Majors: Philosophy, mathematics
Why did you select your majors?
I selected Knowledge & Inquiry (KI) as one of my A-Level subjects in high school, so I studied epistemology (a subarea of philosophy) for two years prior to college. I found it endlessly fascinating right from the start. However, [due to my] grade in KI, while I still came into college as a philosophy major, I was definitely looking around for alternatives. Luckily, my first philosophy class was with Dr. Harry Ide, and after chatting with him about my background and goals in philosophy during the first week of class, I felt a lot more assured about staying in philosophy. When I was a freshman in Fall 2019, the philosophy department still did a beginning-of-the-year, meet-the-department pizza thing for the undergrads, and there Harry introduced me to other faculty members and generally helped me get plugged into the department right away.
I declared a math major in my second semester [because] I wanted to keep taking math classes for fun and I thought it was awkward to do so without being a STEM student. I also fared the best in math in high school and had a mentor encourage me not to give up on math, so I just decided to keep taking more classes to see where that would lead me. I also had a really amazing TA, Stephen Becklin, who would spend hours entertaining many of my questions that were completely outside the scope of the class, which played a huge role in sparking my interest for math.
My favourite math class by far is MATH 445 Number Theory with Dr. Nathan Wakefield. The content was definitely more up my alley (as my interests in math skew very heavily toward abstract, proof-y pure math) than some other classes I had taken. More importantly though, the way Dr. Wakefield ran the class has benefitted me far beyond the mathematical realm; there was a huge focus on discussion and in-class presentations (which is rather uncommon for a math class), and as a result I’ve become far more comfortable, confident and competent at presentations thanks to his class. He was also really accessible outside of the classroom and we had a lot of conversations that I’ve found to be really insightful and helpful.
I’ve enjoyed the vast majority of my philosophy coursework, but if I had to pick one course, I’d go with PHIL 920 Ethical Theory with Dr. John Brunero in Fall 2021. That seminar introduced me to what I currently consider to be my main area of interest – reasons and rationality – and I had a lot of fun.
I’d also like to mention ENGL 380: Writing Center Theory and Practice with Dr. Rachel Azima. Even though it’s not a class in any of my majors, it’s one of my favourite classes I’ve ever taken in college. I gained pedagogical knowledge that has given me a lot of confidence and practical skills as I look forward to grad school and teaching in the future. I also received a lot of feedback from Dr. Azima that was instrumental in building my confidence as a writer. (In the same vein, ENGL 150 with Alexandra Bissell also went a long way in building my confidence as a writer especially early on in my college career, and I’m extremely grateful to her.)
Who have been some of your strongest mentors or role models here?
I’ve been extremely fortunate to have been surrounded and supported by some amazing people here at UNL. In the Department of Philosophy, John Brunero has been on the receiving end of many freakouts as I applied to grad school this past cycle and continues to support me through the decision-making process. Mark van Roojen has also been very helpful in keeping me calm(er) throughout this process and has taught me a lot about navigating grad school and academia in general. Aaron Bronfman has been extremely generous with his time starting from my freshman year all the way until now, as has Harry Ide and Adam Thompson. Quinn White has also given me a lot of feedback and advice along the way. Reina Hayaki’s belief in me early on also gave me the push I needed to accomplish all that I have so far.
The grad students in the department have also been very welcoming and helpful.
Outside of the department, Nathan Wakefield, Christine Kelley, and Stephen Becklin from the Department of Mathematics, the Writing Center staff (too many to name), my academic advisors Sarah Feit and Doug Pellatz, Angela Bolen, and Alexandra Bissell have also been extremely supportive. (Sorry if I’m forgetting anyone!)
Do you have research experience?
I recently defended my senior thesis on substantive rationality! The project consisted of heavily revising a seminar paper that I had written for one of my classes under the supervision of my advisors John Brunero and Aaron Bronfman.
Have you had an internship or job? If so, how have your majors helped you with it?
I’ve been working at the UNL Writing Center as a Writing Consultant and a Writing Fellow for the past two years. My training in philosophy has instilled in me an argumentative rigour and an ability to quickly grasp a wide range of concepts that have been extremely useful in working with writers on a variety of types of writing, even in genres and fields far outside my usual areas. Conversely though, I’ve also found that working at the Writing Center has made me better as an aspiring philosophy instructor; I’ve grown to become attuned to pedagogical issues through my work and through many helpful conversations with my colleagues that has prepared me well for teaching in grad school and beyond.
I’ve also worked as a Learning Assistant for the Math Department in the past, which involved facilitating group discussions in entry-level math classes. I found that my upper-level math coursework gave me sufficient theoretical background to draw from as I craft explanations for students and my background in a non-STEM field gave me greater perspective and allowed me to be more versatile in my explanations, which was important in my work with mostly non-STEM students.
What are you involved in on campus or in the community?
Besides my on-campus jobs, I also served as an officer for the undergraduate Philosophy Club for two years, first as secretary then later as president. My work here focused on rebuilding the club when we returned to campus in fall 2021 and making philosophy accessible to the UNL community at large, which involved putting together a series of talks given by our graduate students and faculty members.
What are your plans after graduation?
I’m still figuring out exactly where I’ll end up, but I’ll be starting a PhD programme in philosophy in the fall!