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.

Jackson Graves '16 in a philosophy class taught by Professor Bob Simon
Jackson Graves '16, center, in a philosophy class taught by Professor of Philosophy Bob Simon and Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy Theresa Lopez.

A student’s aspiration: early law school at Columbia

The open curriculum and chance to shape his education himself drew Jackson Graves ’16 to Hamilton College. So did the breadth and depth of opportunity the College offered for improving his communication skills. Graves is a philosophy major who is pursing a program through Hamilton that would enable him to start Columbia Law School in what would have been his senior year.

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“When I first started to study philosophy it was never an attempt to create a career path, it was just more of a developing interest that I had personally,” Graves says. “And as I began to study philosophy that interest also became coupled with the skills that you, I guess, develop just as a byproduct of doing that work: not only being able to communicate in a more sharp and clear way but being able to approach problems in situations with a clear mind and perhaps see solutions that you wouldn’t otherwise see.”

He took two gap years to do a church mission and volunteer work in Ireland and Scotland, and it was during that time that he began to think about the law as a way to help people. Graves is interested in education law but wants to explore more possibilities. “The first thing I want to do is find my passion and the work that accompanies that,” he says.

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.