Diversifying a Discipline - Penn State produced an unprecedented number of black, female Ph.D.s in philosophy
Seven years ago, Ronke A. Oke felt as if she no longer belonged in philosophy.
For Ms. Oke, earning a master’s degree at the University of Memphis had been difficult, and she considered quitting the discipline and not going for her Ph.D. Her experience at Memphis stood in stark contrast to her undergraduate years at Spelman College, a historically black institution.
At Spelman, Ms. Oke, who is black, could imagine herself as a philosopher. Most of her professors were black women. She was not yet aware of philosophy’s reputation as an old boys’ club. And she felt free to pursue the types of questions about race and identity she was passionate about without constantly feeling that she had to justify her work.
In graduate school, that changed. She learned "what philosophy is and who it’s for," she says. Most damaging, a professor told her she didn’t have the writing ability to make it in philosophy. "My morale was completely defeated," Ms. Oke says.