Wellesley Philosophy Department Student Handbook
Choosing an Advisor
Students who would like to major in philosophy choose a major advisor in their sophomore year. Usually the advisor is someone with whom the student has taken at least one class. Students are also encouraged to choose an advisor who specializes in the areas of philosophy in which they have a particular interest. Students can change their major advisor if they want to in their junior or senior years.
Seniors and their family members are invited to have breakfast with professors in the department before the commencement ceremony.
1. College-wide resources: Wellesley College provides funding opportunities for students who are presenting their work at a scholarly conference. Students in the humanities and social sciences (excluding psychology) can apply for a Conference Travel Grant (application form available here: http://www.wellesley.edu/provost/students.) Ordinarily no retroactive awards will be made and a student will be funded for only one conference or the equivalent of $750 per academic year. (Note that students enrolled in a 350 or 360 can also apply for a Research Grant or Multicultural Research Grant, some portion of which might be used for conference travel.)
2. Departmental resources: The Ingrid Stadler Fellowship
Philosophy majors and minors, or students currently taking a philosophy class, who have either:
a) have exhausted the conference travel funds available to them through the College, or
b) are attending, but not presenting at, a scholarly conference with a connection to philosophy, or
c) are attending a summer course or program for philosophy students
may apply to the Philosophy department for reimbursement of travel costs associated with conference or program attendance. Funding is available each year from the Stadler Fund, which honors our former colleague, Ingrid Stadler.
Interested students should submit a brief application via email to the Chair of the Philosophy department, including the following information:
Name of student
Conference or program title and location
(If presenting) title and brief abstract of paper
(If merely attending) a short paragraph explaining how the conference or program connects to the student’s interests or course-work
Estimated cost of travel to the conference or program and, for programs, cost of tuition
The source of any other funding for this conference that the student has requested or received
The amount of funding that the student has received from the Philosophy department for conference travel in the current and previous years.
Because funds are limited, not all applications will be successful.
Students can maximize their chances of receiving funding by submitting an application as early as possible in the academic year.
Students who attend philosophy conferences or programs (as opposed to interdisciplinary conferences or conferences in other disciplines) are likely to receive priority.
Normally awards will not exceed $300 for any particular conference or $400 for any particular student per year. Awards for conferences or programs that take place outside the United States may be higher, up to $1,500.00.
If your application is accepted: to receive reimbursements from your conference travel, you must submit all original itemized and dated receipts to the PHIL Academic Administrative Assistant. If you are splitting a travel expense with a peer, your name and the amount you contributed must be printed on the receipt. Your Banner ID and campus address is also required for reimbursement.
Participating in debates can be a helpful and enjoyable complement to philosophy classes. The Wellesley Debate Society is part of the American Parliamentary Debate Association (www.apdaweb.org), which arranges parliamentary debate tournaments for college students. The Wellesley team travels around the east coast on weekends to compete and also hosts an annual tournament on campus.
The Philosophy department has Instagram (WellesleyCollegePhilosophy) and Facebook (Wellesley Phil) accounts on which we post upcoming events and announcements. Following is a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of the Philosophy Department and to stay in touch with current and past philosophy majors and minors.
Graduate Study in Philosophy
Several Wellesley philosophy majors have gone on to excellent graduate schools in philosophy in recent years. The decision of whether or not to attend graduate school is a difficult one. The academic market is very tight in philosophy: there are likely to be very few jobs to apply for on completion of one’s PhD. Given this fact, it makes sense to apply only to graduate schools that fund their students well, that enjoy a reputation for being a supportive environment and that have a good job placement record. It is also important to note that applying to graduate school is a time-consuming process, involving extensive drafting of a writing sample in the Fall semester and (if one is successful) traveling to visit schools in the Spring semester.
Students who think that they might be interested in going to graduate school in philosophy should contact their advisor to discuss the idea. Philosophy faculty can also put such students in touch with senior majors with a similar interest and with recent Wellesley graduates in philosophy graduate programs. The department organizes an annual panel on graduate study in philosophy to answer students’ more general questions.
Majors intending to pursue graduate work in philosophy should take PHIL216 (Logic). Those who are interested in graduate work in the history of philosophy may be advised to study one or more foreign languages. The Philosophical Gourmet Report has some useful general information about graduate study in Philosophy as well as specific graduate programs. Students can also consult the APA Guide to Graduate Programs in Philosophy at http://gradguide.apaonline.org.
Students who meet the college standard for eligibility for departmental honors (GPA of 3.5 or more for courses above the 100 level in philosophy) may apply to write an honors thesis in philosophy. (Departments may petition on behalf of students whose average is below 3.5 but above 3.0 if they have exceptional qualifications.)
An application to write an honors thesis in philosophy will include these elements:
1. A listing of philosophy courses taken or in progress at Wellesley or for credit at another institution, with grades received.
2. A two-page proposal that describes the area to be investigated in research for the thesis and frames a specific question that the thesis will address.
3. A list of at least six and no more than ten sources, with a sentence-long comment for each source that explains its relevance.
4. A brief description of the student's relevant background, if any, in the area of the thesis through coursework or other activities.
