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Philosophy

Philosophy is a practice at Hamilton, where your professors will encourage you to be engaged and to apply your training beyond the classroom. For instance, philosophy majors have developed and taught philosophy mini-classes to their peers and to local high school students.

Emi Birch ’14A student's growth: diving deep into philosophy

Emi Birch ’14 had a high school teacher who inspired her love of physics, and her first year at Hamilton College, she encountered a professor who did the same with philosophy. It changed her academic life. She majored in both subjects.

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Birch stuck with physics partly because it was such a challenge. She obtained a college research grant to work over a summer, with faculty, to replicate French physicist Jean Foucault’s famous pendulum.

As she worked on that project, and as she absorbed more philosophy classes, Birch realized that discipline had the greater hold. Her primary academic interest had shifted.

Hamilton physics professors are top-notch, and always make time to work with students when they need help, Birch says. But for her, philosophy was it. Her philosophy professors inspired her intellectually like no others had.

Birch leaves college with a clear focus: work as an outdoor leadership instructor (another interest she developed at Hamilton) through her 20’s, then go to grad school.

A graduate’s progress: writing for the Washington-Post

When Sean Sullivan ’07 spent a semester in Hamilton College’s New York City program and interned at ABC News Production, he was en route to a career. The internship led to another the following summer with ABC News “Nightline.” "And that's where I fell in love with journalism. There was never a dull day. And I felt like we were telling important stories that people needed to see. It was hard work, but a really great experience,” says Sullivan, who went on to a number of journalism jobs and now covers national politics for “The Fix,” a Washington Post politics blog.

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Sullivan majored in philosophy, a decision inspired by his  Technology and Alienation class with Richard Werner, the John Stewart Kennedy professor of philosophy.

“That sealed the deal for me. We had some great discussions in the technology and alienation class and looked at philosophy through the lens of film. It opened my eyes and showed me that philosophy really isn't this arcane subject area – it's about all the everyday things we do,” Sullivan says.

His studies have come in handy.  “Being a student of philosophy is about thinking critically, and doing a lot of reading and writing. Which is a lot of what I do in my job now,” he says.