LMU Philosophy Majors and Minors Reflect on the Path Taken

Graduates of the LMU Philosophy Program have gone on to pursue successful careers as professors, attorneys, medical doctors, nurses, psychotherapists, business executives, entrepreneurs, elementary and high school teachers and principals, military officers, librarians, social workers, judges, directors of county and federal government offices, and motion picture producers (to name just a few of their career paths). Many of our graduates go on to study Law, for which the study of Philosophy is an excellent preparation. In their own words, here are the assessments of just a few of the many LMU Philosophy majors and minors who have used their philosophical training to pursue personally satisfying and socially valuable careers.

Kyle O’Gorman, B.A., Summa cum Laude, in Philosophy, and Theater Arts; minor in Environmental Studies, 2022

“After taking an introductory philosophy class my first year at LMU, I formed a cunning plan: I would fulfill as many of my general credits as possible with philosophy classes, and my academic advisors would be none the wiser. Don’t like religion? Take a Faith & Reason class. Hate math? Take a Symbolic Logic course. Interdisciplinary connections? Philosophy and Psychology of the Self has you covered. Even a writing flag couldn’t stop me from studying Existentialism and performing Tai Chi in the fields of LMU. My plan was foolproof and had no drawbacks—that is until my plan backfired. While I thought I was artfully circumventing difficult classes by adding question marks onto all of my class answers, something horrible was happening right under my nose. I thought I would take my classes and come out as a graduate unscathed by the madness of philosophy. However, the horrible fate that I suffered would prove me very wrong. It is in sober reflection on this twisted fate that I can now confess my mistake: I enjoyed every single class I took. I had been tricked! What’s worse, although I used to dread writing essays, preparing arguments for debates, or actually reading the sources that I was supposed to be incorporating into my work, I started to find happiness and a great sense of fulfillment in those activities that used to vex me to the point of avoiding them entirely. While I thought I had been doing that by taking philosophy courses wherever I could, I had really been applying myself to the academics that I so despised. The only difference was that using a philosophical approach didn’t feel like work, and it definitely didn’t feel pointless. Having now graduated, I still have not been able to remove myself from the effects of this incident: while I pursue my dream career as a songwriter, the themes of philosophy are never far from my creative writing nor my understanding of the arts; as I begin a job as a writing reviser for high school and college-aged students at Prompt (Editate Inc.), I know that I owe my confidence as a reader and writer to this philosophy department; and as I continue to face stressful dilemmas that the 2020s are apt to face us all with, I am eager to confront the world with the tools that I have. My first artistic endeavor post-grad has been to form a music group and spend time traveling the world while sharing my poetry, music, and passion for theatrics. Two months old at this time, my group is now in the process of mixing, mastering, and distributing our first EP album. We will also be touring the West Coast, playing at 10 different venues, and working with over 20 other artists in just over 3 weeks. While developing this project and helping younger students with their writing during my stay at Prompt, I will also continue my work as a TV/Film actor in Los Angeles.”

Nishanth Ramasubramanian, B.A. Philosophy, and Film & Television Production; Minor in Screenwriting; University Honors Program, 2022

“I entered LMU as a Film & TV Production major with (shamefully) dismissive views about Philosophy. But taking the first-year seminar ‘The Best Life’ with Dr. Treanor instantly changed my mind – I began to see the worth of Philosophy as a valuable guide for living life well. The following semester, I took an excellent Philosophical Inquiry class with Dr. Speak, and that cemented my desire to add a Philosophy double-major. As I graduate and step into the film industry – hoping to become a filmmaker and screenwriter, starting with a full-time job at the independent production company Media RED – I am incredibly grateful for this educational experience and its practical relevance. Not only has Philosophy sharpened my faculties for logic and reasoning (invaluable when dealing with day-to-day challenges), but it has genuinely made me a more creative person. Thinking about life’s biggest questions broadens our capacities for creative thinking, because it frees us from the small, humdrum concerns that plague our daily routines. One other thing I have appreciated about the Philosophy major in particular is how it has broadened my perspective. Even as a high-school student, I arrogantly felt I had all the right answers. But being exposed to a wide range of thinkers in my classes has made me appreciate various nuanced points of view, and has challenged me to deepen and hone my own. In a creative industry where one constantly has to weigh conflicting opinions and chime in with one’s own, this lesson is vital.”

