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We’re proud of all our graduates, and their many varied accomplishments, but please allow us to introduce just one (for now). Meet Marcianne O’Day …
Marcianne graduated with a BS in philosophy in 2011. She plays a mean fiddle, loves cats and while in Ireland discovered the joys of Jammie Dodgers.
Marcianne, are you glad you majored in philosophy?
Yes! While it didn’t provide me with an obvious market-ready career path or skill-set, it gave me a good foundation for learning in general, and that has been a rewarding asset both professionally and personally. By majoring in philosophy, I had the kind of broad and engaging educational experience I was hoping for. It was definitely a good choice.
What are you doing now?
I work at a Tennessee State Park in an administrative role. Mostly, I research grant opportunities and other funding opportunities, and then write and submit proposals. I also manage our park social media accounts and websites, our park recycling initiative, and work as a trainer with the broader Department of Environment and Conservation.
Would you say that you’re satisfied with your work?
Working for Tennessee State Parks has been enormously satisfying. Acquiring funding for the acquisition, development, protection and conservation of public lands is a mission that I believe in, and it’s nice to feel like the work I’m doing is genuinely contributing to the greater good. The work of preparing and submitting proposals to be evaluated on a competitive basis is also engaging. It’s a fun puzzle to read grant application requirements (however dry), investigate an organization’s funding priorities and history, and then craft a proposal that appeals to a funder’s interests while contributing to the fulfilment of our needs. That being said, I am looking for opportunities to do more complex work and have greater responsibility. We’ve been successful enough at obtaining the funding available to us that the scope of my work has recently shifted more towards grant management and other administrative tasks, which are routine and not very interesting to me (although still very important).
How has philosophy enhanced your life outside work?
The biggest advantage philosophy has afforded me outside of work is that it has improved my ability to evaluate ideas and authority in general. This has made so many aspects of living easier and more meaningful, whether I’m considering a major purchase, or a political policy. I spend less time being troubled by ideas that don’t deserve to be taken seriously, and when I am confronted with ideas that do deserve attention, I feel like I know how to go about researching and thinking about those topics. I also know that I do a better job understanding the limitations of my own cognitive abilities. My philosophy education has taught me intellectual humility, and it’s easier now for me to identify, evaluate and appreciate more-qualified opinions than my own, which means I stick my foot in my mouth a lot less often. Because I’m better at thinking critically, my ability to make quality decisions has been improved, and that means I stress less and enjoy more about living than I did prior to my education.
How are the skills you developed through philosophy relevant to your current job?
The reasoning and writing skills I developed during my philosophy studies are a critical advantage in my professional life. Being able to read dense material carefully, understand the bottom line, ask the right kinds of questions, form a view, anticipate objections and then craft an appropriate and compelling response, is the basic workflow of the grant writing process. Every class I took helped me develop facility with that process in some way. Having made sense of some of the more difficult readings I encountered during my studies also gave me confidence. Whatever 50-page grant application manual I may be facing, I know I’ve understood more complex reading material in the past. I’ve also found that being able to identify and explore disagreement and ambiguity has had its advantages, and my philosophy education certainly helped me develop skill with that.