Jessica Wei

2021 Outstanding UDR Award Recipient
Philosophy UDR


I’ve loved philosophy and our philosophy department since my first year at Brandeis. I felt so intellectually stimulated and so belonged to such a welcoming, supportive community. That’s why I undertook the UDR position: I wanted to give back to the philosophy community here with the overflowing enthusiasm and gratitude I had. Given my fruitful experience at a department that feels like a family to me, serving the philosophy department to the best of my ability felt like the least I can do. Because of my junior year abroad, I only got to serve my dream UDR position as a senior, and unfortunately during COVID. Nonetheless, I have enjoyed every single bit of my UDR service. 

As UDR, I wanted to make inclusivity in philosophy a keystone to my service. In my capacity, I have initiated and organized a paper-writing guidance session designed to spell out the less obvious rules in writing a philosophy paper. I myself struggled with finding clear philosophy writing directions and expectations when I first stepped into philosophy, and the guidance session was my attempt to connect all philosophy students to the writing conventions in philosophy, which should prove especially helpful to students coming from backgrounds that lack equal access to opportunities and resources. Among many other services and initiatives, I have compiled a Google Drive folder with plentiful philosophy related resources to share with my peers, regularly distributed information related to philosophy to student listservs, and co-organized biweekly ‘Socrates Cafe’ discussion groups with my fellow UDR’s (Jacob Knauer and Alex Kougasian). The ‘Socrates Cafe’ space provides those interested in philosophy a more inclusive, comfortable space to engage in philosophical discussions outside class. 

Given the isolation we were all in this year, I felt an even stronger sense of responsibility in fostering a sense of community. With the help from my fellow UDR’s, I organized (mostly virtual) social events like Socrates Café and Zoom mixer hangout, and I also created a virtual Slack community. At the beginning of the year, we also made a YouTube video introducing ourselves, our roles, and the activities we planned to hold. 

My biggest piece of advice for future UDR’s is to let your passion and creativity guide you (as vague as it sounds!). Every department is unique, and with a bit of close attention, you’ll come to see the specific areas (e.g., department climate, sense of community, course availability) in which you could help make a positive, substantial difference. That said, I have come to summarize a few practical tips to maximize productivity: 1) break down large tasks and goals into smaller pieces; 2) plan in advance and set up specific deadlines for each task; 3) regularly communicate with your fellow UDR’s; and 4) allot a weekly time just for UDR related work. Lastly, I would say to treat the UDR position with the enthusiasm of planning for your long-awaited party or trip, but with the serious sense of responsibility you’d have for schoolwork or a paid job. Congratulations, incoming UDR’s, and best of luck!