Testimonials: What has philosophy done for me?

CSUF Philosophy Alumni

(In the order of submission.  Scroll down for the latest entry.)

Rebecca Hertsgaard
Graduation class: 1999
Adjunct Professor, Philosophy and Religion
College of the Desert
Palm Desert   CA 

I can testify absolutely to how philosophy has opened new worlds for not only me, but my husband, my friends, and my children.  Philosophy is so significant in evaluating what i like to call "attitudes and beliefs," and perhaps finding enlightenment from questioning both, which i do through both my teaching and my hobby of writing letters to editors of all kinds of publications.  There is nothing like the Socratic examination of one's life in order to have one worthy of bothering to live. 

Philosophy is the best enabler:  One constantly discovers how to make new friends (or enemies!) and influence people (for good or ill, in some opinions!).  i simply don't know how i would live my life without questioning.  This is particularly valuable when i teach religion, ethics, and Perspectives on Death and Dying.  How does one deal with any of those categories without understanding the philosophy behind them?  Why do humans need religion?  Why be moral?  Is there life after death?  Is there a god?  And if so, is it worthy of worship?  There is, i would venture to say, not one person who has not addressed either of those questions, in some form or other.  All these questions consume me on a daily basis.

So yes, philosophy is my job, but more than that, it's my LIFE.

Name: Luis M. Magallon Garcia
Graduation class: 2008
Human Communication (Rhetorical Studies) Master’s program at CSUF.

In my life, philosophy has been a fundamental and foundational subject for two reasons. First, philosophy prepared and facilitated my studies during the Master's graduate program. The Human Communication field, as well as most other fields, depends highly on philosophy as a foundational area of scholarship. Rhetorical studies in particular borrow and contribute to fundamental readings from Aristotle, Plato, Cicero, Kant, Nietzsche, etc. Contemporary rhetorical studies also rely on philosophical branches, including continental, psychoanalytic, and analytic philosophy. Across all fields, there is a major reliance and focus on exploring abstract concepts or writing logical arguments, which is taught in philosophy courses. Put simply, philosophy has contributed to my progression and understanding of Human Communication as a theory and practice.
Second, philosophy prepared me for distinct cultural and socio-political experiences. Immediately after I finished my undergraduate degree, I traveled to Mexico and Venezuela. Because of my emphasis on continental and socio-political philosophy as an undergrad, I was able to have an open-mind, acceptance, and appreciation for the cultures, societies and experiences in Mexico and Venezuela. Socio-political and continental philosophy increase awareness about ethical and tolerant acceptance of Others, which is fundamental and necessary as a practical and beautiful approach to life. Most importantly, philosophical scholarship helped me understand and respect my social environments, domestically and internationally.

Pamela Chui
Graduation class: 2010
Competitive Intelligence Analyst Assistant

I began my academic career as a Philosophy Major without any intention of pursing it as a career or applying my degree to future career plans.  My immersion into Philosophy was due to an interest in the ideas and theories of previous thinkers. It never occurred to me that Philosophy would be applicable in the corporate world and it wasn’t until I applied for my current position at an insurance company that I realized how much Philosophy has helped me grow and continue to grow within my current company. I was selected for the interviewing process at my current job because I was a Philosophy major. My interviewer picked my application because it stood out amongst the other applicants, who were all Business majors.  During the interview process I was able to offer a unique perspective on the business world that intrigued my interviewer. Since then I have been working for the company for seven months. My academic career in Philosophy has equipped me with the skills to communicate ideas and concepts coherently and it has been this specific skill that has aided my success in the corporate realm. The ability to understand and communicate ideas is an important aspect of Philosophical discourse, and is equally important in the business world. Other majors may equip graduates with the skills necessary to work within a corporation, but Philosophy (I believe) equips graduates with skills to progress and succeed within a corporation. In this way, Philosophy has impacted my life and career, and I know that no matter what plans I pursue in the future as long as I have the ability to critically analyze, understand, and express ideas, success and progress will follow.

René E. Beltran
Graduation class: 1979
Executive Vice President

“What are you going to do with a degree in Philosophy?” was the question I heard over and over again from friends and family.   While my parents never questioned my choice of study, everyone else I communicated with wondered why I was wasting my time.   I never paid much attention as I had found something I really enjoyed.

My plan upon graduation in 1979 was to take a year off from school, work and then either to pursue a graduate degree or study law.  

