during the regular semester. While the breadth of such opportunities might contribute to some (ahem) difficulty in settling on a thesis topic, it’s one of the things I liked best about GSU. Moreover, GSU is unique among grad programs – MA and PhD alike – in not only allowing students to serve as primary instructors as early as their first summer, but offering a curriculum dedicated to preparing them to do so and supporting them throughout the process.
Adjusting to life in a doctoral program is different for everybody. In my case, nothing short of another PhD program could’ve prepared me for it. Yet even here mentors and friends from my GSU days have been invaluable. While our many conversations over walks or coffee comprise some of my fondest memories, today these friendships are sources of courage, confidence, and renewed wonder. Aristotle thought that humans wouldn’t choose to live without friendship; the MA program at GSU – with its vibrant philosophical community, to which belong so many interesting, smart, and just plain nice people – is rich with opportunities to cultivate the kinds of relationships that make life choiceworthy.
Caleb and Emily sat down to discuss their current projects and their experience at Georgia State University.
GSU has earned esteem for its ever-increasing success at placing students at top-ranking PhD programs. But the MA program is much more than just a springboard for further graduate study. It is home to a healthy and vibrant philosophical community, whose dedication to doing philosophy, and not merely to creating careers in it, should not go unappreciated. I will not soon forget the many nights in which a large group of students—whose interests varied from Heidegger to philosophy of law to formal epistemology—would work through the issues from the afternoon’s seminar well after last call at the local pub, only to retire to someone’s house to see the conversation through to its conclusion. It is a place where philosophy, in the broadest sense of the term, happens.
If I had to choose only three aspects of the program to trumpet, they would be the graduate student community, the exchange program with the Universität Bielefeld, and the teaching program. These three features made my time at GSU unforgettable, and prepared me (even more than I needed) to go on to do further graduate work in philosophy.
Georgia State's M.A. program is rigorous. This department takes seriously its task of preparing students for both a doctorate program and a career in philosophy, and the faculty members set the bar very high for their graduate students. There is little question that this program will challenge you.
In saying these things, I take myself to be indicating one of the program’s greatest virtues. I came to Georgia State strongly taken by the study of philosophy, but lacking the wherewithal to fully understand what it means to pursue a career in the discipline. As an undergraduate, I was fully capable of doing whatever necessary to earn high marks, but I lacked certain abilities that one must cultivate in order to make it in this field. For instance, I did not understand the amount of care that one must take in order to be clear. But now that I have been forced, first, to meet my professors’ high demands, and, second, to confront the difficulties of teaching, I now understand the great lengths to which one must go in order to ensure that he or she is clearly understood. Similarly, I have learned how to juggle time in the ways required by a profession that entails both teaching and research. Put succinctly, I now feel wholly ready to face the challenges that lie ahead in a doctoral program and beyond. And I feel wholly confident that my readiness is a result of the time I have spent here in Atlanta.
Since I had only taken a handful of undergrad philosophy courses when I applied to Georgia State, I attended with the hope that I would not only grow in my knowledge of the content and skills related to the discipline but also with the hope that I would gain first-hand knowledge and experience about what it means to have a career in academic philosophy. GSU succeeded on both of these fronts.
The seemingly unlimited personal attention the Professors were willing to give me and the seemingly endless supply of meandering philosophy arguments I could get into with my classmates made for an extremely productive and effective learning environment. In addition, the high expectations that were set, the many tough deadlines, and multiple competing priorities, although grueling, forced me to learn how to be organized and manage my time. However, most importantly it gave me an accurate experience of what it is like to be a professional philosopher, a career that, although appealing, is not something to which I am ready to commit.
Since receiving my master’s degree I have been working for Epic, a healthcare software company, and have found my time at Georgia State to be useful in several ways. Epic, and I am guessing companies like them, really like philosophy backgrounds. Specifically, they are looking for people who have the ability to take both broad and narrow views of a topic and understand the connections and relationship between a large number of different items—a skill I definitely think philosophy nurtures. Finally, communication is huge, especially written communication, and the personal attention and lengthy feedback about my writing allowed me to improve tremendously.