Author Archives: jliu21

A Tufts life in retrospect

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

As my tenure at Tufts is approaching an end (graduation is this month and my dear mother is travelling from China to the ceremony!), I come to think about my past two-year experience in this community and I feel truly lucky and honored. In philosophy, I have met and studied under devoted professional philosophers who introduced me to their scholarly research and showed me their dedication to teaching. These philosophers also care deeply about my personal growth and wellbeing, besides providing strong support to my academic learning. I would miss the Monday night dinner date with Professor Jody Azzouni where we joke about politics and engage in endless bantering. I would miss Professor Christiana Olfert’s office hours where we share with each other ideas about the Protagoras, the Pyrrhonian skepticism, or the intersectional feminism and resistance. I would miss Professor George Smith who told me about me his departure from and eventual return to philosophy when I made the difficult decision to not go into a PhD program. It is in this kind of mentor environment that I spent my past every day, gradually acquiring the ability to read philosophy, to use critical analysis, and to argue for what I believe in.

Tufts has also given me numerous opportunities to expand my professional interests and interact with the wider community. As a Graduate Writing Consultant, I work with students on a daily basis on their writing projects, from term papers to dissertations, from applications to research proposals, and I have never stopped being fascinated by their ideas and experiences – there was a qualitative research thesis about water collection systems in Ghana; there was a summer fieldwork fellowship on the effect of new charter schools on public educational resources in Boston; there was a heartbreaking personal story about living in contemporary America as a South Sudanese refugee struggling to cope with homesickness and identity issues. In helping my students navigate their thoughts and arguments, I joined their journey to becoming better writers and thinkers and to a better understanding of themselves. In turn, I thoroughly enjoyed this collaborative writing process and developed a keen interest in public service.

Last, but of course not the least, Tufts has given me a network of awesome colleagues and friends. After more than a year of teaching and tutoring, I would run into my students on campus and catch up with their new developments. Every thank-you they said to me means tremendously as I know I took part in their story. My colleagues from the Academic Resource Center continue doing workshop lunches together, sharing teaching methods and encouraging each other for future endeavor. Many of my friends from the program are also going onto top-notch PhD programs or law schools, and I know I could count on them for support whenever I need any. This precious group of people whom I have met at Tufts through all different ways greatly enriches my life and I put trust in their potentials in shaping the world and making a difference.

What to do in Philosophy at Tufts?

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

Hi readers! Medford has officially entered its early summer season. With moderate humidity and pleasant breeze, it is neither too cold nor too warm. For the past two months, I’ve been busy with coursework and preparing to get back to China in the summer (yay!!!). I’m also very excited about the new cohort in the Philosophy Department!

For today’s post, I want to talk about some programs organized by Tufts’ Philosophy Department that engage faculty members, graduate students, and philosophically inclined undergraduates. The first has to be the Philosophy Club (aka free pizza club)! Every month on a Thursday, two professors from the department would lead a discussion and pose philosophical questions on a chosen topic from current affairs. I joined the past discussions on the justification for punishment, children in philosophy, pornography, and issues involving consent. I was able to talk with other students from all majors and years and we challenged each other’s opinions on the topic. The philosophy club is a great avenue to exchange knowledge and find for oneself some like-minded philosophical pals.

The second is the Graduate Student Writing Seminar. As the name suggests, it is exclusively offered for graduate students as a course in the first semester of the second year in the program. The seminar is dedicated to a semester-long peer review and editing on potential PhD applicants’ writing sample. Even for students who are not applying for the coming school year, the seminar helps them to produce a philosophically insightful piece of writing before graduation. I’m in particular excited about this seminar because all graduate students in the department get to work together, with each of their own interests and experiences in philosophy to cross-examine different philosophical arguments and deepen an intellectual bond with others. The Master program is only for two years—many students decide to continue in philosophy and many others transition to something else. It is indeed a precious opportunity for all of us in the program to collaborate on one project for an entire semester during which important career decisions are made.

The third is the Intercollegiate Ethics Bowl, a competition at the department where teams of undergraduate students explore contemporary ethical problems and dilemmas. We graduate students usually volunteer to moderate or judge the competition on the day of the event. The one last team will take the championship and move on to compete in the Northeastern regional competition. Everyone, including me, participating in this year’s Ethics Bowl made their contribution to a lively intellectual environment at the department as well as across the campus.

The department also sponsors Graduate Student and Faculty Discussion series throughout the academic year. The series usually takes place on a Wednesday afternoon where the guest speak, usually a professor in the department, talks about his/her current philosophical project. The series has proven highly efficient in bringing together research ideas and offers a great chance for graduate students to discuss vis-à-vis with faculty members on latest developments and trends in philosophical research. I remembered the talk given by Professor Jody Azzouni where he talked about his book in metaphysics, and it’s named “Talk about Nothing!”

Has reading about all these programs ignited your passion in philosophical discourse? For many graduate students, academic life is intermingled with professional networking. I try to strike a balance between intensive philosophical training and building up friendships and relationships. The department provides ample opportunities in both regards and encourages me to continue enjoying philosophy both at work and in life.

