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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.

Isla Ng '14
Isla Ng ’16, in blue, listens to Assistant Professor of Philosophy Russell Marcus.

A student’s discovery: a mind for philosophy

Isla Ng ’16 loves writing and couldn’t get enough of interdisciplinary classes such as women’s studies. She was still sorting out her academic options when she received an A plus on a paper she wrote for Associate Philosophy Professor Katheryn Doran.  “She’s kind of tough sometimes, so that was a pretty big deal. And she wrote to me in her comments saying, ‘You should really consider being a philosophy major,’” says Ng, who shrugged off the idea – but not for good.

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With insight from professors, Ng realized she was abstract in her thinking and “theory savvy.” After a summer of self-reflection, she kept coming back to philosophy. “Everything that I like is just philosophy in a different form,” she says.  She declared it as her major.

Even though Ng was a confident writer, she found her writing improved through her philosophy courses.  “I definitely think that out of all the classes that I’ve taken philosophy has challenged me the most in terms of my writing. You have to be so clear, there’s no room for messiness, sloppiness,” she says.

Ng doesn’t know what shape her post-Hamilton career will take but she knows her interests: writing, social-justice activism and online media.

Cara Chard ’03
Cara Chard ’03

A philosophy grad finds her way to urban farming

When whimsy and opportunity collided, says Cara Chard ’03, she learned to keep bees on a Brooklyn rooftop. It was her introduction to the burgeoning world of urban agriculture. “Opportunities that I hadn't previously known to exist presented themselves, and I took them,” she says, She ran a farm-based learning program in Brooklyn for three years and then became the first employee of City Growers. She’s now executive director at the nonprofit, which provides students with hands-on food and farm education on rooftop farms.

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Chard’s job entails building the vision, programs, and business strategy for the organization that has served more than 10,000 students and added two employees. She says her philosophy major at Hamilton College prepared her well for the unexpected career.

“Philosophy teaches the critical thinking, public speaking, and writing skills necessary to become a leader in any field. The term ‘urban agriculture’ didn't exist in public discourse when I was at Hamilton, and I never could have planned or predicted my career trajectory,” she says, “I followed the things that interested me – philosophy, teaching, beekeeping – and they led me to an awesome job. I never boxed myself in.”

Early on after Hamilton, Chard worked as a paralegal and discovered she didn’t want to become a lawyer She then earned a master’s degree in education from New York University and taught high school English in the Bronx.