If you’re already a Horizons client, you may already know that I earned a PhD in Philosophy in the 1990s — in Ethics & Social Philosophy, from Washington University in Saint Louis. After a couple of one-year teaching positions, looking for a tenure-track position and moving my young family back and forth across the country, we decided that it was time to explore my professional options outside of academia. An entry-level job at T Rowe Price led to a leadership position at First Affirmative, which in turn led to my partnership with Kim and current sole ownership here at Horizons.
I maintained a lot of the relationships I had from grad school and from my couple of years as an extremely-assistant professor. And over the years, I have made occasional presentations at philosophy conferences, and published some academic articles. Occasionally someone asks how I made my way from academic philosophy to the investment world. My answer usually begins with the famous phrase from Kierkegaard, “Life can only be understood backwards, but must be lived forwards”; the rest of the story is one of travels from theoretical ethics to extremely applied ethics, on a journey without an obvious map.
Late last year, and kind of out of the blue, my friend Professor Sally Scholz of Villanova University nominated me for a three-year term on the American Philosophical Association‘s “Committee on Non-Academic Careers“. Academic wheels grind slowly, so it took a few months for news of the confirmation to come through. I’ve renewed my membership in the APA and am working with the Committee already — I’ve been able to participate in a few Zoom meetings and offer some input on a few documents. We have plans for some “AMA” (“ask me anything”) -style discussions, some topical video presentations, and a few other interesting opportunities for interaction with current graduate students who are considering employment paths that don’t involve college teaching.
It’s not uncommon for students with philosophy undergraduate degrees to find their ways into other fields. Fewer people with advanced degrees in philosophy make a switch to other careers. I think that’s unfortunate, because advanced training in philosophy is one way to learn the skills of extremely careful thought, and it’s clear that we need all kinds of thoughtful people spread throughout society, not just concentrated in colleges and universities. I’m very happy to be able to serve the APA as a member of the Committee, and hope that I can help guide some young philosophers into professions they hadn’t considered.