Tera Vangelos, B.A., Magna cum Laude, in Philosophy; minor in Screenwriting, 2021

“I started off at LMU as a Screenwriting major, thinking that I would take a few philosophy classes for fun. By the end of my time at LMU, and after a lot of indecision, I became a philosophy major. This was one of the best choices I have ever made. Until my time at LMU, I never participated in classes. I so badly wanted to express my thoughts, but I was always too anxious. I decided that at LMU this would change. Even if it cost me the respect of my peers. Looking back, this may not have been a good or realistic attitude, but it worked out okay for me. Turns out, the average philosophy classroom is filled with people who want to speak up and share their own thoughts or ask questions. I think one of the reasons for this is that the classroom environment was always very safe and encouraging. For me personally, these classes were able to lower my anxiety because of methodological thinking that I got to engage in during these classes. The classes were overall very good for my mental health, because, shockingly enough, the professors are reasonable. They are very approachable and always willing to help. The only intimidating thing about them is their incredible knowledge in their areas of expertise. Before these classes, I was unable to discern what made a teacher good or bad. The professors in the philosophy department, through their passion for the subject and dedication to their students, showed me what being a good teacher was. This is why you should major in philosophy. Not only will this major teach you transferable skills, but you will be getting an education from people who will make the learning process exceedingly effective. Since my time at LMU, I have been missing my philosophy classes and being able to talk with people about philosophy. I plan to apply to graduate school in the coming years, but as of now I’m working with my hometown’s local division of the National Kidney Foundation and being told not to worry that I’m “not using my major, because no one does.” Little do they know, I use my major every day in nearly every aspect of my life.”

Haley Bulen, B.A., Philosophy Minor, 2021.                                                            NALCAP winner

“I remember the beginning of my philosophical journey like it was yesterday. I had an abrupt schedule change and needed to take a core requirement class to keep on track with my degree, so I signed up for Honors Philosophical Inquiry on Tuesdays and Thursdays (taught by Professor Shanahan). But it was at 8:00 AM. At first, I was NOT excited to have 8:00 AMs in my schedule. On top of that, I was quite nervous for my first philosophy course. My (false) impression of it was that it was just going to be a whole bunch of lectures about people from ancient Greece (no offense, Socrates). And boy, I could not have been more wrong about that! My first Philosophical Inquiry class was electrifying. I’d never been in an environment before where we openly discussed the root of the human experience, trying to answer questions such as “What is philosophy?” “What are we?” and “Can we shape our futures through our own choices?” I remember leaving class that day and thinking to myself, “This is like cardio, but for your brain!” And just as cardio improves one’s physical health, philosophy improves the way we think, learn, and interact with our world. To put it quite simply, philosophy makes us better people. Looking back on my four years at Loyola Marymount University, minoring in Philosophy has been one of the most rewarding and life-changing decisions I have made. Heck, if I could go back in time and double major in it, I would in a heartbeat! The world-class faculty made the subject matter and text digestible, enjoyable, and applicable to modern-day scenarios. The discussion-based format generated safe spaces to try out new ideas. Most notably, the thoughtful, hardworking, and kind philosophy community supported me in every step of my educational, professional, and personal journey. For anyone reading this blog post who needs a sign that they should major or minor in philosophy, consider this your sign. If you pursue a path in philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, you will be surrounded by incredible professors who care so much about their students and genuinely love teaching their coursework. You will be surrounded by students who are just as passionate about learning, thinking critically, and embodying LMU’s Jesuit values as you are. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, philosophy will make your life better. Not only will you be able to see philosophy’s influence on human literature, art, and aesthetics all over the world, but philosophy will also leave you with the tools and skills to reflect honestly on where you want to be in life, what is true, genuine happiness, and how can you best achieve authentic happiness through your actions and choices. So, my fellow “thinking things,” if any of these benefits sound enticing to you, sign up for the philosophy major or minor! It is one of the best decisions I’ve made at LMU. And I think you will think so too.”

Samantha Davis, B.A., Philosophy, 2019.                                                         Georgetown University Law Student

“I began my journey in Philosophy not at LMU, but at the University of Colorado Boulder, where I spent my freshman year of college. I started college as a political science major, as I intended to go to law school and had this notion that it was the archetypal pre-law major. I ended up transferring from Boulder to LMU after one year, but not before I took two philosophy classes and realized I had found my “thing.” I was never a great student in high school or even during my first year of college, but I thrived in my Philosophy classes and, for the first time in my life, felt excited to learn and actually enjoyed what I was studying. My decision to switch my major to Philosophy was not well-received by some of my friends and family, who made snide remarks about whether I’d ever get a job, and so I dug up statistics about philosophy majors having the best LSAT scores and other information to put them at ease. While I’m grateful for the impact studying Philosophy likely had on my LSAT score, those statistics don’t actually mean much to me. Studying Philosophy at LMU has shaped the way I see everything, how I interact with others, the reasons I have for believing what I do – cliché as it may sound, I literally would not be the person I am today without Philosophy. The LMU Philosophy Department has been especially instrumental to this. I believe that I owe all of my academic success to my philosophy professors, who have challenged me to do my best work and have supported me both inside and outside of the classroom. It wasn’t just reading Aristotle and Kant that interested me – it was the way my professors taught the material and how they facilitated discussions in the classroom that made the biggest difference. Their guidance pushed me to become a better writer, to think more critically, to engage more deeply – skills that have helped me in school, yes, but have also had an enormous impact in my personal life as well. In about three months I’ll be starting law school at Georgetown, which has been a source of both excitement and anxiety for me as of late. I’m planning to go into health law and intellectual property, in large part due to my interest in biomedical ethics. I will miss the intellectual rigor of studying Philosophy and I seriously cannot imagine studying law being as fun as the classes I’ve taken at LMU, but I know that my experiences have put me in the best position possible to pursue my goals, equipped with a curious mind and a nuanced worldview. I don’t know many other majors who can say that!”

