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.

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.