5. A brief description of the student's experience, if any, in carrying out independent work in independent study courses, research papers, lab work, presentations, or other projects.
6. A study plan for the student's senior year that lists courses to be taken in the fall and spring semesters. (Phil 360 and Phil 370 may not be used to satisfy the major requirement for two courses at the 300 level.)
7. The signature of a faculty member whom the student has consulted in developing the proposal.
Materials should be submitted to the department chair by April 1 of the student's junior year.
Independent Study Courses (PHIL350)
Q1: What is PHIL350?
Students who would like to do an independent study on a particular philosophical topic that is not offered in the department are encouraged to take PHIL350. PHIL350s in topics that are or will soon be offered in the department will only be granted in exceptional circumstances. The structure of PHIL350 is jointly set by the student and advisor, in a collaborative manner across the course of the semester. It usually involves weekly meetings to discuss readings chosen in advance along with a substantial amount of written work (perhaps a set of short papers, perhaps weekly reading reflections culminating a long final paper).
Q2: If I want to take PHIL350 next semester, do I need to do anything beforehand?
A student who is interested in taking PHIL350 in the following semester is encouraged to talk to a professor who is a specialist in the area by the end of the current semester (e.g. if she wants to take PHIL350 in Spring 2017, then she should talk to a professor she would like to work with by the end of Fall 2016).
The MIT Philosophy department is very well regarded and offers a wide range of philosophy courses at the undergraduate and graduate level. Students can find more information at http://student.mit.edu/catalog/m24a.html .
Instructions on how to cross-register for MIT classes can be found here: http://www.wellesley.edu/registrar/registration/cross_reg/mit .
Mock Trial Team
Wellesley is a member of the American Mock Trial Association (www.collegemocktrial.org). The association organizes an annual intercollegiate mock trial competition, involving around 600 teams who compete in regional tournaments leading up to a national championship. Some philosophy students find participating in mock trials a fun and useful way to hone their skills at argument and critical analysis.
The department holds open houses every semester before the registration period starts. All students are welcome to come and chat with faculty, philosophy majors and minors about upcoming courses.
Professor de Bres' Pink Guide provides general advice on taking philosophy classes and reading and writing philosophy papers: https://sites.google.com/a/wellesley.edu/pinkguidetophilosophy/
Philosophy Club is open to everyone and has members of many different backgrounds, majors and interests. The Club serves as an opportunity for students to learn more about and to practice philosophy among their peers outside the classroom and to discuss current college events in a philosophical way. The Club holds evening student-led discussions of philosophical topics and hosts informal lunches with professors. Other events have included movies that explore interesting philosophical topics and suppers with philosophy alums. The Philosophy Club also co-hosts events with the faculty, including “Phil Pub” at Punch's Alley, where faculty and students chat over drinks, and candlepin bowling. Students are welcome to join at any time. To be added to the email list, please contact the current President.
Publishing in Undergraduate Journals
Information about undergraduate publishing opportunities can be found in the white folder located inside the administrative office of the philosophy department.
Research over the summer with faculty
Q1: What does research in philosophy look like?
Summer research in philosophy usually takes the form of assisting a professor with her/his current project. The work varies depending on the nature and development of the particular project. In general, it consists of doing literature reviews, writing reports, locating literature that addresses a philosophical problem from non-philosophical perspectives, etc. Depending on the professor/stage of the project/student's background knowledge in the area, students might also be asked to: (a) write/draft sections of papers (if they are coauthors), (b) edit jointly written work, (c) edit the professor's work or (d) read and discuss articles/books with the professor. The time commitment varies depending on the nature of the task, as well as the professor’s and student's availability.
Q2: How can I become a summer research assistant for a philosophy professor?
Due to the nature of philosophical writing, the department does not often actively seek out student research assistants. However, if a student is interested in doing research in philosophy and has a particular professor that she would like to work with over the summer, she is encouraged to approach that professor to inquire about the availability of such opportunities. In some cases, professors might invite particular students to do research with them because of their past work, common interests and other factors.
Q3: Am I paid for doing research in philosophy?
Student research assistants are usually paid by the professors they are working with. Since professors often pay their student assistants from their own external fellowships or by applying for internal funding, the amount of payment varies.
All philosophy majors and minors are invited to the senior dinner in early May to celebrate graduating philosophy seniors.
Summer Study Programs
Information can be found in the white folder located inside the administrative office of the philosophy department.
Study Abroad Programs
Information can be found in the white folder located inside the administrative office of the philosophy department.
Transferring credits into your Philosophy major
The department regularly accepts philosophy courses taken at other colleges and universities for credit toward the major. However, the department rarely accepts courses offered outside of philosophy departments (e.g. political science, history of ideas, rhetoric, economics, history, and so on).
The department participates in exchange programs with Brandeis and MIT. Both schools have excellent philosophy departments; students are encouraged to consult the respective catalogs for offerings.
Students can take courses abroad to satisfy the PHIL201/221 requirement, but the courses must exhibit certain features to qualify. Students should have such courses pre-approved by the department chair or the chair's transfer credit designee, to prevent unhappy surprises when they return.