                                                               Joe Coleman, B.A., Philosophy, 2019. KNOM Radio Mission, Nome, Alaska

“Coming into LMU as an undeclared liberal arts major, I had no real idea where I wanted my college years to take me. However, I quickly realized my interest in philosophy and found myself wanting to continue beyond my first class. Philosophy is a way of life much more than it is job training. It allowed me to more fully participate in the Jesuit ideal of cultivating the “whole person.” Philosophy not only allowed me to become a better writer, orator, and critical thinker, it also allowed me an opportunity to be more fully human. I am currently embarking on a year of service in Nome, Alaska with KNOM Radio Mission. Philosophy gave me the tools I needed not only trust myself to make this leap, but also to trust that I have the necessary skills to communicate effectively through media, where I hope to continue my career path. The most common question I would get asked when I mentioned I was majoring in philosophy was, “What are you going to do with that?” I found this question ironic in that it implies that philosophy is somehow only useful in the classroom. I believe just the opposite, that philosophy is most useful when taken beyond the classroom. Every day I get to engage in the discipline that I spent four years studying, and that is not something everyone can say. I am indebted to the LMU philosophy program for helping to shape me into who I am today, and I urge everyone who will listen to consider the benefits of studying philosophy.”

Daniel Siciliano, B.A., Philosophy & B.A., Applied Information Management Systems, graduated Summa cum Laude, 2019.

“I came into LMU with a very faint idea of what college was, and what I wanted to study, when I was gracefully forced to take a philosophy course by LMU. It was the most challenging class that I had taken by that time, and I did not particularly like it. But after the semester had ended, I found that I could not think or talk about anything except what I had learned in, and the questions that were asked by, this course. This course set the tone for the remainder of my time at LMU. I did not become a philosophy major until my professor began to gently insist that I consider it. I surrendered to my fate by my third semester: a philosophy major I would be! Philosophy initially seemed like the most satisfying solution to my curiosity. It asked me questions that I had never heard asked before, and questions that it seemed very important for me to try to answer. I went into it knowing that it would be very difficult work, and yet somehow convinced that it was work that I must do. After I threw myself into philosophy, though, it came with many unexpected gifts. First, I found that I had become a better friend, brother, son, etc. Engaging with various thinkers about ethics acted as a guide for me. Additionally, having thought seriously about questions that nearly everyone is interested in (like those about human nature, beauty, the goal of human life, truth), I had become, at least I liked to think so, a more interesting and helpful person to converse with. I also became a better all-around student. After a semester or two of serious study in philosophy, my core classes and classes for my other major became easier to a shocking degree. I found that I grasped the material with much less effort, that I didn’t have to rely so strongly on my memory for classes that I previously had to, and that I cut my studying time drastically and yet maintained at least as good of an understanding of the material as I had before. I think that my other classes became less difficult because philosophy taught me how to think, which replaced my habit of merely memorizing class content. Now I take in material, judge it, try to understand it and incorporate and connect it with other parts of my thinking. Before I would just stuff it into a compartment in my brain, barely processed and disconnected from other information, until the compartment overflowed and needed to be cleaned out and replaced with new things. The kind of thinking that I have learned from being a philosophy major has pervaded, and thus improved, so many aspects of my life. Not only is thinking rigorously and philosophically useful, but its fruits are also extraordinarily satisfying and enjoyable. It satisfies one of what I believe to be humanity’s strongest native desires: the desire to know or understand ourselves and the world in which we live. I have not yet decided what I will do after I graduate, although I have a growing suspicion that I will not be able to keep away from philosophy for long. As one of my professors said, “Philosophy gets a hold on you, and it doesn’t let you go.” With that being said, I will likely meet a graduate degree sometime in my future.”

