Kelsie Brust, Class of 2011
Days after my five year St. Olaf Reunion, my husband and I uprooted with six suitcases and showed up on the streets of Barcelona for the first time. Thus began our two year adventure of living in Spain, while I pursued an International MBA at IESE. The nimbleness of thought and critical thinking gained from my Olaf Philosophy major was the perfect toolkit to continue to expand my thinking in this MBA program. It was no small thing to break down some of my own embedded cultural assumptions and join the international community. Philosophy courses were also perfect training ground for the business school ‘case study method’ – which was nothing short of fun and reminiscent of life-giving discussions in Holland Hall.
Then in 2018 my husband and I took our next international leap and moved to Copenhagen, Denmark (the land of Kirkegaard!). I have pursued a career in strategy and project management here at Novo Holdings (a large investment fund focused on medical innovation that is 100% owned by a not-for-profit). Such an entity has interesting implications on how incentive and ownership structures can forward responsible and ethical business practices (something I am passionate about!). During my time in Copenhagen in 2019 I also got to represent the Copenhagen hub of the Global Shapers at their annual global conference (which included one representative from each country). There I encountered a fellow Ole (Jessica) who was also leading the Minneapolis hub at the time. Fun to have two young Ole women in the global conversation of how can we improve the state of the world.
My husbands and my latest adventure is raising our daughter Elizabeth Sapphire (currently 15 months old). We like being able to pick and choose the parenting practices from different cultures globally and doing some things the ‘Danish way’ (leaving her sleeping in a pram outside) and other things the ‘American Way’ (white noise at bedtime). Parenting raises all sorts of existential, metaphysical and epistemological questions. I believe we have the opportunity during any journey in life to integrate a philosophical lens to the adventure. I have found this to be a mechanism for enriching and deepening life’s experiences, and have found parenting to be no exception.
Jon Lambert, Class of 2011
I’m currently in my third year of a PhD program studying evolutionary biology in Cornell University’s Neurobiology and Behavior department. Specifically I’m interested in how new species form, and am using a group of rapidly speciating Hawaiian crickets to address this question. In addition to being a well-suited system for my interests, studying these crickets has the added bonus of going to Hawaii for field work, which has been a lot of fun! The study of speciation has a significant philosophical component, as the notion of what constitutes a species is a hairy issue where definitions and assumptions often confuse even the most distinguished biologists. I’ve found that my training at St. Olaf in philosophy has prepared me well to hone in on the language and assumptions of arguments in science to understand their fundamental meaning.
The idea of majoring in philosophy came to me rather suddenly towards the end of my sophomore year, while I was contemplating the fact that Great Con ending would halt my study of philosophy! Once it occurred to me I didn’t give it a second thought, and I count pursuing a major in philosophy as one of the best decisions of my collegiate career. Through studying philosophy I became much better at distilling arguments down to their bare assumptions and logical structure. This ability is crucial to any area of study, but I find it especially useful in science when thinking about hypotheses and predictions, and the methods used to test them. Studying philosophy also greatly enhanced my writing skills, and I felt I had a leg up starting grad school when it came to constructing clear and persuasive written arguments. Aside from these practical skills, and most importantly, I simply love studying philosophy. Doing philosophy enriches my life through the thoughtful contemplation of life’s most interesting issues – How should we live? How do we know what we know? What is the nature (if any) of God? Solid answers are almost never reached, but the process of analyzing these issues in a rigorous manner forever changed how I think about everything, and has added an invaluable depth and richness to my experience of life. While I’ve shifted professional focus to science rather than philosophy, I like to think that I’ll never really stop doing philosophy.
Miriam Brown, Class of 2012
I graduated from St. Olaf with a Philosophy degree in 2012. I got my Masters in Educational Science at Purdue University, graduating in 2014, and I now work as an elementary school counselor in Madison, Wisconsin. My coworkers and principal laugh at my ability to infuse my social-emotional curriculum for the students with Socrates and Plato! My principal shared that I was hired because he loves the critical thinking skills I have from all the coursework I took in the St. Olaf philosophy department.
Fran Deram, Class of 2012
My name is Frances Deram and I am probably one of the youngest in this group of alumni, having graduated only a year ago (2012). At St. Olaf, I majored in Philosophy and Asian Studies, with a concentration in Chinese. Although I still have much of my life ahead of me, I can say for certain that I will never forget my classes with Professor Harper, Grenberg, Fuerstein, Taliaferro, Marino, Rudd, Swain, and Cunningham. With their help and patience, I was able to flourish as a confident, independent thinker.
