How did NIU Philosophy help prepare you for your doctoral program/career in philosophy?
The program prepared me for professional philosophy in a number of foundational ways. In addition to helping me develop a broad knowledge base, the first year provided a good transition into graduate work: I gained a firm grasp of symbolic logic, and found myself thrust into conversation with other students pursuing intriguing research projects. The wealth of topic-oriented courses offered gave me opportunity to discover specific questions I might want to pursue in a more sustained way.
The second year supplied excellent grounding in pursuing an independent research project. Faculty members took time to work with me on my writing, suggested reading lists to round out blind spots in my general knowledge, gave helpful advice about how to approach and familiarize myself with a new literature, showed me how to situate my project in broader debates, and coached me in effectively presenting my research at conferences. All of these have been essential skills in my work at my doctoral program.
What do you feel is special about NIU Philosophy?
The most striking thing about NIU is the strong supportive environment. The faculty are very willing to invest in the students and challenge them, but are careful to accommodate the fact that the students come from a wide variety of backgrounds and vary in their confidence that they want to pursue professional philosophy. You can take the program at your own speed, and it emphasizes pursuit of philosophical questions for intrinsic interest; there are ample opportunities for professionalization, but it isn't a primary focus of the program.
Student cohorts tend to be close-knit and friendly, spurring each other on in their research without developing an overly competitive atmosphere. Seminar discussions are collaborative and challenging, and often continued at weekend barbecues or over dinner. Here again it's up to you how to take advantage of the program's structure: you can live and breathe philosophy, if you like, or you can join in for weekdays and work hours if that's more your style.
Why would you recommend NIU Philosophy to applicants to MA programs?
The philosophy program at NIU is excellent for students who want to improve their chances of getting accepted to (and being successful at) top doctoral programs, who want to supplement a weak academic background in philosophy, or who want to take a year or two to decide whether professional philosophy is for them before committing to a long program.
The departmental culture is healthy, encouraging alike students who go on to pursue the PhD and those who determine that they’d prefer a different path. The course offerings and degree requirements are structured to ensure that every student gets a solid grounding in the basics: comfort with logic, familiarity with the major subfields, and a working knowledge of how to approach research on contemporary questions.
If you decide to pursue a PhD, the faculty have enough information from your first year in the program to give detailed advice on which programs would be a good fit, given your interests, working style, and general approach. The program also has a strong placement record for students who elect to apply to doctoral programs, and provides substantial support through the application process.
Postdoctoral research fellow, School of Philosophy, Australian National University, 2017-2019
In fall 2019, Dr. Bolinger will be assistant professor at Princeton University, with a joint appointment in the Department of Politics and the University Center for Human Values
Dr. Bolinger is also an artist, creator of the Philosopher Portraits Series
Ph.D., philosophy, University of Southern California, 2017
M.A., philosophy, Northern Illinois University, 2012
B.S., studio arts, summa cum laude, Biola University, 2010
B.A., philosophy, summa cum laude, Biola University, 2009