Newsletter Spring 2015 Writing Center Tutors

Submitted by Kate Goldyn on
Philosophy Student Christopher Myers
Dustin Bratten

Meet our undergraduate Writing Center tutors Christopher Myers and Dustin Bratten. The Philosophy Writing Center is a free resource for students who want to improve their philosophical writing. The Center's goal is to help students build skills needed to become confident and effective writers. The Center offers one on one tutoring sessions to work on all aspects of the student's paper or writing skills. The tutors have had additional training in working with English Language Learners and in supporting students from underrepresented social backgrounds.

Christopher Myers is a senior from Claremont, California pursuing a major in Philosophy, with an emphasis on Continental Philosophy. His academic interests vary within the domains of existentialism, post-structuralism, modern philosophy, literary fiction, and creative writing. In his spare time, Christopher likes to write and perform music, read books outside of course material, converse with good friends and family, and wander aimlessly through the city.

Dustin Bratten is a senior pursuing degrees in Philosophy and Biochemistry. He is primarily interested in applied and medical ethics and metaphysics. Dustin has never been sorted into any other house than Slytherin when taking Harry Potter quizzes online, but don't let that dissuade you from scheduling an appointment with him. He enjoys brainstorming ways to tackle difficult writing prompts and analyzing the feasibility of arguments to ensure that a final draft is a polished, convincing reflection of a writer's strongest ideas.

Why did you become a philosophy major?

Christopher: As a freshman, I began taking a variety of different classes in the hopes that I might connect with a particular subject. One of the classes that I took was PHIL 100. A few weeks into the quarter, I remember reading a paper by Robin Collins, and I must admit - this paper infuriated me. I disagreed with it so much that I started thinking about it endlessly. Though it may seem peculiar, this infuriated response that I experienced was the first time that I felt the 'pull' of philosophy - I suddenly found myself wanting to engage with these ideas and wanting to involve myself in these questions. Sure enough, after I had completed PHIL 100, I immediately met with Gina and declared philosophy as my major. To this day I consider Collins' essay to have changed my life (though, admittedly, it still infuriates me today).

Dustin: I was once asked during a First-Year Interest Group why I study philosophy. I told the students that it is because philosophy is the only field where you can walk into class as one version of yourself and leave as someone completely different. If you are willing to grapple with the topics presented to you, philosophy mandates personal growth.

What has been your favorite philosophy class?

Christopher: Two classes come to mind, but I have enjoyed many of the classes I have taken in the department. Professor Acharya's Existentialism course (PHIL 401) changed the way I view philosophy - it is extremely different from many of the other courses that are offered in the Department, and for precisely that reason I found it greatly eye-opening. Professor Talbott's honors capstone this quarter (also PHIL 401) has also been very rewarding. The course is organized around the questions, 'what is philosophy? and is it possible?', and given that I am a graduating senior, I have found that asking these questions is a great way to assess my education from a new perspective.

Dustin: This is a close one. But, the Existentialism class in which I am currently enrolled has been my favorite philosophy class so far. It completely changed my approach to ethics and the way I perceive Philosophy as a whole. I would suggest it to any UW student.

What have you learned from being a tutor at the Writing Center?

Christopher: A writer's best work emerges when they are willing to take into account contrasting ideas and differing perspectives, and sharing your writing with others is conducive to precisely this approach. No matter how much time you spend writing a paper, there's always something that someone else has to offer to you that you couldn't have found yourself. I like to think that the Writing Center is largely aimed at exactly this: the exchange of ideas.

Dustin: I've learned exactly how little I know. Students are always coming in with innovative ways to approach the problems professors throw at them. It's humbling. I'm grateful for every student with whom I get to work.

What are you plans after graduation?

Christopher: I plan on applying to graduate school for philosophy this approaching winter, so I'm optimistic that I'll be doing philosophy for many years yet to come. In the meantime, however, I think I'll find a mindless job and continue thinking in my spare time.

Dustin: Right now I am applying to jobs in various fields. What people don't know is how flexible a philosophy major is. You gain a lot of transferable skills from studying philosophy, especially at a school like UW. For my first career, I would like to go into medicine or law (or both)! I will also have to find a way to continue to study philosophy. It's too important to me to leave behind.

How do you see your studies in philosophy helping these goals?

Christopher: Given that I am planning on going to graduate school to continue studying philosophy, it's needless to say philosophy will remain pertinent in my life. Yet this isn't the only reason I think philosophy will help me through life. I think Hume might have said it best: "the chief benefit, which results from philosophy, arises in an indirect manner, and proceeds more from its secret, insensible influence, than from its immediate application."

Dustin: Philosophy fosters the growth of skills that are applicable basically everywhere you go. You learn how to think, not what to think. No employer has too many problem solvers. You also learn how to express yourself clearly and concisely, in writing and in speech. It's frightening how often people say something that can be interpreted in a way completely contrary to their desired point. Furthermore, it often takes people far too many words to say what they mean. If you can combine brevity with precision, you will be a force to be reckoned with.