As it turned out I never returned to school.  I visited the next annual Philosophy Symposium and found that the prospect of returning to a classroom was not exciting to me.   I enjoyed the work I was doing, was good at it and loved the interaction with the people around me.   I had found a home in the computer business and decided to make a career of it.  I found that directly and indirectly studying Philosophy had helped me in a number of ways:

  • I was able to express myself clearly and logically.  In a sales environment or a business meeting my ability to construct an argument on the fly was better than those around me. 
  • Putting together presentations was easy.    Understanding how to present a subject in such a way as to have the listener reach the conclusion I was pursuing was second nature.
  • Problem solving was something I excelled at.   I was always able to find a solution that worked for everyone involved.
  • Seeing all sides and understanding why and how to find a middle ground with coworkers and customers came easy to me as a result of my study.

In short, my degree in Philosophy helped to prepare me for a career where my interaction with intelligent people regularly required the ability to think on my feet and negotiate successfully.   In a business where you are constantly learning new technology it also helped to shape the way that I approach understanding new concepts and the ability to grasp those concepts quickly. 

Kent Smith
Graduating class: 1968
Management Consultant

The discipline gave me much practice and repetition of critical thinking, these exercises enabled me to sharply come to the point or primary issue in arguments or debates throughout my life. Over the years whether I was a naval officer, law school student, parent with three kids in public schools, master of Public Administration; or Unitarian minister it seemed my grasp of academic philosophical concepts usually enabled me to be intelligent or outstanding in any venue.
Studying and living with some of the great thinkers of all time, as you do in the major, the great writings gave me deep insight to the truly important problems and aspects of life. The study of ethics, moralities, cosmology, logical/reasonable discernment, aesthetics, metaphysics, politics helped me shape and mold a successful happy life without the usual pitfalls of materialism, religiosity, nihilism so many helpless people find themselves caught up in.

Today, many of my good friends who went into the study of law, banking/business, or scientific professions and who wondered at my choice of Philosophy as a major in 1968, are flocking around enjoying the study of the Infinite and discussions of those truly important questions in life; dilemmas which come into very clear focus/import when one reaches 60 years of age!

Lastly, but I 'd be glad to talk to you about this subject any time, it has been a marvelous privilege and truly an honor to be able to study what I consider to be the most important discipline, in that it's the basis and the heart of the other disciplines in its pursuit of wisdom.

Diane Anderson
Graduation class: 1985
Financial Specialist
Corporate Collection Department

I have had an extensive career in finance, spanning over 25 years in Credit and Collections with mid-sized corporations as well as Fortune 500 companies.  The writing and analytic skills I developed while pursuing my degree allowed me to have consistent success in my career.  The analytic skills and confidence I built in my own abilities to collect and evaluate data in order to make practical decisions were invaluable to me when I was faced with unexpected life issues, such as surviving a massive stroke at the age of 33, and making successful decisions regarding my own treatment and care facing a recent bout with cancer. I found the study and practice of philosophy to be such an important part of the life I wish to live that I went to grad school nights, while working full time and raising my son on my own.  I earned a Master's degree in Philosophy in 2004, 19 years after finishing my bachelor's degree. I could tell you all about what I do to make a living, but philosophy is what I do to make a life.

My suggestion to recent grads looking for employment, wondering what jobs to pursue, and answering questions about "why a philosophy degree" and what it offers is to focus on the skill sets you acquired studying philosophy: analytic, research, writing, communication, presentation, public speaking (symposium), etc.  I know several philosophy majors who went on to finance careers and the analytic skills are an invaluable natural fit.  The same can be said for those who want to go on to careers in law.  Never underestimate the research and communication skills, either.  To people who think those who study philosophy have their heads in the clouds and are not practical, I would argue from personal experience that the skills acquired in the pursuit of philosophy naturally lend themselves to practical applications in real life situations.

Robert Guerrero
Graduating class: 2009
Taco Bell Operations Implementation Manager

Being a philosophy major has benefited me in innumerous ways; namely, being able to communicate clearly and logically.  It also enables me to become a broad business thinker, connecting each side of the business together.  The instruction that a philosophy major provides pays untold dividends as it improves my thought processes, teaching me to think critically. 

Aric Villarreal
Graduation class: 2001
Government librarian with Boulder Labs in Boulder, CO

My first philosophy course at CSUF was' Rationalism & Empiricism', taken during the Fall of 1998, with Dr. Frank Verges.  I was drawn to philosophy upon reading Nietzsche at some point during my six-year stint in the Marines, and upon taking that first CSUF philosophy course, I had no idea what I was getting into.  Eventually, I changed my major from political science to history to philosophy, and I graduated in the Spring of 2001 with a 3.9 in that major.  I moved on to receive an M.A. in the Interdisciplinary Program in Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies at the University of Arizona, upon defending my thesis 'The Concept of Myth in Horkheimer and Adorno's Dialectic of Enlightenment', then earned another M.A. in Library Science from the same institution.  I am now a government librarian with Boulder Labs in Boulder, CO, at which certain divisions of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Institute of Science and Technology, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration are located, supporting their research. 

