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Sorting Out Who is Well-known


bar_scene_gambler

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I've never really been in touch with academia, given that I'm coming an unknown philosophy department and we pretty much exclusively focused on historical texts in the courses I took. As such, I find myself completely ignorant of where the faculty at GSU stand in terms of reputation. Can anyone tell me if any of the faculty there are big names in their field, or if any of them have a reputation? I've been thinking of which courses to take and it would be nice to take courses with someone who would be a substantial recommender for PhD programs.

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Alright here are the "relatively well-known" people there: the three people who immediately come to my mind are Andrew Altman, Bill Edmundson (he has a joint-appointment with the law school) and George Graham. 

 

Below that you have a couple names which are known for their areas of interest. For example Andrew J. Cohen is well known for his work on Libertarianism (You can see some of his work on Bleeding Heart Libertarians if you're interested). Eddy Nahmias is starting to become a really big name in Moral Psychology, Free Will, and X-Phi if you're interested in any of those things. Tim O'Keefe is one of, I think, 6 guys who does work on Epicurus. I seem to remember Jessica Berry being a fairly well-known Nietzsche scholar.

 

However, I found that looking for well-known people wasn't the right way to approach GSU. Take seminars you're interested in and form relationships with those professors. Chances are you'll take a seminar paper and transform it into your thesis and your writing sample. Make sure that if you have a particular interest, say in political philosophy, that you work with as many of those professors as you can. I like all the political philosophers in that department.

 

Let me know if you have any other questions about the program.

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I think you'll be doing yourself and your department a great disservice if you go into the program making these sorts of calculations. You should take the courses that you're most interested in and in which you think you'll produce the best work. You're not going to get into a good PhD program just because you took classes with well-known professors. 

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I kind of want to disagree with aduh. Although it's not that taking classes with certain professors will get you into a good PhD program, but it is definitely the case that working under the guidance of certain professors will. I don't know if GSU lists this information online, so you may have to wait until you're on campus and dig through the thesis archives (if GSU students do a thesis) and try to correlate placement with advisors and committees. One of the biggest mistakes I committed at my undergraduate university was not identifying the professors who were well known. Professors are well known for a reason, they produce good work. So not only will their letter count for something, but most importantly they'll be able to critique your work. I instead worked with professors who weren't well known, weren't producing good work, and therefore weren't able to help me improve my writing.

 

This is absolutely advice that people are given when entering PhD programs. That prospective students should look at the placement records of individual professors rather than of just the PhD program in general. I don't see why the same advice doesn't apply for MA and BA programs in principle, even though it may not be as important or necessary to do so.

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FWIW, it's incredibly hard to know this stuff until you're really stuck in to the discipline and some of its subfields. And, in fact, aside from a few household (well, philosophy-household) names, most profs aren't particularly well known outside their AOSes (unless they blog or participate regularly in blog conversations and that kind of thing). You won't be well-placed to make those judgements until it's too late!

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 I don't know if GSU lists this information online, so you may have to wait until you're on campus and dig through the thesis archives (if GSU students do a thesis) and try to correlate placement with advisors and committees.

GSU students do, almost invariably, do a thesis. Professors at GSU will not write PhD recommendations for students that do not do a thesis.

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