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Annual Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy Supports Potential Grad Students

10-day program organized by the UC San Diego Department of Philosophy begins July 19

Taken before the pandemic, participants in the 2017 program gather at Geisel Library. Photo courtesy Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy


  • Anthony King

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  • Anthony King

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Discussions ranging from reparations to the removal of monuments await the 14 students selected to participate in this year’s Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy,* the 10-day program organized by the UC San Diego Department of Philosophy to encourage and support the next generation of philosophy graduate students.

In addition to a four-part, graduate-level seminar course to explore the Philosophy of Journalism, the students will participate in multiple sessions led by five established philosophers to discuss some of the most pressing issues of today. Workshops providing tips on graduate-school applications and writing samples, and what to expect in an academic career are also on the schedule.

The purpose is to provide guidance to increase the number of women in advanced academic philosophy, a discipline that is historically dominated by cisgender men.

“The program has enjoyed tremendous success in the past,” said Department of Philosophy chair Dana Nelkin, who participated in previous years as a seminar lead. “A dedicated group of graduate students and faculty are eager to meet and provide support to this year’s cohort, and we are excited to welcome them with a wonderful line-up of seminar leaders.”

Current Ph.D. student Keyao Yang is serving on this year’s executive planning committee with associate professor Saba Bazargan-Forward. Yang said the virtual format from last year would be repeated, offering more flexibility on the speakers they could invite and the attendees they could admit: of the 14, two participants are from international institutions.

“In the past we were unable to consider undergrad students from other countries who have to fly internationally to our campus to attend the program, for travel cost reasons. But this year, we received many applications from other countries and were able to admit a few of them to the program,” Yang said.

Held July 19 – 29, this year’s featured speaker is Susanna Siegel, Edgar Pierce Professor of Philosophy at Harvard University, who will lead the Philosophy of Journalism series. The five additional invited speakers include:

  • Sara Bernstein of University of Notre Dame, who will be teaching on the philosophy of time travel;
  • Sophie Horowitz of University of Massachusetts, Amherst, who will be teaching on the philosophy of disagreement;
  • Julia Markovits of Cornell University, teaching on the role of luck in morality;
  • Elizabeth Scarbrough of Florida International University, teaching on the role of aesthetic in the construction and removal of monuments; and
  • Audrey Yap of University of Victoria, teaching on wrongdoing and reparations.

With only a handful of programs in the world to help prepare undergraduate students for advanced degrees in philosophy, the UC San Diego program is one of the oldest dedicated to supporting the advancement of female students. The department has “graduated” more than 100 students in its seven-year history.

“The two weeks I spent at the [Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy] were two of the best weeks of my life,” said DeeAnn Spicer, a 2014 participant. Spicer is now a fifth-year philosophy student at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

“Being around such amazing women made me take myself seriously as a philosopher for the first time and showed me that there are many different, equally valid ways to approach and practice philosophy,” she said.

The Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy is well respected in the Department of Philosophy, and relies on support from the entire department for its success. There is an advisory board of 23 faculty members, graduate students and staff who help organize program dates and speakers, seek funding sources, and review applications and select attendees.

All the non-seminar workshops during the 10-day program are made possible through volunteer faculty and graduate students. In addition to leading workshops that cover the application process and how to develop a writing sample, current Ph.D. students will present their own research in a mock-conference format, and two informal “office hours” are scheduled with department faculty to help break down barriers to graduate study.

“The Summer Program for Philosophy is a priority for the Philosophy department here at UC San Diego. We regard it as a hallmark of our department and part of what makes our curriculum unique,” Bazargan-Forward said. Applications for the next program will be open in early 2022, and students of any gender or sex are welcome to apply. “Whatever logistical, bureaucratic or financial obstacles the program might face, I’m confident that the program has the support of the entire department in overcoming them,” he said.

At UC San Diego, the Summer Program for the Advancement of Women in Philosophy is financially supported by the Department of Philosophy, Division of Arts and Humanities, Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, and Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor-Academic Affairs. Additional support has come from the American Philosophical Association, American Society for Aesthetics, the Patricia and Christopher Weil Family Foundation, and the Marc Sanders Foundation.

*This release was updated July 26, 2021 to reflect the new name of the program and announce the 2022 application.

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