The breadth and rigor of the CSUF philosophy department was what drew me in.  I was able to take courses in almost every tradition, era, and geographic focus of philosophy--Ancient, Medieval, Asian, and Analytic philosophy, Epistemology, Existentialism, Postmodernism--you name it.  My professors were superb as teachers and thinkers, clarifying some initially daunting concepts, and inspired me and my fellow students to think more deeply about problems and issues.  They were very accessible as well, and class sizes were small, facilitating some intense discussions.  It was an experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

It would be a cliché to mention that studying philosophy helped me develop the critical thinking skills and scholarly habits that would become useful in subsequent endeavors, though that is true.  I developed the habits of thinking, while at CSUF, that allow me to not take what is commonly passed around as 'wisdom' for granted, and to contextualize what goes on around me, making for passionately engaged citizenship, and (I at least hope) a more sympathetic understanding of those whose experiences and attitudes are vastly different from my own.

Brandon Hurley
Graduation class: 2008
Business Owner
Artistic Engineering

Participation in the CSUF philosophy program was a positively humbling experience, to say the least.  The greatest insight, perhaps, coming as a result of the subject matter's unwavering insistence that my original questions not only evaded answering, but were the wrong questions altogether.

Tamara Nguyen
Graduation class: 2009
Law School Student

One semester from graduating with a Criminal Justice degree, I decided to take a Philosophy class and immediately became obsessed with it. I ended up extending my stay at CSUF for an additional 2 years to obtain a degree in Philosophy. A degree in Philosophy helped me in many ways that other areas of studies cannot. I developed analytical skills, writing skills, and further, speaking skills. I became actively involved with the Philosophy Department and took on a role as vice-President in Philosophy club, helped plan the annual symposium, while juggling other on campus leadership roles such as being Chair for the Council of Honor Societies. I love the Philosophy Department because everyone in there provides their students with genuine attention and care. While I was completing my undergrad work in Philosophy, I got to know the professors well and realized that a well-knit department with caring professors is fundamental in driving the students to excel. With a strong backbone, I ended up succeeding after I left CSUF.

I embarked on a journey on my own to Beijing, China after I graduated from CSUF. The skills I obtained in Philosophy traveled with me as well. I engaged with others and processed information actively and efficiently. I realized that these valuable skills are applicable in every aspect of life. Further, I received some valuable advice from the department including: 1) always read with a pen/pencil, 2) do not simply listen, but engage (active listening), 3) be precise in conveying one’s ideas, and 4) when it comes to writing - edit, edit, edit…I hope those who are currently completing the Philosophy major know what a huge asset the Philosophy major is.

Jon Trerise
Graduation Class: 2000
Assistant Professor of Philosophy in Coastal Carolina
Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies

I came to CSUF in 1997 as a major having discovered philosophy (as a discipline) at Fullerton Community College.  In 2010 I started a position as an Assistant Professor (tenure track) at Coastal Carolina University.

I agree with what some others say regarding the practicality of philosophy for virtually any work environment, though I am of course an academic. Without question, the analytic, historical, and critical skills that philosophy helps one develop are intrinsically and instrumentally valuable. So studying philosophy is valuable independent of pursuing a career explicitly within philosophy.

Jamie Schumacher
Graduation Class: 2001
Executive Director, Northeast Community Development Corporation

I graduated from California State University Fullerton in 2001 with a degree in philosophy and art. I’ve incorporated my degree into my work by creatively applying my analytic skills: I help nonprofits and small businesses, particularly arts organizations, be innovative in the work they do and the tools they use to do it.

Philosophy, analytic philosophy in particular, was something I thought could be applied to any profession. I gained practical experience in the business world while I was at CSUF, and my degree in philosophy simply enhanced my work. Thoughtful employees and a philosophical work ethic are a great fit for most professions - even creative ones. :)

Sandra Woloschuk
Graduation Class: 2010
Southern California Edison, TP&S
Program/Project Analyst

There have been numerous occasions where I have had to explain to people why I chose to study Philosophy.  I always respond by saying that it was one of the most valuable decisions I have ever made.

Currently, I work as a project analyst for Southern California Edison. People may wonder how a degree in Philosophy could ever prepare someone for such a career; however, I constantly find myself applying the tools I learned while at Fullerton. As a philosophy major, I learned how to analyze and synthesize complex information as well as communicate complex ideas to a large audience effectively and efficiently.

I benefited a great deal from studying the philosophy curriculum at Cal State Fullerton because of the complex analytical tools I garnered while there. Now having started a great career path within a great company, I can honestly say that it was due to the rigor, rhetoric, and skills I acquired while studying philosophy at Cal State Fullerton.