Krupa Patel is a JD/PhD student at Harvard University. She graduated from Illinois in 2016 and is interested in ethics and political philosophy.
In this spotlight, Krupa discusses what her favorite part about being a graduate student is, what aspects of philosophy have been most beneficial to her career, and what advice she would give to current students.
1. What is your favorite part about being a graduate student? How did you get to where you are now?
My favorite part of being a graduate student in philosophy is the sheer amount I learn every day, not just through coursework but also from peers, professors, conferences and workshops, talks, and all the people I meet from other departments who tell me about the fascinating research going on outside of my area. I end each day with a new or revised perspective on some philosophical question. I also write philosophy curriculum for a non-profit whose goal is to develop civic leaders, a role that brings out something else I love about my position: the opportunity it gives me to communicate what I see as pressing issues to students and others with the hope that it will make an impact. My path to academic philosophy was not straightforward, but I’ve always been interested in both ethical issues and education, so it’s fitting that I found my way here after trying out other things—both other majors and other jobs after graduating. I’m indebted to great undergrad mentors who helped me realize academic philosophy would be a good fit.
2. What aspects of your education as a philosophy student have been most beneficial to your career?
As an undergrad, I fell in love with philosophy through reading the classics, especially the ancients and Kant. The grounding I developed in the history of philosophy at UIUC has been invaluable as a graduate student. I continue drawing on the ideas of historical figures, even when writing on contemporary issues. More generally, the breadth of my undergrad philosophy coursework helped me find my footing as I transitioned to graduate coursework. My undergrad coursework on Plato and the Socratic approach to philosophy continues nudging me to constantly ask myself what’s at stake in my work, which can be extremely helpful in grad school because of how easy it is to get lost in the details when working on large-scale projects. Finally, both before and after I graduated, my undergrad professors prepared me for what to expect in grad school and provided endless support during the application process.
3. What advice would you give to current philosophy students about the professional realm?
I would tell them that, as philosophy students, they’re in a wonderful position to consider a diversity of career paths. But the choice overload can be overwhelming, and preparing early on for post-grad life can help them find what they love sooner. They should pay attention to what aspects of their studies or extracurriculars most excite them, and they should pursue those to the fullest. If they might be interested in academic philosophy or academia more generally, I’d recommend attending talks or conferences to get a taste of what it’s like. They should also talk to their professors and seek their advice. One of my biggest regrets regarding undergrad is that I let fear of office hours keep me from discussing my interests earlier. Finally, I’d tell all philosophy students to keep copies of their best philosophy papers, whether or not they want to pursue academia. I’ve had to submit writing samples for several non-academic job applications, and I always chose philosophy papers because they exhibited my clearest writing.