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Ergo | Summer 2014

From Knoxville to San Diego:  A Knoxville native and UT Philosophy Major’s Journey

Kathleen Connelly will soon be heading to the University of California, San Diego, a top-ranked graduate program that is truly outstanding in the philosophy of science, to work toward a Ph.D. in Philosophy.  Both a Haslam and a Neyland scholar at UT, Kathleen fully immersed herself, from her first class to her last, in the life of the UT Philosophy Department.  She drank widely from the curriculum, taking several graduate level courses, attended colloquies and conferences, and took advantage of office hours.  Additionally, she served as an officer on UT’s Mock Trial team, as secretary of Campus Disability Advocates, and as a Senator in UT’s Student Government Association.  She graduates well-prepared for her next step: graduate work in a Ph.D. program that turns away 9 of every 10 applicants.  Director of Undergraduate Studies Clerk Shaw recently chatted with Kathleen:

What drew you to philosophy and to the Philosophy Department at UT?

I first got interested in philosophy through reading Aristotle and Aquinas in my high school religion classes. Needless to say, the philosophers were not exactly presented with a spirit of open-minded inquiry, since the focus was on how they proved the finer points of Catholic theology, but it was enough to make me interested. When I got to UT, the advisor for my scholarship program encouraged me to sign up for Dr. Mendola's "Feminism: Theory and Practice" course that semester. It was the first class I ever took by a philosophy professor. I loved it and have loved the subject ever since.

What do you value most about your education in philosophy?

I love philosophy for making me feel like I am not alone. I thought I was a little weird for caring so much about so-called "big questions" about the nature of existence and knowledge and society and God. The first time I walked into the philosophy section of the library I actually cried a little just seeing the titles of the books, because they were all proof that other people cared about these questions. I'm one tiny voice in a conversation that's been going on for millennia in every civilization on earth. That's as far from being alone as you can get.

What do you plan to study in graduate school?

For now I plan on studying philosophy of science, and particularly in philosophy of social science. Some of the biggest questions about the nature of the universe are being answered in philosophy of science more than in any other branch of philosophy, and philosophy of social science aims at those questions I find most interesting of all: questions about the nature of society and of humanity.


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