Emma Rose Hardy, B.A., Philosophy & Psychology, 2017. Ph.D. student in Philosophy, University of Michigan

“Like many other incoming freshmen, when I started my undergraduate education, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. All I knew for certain was that I enjoyed reading and writing, and wanted to be able to think clearly and articulate arguments well. This made philosophy the perfect major for me, because I knew these would be useful skills regardless of whatever field I ended up in. During my time as an undergraduate, my post-grad plans bounced around. I contemplated PhD studies in Philosophy. Then I considered pursuing social work as I learned more about social injustices. When I realized that social work wouldn’t be intellectually stimulating enough, I decided to pursue a law degree in public interest law. I thought law would be my final decision, but in January of my senior year I took another turn: I realized that I loved philosophy too much and there were too many questions I wanted to learn about—so I came full circle, back to my initial plan, and am currently working on applying to PhD programs in Philosophy. Because my change in direction created an unintended “gap year,” I applied and was accepted to the Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder. The theme for the three-week graduate-level seminar for the summer of 2017 is Thought Experiments. I’ve also been accepted into the COMPASS Workshop at the University of Michigan — a two-day workshop for diversity in philosophy which consists of philosophical discussion, networking, and mentoring. I am excited to continue pursuing my studies in philosophy! Although my post-grad trajectory kept changing, I never second-guessed whether philosophy was the right major for me. I still believe that whatever path I had ended up following, philosophy would have been equally useful. By majoring in philosophy I learned critical skills such as evaluating arguments, writing clearly and concisely, and challenging all of my presuppositions about the world. In addition, through my many hours spent in professors’ office hours, I learned how to clearly articulate my own thoughts and engage in philosophical discussions (not to mention discussions about life in general, but who says that isn’t philosophy as well?). Now that I’ve graduated from LMU with a degree in Philosophy, I go into the world as a better reader, writer, thinker, and speaker, and I know that wherever I do end up, my course of studies has prepared me well.”

Matt DuPreePic.JPGMatt DuPree, B.A., Philosophy 2017. Student, LMU M.A. Program in Philosophy

“I transferred to LMU in the fall of 2015 from Santa Monica College as a film major. After taking several courses in philosophy, I recognized that ideas were my real passion, and so I changed majors. The class sizes are small; this encourages vigorous debate about important philosophical issues, and allows for a great deal of interaction among classmates who are equally passionate about the subject. This also allows for direct interaction with your professors. If you ever feel as though you have failed to grasp a complex concept, your professors are entirely accessible to discuss any idea with you in order to help improve your understanding. Choosing to major in philosophy furnishes you with the skills you will need to lead a good life: critical thinking, self-reflection, and the ability to communicate through writing. I feel that choosing to change my major to philosophy was the best decision I made in college. The classes challenged me in a way that no other classes did, which led to the growth of my personal character in addition to the intellectual stimulation that I experienced. I am currently studying for the GRE, as well as working on writing samples, in preparation for applying to graduate school in philosophy, but the skills that I have gained would benefit me in any occupation that I could choose to pursue.”

Brittany McKinley-2Brittany McKinley, Philosophy Minor, 2015. University of Chicago Law School student

“I graduated from LMU with a philosophy minor in 2015. Since, graduation, I have gone on to work as a legal assistant at a Business Litigation firm in Irvine, gaining a lot of much-needed experience before applying to law school. I have now been accepted into the University of Chicago Law School which I will be attending this Fall. Being a philosophy minor definitely contributed to my getting into a top-five law school. Philosophy’s emphasis on reasoning and being able to properly articulate that reasoning equipped me with the skills necessary to do well on the LSAT and exceedingly well in interviews. I loved my experience with the Philosophy Department and would definitely encourage anyone interested in the legal field to take it on as a major or minor.”

Caroline headshotCaroline Liviakis, B.A. Philosophy/Dance, 2014. M.F.A. Student Dance, Mills College.

