Newswise — Like many college students, Jada Taylor was unsure about which major would be the best fit for her – until she found philosophy.

Along the way, pursuing a philosophy degree has not only prepared her for her future career but helped her make important life decisions, such as choosing to become vegan and low waste.

“Philosophy courses consistently challenge me to develop my critical thinking skills and question things that often go unnoticed,” she said. “I decided to major in philosophy because I believe it is vital to our understanding of the universe and progression toward a better tomorrow. Philosophy has given me tools to make a conscious effort to examine my beliefs and align my actions with them.”

But the Wheeling native knew attending WVU would give her the flexibility and resources to explore all her interests.

“As a West Virginia native, WVU offers me the educational opportunities of a big university while allowing me to stay close to home,” she said. “The Department of Philosophy has created a supportive atmosphere for their students. All of the professors I have encountered have shown a genuine interest in their courses and the students' understanding of the material. They have indulged in my research ideas and are always willing to help point me in the right direction.”

With the support of several philosophy faculty, junior Taylor launched a virtual reading group with philosophy faculty exploring the ethics of veganism.

“Because of my interest in philosophy and aspirations of becoming a professor, I was eager to get involved in undergraduate research opportunities. So, together with Department Chair and Professor Sharon Ryan, we created a reading group,” Taylor said. “At the close of the semester, we decided to continue into the summer, which is when I took the reins of the organizational aspects. We meet every other week on Zoom to discuss research analyzing the ethics of veganism, both papers that argue for and against it.”

In spring 2020, Taylor attended the Cultivating Underrepresented Students in Philosophy Summer Institute at Pennsylvania State University. The intensive, week-long program helps undergraduate students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds – including Black, Latinx, Native American and Asian American students – prepare and apply for graduate school in philosophy. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was held virtually.

“We gave presentations on Africana philosophy and attended seminars about proper reading and writing practices, time management and interviewing for graduate school. Along with that, each student had one-on-one time with professors to discuss our writing and overall research portfolio,” Taylor said. “It was a great experience that equipped me with plenty of new tools to expand my knowledge of philosophy, help improve my academics and increase my understanding of career opportunities.”

Taylor has been accepted to the WVU Honors College’s EXCEL Program where she will complete a research project over the next two years. With mentorship from Teaching Assistant Professor of Philosophy David Hoinski, she will study autonomy, or a person’s capacity for self-governance, using Baruch Spinoza’s and Immanuel Kant’s writings.

“Going into college, I didn’t have a strong grasp on what career I wanted to pursue, but I knew what I enjoyed doing: learning new ideas, thinking conceptually and engaging in conversations on important topics. After my first introductory course in philosophy, I was sold,” Taylor said. “All of the professors I have encountered have contributed to my academic growth. My adviser, Dr. Scott Davidson, has been a great aid for navigating current and future opportunities within philosophy and is the one who recommended I apply for the Penn State CUSP Summer Institute.”

After graduating from WVU in spring 2022, Taylor aspires to go to graduate school and earn a Ph.D. in philosophy with a goal of becoming a professor.

“Dr. Ryan, Dr. Hoinski, Dr. Daniel Miller and Dr. Geoff Georgi have all shown tremendous passion and dedication to their students and their respective fields of philosophy,” she said. “They are always willing to answer any questions I have and have all made time to be actively engaged in my different forms of research.”

“Jada is a brilliant philosophy major. She transferred to WVU last fall and has impressed us since her first day on campus,” Ryan said. “With confidence, I can tell you that she is one of the best philosophy majors we've had in my 29 years of teaching at WVU. She's a careful reader, an excellent writer and an insightful, creative and interesting thinker. Moreover, she is motivated to learn about and discuss philosophical ideas far beyond the confines of the classroom.”

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