COMPASS

Ruth Chang, Sara McGrath, Elizabeth Harman, and L.A. Paul offering advice to undergraduates interested in graduate school in philosophy.

COMPASS is a workshop that brings together students from diverse backgrounds for a weekend of philosophical discussion, networking, and mentoring. A number of schools including UNC, University of Michigan, UT Austin, and Princeton regularly run COMPASS workshops.

If you’d like to know more about COMPASS, you can check out the website, or contact me!

I created and ran the first COMPASS Workshop when I was a graduate student at Princeton, in 2016. Fifteen undergraduates were invited (out of a group of applicants who identified as either women or gender minorities) from a variety of campuses near Princeton for a weekend of philosophical discussion and mentoring sessions. The workshop was structured as a kind of extended reading group. In advance of the workshop, the participants read six philosophy papers from a variety of sub-disciplines. Over the course of the weekend, the invitees and graduate students discussed each of these papers in six different discussion sessions. The discussions were largely undergraduate-led, with facilitation by graduate students. In addition, there were two advice sessions with faculty members from nearby departments.

The goal in starting the workshop was that it could be easily replicated by departments in other regions to provide coverage across the country. There are a number of truly wonderful diversity programs in philosophy (PIKSI, SPWP, Rutgers Summer Institute for Diversity) but they are limited in the number of students they can accept every year, and most departments don’t have the resources to run similar programs.

A COMPASS Workshop can feasibly be organized by two or three graduate students, and with limited funds; it could also easily be run as a collaboration amongst several departments in the same region. The feedback we have received from undergraduate participants has been extremely positive and encouraging. Moreover, because the workshop is easily replicable, it has the potential to impact a large number of undergraduates.