Philosophy and Studio Art, 2014
My name is Olivia Branscum, and I’m a senior Philosophy and Studio Art major as well as the Station Manager of UNC’s student-run radio station, WXYC-Chapel Hill. I first chose to pursue philosophy because I love(d) thinking about things, as simple as it may sound. Philosophy is one of those special disciplines that can be ‘about’ anything (as is art, I think – in fact, the complementary nature of the disciplines drew me to both of them). Two courses I took during my second year at Carolina really cemented this notion for me: a special topics class on the influences of Presocratic philosophy on modernist literature, taught by Dr. James Lesher, and an advanced undergraduate seminar about Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations, with Dr. Alan Nelson. Both classes – one on the far-reaching social and artistic effects of an ancient worldview, the other about a singular thinker’s critique of his own discipline – taught me that philosophy can be a tool for working through an array of experiences and attitudes as much as it is a ‘subject’ in its own right. For instance, my training in philosophy has granted me the skills I need to think deeply – and, yes, critically – about the roles and responsibilities of museums and other culture-creating institutions, such as the radio station I manage. The ability to zoom out onto the bigger picture without losing all relevant details to abstraction is one I hope to maintain, wherever my interests may take me. After graduation, I plan to work in museums for a few years before applying to graduate school for curatorial studies, critical theory, or possibly sexual health education; I’m not sure which, and right now, I’m comfortable with that openness. In fact, that’s the one piece of advice I’d give to prospective philosophy majors: stay open. My art professors have taught me that in order to do what you really want – in order to install yourself in a truly fulfilling career – you’ve got to give yourself the time and space to find out what that career might be. And then you have to trust yourself. So stay open, and trust yourself. It’s certainly a challenge, but I’m firmly convinced that, combined with hard work, this method will pay dividends (and then some).