As someone who is hoping to attend graduate school in philosophy, with the eventual aim of entering academia, I tried my best to interview as many academics as I could for this alternative experience. One of my interviews was with Dr. Jessica Flanigan, a professor of leadership studies and PPEL at the University of Richmond. With Dr. Flanigan, I discussed her experience in academia, working at the Jepson school, teaching philosophy, and her graduate school days. Speaking with Dr. Flanigan was really helpful as it gave me important insights into life within academia and about pursuing philosophy as a lifelong career.
Dr. Flanigan’s research covers an array of topics, but she has written quite a bit about bioethics, applied ethics, and political philosophy. More recently, she has been working on two book projects, one on the ethics of pregnancy and another on the stigmatization of bad spelling and grammar. In conversation, Dr. Flanigan told me how she began her grad school journey with political science at Washington University in St. Louis but decided after a couple of years to switch to political philosophy. She then came to Princeton to study philosophy, where she almost wrote a dissertation on group agency with Philip Pettit. Eventually, however, she ended up working on bioethics and wrote her dissertation under the famous moral philosopher Peter Singer.
As with most fields in humanities, the job market in philosophy is incredibly competitive. However, Dr. Flanigan said she was really fortunate to have ended up at a place like Jepson, which encompasses so many perspectives from different academic fields. That is actually one of the things she values the most about working at Jepson – her colleagues come from a range of academic backgrounds such as economics, history, anthropology, psychology, literature, sociology, and so on (some of whom have been co-editors with her on her books). Having such a diverse range of perspectives has really given her research a nice interdisciplinary touch.
Besides this, she also enjoys the amount of academic freedom she gets at Jepson. Her research does not have to be limited to a particular branch of ethics or philosophy in general – she has written about drug war reparations, vaccination, abortion, philosophical methodology, immigration, and so many other interesting topics. Similarly, she has taught classes on critical thinking, ethics of leadership, bioethics, and supervised senior theses on topics anywhere from the ethics of K-12 and higher education to public health and businesses. All in all, then, speaking with Dr. Flanigan helped me appreciate the truly interdisciplinary and academically enriching environment at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies.