Eastern Michigan University students to delve into complex ideas and questions in 10th annual Undergraduate Conference in Philosophy on March 7-8

in 10th annual Undergraduate Conference in Philosophy on March 7-8 Students will interact with and critique the work of their peers while exploring a wide variety of topics over two days of learning and networking

YPSILANTI – What are some of the major ideas from young philosophers who are passionate about their research, and what are some of the big ideas that might affect us and our thinking right now during these most eventful times?

Eastern Michigan University students will have an opportunity to delve into such questions and interact with peers from around the country at the 10th Annual EMU Undergraduate Conference in Philosophy, to be held Saturday and Sunday, March 7-8, at McKenny Hall.

Shannon Spaulding, a professor at Oklahoma State University who specializes in social cognition, will deliver the keynote address, entitled, “How We Understand Others.” The talk is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. March 7 in Room 330 of McKenny Hall.

The conference, begins at 8:30 a.m. March 7, with presentations starting at 9 a.m. The conference resumes at 9 a.m. Sunday, March 8, with presentations beginning at 10 a.m. Breakfast and lunch will be provided both days, and students attending the conference get LBC credit. A welcome event will be held in the McKenny Hall Alumni Lounge at 7 p.m. on Friday, March 6.

The presentations will cover topics such as Originalism, Poetry as Meditation, Free Will and the Self, Balancing Human Rights with Fundamental Obligations to the Extremely Poor, and The Myth of the Class Division.

The event is free and open to the public.

Modeled after professional research forum

Students at the conference will learn about their discipline from their peers and participate in what amounts to a real-life research forum modeled after professional conferences in philosophy. Students will offer peer reviews at the event, which is primarily student led, says John Koolage, a professor of philosophy and director of general education at EMU who serves as the primary organizer of the conference.

 “Not unlike the Undergraduate Symposium at Eastern, our students get to share some of their best work from their undergraduate major, showing off what they know with people who are equally passionate about their chosen discipline and content knowledge,” Koolage says.

He notes that this year’s conference will feature a number of new, innovative sessions, including a presentation by graduate students for undergraduates interested in pursuing a graduate degree and another session where graduate students and faculty talk about the arguments that hooked them into philosophy in the first place.

In addition, students will engage with EMU and other institutions’ faculty at the conference. For example, the keynote speaker is almost always from another institution and almost always an early career philosopher, Koolage says.

Learning leadership and organizational skills

Koolage, who founded the conference 10 years ago, serves as the faculty advisor to the group, with extensive help from fellow EMU philosophy professor Laura McMahon. He notes that along with exploring their discipline, the students who work on the event learn real world leadership skills beyond just those offered by philosophical training, including communication and leadership skills.

“Students serve on the organizing/steering committee, where they learn how to chair a meeting, organize conferences, select and support keynote speakers, vet papers, help fellow undergraduates learn about conferences, including how to get funding to go to them, and how to get to them,” Koolage says.

But the best thing about the weekend for students?

“Making connections to peer philosophers from around the country and internationally is pretty rewarding,” Koolage says.

The conference is sponsored by EMU Student Government, the Department of History and Philosophy and the EMU Philosophy Club. Please see the conference website for more information.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

March 04, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom