Alumni Updates: Nicolas Navarro

Among many other skills, philosophy students are taught to think critically, analyze thoroughly, and approach challenges confidently. This kind of education and training prepares philosophy students for any post-graduate career or endeavor. Alumnus Nicolas Navarro ’16, who studied both psychology and philosophy, shares an update of his post-graduate life:

The misty mornings walking to class through the President’s Woods seem a world away as I, Nicolas Navarro, write this update from Huehuetenango, Guatemala as a current Peace Corps Volunteer. In the short two years separating my days in Guatemala and Tacoma, my philosophy on life has changed considerably. I’ve continued my education by working with different non-profits supporting youth development and entrepreneurship, completed coursework for a master’s degree from the University of Miami, and embarked on some of the greatest adventures of my life. I’ll take a note from John Dewey and say, “education was not preparation for life; education is life itself.”

At UM, the Communities and Social Change master’s program included topics on community psychology, youth development, and the management of community organizations. Complementing my studies in Psychology and Philosophy at UPS, I was prepared to think critically and synthesize large amounts of information. Here in Guatemala, I draw from my formal education career and life experiences to support the Peace Corps’ Youth in Development (YID) program.

Encouraging youth leadership, teaching life skills & healthy decisions, and focusing on building local capacity to support youth, the YID program strives to improve the lives of young people around the world. As a program coordinator, I am most passionate about authentically involving young people in both the creation of programs and decision-making processes that impact them. The psychology and philosophy departments at UPS taught me the importance of supporting dialogue between youth on topics of well-being, philosophy, and education; my master’s program taught me the importance of taking action; now I find myself, practicing what I’ve learned.

With plans to further develop the Youth in Development program framework, submit two research articles in community psychology journals for review, and to explore the epistemology of Quality in my next book, life seems to be moving at full speed. Beyond school and work, I’ve found time to ride my motorcycle cross-country from Tacoma to Miami, hitch-hike the west coast’s Highway-1, and I’ve met incredible people all along the way. My philosophy on life is becoming less and less goal oriented, narrowing in on the importance of the process it takes to tell a story. I am grateful for the privilege to be invited to work in such a beautiful country as Guatemala and grateful for all the hands that have helped me get to where I am.

To read more of my thoughts, check out my blog!

Alumni Profiles: Brenden Goetz

Philosophy majors pursue a wide variety of career paths after graduation, including but not limited to law, business, and higher education. Every few weeks, we will be featuring one of our department’s alumni, highlighting how their studies in philosophy have helped them in their post-graduate careers.

Brenden Goetz graduated in 2007 with a degree in Philosophy. He now works as a Data Manager for the University of Colorado at Denver IT Department. When asked how studying philosophy has helped him in his career, he said:

“Studying philosophy was definitely a fantastic decision! Learning to dissect arguments and lines of reasoning, ask meaningful questions, and communicate clearly are skills I developed in school and use all the time. And a general curiosity for getting to the root of problems has served me well, too.”

Alumni Profiles: Sarah Jacobson

Philosophy majors pursue a wide variety of career paths after graduation, including but not limited to law, business, and higher education. Every few weeks, we will be featuring one of our department’s alumni, highlighting how their studies in philosophy have helped them in their post-graduate careers.

Sarah Jacobson graduated in 2005 with a degree in Philosophy. She now works as a Transit Control Supervisor for the Minneapolis Metro Transit. When asked how studying philosophy has helped her in her career, she said:

“My philosophy degree helped me transition into management positions easily, since I have superior critical thinking and problem solving skills and excellent written and oral communication. My career didn’t turn out as planned, but even so, I think my degree set me up to succeed.”

Alumni Profiles: Holli Fillbach Simcoe ’95

Philosophy majors pursue a wide variety of career paths after graduation, including but not limited to law, business, and higher education. Every few weeks, we will be featuring one of our department’s alumni, highlighting how their studies in philosophy have helped them in their post-graduate careers.

Holli Fillbach Simcoe graduated in 1995 with a degree in Philosophy. She now works as an Assistant General Counsel at Huron Consulting Group, which is a global management consulting group. When asked how studying philosophy has helped her in her career, she said:

“It’s hard to put a finger on exactly how philosophy studies have contributed to my career. It certainly helps me to be a critical thinker but also to be open-minded and creative.  I usually have more than one solution to a problem which most people find refreshing(…) in our many class discussions, I often took the minority viewpoint for the sake of argument. For example, if you were stuck on a boat in the ocean would you fend for yourself or cooperate for the greater good.  I found it more interesting to consider fending for myself than the more “sane” concept of working together.  This “thinking skill” or perhaps, “objectivity,” allows me to consider many angles of an issue or problem.  I tend not to dismiss something that may seem less rational than other solutions.”


Alumni News: Ben Malkin ’12

We heard from Ben Malkin, who sent us the following update from Southern California:


I am working at my old elementary/middle school, right now as a middle school dorm parent. I am going back to school in the spring to get my teaching credentials.  Ojai Valley School is in my home town and is a wonderful private school.  Outdoor education is huge part of the school, we take the kids camping on the islands, go on rock climbing, snorkeling, kayaking trips, every 6th, 7th, and 8h grader must go on at least a 7 day back packing trip, and really anything outdoors to help kids grow. I will be working here for the next few years and maybe even long term.


