Graduate success

Anna Christensen ’10Philosophy doctoral student, Washington University
St. Louis, Missouri

I think, therefore I am
After graduating from Northwestern with a major in philosophy and a minor in music, Anna decided to further her education by pursuing a doctorate at Washington University (WASHU). A teaching assistant and part-time instructor at University College at WASHU, Anna plans to pursue a career as a professor of philosophy.


Why did you choose Northwestern?

I was looking for a small, friendly and academically serious place where I could explore what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. Northwestern fit those requirements nicely. When I started at NWC, I didn't even know what philosophy was, let alone that I would find it interesting. During my first semester at NWC, I took a class on ancient Greek philosophy. I enjoyed the class so much that I eventually settled on philosophy for my career path.

What do you find most interesting about philosophy?

At its core, philosophy is about asking questions, hunting for answers, and then asking more questions about the answers in an ongoing search for understanding. I love this philosophical process. I think there is nothing more exciting than to pursue an interesting question as far as it can go. 

How well did Northwestern prepare you for grad school?

In many ways, there is no way to prepare entirely for the adjustment of entering into a Ph.D. program at a large university from a private college like Northwestern. Even so, when I started at Washington University, I soon found out I was just as well prepared as anyone else. The academic workload I had at NWC taught me time-management skills that have been invaluable in dealing with the pressures of a doctoral program.  More significantly, my professors at NWC helped prepare me for my graduate school experience by giving me opportunities to engage in advanced academics, and by making sure I knew what I could expect in making the transition to graduate school.

What did you appreciate most about the philosophy department?

The professors in the philosophy department are awesome. They really care about their students, and they seek to help their students understand and succeed. They always took the time to encourage me in my academic pursuits and helped me develop into a better student and philosopher. Because of their training and support, I was well able to take on the new challenges of a graduate program.

How did studying philosophy impact your faith?

You can’t be a philosopher for long without running into questions regarding whether God exists or how evil can exist in a world ruled by a benevolent, omniscient and omnipotent God. Some Christians have taken this to mean that philosophy is hostile to the Christian faith. In my experience, nothing could be further from the truth. Rather, philosophy has presented me with an opportunity to reflect deeply on my faith and come to a fuller understanding and appreciation of God.

What’s your favorite memory from NWC?

Some of my best memories are of small, unplanned day-to-day events shared with friends and dorm-mates. I loved gathering with friends for impromptu late-night study sessions and coffee breaks. Occasionally these gatherings would involve actual studying, but more often than not, they would evolve into an intense conversation about diverse subjects from philosophy to films to religion.

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