Student Spotlight: Philosophy student turns angst into opportunities

Ariana Peruzzi attends two summer programs for underrepresented groups in philosophy

A couple semesters into her college career, philosophy major Ariana Peruzzi found herself sitting across from one of her professors receiving a thorough tongue-lashing.

“My grades were fairly mediocre, but I didn’t think it mattered because I didn’t really expect much from myself or for my future,” says Peruzzi.

However, one of her philosophy professors in the Honor’s College, Dr. Iain Morrison, told her that she had no excuse for low grades, called her lazy, and demanded she start getting her work done. That interaction changed her outlook entirely.

Talk about tough love,” says Peruzzi. “At the time I was furious at him and thought he was totally out of line. I was so mad I vowed I’d never get less than an A again.”

And she didn’t.

In fact, Peruzzi has been so successful academically that last spring, Dr. Cynthia Freeland, John and Rebecca Moores professor of philosophy, encouraged her to apply to two highly competitive summer programs. Peruzzi was ultimately invited to attend them both.

"Ariana is a very engaging philosophy student who is very dedicated to work and has great intellectual flexibility,” says Dr. Freeland. “She processes material quickly and is quick with critical reactions. I thought she would both benefit from and enjoy the stimulation of the summer philosophy programs for undergraduates, so I encouraged her to apply."

The first program was the Summer Program for Women in Philosophy (SPWP) at the University of California – San Diego. The second was the Summer Immersion Program in Philosophy (SIPP) at Brown University in Providence, RI.

SPWP was designed to help women who are pursuing graduate studies in philosophy. According to Peruzzi, only 23% of individuals in the philosophy field are female.

“There were about 16 of us who came from all over the United States and Canada,” says Peruzzi. “We had two classes a day, but there was also lots of time to go swimming and surfing.”

The second program, SIPP at Brown, was for women and racial minorities in philosophy.

“The racial disparity in philosophy is worse than the gender gap. About 1% of philosophers are Hispanic - and only about .3% of philosophers are Latinas,” says Peruzzi.

The nine participants in the SIPP program attended two highly-intensive classes per day. There was so much work at SIPP that Peruzzi says there really was no down time to enjoy her surroundings.

Out of both programs, Peruzzi says she not only learned about the subject of philosophy itself, but also what a career for a student majoring in philosophy could entail. In addition, she believes she got a sense of what it’s like to be a graduate student studying philosophy, and how to strengthen her graduate school applications.

“I also learned a lot about myself and the worth of my education here at CLASS,” says Peruzzi. “I was pleasantly surprised to find that I held my own against students coming from Cornell, University of California - Berkeley, and other top philosophy programs. In fact, often I found myself more prepared than they were! This has dispelled a lot of my worries about my educational background and made me tremendously grateful to my professors here at UH for serving me so well.”

Peruzzi is especially grateful to philosophy faculty members Dr. Justin Coates, Dr. David Phillips, and Dr. Cynthia Freeland. “They each were willing to take the time to mentor me outside of class, and without them I wouldn’t have known about - much less attended - these programs. I am lucky to have such good stewards”

She also feels she must go back and give credit to Dr. Morrisson who prompted her to take her studies more seriously.

“My prospects have improved so much as a result of that conversation - I have no choice but to be (grudgingly) grateful to him for chewing me out,” she says.

Those prospects include pursuing her graduate degree outside of the U.S.

“After I graduate with my undergraduate degree in May 2017, I will apply to philosophy masters programs in England, Ireland and New Zealand. I want to study aesthetics and moral psychology. I hope to eventually attain a Ph.D. and become a philosophy professor,” she says.

- Monica Byars