 

Updates: Winter Break Travels and New Semester Adventures

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

Hello fellow readers! Hope you had a great winter break with family and friends! Now that the new semester has already started, are you all geared up for some new knowledge and experiences?! Or you just want to stay in bed and wait for this winter season to pass?

I had a great winter break. As an international student, I spent my first Christmas in America at a friend’s house—some great Barbadian food and Latin American culture exposure were involved! I then went down to New Orleans to visit my boyfriend and his family right before New Year. Beignets at Café du Monde, gumbo at Mandina’s, crab cake at St. Roch market, jazz and booze in the French Quarter, post-Katrina reconstruction in Lower Ninth Ward, gentrification, monuments preservation, the Big Easy is a different experience. It’s so much defined and shaped by rich history, incredible food, strong community spirits, old wounds, and new challenges. I was fascinated by this city!! I also went up to a small town in Mississippi for a few days, taking excursions in the woods (and asking myself existential questions and failing to answer most of them). 😁

Jiali Liu 2-12-16 blog post pic 3

St. Roch Market

Jackson Square with my boyfriend!

Jackson Square with my boyfriend!

Jiali Liu 2-12-16 blog post pic 1

French Quarter Night Market

I came back to Boston for the Area of Strength Test required for graduation at Tufts’ Philosophy program. The test is also called Comprehensive Test. Students in the philosophy program are to choose one from ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics as their test topic and are given 48 hours ahead of time to prepare for 12 questions, 9 out of which will be on the test and only 3 out of which will require an answer. Each answer should be 1500 words where students examine the philosophical issue at stake and offer cogent arguments to support her position. The test is four hours, an hour for each question and the last hour for grammar correction and wording refinement. Once I finished the test, the semester began! In terms of academic work, I have great expectations for this semester: I’m taking metaphysics, philosophy of science, Plato and Aristotle’s Ethics, and German. The program also assigned me as a TA to an undergraduate logic class. This is my first time TAing and I’m already learning a lot from holding office hours and grading students’ work. It’s a great privilege to be an educator (in a minimum sense as an assistant in learning and teaching), to explain away conceptual confusions concerning usage of terms, to help construct a deeper understanding of philosophical problems couched in logic puzzles, to help form a habit of critical thinking and skills of problem solving. I absolutely enjoy doing my TA work and spending time with students who come to me with questions!

I’m hoping to have a substantial semester—there is just so much to learn and think about! I want to better my German and get ready for some summer language practice in Europe. I also have been thinking about plans after graduation. Philosophy is a shrinking and selective market, but I want to test my potentials and pursue philosophy further down the road. This past semester at Tufts has helped me greatly and I definitely look forward to more philosophical exposure here!

Why Tufts? Part 1

Written by Jiali Liu, Philosophy M.A. 2017

Coming to Tufts for philosophy was no minor deviation from what I was doing in college. I majored in English and International Relations as an undergraduate and my school offered no philosophy class (it was a petite institution affiliated with the Chinese Foreign Ministry and it was highly specialized in diplomacy studies). I came to formal contact with philosophy when I was a visiting student at Barnard College in New York. It was a short semester, but that one Intro to Philosophy class intrigued me enormously. In retrospect, I still could not pinpoint the exact reasons for how that happened—to be shaped by one single class and then make a two-year, or even longer, commitment to the subject matter. Graduate schools are different from college in significant ways. They are more expensive. They are more specialized. They bear more relevance to and influence on one’s future career path and prospects. To make a decision about what to do at when and where for a Master degree sometimes calls for a deep soul search. My own guess is that I was exposed to philosophy in a myriad ways much earlier than Barnard, only that I was not fully conscious of its presence and power of osmosis with time in my thinking and action. I probably felt dissatisfaction with only an answer to how things are and wanted to seek why they are such.

But Tufts? First of all, I knew the program because I had a professor who graduated from here back in 2003. The continuity of tradition and legacy presented itself beautifully and ignited my initial interest in knowing more about Tufts. On the other hand, I did not want to mass-produce a dozen of applications (interestingly graduate schools do not work the same way as colleges in this aspect either: to apply for more places barely increases one’s chance to get into any of them). So I had to concentrate on a few programs that are (1) academically top-notch; (2) not discriminating against non-philosophy majors; and (3) cost-efficient. According to the Philosophy Gourmet report, Tufts’ Master in Philosophy program is number one in the country. It has the highest faculty quality. It actually invites different majors who are interested and determined in making a career in philosophy and helps them to prepare for a PhD program. And it is generous in money and TA opportunities! I doubt that anyone who has received the Tufts’ offer would decline it unless she has a PhD letter of acceptance from somewhere else. There was another reason equally important to me. I like intimate communities and a close work-together spirit with my cohort. In total, Tufts’ program has around 20 people, including both first and second years. People have plenty of chance to invest in friendships and intellectual connection and graduate students are treated as peers by the faculty and staff. Choosing Tufts was not nearly as hard a decision as the one on philosophy. It felt almost natural for what has happened to unfold the way it did once I knew philosophy was what I wanted.