Immediately after graduation, I fulfilled a high school dream and left for rural and impoverished Yunnan province in China as a fellow in the Teach for China cohort (a non-profit organization that falls under the “Teach for All” programs, within which Teach for America also resides). In my village, I teach oral English to over 600 elementary and middle school students. I am fluent in Mandarin Chinese and have picked up some of the local dialect – Dachaoshanese. A quieter student in college, I found a voice for public speaking out of necessity.
Since my and my cohorts’ arrival at the Dachaoshan Middle School, we have drawn in an unexpected amount of publicity and commotion (especially because I am the first and only foreigner living in the area). My brushes with stardom include hosting Zhang Xin, the CEO of SOHO and China’s “Oprah”, being invited to participate in a well-known Chinese game show, participating in a local filmmaker’s mini-documentary about our volunteer work (*link below, subtitles in English), and appearing on the local news network and newspaper. While I am not in the classroom teaching or washing my clothes by hand, I am visiting my students and their families at their homes, many of whom live a walking distance of six hours away. My time hiking up and down terraced rice fields has almost made up for the time spent in Rolvaag writing papers for my philosophy classes…
Philosophy helped me in the way that I expected and hoped it would: to live life beautifully and teach others how to live beautifully. In their lives, my students face suffering in the forms of poverty, malnutrition, loneliness, broken families, and, at some times, corporeal punishment and death. Everyday that I teach is an important one–one that can move them out of economic inequality to a live a life they dream of. It matters that my students become independent, rational thinkers equipped with the curiousness for learning. Ultimately, my students are the future of their village and part of a brighter future for China. I know now, in light of my students’ oftentimes suffocating situations, that philosophy enables a person to find freedom. Soon, although I will end my fellowship with Teach for China, I hope to continue to work for freedom and for those who do not have it. I am indebted to the St. Olaf Philosophy Department and many St. Olaf professors to help me become an aspiring human rights worker, lawyer, and vignette writer.
Casey Keyes, Class of 2012
I graduated in 2012 and have been serving with AmeriCorps VISTA since I graduated (except for a brief internship with the Mayo Clinic). I serve as the program coordinator with the Saint Paul EMS Academy. The EMS Academy is a non-profit program that recruits low-income, under-served, and culturally and ethnically diverse youth to train as EMTs and firefighters in order to create a medical workforce in Twin Cities that reflects their diverse populations. My philosophy major has a substantive impact on my service with the EMS Academy. The analytical and writing skills I acquired while studying philosophy have helped me raise more that $67,000 for the ongoing operation of the program and an additional $4,000 in equipment through grants. The philosophy major has also endowed me with an investigative lens through which I view the world.
I doubled my Philosophy major with a Chemistry major and I am currently applying to medical school where I will be able to apply my philosophical worldview in a sector that I believe could use some more philosophical consideration. Although I doubt I will ever be an academic philosopher, I am infinitely gracious for the education I gained during my time at Saint Olaf.
Matt Sperry, Class of 2012
At the Philosophy Graduation picnic at Prof. Swain’s home I proudly declared that I was going back to Boston to become a professional hobo. This was a mix of playful optimism and awareness that the job market today is ruthless and uncertain. 19 philosophy classes (including Great Con) didn’t seem like the most marketable skill set so I was hedging my bets.
Upon returning home I went back to my summer camp and then began, very lazily, the job search. It’s brutal. Nothing can overcome the fact that after college, employers want you to already have entry level experience. My first gig was working behind the meat counter at Whole Foods Market. Jimmy, Vinnie, Tony and Bob weren’t exactly concerned with the epistemology of the cows we butchered, or the metaphysics of cutting an object, but they had their own curiosities that had depth and complexity to them. Applied philosophy is more important now than ever in a world that is constantly being reinvented by new technologies and quickly shifting global politics. Everybody tries to do it, but as a philosophy major you have access to advice from ancient men and women whose ideas literally have shaped history.
One of my customers worked in Sports Ethics (that’s a real field!) and when he finally gave me his card I sent him an email applauding his work and dropping a line about how Camus said that everything he learned about ethics he learned from sports. This email circulated his office and two months later I was an unpaid intern working for Northeastern University’s Center for the Study of Sport in Society. While working there, facilitating conversations on men’s violence against women, bullying, cheating in sports and whatever scandal reared its ugly head in the news, I was slowly running out of money. Enter: Craigslist.
