1. What is the department like?
  2. What are former graduate students doing now?
  3. What is the overall structure of the program?
  4. What is the time line to receive an MA in philosophy?
  5. What is the time line for PhD preparation?
  6. How does the thesis process work?
  7. What's the difference between 50K-level and 60K-level courses? How big are graduate classes?
  8. Is independent study possible?

1. What is the department like?

The Philosophy Department at Kent State consists of a graduate faculty of about 15 full-time, tenured and tenure-track faculty. We pride ourselves on our pluralism: we strive to provide students excellent resources for studying within many major philosophical traditions. We have excellent faculty teaching French and German philosophy, analytic philosophy, and pragmatism. We have experts in Chinese philosophy, African and African-American philosophy, and native American Indian philosophy. Our pluralism aims to support our graduate students and their research regardless of how their interests develop, and our placement record demonstrates our ability to place students in quality PhD programs regardless of specialty.


2. What are former graduate students doing now?

Our placement page provides some information about this. Our graduates who went on to get a PhD and finished are now teaching at colleges and universities across the country. We have a number of graduates who have received their JD degrees and are now working in law firms. Some of our MA students have gone right into teaching, in one case in a tenure-track job at a community college. With the Department of Education's new initiative to support 2-year degrees, these jobs will be increasingly appealing to philosophers and an important part of philosophy instruction in the U.S.


3. What is the overall structure of the program?

The program requirements page provides most of the answer. The curriculum aims to balance a common core of education for all students in the program (provided by the 2 required Graduate Seminars) with room for individual choices (provided by electives structured for breadth and depth).


4. What is the time line to receive an MA in philosophy?

The answer to this will vary according to the student. Students who pursue full-time study in philosophy and finish their theses or research on time will complete the program in 2 years, following the schedule shown in the program overview. Other students combine an MA in philosophy with a degree in another discipline, such as Library Science or English. These students typically take only 1 or 2 courses per semester and complete the degree in several years. The university allows up to 6 years from initial enrollment to complete the MA degree.


5. What is the time line for PhD preparation?

Students who plan to pursue a PhD in philosophy need to prepare their application materials during the fall of their second year in our program so that they are ready to submit their applications by January and February deadlines. If they plan to retake the GRE they should do so during the summer between their two years: it is generally inadvisable to try to study for the GRE while writing a thesis. Letters of recommendation are exceedingly important, especially the letter from the thesis director. Students will want to have as much as 2/3 of their thesis written before winter break in order to provide the director with sufficient basis for a strong positive evaluation. Early preparation makes the application process go much more smoothly. To support that process, we often invite a former student to visit first-year students during spring semester to talk about preparing for and applying to PhD programs.


6. How does the thesis process work?

The thesis process begins in March of the first year, when students submit several versions of thesis questions together with a request for a director. The graduate coordinator assigns directors and advisory groups based on these requests, and students meet with their advisory groups in April to focus the research question and prepare for summer research. In the fall, students set schedules with their directors and write as much as 2/3 of the thesis before winter break. Doing so prepares those who are applying to PhD programs to have a suitable writing sample and to submit a chapter or two for publication or presentation at conferences during spring. To graduate in May, students generally need to have their directors approve their completed theses around March 1.

Once the director has approved the thesis, the student submits copies to the other members of the advisory group plus one reader from a discipline outside philosophy. The readers evaluate the thesis and prepare questions for the oral defense. The purpose of the oral defense is to provide students the opportunity to discuss their work at a professional level: graduate training is vocational school for professors, and part of that training is becoming accustomed to asking and answering challenging questions. After the oral defense, students have a few days to correct typos and make any changes before submitting their completed theses to the Graduate School.


7. What's the difference between 50K-level and 60K-level courses? How big are graduate classes?

Our 50K-level classes are "split-level" classes with both upper division undergraduates and graduate students. The content of the courses is the same for graduates and undergraduates, but the requirements for graduate students are more demanding. Our 60K-level classes are for graduate students only. 

Graduate classes vary in size: some 60K-level classes will have just four or five students, and some 50K-level classes might have 10 graduate students and 15 undergraduates. Having more than a dozen or so has been rare, but the graduate program continues to grow.


8. Is independent study possible?

Yes. Graduate students may take "Individual Investigation" by proposing a topic to a suitable faculty member and receiving departmental approval.