“During my first two years at LMU, I experimented with a variety of different majors and minors. After taking two introductory philosophy courses, I was completely hooked—no other subject compared in terms of commanding the attention of my mind and stretching its bounds further due to the perpetual questioning the subject demands. In studying philosophy at LMU, my writing skills dramatically improved, my ability to articulate ideas developed, and I began to think much more critically. This not only helped in all of my academics, but also expanded to my personal life and beliefs. This personal transformation was due in no small part to the dedication of the philosophy faculty. LMU, particularly the Philosophy Department, has a core value for professors to be open to one-on-one discussion and help to students. My constant initiative to attend office hours and the encouragement I received from faculty members to ask questions and debate them, deepened my understanding of class material but also expanded well beyond. I benefited immensely from these opportunities—it was moments like these that I grew the most as a thinker. Along with taking the normal course load of a philosophy student, I had the opportunity to conduct my own research in the fields of logic, philosophy, and metaphysics. I presented my research on the topics of identity statements and names at the 2013 and 2014 LMU Research Symposiums. While at LMU I was accepted into the Summer Seminar in Philosophy at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where I along with a select group of 20 students from around the world engaged in a three-week intensified graduate seminar on the topic of Justice. I was also accepted into the Summer Institute for Diversity in Philosophy, a program for potential philosophy Ph.D. candidates at Rutgers University and received financial support from the American Philosophical Association to attend. I would often be asked why I studied both philosophy and dance, two fields that are seemingly worlds apart. The fact is that the arts and philosophy have so much to offer each other. Studying philosophy has enhanced and directed my choreography in terms of its coherence, meaningfulness, impact, clarity, and intelligence. The content of my work is on occasion dictated by philosophic arguments or ideas. Prior to studying philosophy, I saw choreographing as pure movement-generation whose ultimate goal was to ‘look interesting’. Now, I view my pieces as communication avenues where the entire piece constructs an argument or an idea, and each movement phrase indicates a premise leading to the final conclusion. With this mindset, my attention to detail and movement-to-movement coherence has increased dramatically and has resulted in much more satisfying and impactful work. I will graduate next year from the Master of Fine Arts program for choreography at Mills College. My plans afterward include teaching at the University level and developing my choreography for future evening-length showings.”

Alexander ZambranoAlexander Zambrano, B.A. Philosophy, 2012. Ph.D. University of Colorado

“Immediately after graduating from LMU as a philosophy major, I moved to Colorado with my wife to pursue my PhD in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder. I am now in my third year of graduate school, where I am focusing on applied and biomedical ethics. I’m currently planning to write a dissertation on the ethics of organ transplants, focusing on the various moral problems that arise when thinking about organ allocation and retrieval. I am currently working on a paper on liver transplants, and whether patients who are morally responsible for their liver failure (say, due to years of excessive alcohol consumption) ought to receive lower priority for a liver transplant when competing with patients who require a transplant through no fault of their own. Without a doubt, my time spent in the philosophy department at LMU played a pivotal role in my success as a graduate student. In LMU’s philosophy department I was taught how to do careful and disciplined work, and this allowed me to develop greatly as a philosophy student and person in general. The philosophy faculty at LMU collectively worked hard to help me achieve my goal of getting into top PhD programs in philosophy. From spending a countless amount of time chatting and discussing philosophy during office hours, to giving me extensive feedback on all aspects of my work, the philosophy faculty at LMU gave me the training and care I needed to become successful in graduate school. Not only did I receive individualized attention while studying at LMU, I felt that every faculty member in the department cared about me as a person; this has left a positive, lasting impression on me that I’ll never forget.”

RussRuss Belli-Estreito, B.A. Philosophy, 2012.  Political Consultant

“It only took one course in logic to make me change my major from political science to philosophy. Even now that I work in politics, I still stand by that decision. Not only do I appreciate philosophy for its own sake, but its emphasis on critical thinking and effective writing has proven extremely useful in my work as a political consultant. Since graduating from LMU, I have worked on campaigns in eight different states, filling both communications and management roles. I also haven’t abandoned my passion for philosophy. I have had the opportunity to cover philosophical topics in the news as a freelance journalist for The American Spectator.”

Chad RichmanChad Richman, B.A. Philosophy & Theater Arts/Dance, 2011. University of Chicago Law School student.

“After graduating from LMU, I was a bit unsure about the direction my life would go. I was being pulled in many conflicting directions, and so I decided to spend some time with my family while I decided what to do. I spent some time working various jobs, training in martial arts and parkour, and working with friends on film projects. In the end I decided to apply to law school. I did very well on the LSAT and I am now in my first year at The University of Chicago Law School. My philosophy degree served me well during this time. After graduating I felt an enormous pressure to have everything figured out, but at LMU I learned how to focus on the important things. To ask myself: “What is the Good Life?” and then pursue that question where it leads. My philosophy degree taught me the patience I needed to think through my options carefully before choosing my next adventure. As a practical matter, my philosophy education prepared me incredibly well for the LSAT. The LSAT is predominantly logic and argumentation. I really felt as if I already had been studying for the test for four years. These same skills have served me well in law school. I have only completed two courses so far, but I have been very happy with my performance. I know my philosophy education has contributed to my success.”

