Rogers ’17, Scott ’16 help design survey that could impact field of philosophy
Centre College students who engage in collaborative research with faculty often contribute to work that directly impacts the field of study they are pursuing. Katie Rogers ’17 (pictured above, middle) and Ally Scott ’16 (above, left) have been working with Assistant Professor of Philosophy Eva Cadavid (above, right) and Associate Professor of Religion and Philosophy David Hall to collect data that they hope will shed light on the cause of low female participation in the undergraduate philosophy major.
The student-faculty team has created an anonymous online survey that gauges male and female responses to introductory philosophy courses as well as their perceptions about the discipline of philosophy in general.
“Usually the number of female students who take intro philosophy classes is pretty equivalent to the number of males,” explains Cadavid. “The big drop is in upper-level classes. So we are trying to find out why so many female students do not go on to take upper-level classes despite the fact that they show the same interest and engagement as males do in the intro courses.”
Though philosophy majors at Centre are primarily female, this is not the case nationwide and has led to the broader issue of vast underrepresentation of women in philosophy. According to the team, females make up only 21 percent of all Ph.D.’s in philosophy. The survey will attempt to prove or disprove some of the theories about what is causing the trend at the undergraduate level.
Rogers and Scott were highly involved in each step of the project, from finding existing research on the subject to designing, distributing and revising the survey.
“Ally and Katie really helped frame what the project has become,” says Hall. “They stepped up and in many ways and really took the lead.”
One reason the students became so invested in this research is because they recognized the potential implications it could have.
“The most rewarding part of our research was knowing that the work we are doing will actually help to improve the field of philosophy,” says Scott. “Not just by contributing new ideas and theories but by opening up the field to those who have historically been underrepresented in philosophy.”
While this research is clearly relevant to Scott, who is a philosophy major herself, it also became important to Rogers, who plans to major in behavioral neuroscience and had little experience with philosophy prior to this collaboration. Thanks to her involvement in the project, she gained a new academic interest.
“I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the gender studies aspect of our research,” says Rogers. “I enjoyed it so much that I have decided to minor in gender studies and have begun taking some courses in it this semester.”
Overall, both students believe research opportunities, such as this, have much to offer.
“Undergraduate research has a lot to contribute and can have more influence than people expect,” Scott says. “It has the ability to increase students’ passion for their field and give them valuable experience that they would normally only get at the graduate level.”
“Seeing how much Dr. Hall and Dr. Cadavid put into their work is very inspiring,” adds Rogers. “I hope that, in the future, I love what I am doing as much they do.”
Though summer is over, Rogers and Scott’s work on the project will continue. Rogers is currently serving as Cadavid’s research assistant, and when Scott returns from her semester studying abroad in Reading, England, she will also resume her work on the survey.
Moreover, the paper the team wrote on their initial research has been accepted at two different conferences next month: the University of California-Irvine Hypatia Society’s “Perspectives on Gender” and the Midwest Society for Women in Philosophy conferences. Rogers will attend both with Hall and Cadavid and will present some of the research herself.
“It’s exciting to be part of this research. Before this project, I didn’t realize there was such a gender difference in fields other than the sciences,” says Rogers. “I’m so grateful to Centre for giving me the opportunity to work with such great professors and to present our work in a professional setting.”
by Caitlan Cole