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Luther alum highlights options for careers in the Humanities

Professor Walter Wietzke highlights the struggles involved with a career in the humanities.

Professor Walter Wietzke highlights the struggles involved with a career in the humanities.

Cara Keith ('21) | Chips

Cara Keith ('21) | Chips

Professor Walter Wietzke highlights the struggles involved with a career in the humanities.

Cara Keith, Staff Writer

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The Philosophy Department hosted a talk with University of Wisconsin-River Falls Professor of Philosophy and Luther alum Walter Wietzke (‘01) titled “Exploring Academic Vocations in the Humanities” in the Hovde Room of Preus Library on Nov. 14. The goal of this event was to give Luther students the opportunity to learn about the realities of getting a graduate degree in the humanities field.

Wietzke received a philosophy degree from Luther College in 2001, then received a master’s degree in philosophy from the University of New Mexico in 2007, and ended his academic career with a PhD in philosophy from Fordham University in 2013. He is currently employed as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

Associate Professor of Philosophy Holly Moore facilitated the event by asking Wietzke questions that focused on his academic journey.

Wietzke said that he wanted to share his academic story in order to demonstrate the hardships of life after receiving either a graduate degree or a PhD in the humanities — especially in philosophy.

“If you go to grad school with the intention of getting a PhD, it would also be prudent to have some kind of plan B in mind,” Wietzke said. “That was never something that we were encouraged to think about when I was a grad student because everyone kind of assumed that we’d make it. I know a lot of my friends have ended up with nothing and they aren’t sure what they can do now at this point.”

In graduate school, Wietzke found success due to the funding he received to get his degree. He said that he did not spend very much money to get his graduate degree, but that is not the case at most universities.

During the event, Professor of Philosophy Storm Bailey also commented on the typical amount of funding graduate students receive when getting their degrees.

“It is really unusual for a Master of the Arts (M. A.) student to get funding [while getting their degree],” Bailey said. “The places where it’s most likely, that I know of, for an M.A. student to get funding are places that don’t have a PhD program and only have graduate terminal M.A. degrees. It’s really really lucky that [Wietzke] was able to go to a place that has a PhD program and get funding as an M.A. student.”

During the event, Wietzke also described some of the hardships he faced after completing his PhD. He had trouble finding a job working as a professor, so he settled for doing work including elementary school tutoring for a couple of months at the beginning of his career.

Music and philosophy double major Christopher Lange-Pearson (‘19) attended the event to learn more about whether graduate school would be the right option for him.

“I will definitely not be attending grad school for philosophy,” Lange-Pearson said. “I didn’t go into the event thinking that I definitely would go to grad school, but this talk helped explain both the difficulties and also what is to be enjoyed about further pursuing philosophy. It sounds insanely competitive to get a job as a professor, and even then, you’re still just an adjunct at the mercy of schools that might not even have a dedicated philosophy department.”

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