Brian WlcekBrian Wlcek, B.A. Philosophy, 2009. Captain,    United States Marine Corps

“When I tell folks what my major in college was they immediately ask, “How does one go from studying philosophy at a Jesuit university to joining the military?” The answer is simple: there is not much difference between joining the Peace Corps and joining the Marine Corps; they are both a form of service to a greater cause. But my reasons for joining the military were more nuanced than just wanting to serve and were heavily affected by my studies as a philosophy major at LMU. During my years learning about and discussing ethics, existentialism, metaphysics, epistemology, life and death and the nature of the human condition with peers and faculty at LMU, I began to have a deep sense of wonder about how all these theories and thoughts related to the actual lived experience of people’s lives. I wondered, “Do any of these theories stand up to the test of life beyond the walls of U-Hall and the pristine campus of LMU?” I wanted to go see where the rubber meets the road. Upon my graduation from LMU in 2009, I became an infantry officer in the Marine Corps and over the next six years saw myself deployed to the war in Afghanistan twice and also spent 13 months in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as an advisor to the Royal Saudi Navy. My background in philosophical logic, reasoning, rationality and a learned ability to “think outside the box” all uniquely contributed to my experiences as a consultant to military leaders across cultural and linguistic barriers. My training at LMU in ethics and metaphysics allowed me to have a much more informed understanding of the nature of life and death, morality, human sacrifice and suffering that often played out in front of my eyes in Afghanistan. Throughout my service, I had many experiences that touched the core of my existence and furthered my understanding of the world around me. This was possible because studying philosophy had given me a logical framework to work within, a moral compass that had been tested in the classroom before it was tested on the battlefield, and taught me to think pragmatically and honestly while I navigated the trials of life in the military. The LMU philosophy faculty does not set the bar so low as to say that philosophy will train you for this job or that job, they set the bar higher to say that philosophy trains you for life, in whichever way it unrolls before you.”

Whitney ChelgrenWhitney Chelgren, B.A. Philosophy, 2009; J.D., Loyola Law School. Associate at Alston & Bird LLP in the firm’s Litigation & Trial Practice Group

“After graduating from LMU, I received a full-ride scholarship to Loyola Law School in Los Angeles, where I earned a J.D. (magna cum laude). As a law student, I served as the chief developments editor for Loyola of Los Angeles Law Review and published an article entitled, “Preventive Detention Distorted: Why It Is Unconstitutional to Detain Immigrants Without Procedural Protections.” I also worked at the National Senior Citizens Law Center and held a judicial externship in the Central District of California. I passed the California bar in 2012 and am now a second year associate at Alston & Bird LLP in the firm’s Litigation & Trial Practice Group. I’m also a member of the firm’s Pro Bono Committee. I am very thankful for the opportunities and mentorship I was provided as a philosophy major at LMU. The Philosophy Department fostered my ability to think critically and provided me with analytic tools that are fundamental to the practice of law. It also connected me to a network of professors and alumni who have been invaluable resources both professionally and personally. Most importantly, the Philosophy Department instilled in me a deep commitment to social justice which will influence my career for years to come.”

Jennifer Lynn NeczyporJennifer Lynn Neczypor, B.A. Philosophy, Spanish, & Screenwriting, 2009. Nurse practitioner

“The study of philosophy first captivated me as a junior in high school. When I came to LMU, I was so impressed with my first philosophy classes that I decided to add philosophy as a second major. What I found most valuable about the philosophy classes at LMU was the fact that professors did not tell you the answers to questions, but rather encouraged you to come up with your own answers – answers that, more often than not led to even deeper questions. I also loved the wide scope of philosophy classes offered, from the basic introduction courses covering ancient Greek philosophy, medieval philosophy, and Renaissance-era philosophy to contemporary courses on Eastern philosophical traditions, environmental philosophy, and even “The Lord of the Rings”! For me personally, I chose to study philosophy as a way of exploring and developing my individual spiritual, moral, and ethical beliefs, and as a result, found myself learning not only how to think in a logical, philosophical manner, but also what questions to ask of myself, of others, and of the world around me. The demonstrated commitment of the Philosophy Department to the Jesuit values of social justice, service, and integrity motivated me to spend eight months of my academic career studying Eastern philosophical traditions in India, where I lived in a Tibetan Buddhist monastery, volunteered in the slums of Kolkata, and participated in Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religious ceremonies. One of the major values that I took from my philosophy studies was that philosophy does not exist in an existential, isolated bubble somewhere in our minds, but that it is meant to be lived out and practiced in a very concrete way. This revelation inspired me to serve the underprivileged of the world after graduation, and I chose to spend over two years as a Peace Corps educator on Vanuatu, a small, remote island in the South Pacific. This experience, in turn, demonstrated to me the desperate need for quality health care in at-risk villages and developing nations around the globe, particularly with regard to access to care for women and children. As a result, I have returned to the United States to pursue a career as a nurse practitioner. I have no doubt that I will use all the skills my philosophy studies taught me to develop in my new career, and I know that I would not have chosen this path had I not had the opportunity to explore diverse cultures, ideas, religions, and systems of thought as an LMU undergraduate philosophy student.”

