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Michael Dale

Email: michaeldale@utexas.edu

Michael Dale

I grew up in a small town in the mountains of Idaho, and I graduated from Vassar College with a degree in philosophy. After taking three years off from academia to write and travel, I decided to go back to graduate school. For the first go round, I decided to only apply to MA programs because I wanted to both improve my application (I came to philosophy late in undergrad) and test the waters to see if I really wanted to make the leap to a PhD program.

In the end, I came to Brandeis, and I am very glad that I did. Brandeis is a small, liberal arts university with a strong emphasis on research excellence. In my view, such an environment is ideal for graduate study. The classes were small, and the discussions were always vibrant, interesting, and constructive. The MA cohorts were also small, and because there were always only about two cohorts of people in the MA program at a given time, we were all able to have strong, developed relationships with faculty members. 

In general, the faculty in the Brandeis philosophy department are outstanding, and they are very supportive of MA students. When I arrived, I instantly felt comfortable in the department, as many faculty members made an effort to reach out to me and speak with me about my research interests. Jerry Samet and Marion Smiley were my main advisors, and I feel very fortunate to have worked with them. I also reached out to Kate Moran, BerMarušić, Jen Marušić, Andreas Teuber, and Palle Yourgrau during my time there, and while they were not technically my advisors, they were all open and interested in discussing my work and seeing how I could improve. In general, I cannot emphasize enough how much I appreciated the supportive, intimate community at Brandeis.

One important aspect of the Brandeis MA curriculum is the amount of freedom that it allows. When I was applying to MA programs, I was looking for one that would allow me the freedom to design and develop a course of study that worked best for me, as opposed to a program that had lots of specific requirements and hurtles to get through. Brandeis turned out to be ideal for that. While actively taking courses in areas that I knew I was weak in, I was also able to delve deeply into areas that I had a true passion for (and it is these latter areas that are my research interests today). Overall, it felt as if the Brandeis faculty trusted us to find our own particular way through the program, and for me this confidence inspired both a sense of responsibility and a desire to succeed. 

In general, I'm very glad that I decided to do an MA before a PhD. If I were to go straight into a PhD program, I would have needed to spend a year or two figuring out my research interests, understanding how to navigate graduate student life, and finding out what it means to be a professional philosopher (which, by the way, is much different than being an undergrad philosophy major!). But because of my three semesters at Brandeis, I didn't need to spend any time in my PhD program figuring these issues out, and this enabled me to hit the ground running. 

A final benefit to Brandeis's program is its access to Boston. Not only was I able to enroll in a course at Tufts with very minimal red tape, but I was also lucky enough (due to Brandeis connections) to land a job as a research assistant in a developmental psychology lab at Harvard. Because I am pursuing an interdisciplinary course of study, this lab experience was invaluable to my understanding of how science functions on the ground level.

I am currently a third year PhD student in the department of philosophy at The University of Texas at Austin. My main interests are ethics, metaethics, and moral psychology, but I am also interested in political philosophy, consciousness, cognitive science, and evolutionary biology. For more information, check out my website.