We encourage students to engage philosophically and to reflect on this engagement in non-traditional contexts through internships. We see this as a central way that students can practice and learn to live a philosophical informed life.
These internships can take on many different forms. Students will partner with a department member to determine the scope and work of the internship. All internships must lead to deep philosophical learning and authentic philosophical engagement in the world. Each internship will be different, and should match a student’s interests and abilities with a unique opportunity for learning. Students should also be giving back to the group they are interning with in uniquely philosophical ways.
Students will read philosophic texts and write about how their work in the internship is connected to philosophical ideas and writings. By the end of the internship, students should be able to answer in sophisticated and historically grounded ways in what way the internship is philosophical. To this end, students will reflect on this question throughout the internship experience.
Here are some examples:
During the summer of 2010, I had the opportunity to be a summer associate at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention Public Policy Division in Washington, DC (AFSP) and receive philosophy internship credit. While interning at AFSP, I worked on several projects at the agency. First, I worked on a research project that involved contacting statewide suicide prevention offices initiatives to learn the status of suicide prevention in the state. Second, I worked with my fellow interns to at the relationship between firearms and suicide, and how AFSP might best use different types of advocacy to lower the rate of suicide deaths by firearms. Through working on both of these projects and being in the office, I gained tremendous insight into current national approaches to suicide prevention.
As a philosophy intern, I was able to focus my academic work on an area of personal interest, the role of survivors of suicide attempt in suicide prevention. On my first day, I learned that the suicide prevention movement is primarily driven by survivors of suicide loss, and that survivors of suicide attempt are not only underrepresented, but also often assumed to be less able to participate in the suicide prevention movement than survivors of suicide loss. Using my own observations, interactions with staff members, and personal understanding of the issue, I was able to develop and ask important questions of the organization about how their practices may be unintentionally marginalizing and discriminating against survivors of suicide attempts. By working with a philosophy professor and using skills and knowledge I had acquired in previous philosophy classes, I was able to clearly identify the assumptions being made by staff and on an organizational level about the capabilities of this particular population that were informing the discriminatory actions that I had observed. Finally, I was able to share my concerns with the organization through conversations and a paper. This internship allowed me to explore an area that I was passionate about with a critical eye, and potentially impact the organization I was working with.
On the corner of 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE in Washington, D.C. sits the United Stated Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) headquarters building. This summer, I spent three months working on the 9th floor of this building in the Office of the Secretary (OST). There, I worked under the Deputy Secretary of Transportation, John Porcari, and his staff, which included his senior advisor, special assistant and scheduling staff. This internship was part of the Student Career Experience Program (SCEP) through the U.S. government. This program guarantees students federal employment upon graduation if 320 hours of interning are completed before graduation. Working with the Deputy Secretary in OST was a remarkable experience. I was in constant communication with senior USDOT officials, including Secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood. During this internship I spent my days sitting-in on various meetings, on the White House reports, preparing briefing materials and scheduling meetings. I was given the opportunity to sit-in on any meeting that was of interest to me and attempted to absorb as much information as possible.
Now, you may be asking yourself how is working at the USDOT a philosophy internship? This is a good question. Upon starting my internship, I sat down and met with Dr. Fowler, my internship advisor, to discuss the goals we had for this summer. We decided that the main goal of the internship was for me to gain a deeper understanding of ethical leadership at high levels of government leadership. Since I would be interning with the top officials of the USDOT, this goal seemed feasible for my internship. With this goal in mind, on my first day of interning I met with the Deputy Secretary and his Senior Advisor to figure how I could accomplish my academic goal for this internship. The answer came in the decision that I would, first, attend as many meetings as possible to gain a foundation of knowledge about the USDOT and would then focus on one or two issues facing the department and explore how ethical leadership in the high levels of the USDOT functioned for the issue(s). The two issues around which I focused my internship were the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) partial-shutdown and an issue that occurred between the Seneca Nation and the US government. The first issue, the FAA partial-shutdown occurred when the bill authorizing the FAA was not reauthorized, which lead to a partial shutdown of the administration, resulting in both massive job and monetary loss for the government. In this issue in particular, I focused my exploration on the ethical causes and implications of this crisis. My second issue, the Seneca Nation, occurred when the Seneca Nation held an intrastate highway hostage in order to gain a meeting with the state of New York. The highway was placed on their reservation illegally in the 1950’s and the Nation has been fighting for compensation for many years. With this issue, I looked at restorative justice between the US government, the state of New York and the Seneca Nation. Both issues allowed for me to gain a deeper understanding of ethical leadership in the high levels of government and gave me a firsthand account of how ethical leadership unfolds in high-level governmental leadership. Overall, the experience opened my eyes to the various philosophical problems faces our government, of which I was previously unaware.