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Alumni Spotlight

Anthony Kelley

Anthony Kelley

How did NIU Philosophy help prepare you for your doctoral program/career in philosophy?

The philosophers at Northern Illinois provided models of philosophical excellence to which I still aspire. I did not major in philosophy in college, so I did not fully understand how contemporary analytic philosophers conduct research. I learned from the Northern Illinois philosophy faculty how to think more carefully and systematically; how to write clearly and convincingly; and how to be a respectful and an engaging interlocutor. I'm still developing these skills in my Ph.D. program, but Northern Illinois gave me an excellent start.

Also, the philosophy faculty equipped me with a breadth of knowledge of the history of philosophy as well as a breadth of knowledge of contemporary topics. This knowledge helps me in my current research when I need to investigate a question that is outside of my primary area of interest. This broad familiarity with the field also helped me pick a dissertation topic as well as a methodological approach most suited for my topic and the way I like to do philosophy.

Lastly, my training at Northern Illinois helped me to be more confident in my philosophical abilities. Some graduate students tend to feel like they do not belong and that they lack any genuine philosophical talent. Psychologists call this phenomenon "impostor syndrome." Practicing articulating my thoughts in a warm and welcoming environment at Northern Illinois helped me combat these feelings of self-doubt as I began my Ph.D. program at Colorado.

What do you feel is special about NIU Philosophy?

Northern Illinois is a very special place to study philosophy. The philosophy faculty is genuinely committed to the success of each and every student. There's a good climate for members of underrepresented groups to study philosophy. A good climate is an ineffable thing that is hard to replicate; the philosophy faculty has somehow managed to strike the important balance between professionalism and friendliness.

Another thing that makes NIU special is the fact that students are encouraged to take a comprehensive examination instead of writing a master's thesis. Most people want to write a master's thesis in order to use it as a writing sample for Ph.D. applications, but one can easily work with a faculty member on, say, a term paper instead and save a lot of time and still produce a quality piece of writing for Ph.D. applications.

Why would you recommend NIU Philosophy to applicants to MA programs?

I strongly recommend Northern Illinois for anyone considering a master's program in philosophy. A master's degree in philosophy prepares one for any career where critical thinking and clear and sophisticated writing is valuable, but given the current state of the philosophy profession profession, those who apply to a Ph.D. program in philosophy with a master's degree seem to have an advantage over those who apply without one.

NIU's placement record shows tremendous success in placing students in top Ph.D. programs. When NIU graduates excel in Ph.D. programs, as they almost always do, this seems to create something like a positive feedback loop wherein NIU graduates are more likely to be accepted to the Ph.D. program in the first place. For example, the fact that NIU graduates had been admitted and performed well in the program at Colorado created a certain reputation among the faculty at Colorado as to what NIU graduates are capable of and I suspect that I benefitted to some degree from this reputation when I applied to Colorado's Ph.D. program. When you apply to Ph.D. programs in philosophy with letters of recommendation from faculty at NIU, you are benefitting to some degree from the fact (if it is a fact) that NIU graduates have performed well at the program to which you are applying. 

Is there anything else you'd like to tell prospective students about NIU philosophy? 

I had an excellent time at NIU. One thing that is particularly worth mentioning is that during my time at NIU, I met some really good friends that I still keep in touch with. Since we've graduated, we read each other's work and talk philosophy over Skype. It is likely that you will form deep bonds with the other people in the program because you all will be going through the same rigorous philosophical training. These relationships have been helpful to me both personally and professionally in these early years of my career.


Doctoral student in philosophy at the University of Colorado at Boulder, specializing in ethics

Mr. Kelley spent the summer of 2015 as a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Moral and Political Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem.


M.A., philosophy, Northern Illinois University, 2011

B.A., women’s and gender studies, Columbia University, 2009