Jessica Berry ’94 interviewed by 3am Magazine

Jessica Berry graduated from Puget Sound in 1994.  She went on to get a PhD in Philosophy at the University of Texas at Austin and is currently an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Georgia State University.  She is the author of Nietzsche and the Ancient Skeptical Tradition.  Here is the start of the interview, read the rest at 3am Magazine.

A Pyrrhonian Nietzschean stakeout

Jessica Berry interviewed by Richard Marshall.

Jessica Berry stays cool calm and collected as she pronounces Nietzsche a Pyrrhonian skeptic. She says Nietzsche sees Homer as a counterexample to all our dominant ascetic values rather than an alternative role model but who like himself regarded many of his central questions as psychological questions and was preoccupied with nihilism. She doesn’t think Nietzsche thought reality was a flux nor that knowledge is impossible and takes issue with those who say he’s some kind of anti-realist about morals because that saddles him with metaphysical views. Everything she says is mind-bombingly, brain-teasingly provocative which makes her an inspirational carpet of philosophical groovaciousness.

3:AM: What made you become a philosopher? Was it Nietzsche?

Jessica Berry: No, actually I had no exposure to philosophy at all, much less to Nietzsche, until I went off to college. But somehow I was intrigued by philosophy even before I knew properly what it was. In the summer before I left for university, I was asked to select, from a menu of courses, one class where the instructor would act as a kind of academic advisor during the coming years. The premise wasn’t that we were selecting a major, of course, and that isn’t how I thought about it; it was more of an academic “homeroom” of sorts. I picked ‘Philosophy 101’ without any hesitation at all. It sounded completely exotic and challenging to me, and in that sense a nice change of pace after a pretty mediocre secondary school education. I remember distinctly spending weeks on Descartes’ Meditations, which I confess I found baffling at the time, and reading some Mill and Kant; I was immediately drawn in. Until then, I had always thought I would study psychology as a college student, but I quickly came to realise that the questions that attracted me to the idea of studying psychology (to which I’d had no real exposure either before college) were not questions that could sustain my interest in the discipline of psychology. In that respect, a philosophy of mind course I took was a real eye-opener for me. The problem of consciousness, the nature of mental states, the relationship between objects of perception and our representations of them, and worries about whether we have the sort of self-transparency that psychology (clinical psychology, at any rate) seemed to presuppose I just found totally absorbing. The questions about perception and self-knowledge led me to think about problems of knowledge more generally, and ultimately to an interest in epistemology and an openness to philosophical skepticism that still guides a lot of my work.  I wasn’t introduced to Nietzsche until late in my undergraduate career, and though I thoroughly enjoyed his writing, I never thought about doing any serious work on his philosophy until years later – really, when I’d finished my graduate coursework and started thinking about a dissertation. It was about that time – in light of some work I’d been doing on skepticism and its history – that Nietzsche’s thought began to make sense to me in a way it hadn’t before and that my reading of Nietzsche began to take real shape. When I reflect a little on what attracts me to Nietzsche’s work, though, I think it’s no accident that Nietzsche regards many of his central questions as psychological questions, and even that the Greek skeptics, whose practice suggested to me a framework for understanding Nietzsche’s project, regard themselves as psychologists (or therapists) of a sort. Nietzsche’s questions about the psychological springs of our actions were the very questions that had interested me from the beginning…

Alumni Interviews: Rob Colter

This is the first installment in our Philosophy Alumni Interview Series.


Professor Rob Colter graduated from Puget Sound in 1992. Originally a pre-med student, he became interested in Philosophy after taking a class in the honors program. He received an M.A. in Classics from the University of Colorado and a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Northwestern.  He is now an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wyoming. His primary work is in ancient philosophy but he also has interests in contemporary analytic epistemology and metaphysics.

 His advice to majors?
Do what you love!


How did people react to you being a Philosophy major?

I got a fair bit of the “so, are you going to teach?” response. I think I was fortunate, however, that I have an uncle who is a professor of philosophy, so my family had some idea of where I might be headed.

 What was your favorite Philosophy class and why?

I would have to say two. The first was Professor Cannon’s Philosophical Analysis class. We read a good number of central works in twentieth century philosophy, and I remember I researched issues in set theory for my term paper. The second is when I had the opportunity to be the teaching assistant for Professor Cannon’s logic courses.

How has being a Philosophy Major impacted your life?

 Given that I have made a career out of it, I think it was absolutely essential, for obvious reasons. In every way, philosophy has permeated my life. In elementary school, my son once described my job as a “professional arguer,” and he’s not far off!

Are there any memories of being a Philosophy major that stand out?

One that stands out is translating Plato’s Parmenides on the roof of the tower of Jones Hall (where the department was located in my day) with Bill Barry. Defending my Honors Thesis also stands out.

Did you have anything else you’d like to add?

Bill Beardsley once told me that doing philosophy as a career is a “really strange life.” We “work” all day thinking of things that most people think are really strange. While that’s certainly true, I prefer to think of it as “wonderful.” He also told me never to tell anyone in a bar that you are a philosopher. That was probably also good advice.

If you are interested in learning more about Professor Colter or Philosophy, you can contact him via email at rcolter – at –