The senior year is by far the most demanding for philosophy majors. There are four major academic tasks scheduled in the fourth year:
Senior Seminar (Fall/Winter)
The senior seminar is a capstone experience of the major and is intended as an intensive and sustained forum for advanced undergraduate work in philosophy. It meets twice a week throughout fall and winter terms and is limited to seniors majoring in philosophy. There are several goals associated with the seminar.
- To promote our majors’ understanding of the nature of contemporary research in philosophy. The seminar examines a contemporary debate that has spawned significant publications. The subject matter of this debate is characteristically associated with the research work of a Philosophy Department faculty member. The instructor will present his or her own publications or writings for general discussion and criticism.
- To promote our majors’ appreciation of the mutual influences, affinities, and differences between the “Anglo-American” and “European-Continental” traditions of philosophical inquiry. Contemporary work explicitly relating the two traditions are assigned, longside classic texts.
- To promote our majors’ ability to draw together their course work into a fuller, more coherent understanding of the discipline as a whole.
- To familiarize students with the activities, norms and demands of the profession. Some class periods will be devoted to the preparation and presentation of seniors’ individual research.
The first six weeks of the fall and winter terms will be devoted to the presentation and discussion of assigned readings. In the remaining four weeks of the fall and winter terms, the seminar will then be used for the presentation and/or discussion of seniors’ SIPs, conference papers, essays submitted to competitions, or comprehensive examination papers. During spring term, seniors schedule individual tutorials with Philosophy department faculty to review a student’s preparation for taking the comprehensive examination. Also, we encourage students to make suggestions regarding issues, under-represented areas of philosophy, readings or artworks they would like to discuss in this forum. Finally, some time will be devoted to discussing graduate schools and the process of applying to M.A. and Ph.D. programs.
Additional time will be given to the following topics:
- Writing in philosophy
- Internet research sites
- Reference works in the Humphrey House Lounge
- Preparation for undergraduate journal submissions
- Preparation for essay competitions
- Preparation for academic scholarships (Watson, Fulbright, Chamberlin, etc.)
- Interdisciplinary connections between philosophy and other disciplines
- Conferences and paper presentation in Michigan
Comprehensive Examinations (Spring)
Awarded to honor students
During the senior year, majors may also be engaged in the following time-consuming endeavors:
- Applying to graduate programs
- Competing for post-baccalaureate scholarships and fellowships
- Submitting papers for professional conferences and essay competitions
- Seeking placement in internships
- Competing for various teaching in the U.S. and abroad
The academic challenges of the SIP, Senior Seminar, and Comprehensive examinations are significant. They are scheduled, accordingly, in a staggered and in part overlapping fashion to allow the disciplined student to work at an even pace throughout the entire senior year. The SIP is completed in fall or winter, Senior Seminar extends from fall to winter, and the Comprehensive Examination takes place during the second week of spring term. The two comprehensive exam essays, which are due at the end of fall term, are characteristically selected by the student to function as subsections of his or her SIP. Teaching assistantships are awarded to honors students in connection with their area of expertise. Success in completing senior year requirements demands students strictly maintain their SIP “schedule of writing,” comprehensive examination deadlines, and Senior Seminar participation. Majors are expected to maintain close contact with departmental members, SIP supervisor, Senior Seminar instructor, and departmental chair on their progress in completing major requirements.
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