A few years ago, Melissa Fitzpatrick (M.A. ’13) was writing press releases for a fast food restaurant. After what she calls her existential crisis, she found the Graduate Program in Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, and, she says, “the whole trajectory of my life changed.” Today, she is a doctoral student in philosophy at Boston College.
A Southern California native, Fitzpatrick took a college philosophy course in high school, and minored in philosophy as an undergraduate at Boston University. But until recently, she had never considered further study. “I come from a blue collar family,” she explains. “I always thought I needed to get a practical degree…to pay off my loans.”
But after working in public relations for three years, she says, “I hit a breaking point in my life. I hated the corporate world.” She found herself drawn back to the big questions she asked in her college philosophy coursework, and decided to seek out graduate study – unsure of where it might lead her.
What she discovered in LMU’s philosophy program was “a gem,” she says. “Mark Morelli [philosophy professor and then director of the graduate program] was willing to take a chance on me, someone who was determined but lacked the background in philosophy that a lot of my classmates had. He told me, ‘Hey, you have a critical mind. Trust yourself.’”
“Since there’s no Ph.D. program at LMU, the faculty can devote a lot of time to their M.A. students,” she adds. “You get to build mentor relationships with these wonderful teachers who can really guide your study.”
In the two-year program, Fitzpatrick gained a grounding in the history of philosophy and studied both analytical and continental philosophical traditions. “The course offerings [at LMU]…push students to master the history of philosophy; I really got my chops there,” she says.
Fitzpatrick is now a doctoral candidate at Boston College, where is currently researching the intersection of ethics and metaphysics, continental philosophy, and ancient Greek philosophy. She also teaches undergraduate courses.
Fitzpatrick relishes introducing students to the subject she once considered beyond her reach. “I want my students to have access to this fantastic critical tool,” she says. “Philosophy is about asking questions about how we should live, who are we. So whatever my students go on to do – marketing, business, anything – I hope that they’re prepared to ask ethical questions.”