Pirie Maher and Amy Cain, Philosophy and Religion Student Ambassadors
When she’s not nailing her philosophy classes or learning Russian or volunteering on political campaigns, Amy is busy collecting awards and writing her honors thesis in political philosophy. She’s the recipient of the 2018 Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Study of Politics, the 2019 James and Cecelia Lawhead Award in Philosophy, and a bronze medalist for the Post-Secondary Russian Essay Content.
Why did you decide to major in philosophy?
I did not declare my philosophy major until my junior year. I started in the political science department, but as I took more and more classes on theories in political science, I decided to combine my passion for politics and philosophy through courses like philosophy of law and political philosophy. I never expected to enjoy classes in ancient philosophy or philosophy of consciousness because they’re not as directly related to political science, but as I was able to work with the professors in this department and see their passion for this work, I knew that philosophy was a field I wanted to pursue.
Have you had a lightbulb moment in a class?
The first semester of my sophomore year, I took Dr. Westmoreland’s introduction to philosophy class, and it was one of those classes where I left everyday confused and excited about different questions that I had never even considered before. I cannot point to an exact moment in that class that was a “lightbulb” moment, but by the end of that course, I knew that I had more questions than answers and that I would need to spend more than just a semester thinking it out. One class led to the next, and three years later I am still searching out answers. I think I prefer it that way.
What’s an experience that made you feel empowered as a student?
In an Honors 102 class, I wrote my first “philosophy style” paper as I tried to work out my answer to a tough moral dilemma, and I felt truly productive for completing it. I found an answer for myself that had genuine implications for the way I see the world and live my life.
Have professors at UM mentored you?
I was fortunate enough to take a class with Dr. Lawhead during my freshman year in the Honors College in which he challenged us to think about societal issues and discuss our views in an open atmosphere. After that course he encouraged me to take an introductory philosophy course, and I am incredibly grateful that I did because it led me both to a new major and to a professor who will be coaching me through my capstone project. UM is an ideal place to study political science and philosophy because it offers a wide range of expertise from professors and the class sizes are small, so there’s a lot of interaction between professors and students.
What are your post-graduation plans?
I will be joining Teach for America for at least two years after graduation, and then, I hope to either teach abroad or go to a Ph.D. program in political philosophy and become a professor.
What’s your favorite meal in Oxford?
A tofu, rice, and cheese burrito from South Depot with chips and queso (of course).
Pirie is an ace student and a born leader. A double major in philosophy and economics, she is Vice President of Philanthropy for the UM College Panhellenic, which governs over the entire sorority community of about 4,000 women and she served as a freshman council member of the UM Associated Student Body. She’s been on the Chancellor’s Honor roll for three years.
Why did you decide to double major in philosophy and economics?
Economics has always been my favorite subject, and I had a pre-existing interest in philosophy. After I took an intro course in philosophy, just a few weeks into my Philosophy 101 class, I decided to add it as a major.
Why did you pick UM?
Both philosophy and economics are small programs at UM. This is such a plus. Professors recognize me and know my name. Because the class sizes are small, you really get to know your classmates. These majors are the hidden gems of the university.
What are your career goals?
I’m in the process of applying to law school for fall 2020. I’m from the Midwest, and I’d like to go back and serve my community.
Have you been involved in community service at UM?
I’m the director of the Care Walk for fall 2019, and we’re expecting to raise over $40,000 for breast cancer awareness at Baptist Memorial Hospital in Oxford.
What’s your go-to meal in Oxford?
The turkey dinner at Ajax Diner with mashed potatoes and broccoli rice casserole!
What are you binge watching?
Madame Secretary or Gossip Girl.