Malani Dale Kotchka-AlanesMalani Dale Kotchka-Alanes, B.A. Philosophy, Political Science & Spanish, 2008. Associate Attorney, Lewis Roca Rothgerber

“Ah, philosophy! I feel like I could write pages on this subject, but I’ll try to keep my reflections to a few sentences. Ever since my undergraduate days in the philosophy program at LMU, my professors and the art of philosophy itself have encouraged me to think critically, reason logically, and question what I really want out of life and if I am pursuing the best path to obtain it. I am currently Associate Attorney at the law firm of Lewis Roca Rothgerber. I am sure my philosophy training and Dr. Stone’s classes on symbolic logic helped me to ace the LSAT, get into Yale Law School, and, to this day, be able to identify the reasoning flaws in opposing counsel’s arguments. My dad was actually a philosophy major, and I know everyone says “there’s nothing you can do with it but teach” – but I really do think it prepares you and teaches wonderful thinking and reasoning skills, in addition to exposing you to new ideas and ways of thinking. On a more personal level, my training in philosophy has helped me be more confident in making my faith a part of my life. Both philosophy and religion remind us that there is a greater purpose to our existence and to not get caught up in the daily grind, pressures, and deceiving traps of life. They remind us that the only true “sickness unto despair” is when we lack that faith and sense of purpose in our lives.”

Sean Winkler, B.A. Philosophy & Political Science, LMU 2008, M.A. Philosophy, LMU 2010. Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Philosophy at National Research University – Higher School of Economics (Moscow).

“While I enjoyed many of my Freshman-year university courses at LMU, Philosophy of Human Nature struck me in a way that no other subject ever had before. I remember the words of the first text that we read, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Existentialism is a Humanism, leaping out at me from the page: for human beings, he wrote, “existence precedes essence”. That is, we are the creators of our own destiny and radically responsible for ourselves. No other subject had this capacity to strike me both so personally and yet also with such a sense of the scale and vastness of the world itself. Philosophy changed me and it would continue to do so as I decided to become a Philosophy major and explore the works of the pioneers of phenomenological thought like Edmund Husserl and Martin Heidegger as well as those of grand systems of nature like Daoism, Spinoza and Hegel, which stress the interconnectedness of all things. Not to mention that at LMU, philosophy was never just an abstract exercise, but a form meditation that was always tied to practice, particularly from questions of social justice. As the years went by, I decided that I wanted to take this transformative experience I felt privileged to have had and share it with students of my own. And so, I decided to devote my career to philosophy. To strike out on this career path, I decided to start in a new place altogether, the idea being that starting fresh would offer the best opportunity of creating myself or discovering my place in the larger whole, or perhaps something of both. So in 2010, I set out to begin my M.Phil. at KU Leuven in the picturesque, medieval town of Leuven, Belgium. There, I would spend the next seven years, completing my M.Phil. on the thought of 20th-century philosopher, Gilles Deleuze in 2012, and eventually, my Ph.D. on the thought of 17th-century philosopher, Baruch Spinoza. After I completed my Ph.D. I was hired to be a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Moscow, Russia, where my research addresses the relationship between class, technological development and conceptions of nature in the writings of a little-known Soviet philosopher named Boris Hessen. Next year, my girlfriend and I are most likely moving back to the United States and while my goal is still to work as a university professor, because of the course my interests have taken in my doctoral and postdoctoral research, I’ve become greatly interested in the possibility of working outside of the academic sphere as well, particularly in the areas of labor rights and/or environmental protection. Whether teaching philosophy is my calling after all or whether it has been the path that I needed to take to find it, I cannot yet say with certainty. What I can say for sure, however, is that the journey upon which philosophy has led me, both internal and external, has been worth every step of the way.”

