Ninth Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference brings diversity to forefront

Diversity was encouraged during in the 9th Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference according to philosophy professor Saba Fatima.

Annual Undergraduate Philosophy Conference's participants along with philosophy professor Saba Fatima.

“We advertised the conference in a lot of places where our call for papers would be visible to students from underrepresented backgrounds,” Fatima said. “We reached out to organizations that cater to underrepresented groups and minorities based on socio-economic status, race and gender.”

Fatima said almost half the participants were female, which is unusual for philosophy conferences. In addition, the conference also had sign language interpreters to ensure accessibility to diverse groups of students, according to Fatima.

The conference took place at the MUC Oct. 24 and 25, and featured paper presentations from undergraduate students throughout the U.S. and locally such as from Washington University in St. Louis, Webster University, Illinois State University and SIUE.

According to Fatima, the conference was well attended and fostered a climate for philosophical dialogue. Fatima said the best student papers will be published in a special issue of “Polymath: An Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences Journal.”

The conference is a student run event lead by senior philosophy major Stephen Wilke, president of The Lyceum Club.

He said the conference is an excellent way to broaden students’ connections to the academic community.

“This gives the SIUE Philosophy Department a name for itself, and enhances the experience of philosophy students and enthusiasts at SIUE,” Wilke said. “Philosophy is rooted in community and personal interaction. Without conversation there is no progress and this conference provides a forum for conversation.”

Fatima said the conference allows students to experience, often for first time, how to conduct philosophical conversations and present their papers in a professional setting.

“I think this is also a point of pride for our department because it gives SIUE a lot of recognition in the field of philosophy,” Fatima said.

For many years the conference has had the generosity of well-respected scholars in the field of philosophy to present their research according to Fatima.

This year’s keynote speaker was professor Charlotte Witt, from the University of New Hampshire. Her work focuses on feminism and ancient and medieval philosophy. She has authored three books: “The Metaphysics of Gender” (2010), “Ways of Being: Potentiality and Actuality in Aristotle’s Metaphysics” (2003), and “Substance and Essence in Aristotle” (1989) and numerous other journal articles.

Witt’s address was attended by more than 50 people, according to Fatima and sponsored by the support of SIUE Student Government which is overseen by the Kimmel Student Involvement Center.

Wilke stressed how important community is to philosophy.

“Getting the chance to assemble a group of philosophy students together that are committed to the discipline and take pride in their work is a huge opportunity for any philosophy major,” Wilke said.

Sponsors for the conference included the Office of the Provost, The College of Arts & Sciences, the Department of Philosophy, and the philosophy student club The Lyceum.


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