A Philosophy Professor in the Making

Photo of Robert Campbell during a hike
Robert Campell talking with other students during a hike at University of Colorado Boulder's summer seminar in philosophy; photo taken by Professor David Boonin.

As he nears graduation, Robert Campbell looks back on his exemplary academic achievements. The honors philosophy student has been involved in many learning experiences beyond the classroom, all of which led him to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he’ll be pursuing a PhD in philosophy come fall 2023.

What brought you to the University of Minnesota and how did you choose your major and minor?

In high school, I earned an associate in the arts (AA) degree through Minnesota's Postsecondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program; because the U of M recognized that work, it allowed me to start taking higher-level classes as soon as I enrolled. Since I was already interested in what the professors in the philosophy department were doing—and they sometimes let undergraduates take graduate-level courses and seminars—the decision to come here was pretty easy. Moreover, I'm a fan of the Twin Cities!

Which CLA class or professor has had the biggest impact on you? Why?

A quartet of moral and political philosophers (Profs. Michelle Mason Bizri, Tamara Fakhoury, Sarah Holtman, and Valerie Tiberius) have had a profound impact on my academic and philosophical development. By working with and learning from them, I've changed my mind about various issues, learned to think more clearly about these issues and the stakes involved, and appreciated the complexity and nuance inherent in every area of ethical inquiry. Thanks to their influence, I am a more charitable and curious scholar than I otherwise would have been. 

What experiences have you had outside of the classroom to enhance your studies? How have they influenced your career goals or other ambitions?

Extracurricularly, two groups of people have enhanced my studies. First, there are my fellow philosophy undergraduates. I have leadership positions in Epistemai, the U of M's undergraduate philosophy journal, and the Philosophy Club. These positions have afforded the opportunity to meet people and have conversations that ground the theoretical pursuits in which (many) philosophy students are engaged. In any case, talking shop with friends is fun!

Second, there are my inspirational professors. I've worked closely with a few professors over the years; one supervised my Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) project, another supervised my thesis, and two more sat on my thesis committee. Each of them have been extraordinarily generous with their time and mentorship and made the intricacies of academia easier to navigate. Without them and their support, I certainly wouldn't be going to graduate school (after all, they are my letter writers!). Due to the U of M's distinct professors and students, my college experience has been worthwhile. 

What is your dream job? How is your liberal arts education helping you reach your post-graduation goals?

My dream job is being a professor in philosophy. First, I love the subject; reading, writing, and talking with other people about philosophy has taken up a lot of my time the past few years, but I cannot think of a better way to have spent it. Second, I enjoy research. Being a student here has given me the opportunity to publish and present several projects, and these experiences have been some of the most rewarding of my undergraduate career. As such, I want to secure a job that facilitates research. Third, I like to teach. For the past several years, I've gone through the U of M to work as a teaching assistant for history classes, and—during the summer—I've been a youth worker. These experiences have been rewarding, and I think teaching at the collegiate level in a subject with which I'm fascinated would be even better. 

What's next on the horizon?

I'll be attending UCLA next fall to pursue a fully-funded PhD in philosophy, where I'll be focusing on moral and political philosophy. Thanks to the opportunities I've received and the excellent philosophy faculty at the U of M, I've developed the skills necessary to become an engaged and responsible scholar. Unfortunately, now that UCLA is joining the Big Ten, I won't know who to cheer for!

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