Daniel SarafinasDaniel Sarafinas, B.A. Philosophy & English, 2008. Shipbroker

“Despite currently being a shipbroker, which does not require familiarity with Plato or Kant on a daily basis, I use the the skills I’ve learned and the connections I’ve made studying philosophy at LMU on a daily basis. Certainly they have opened many doors to opportunities that directly led to my current occupation as well as to exciting life experiences that I otherwise would not have had. The ability to think and express oneself clearly, logically, and creatively as well as the ability to understand complex systems are skills that are beneficial in essentially any human endeavour. Practicing philosophy helps one hone these skills perhaps more than any other academic field. In addition to providing me with a specific skill set, the philosophy department at LMU helped me to create networks both within and outside of academia and both domestically and internationally. During my years at LMU studying the philosophy of Chinese thought led me to a semester abroad in Beijing and through connections I made there and with a lot of help from my professors at LMU, was offered a full scholarship to study for my master’s degree at Central South University in Changsha, Hunan province, China, as the first foreign student to study philosophy within this department. After graduating I was offered a job by my current CEO (not coincidentally also a philosophy major in his college years) specifically because of the skill set I was taught in the LMU philosophy department and my Chinese language skills/experiences that the LMU philosophy department gave me the opportunity to achieve. As an international shipbroker working for a French company, I am working primarily in Shanghai, Singapore, and Paris and travelling to many other countries around the world, but I have still preserved my love of reading and discussing philosophy and have preserved my strong connection with the LMU Philosophy Department.”

Cecilia SamCecile H. Sam, B.A. Philosophy & English, 2000; Ph.D. in Education Policy (USC). Researcher at the Consortium for Policy Research in Education at the University of Pennsylvania.

“Studying philosophy at LMU provided me with a strong theoretical basis and the analytical skills necessary to design studies and conduct research in my field. As a qualitative methodologist, my studies in ethics at LMU have played an important role in shaping the ways I approach working with participants and collecting data by fostered a belief that ethics must play an important role in research. In short, my philosophy education at LMU has helped me to become a better scholar and researcher in so many ways. It was a great decision!”

Gilbert2Christopher Gilbert, B.A. Philosophy, 1991; M.A. (Boston College); Ph.D. (UC Riverside). Professor, Cuesta College.

“I teach philosophy and religious studies at Cuesta College, which is a community college in San Luis Obispo, CA. I greatly enjoy teaching at the community college, largely because I value the opportunity to give students their first exposure to philosophy. My work has appeared in American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly, History of Philosophy Quarterly, Journal of Philosophical ResearchMethod: Journal of Lonergan Studies, and Pacific Philosophical Quarterly. I was not a philosophy major when I entered LMU, but my encounter with philosophy there would shape the course of my life thereafter. The philosophy department influenced my decision to attend graduate school, and my choice of career, in three key ways. First, the passion LMU professors had for philosophy kindled my own interest in the subject. Second, my professors made philosophy accessible to me. Third, and most important, my LMU philosophy instructors clearly loved what they were doing, and their enthusiasm was infectious. To this day, when students ask me how I came to be a philosopher, I can answer honestly that it was because I was inspired by my philosophy professors at LMU. When I was a student in their classes, I often thought to myself, “I want to enjoy my work as much as these people do!” Thus, my pursuit of advanced degrees and my career both trace back to my time as a philosophy major at LMU. When I reflect on the education I received at LMU, I am especially grateful that the major required a foundational sequence of courses in the history of philosophy. Many of the ideas of even the greatest philosophers have been revisions of or reactions against the ideas of earlier thinkers. For this reason, a full understanding of philosophical ideas is virtually impossible without a sense of how those ideas developed over time. In both of the graduate programs I attended, I encountered students who had earned B.A. degrees in philosophy at other institutions, but who had little or no sense of how western philosophy had evolved through the ancient, medieval, and modern periods. The philosophy major at LMU is carefully crafted to ensure that those who complete it have a keen sense of that philosophical history.”

Michael BaurMichael Baur, B.A. Philosophy & Theology, 1985. Ph.D. (Toronto), J.D. (Harvard). Associate Professor of Philosophy at Fordham University

“Upon entering LMU as a freshman, I was both impressed and overwhelmed by the vast diversity of ideas, theories, and opinions on offer at this vibrant college campus.  This diversity also posed some serious philosophical problems for me: if my own opinion about a particular issue happens to differ from the opinions of others, am I not then committed to saying to these others, “You are wrong”? And what right do I have to say to others, “You are wrong,” especially when these others may have thought longer, harder, and more intelligently about the particular issue at hand?” With the help of my professors and fellow students at LMU, I spent the next four years grappling with these and related questions. Over the course of my four years, I became convinced (and I remain convinced) that many of the disagreements that people have regarding politics, social policy, and the common good are disguised forms of philosophical disagreement which can and should be clarified through philosophical reflection. I went on to earn a Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Toronto, and then a J.D. law degree at Harvard University. I currently am an Associate Professor at Fordham University, where I teach courses in the Philosophy Department and the Law School. But it was at LMU that I first developed the confidence to pursue the questions which continue to animate my living and thinking to this day, and first developed the conviction that these questions are not merely academic ones but absolutely central to our lives as rational animals whose vocation is to reflect on what it means to live well with others, even in the midst of disagreement.”

These are just a few of the many LMU Philosophy majors whose lives and the world have been enhanced by studying Philosophy. Why not let us add your story to this list?