Three philosophy alumni tell experience, give advice to students at third Philosophy Alumni Panel


On April 7, three Webster alumni with degrees in philosophy connected with Webster students via Zoom. Philosophy major Ethan DeMunbrun attended the event. 

Philosophy major Ethan DeMunbrun tuned in to Zoom on the afternoon of April 7, preparing to attend Webster’s Philosophy Alumni Panel from the comfort of his home. The event hosted three Webster University alumni who received a degree in philosophy.

Michael McCullough, Cierra Lowe-Price and Ben Goldsmith discussed professionalism, communication and time management, especially relative to careers in Philosophy. The trio also offered advice for students and shared their own academic and career experiences.

“If I had to put one word to it, I would probably say that it was reassuring. I’m not just wasting my time,” DeMunbrun said. “This is definitely a worthwhile pursuit, to get a Philosophy degree and pursue personal interests.”

The alumni panel was a collaboration between the Philosophy Department and Career Planning and Development Center (CPDC). The event aimed to show current Philosophy students the diversity in career opportunities and how their own interests and goals can relate to that.

Bruce Umbaugh, who helped organize the Panel on the Philosophy Department’s side along with Kate Parsons, said the department strived to host panelists who would bring varying perspectives.

“We tried to get a diverse group that can speak from different experiences and different career paths because our Philosophy majors and students interested in philosophy are a diverse group who have lots of things they might want to do,” Umbaugh said.

McCullough, Lowe-Price and Goldsmith each have different careers, interests and backgrounds; chief privacy officer at Macy’s Inc, nursing student and co-founder/chief strategist at Farm Forward, respectively.

“We can do a wide variety of things with our degrees and we shouldn’t be too hesitant about what we’re doing. Which is something we’d learned in the past, but this is evidence right in front of us,” DeMunbrun said.

Goldsmith identified himself as an animal activist during the panel, which served as his inspiration and reasoning for starting his nonprofit organization, Farm Forward, which centers around ending factory farming. He commended Webster’s philosophy program and the education it equips students with.

“It’s just an endless amount of things you can do with this degree. It comes in handy all the time. The skills that you learn in this program really apply universally to everything we do,” Goldsmith said during the panel. “As long as you have something you are excited about, passionate about, good at, even not that good at, you can do it.”

The panel precedes the Philosophy Conference, which will be held from April 14 to April 16. Due to being virtual, the conference’s presenters will be attending from across the United States. Submissions for papers were received from Maine to San Diego, and address philosophical ideas and concepts such as environmentalism, classic Greek philosophy and ethics.

Webster alumnus Ben Goldsmith speaks during the Philosophy Alumni Panel. Screenshot by Bruce Umbaugh.

Instead of individual presentations, the conference will group presenters into panels based on similar topics or themes of their papers, which Umbaugh says he is hopeful will promote discussion.

“We know [interaction] is really important to engage people in Zoom, having people all talking with one another rather than just one person talking at the audience for twenty minutes,” Umbaugh said.

The conference is open to student submissions and often serves as an opportunity for philosophy students to get their foot in the door when it comes to presenting their ideas. Students in the spring Philosophy Proseminar class help to set up the yearly conference.

Students publicize the call for papers, review papers, design promotional materials and work through the logistics of organizing a large event.

“It’s good practical experience for students in the [class] working on the different aspects of the conference,” Umbaugh said.

McCullough reflected on his past experience attending Webster’s Philosophy Conference during the panel.

“There was one time I went to that conference and got to drink with Kurt Vonnegut,” McCullough said. “That was valuable and memorable for me.”

One week before the conference, Umbaugh and his Proseminar students attended the Philosophy Alumni Panel as a class activity since it was during the same time. DeMunbrun was among those students.

“It was really nice to see real people that weren’t larger than life. It was good to see people can make use and be happy with [a Philosophy degree],” DeMunbrun said.

All three panelists expressed their job satisfaction and overall happiness with their lives. They traced their positive experiences back to getting a degree relevant to what they were interested in, passionate about and truly wanted to do.

“The way I say it is, ‘see the hill, take the hill.’ Change happens because you make change happen, otherwise, change happens to you,” McCullough said. “Stay on course, know your heart, do what’s right for you. When you set your mind to something, you can do it.”

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Kate McCracken (she/her) is currently a staff writer for The Journal. She has previously worked as the lifestyle editor. She is a double major in Philosophy and History, minoring in Professional Writing. She has always loved to write and create stories, and she wrote her first book at age 10. Aside from writing, Kate also enjoys photography, environmental/animal activism, paranormal investigation and oneirology, the study of dreams.