LPS Summer Diversity Program participants

Probability and randomness. The nature of social groups. The philosophy behind dark matter. Causation and explanation in science. Over summer, a dynamic group of undergraduates from around the world was selected to take part in an innovative new one-week residential program at UCI designed to expose students from underrepresented backgrounds to graduate-level topics in philosophy. The brainchild of logic and philosophy of science associate professor Lauren Ross, MD, Ph.D., the LPS Summer Diversity Program is funded by the National Science Foundation and the UCI School of Social Sciences, and it is provided at no cost to the attendees.

“Our goal with this program is to help address a lack of diversity in philosophy,” Ross says. “As such, the program actively invites and supports many different groups, including, but not limited to: women, members of the LGBTQIA+ community, students from underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds, economically disadvantaged backgrounds, students with disabilities, and first-generation undergraduates.”

The UCI Department of Logic & Philosophy of Science is ranked the #1 program in the world in decision, rational choice, and game theory, and among the top 20 in all other areas of departmental specialty, according to the Philosophical Gourmet Report. Visiting students within the inaugural cohort had the opportunity during their weeklong stay on campus to work directly with faculty and graduate students within the top-ranked department. Through seminars, small group discussions and daily activities, participants got to know more about logic and philosophy of science while building connections among themselves as well as with faculty and graduate students.

“During the arranged daily reading time, we often sat in smaller groups and discussed our thoughts on the readings of the day and the seminars of yesterday, processing the material together,” says Eissa Haydar, a sophomore participant from the University of Michigan. “After the day of scheduled activities wrapped up, we often hung out, even outside of facilitated activities - one of the grad students even brought snacks and board games to our dorm building one night, which was so great. I was able to make connections at the program with participants as well as grad students and faculty and I’ll feel comfortable reaching out for questions or thoughts on grad school when I’m ready to apply.”

Many of the topics the groups discussed explored critical questions related to race, gender and ethnicity. By inviting more students to explore philosophy who represent diversity in these topics, Ross says, she hopes to open the field to new ideas and decrease “group think” tendencies.

That hits home for Juan Francisco Ruiz, a senior participant from Boston University, who notes that lack of diversity in the field makes it tough to find a mentor to “look up to.”

“I think this program helps us eliminate that bias and understand that it is possible for anybody to accomplish a proper academic career as a philosopher,” he says. “As an undergraduate, there’s little to no information out there on what a career as a philosopher might look like. This program helped fill that void while showing the wide variety of topics that philosophy of science encompasses. Now I have a broader perspective on possible career paths and interesting fields to pursue all my passions while integrating them into philosophy.”

Haydar agrees: “I'll definitely be taking home an excitement about philosophy, and a greater understanding of what academic philosophy, specifically philosophy of science and logic, looks like in practice, and how diverse and specialized that practice can be,” he says.

NSF funding for the program will continue for the next five years, and Ross is hopeful that within that time, a permanent program will be established on campus that may serve as a model for other fields similarly focused on diversifying student enrollment, the professoriate, and beyond. Application information for the summer 2023 cohort will be made available in spring with more details to come.

-Heather Ashbach, UCI Social Sciences. Photo courtesy of Lauren Ross, UCI.

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