Five random job applications and one phone call later I was interviewing to become the Household Coordinator, or rather the Butler, to a former U.S. Ambassador. What is amazing about this story is that when I finally met Amb. Hunt, the connection that sealed the deal was that her favorite theologian was the good old Dane: Søren Kierkegaard. After 8 months as the Household Coordinator I am now Personal/Administrative Assistant to Ambassador Swanee Hunt and what got me there is philosophy. One of the many activities I am privileged to witness here is a thing called Cambridge Conversations. C2’s as we refer to them are essentially lectures where a leader in some field comes and speaks to a group of people on topics ranging from how to engage faith based communities to domestic workers rights to how to re-imagine school for those with traditional learning difficulties. The audience members are movers and shakers, but the experience is an overwhelmingly academic format. There is a speaker and microphones being passed around, Q&A, and a deep understanding that we are discussing ideas. Of this I am now certain: Philosophy exists outside of academia and it is the heart of business, politics and art.
Bjorn Wastvedt, Class of 2012
I’m writing from Tucson, where I’m in the second year of the doctoral philosophy program at the University of Arizona. I’m working mostly with Julia Annas and Rachana Kamtekar on Aristotle’s moral psychology, the “Presocratic” thinkers that influenced it, and what it means for our understanding of virtue (both ancient and contemporary). I kept company with rural Germans for four months this past summer, speaking German and trying all possible varieties of Wurst. The process of habituation to the southwest is well underway, but despite the mountains and the good classical music in Tucson, I still miss the Minnesota snow.
Cody Hedstrom, Class of 2013
I’ve been working at Target as a Business Analyst since June, and recently accepted an offer from Deloitte to come on as a Strategy and Operations Business Analyst within their Management Consulting practice.
Philosophy catches a lot of flak for being highly theoretical and not nearly as applicable as some other majors may be. While the content itself may not have real-world application outside of an academic setting, I’ve found the skills gained through the completion of a philosophy major to be highly transferable. Throughout my four years of philosophy classes, I saw marked improvement in both my written and oral communication skills, as well as the ability to think critically when evaluating a problem or question. These are skills that I’ve taken with me into the business world and will undoubtedly continue to help my career.
While it may seem unorthodox, I would highly recommend that anyone considering a career in business include philosophy as a major aspect of their studies.
Jimmy Gildea, Class of 2014
Jimmy Gildea (2014) currently resides in Minneapolis, MN where he owns and operates the independent film production company, Ramble Pictures. Gildea founded Ramble Pictures Fall of 2014 after graduating from St. Olaf College with a BA in Philosophy and a concentration in Film Studies. He writes, directs, and produces commercials and documentaries alongside his partner, Elizabeth Turner (St. Olaf 2014, English).The company is currently in production on several feature length documentaries entitled “Metempsychosis,” “Boxer 22,” and “A Place Called Nowhere.” These films have brought Gildea all over the United States, East Africa and Asia. You can learn more about these films and other projects when you visit Ramble Pictures’ website, www.ramblepictures.com.
Thomas Lambert, Class of 2015
Thomas Lambert ’15 is a fourth-year PhD student in the Department of Philosophy at Princeton University, where he works on ethics (including meta-ethics and moral psychology) and the history of philosophy. He is writing his dissertation, supervised by Alexander Nehamas, on the relationship between freedom and strength/weakness of will in Nietzsche’s ethical thought. His work has been published in Inquiry, The Journal of Nietzsche Studies, and The Agonist. Before Princeton, Thomas spent a year as the 33rd St. Olaf Gastlehrer at the Martin-Luther-Schule (MLS) in Rimbach, Germany. In his free time he enjoys traveling and training with barbells. Thomas is happy to discuss life at the MLS or as a graduate student in philosophy with interested Oles, and can be reached at email@example.com.
Brian Adams, Class of 2015
I presented my capstone on the bioethics of euthanasia in the US/Uk in front of the faculties of Medicine, Philosophy, and Psychology at Oxford. I also served as the American representative at the EU summer school/conference on human rights held in the Czech Republic, as well as travelling to about 6 different countries to visit friends. I am at home right now, and plan to eave in about 1.5 months to participate in a public health project in Lima for about 5 months. None of these opportunities would be possible without your help and support–so thank you!
Here is a picture of myself (far right) and two other representatives (one from Bulgaria and one from Kenya). We won the mock trial competition on right to privacy convened by judges of the ECHR. It was amazing, and would have been impossible without the critical thinking the philosophy major gave me! 🙂
Bailey Wheelock, Class of 2015
I moved back to Madison early this summer, and after spending a fun month in Germany I got a job as a medical scribe in a family clinic here. And very soon I’ll be starting a program to get my masters in science from King’s College in London (online of course given I still live in Wisconsin…) in Psychology and Neuroscience of Mental Health. Although I’m not doing anything directly related to philosophy, I’m still keeping up with it all in a little two person philosophy book club.
Bailey Wheelock, a major in philosophy (with distinction) and neuroscience joined Professor Taliaferro in co-presenting a one-day course on Star Wars, Saturday, November 7 2015 at the University of Minnesota Continuing Education Extension School.