The study and theory of knowledge, with a side of ice hockey

“It's pretty hard to get a job as a philosophy professor, but I would like to try. I feel like that would be ideal for me, to have a career doing what my professors do.”

When Sofía Savid ‘24 applied to Mount Holyoke as a transfer student, they had a few things in mind that they were looking for. The former environmental science and agroecology major was pivoting to a new major, philosophy. So they wanted to study somewhere with a strong philosophy department. They also wanted to be close to their hometown of Cambridge, Massachusetts, so they could see their new baby sister and the rest of their family regularly. And they wanted to go to a gender-diverse women’s college.

Savid had heard great things about Mount Holyoke from others, including a philosophy professor at the school they previously attended, the University of Vermont. And the school checked off the major requirements they were looking for. So they applied based on word of mouth.

Now, when Savid considers what they’ll take away the most about Mount Holyoke, what comes up is both expected and unexpected. Alongside being able to sink their teeth into philosophy courses, it’s their time playing on the College’s ice hockey team — which Savid had no idea was an opportunity at Mount Holyoke until they encountered it at the student involvement fair their first semester on campus — that will likely be the memories that will stay with Savid the most after graduation.

“I didn't know how to skate and I had never played hockey before I joined the team,” said Savid, who grew up as a dancer. “I remember the first game I played. I was really terrible and could hardly skate, but it was so much fun and we lost terribly.”

Being able to start and learn a new activity from scratch alongside others was precisely why Savid wanted to try out ice hockey, they said. Initially, Savid was worried about transferring schools and feeling like they had to start all over again. But it was much easier than they thought, in part because being on a team helped them to get out of their own head and make friends. “The hockey team has been such a special experience because it is so nice having a group of people you can say hi to when you see them around,” they said.

The promise of Mount Holyoke’s philosophy department has also proved fruitful. An epistemology class Savid took as a third-year with Associate Professor Katia Vavova was especially groundbreaking for them. Savid realized that epistemology — the study and theory of knowledge — tapped into something they had been wrestling with for a while. The essay Savid wrote for their application to Mount Holyoke, for example, dealt with disagreement and morals.

“But I had never taken an epistemology class [at that time], so I didn't know that it was epistemology,” Savid said. “And then I took an epistemology class, and I was like, this is exactly like what I've been thinking about and I've been wondering.”

Since then, most of the classes Savid has been taking for their philosophy major are epistemology classes. They appreciate how philosophy involves having to create strong arguments to back up your beliefs and defend your beliefs. “I think it makes the way I communicate with people a lot stronger,” they said, adding that having the space to develop your own beliefs about various issues or things is not something they typically find in other disciplines.

By helping to run Mount Holyoke’s Philosophy Society, Savid also helps cultivate other spaces for students to do just that on campus. The Society meets once a week during lunch, during which students have the opportunity to discuss a chosen topic for the day, such as the ethics of AI or whether people can love themselves the way they do other people. Savid and the other organizers try not to make it a debate but an opportunity for students to address and answer different questions related to the chosen topic, they said.

Now, Savid is working on their senior thesis about the ethics of ideal animal farming. As someone deeply interested in farming, being able to spend an entire year developing their ideas and arguments about the issue has been such a good experience, they said. They hope to eventually pursue a PhD in philosophy and specialize in epistemology.

“It's pretty hard to get a job as a philosophy professor, but I would like to try,” Savid said. “I feel like that would be ideal for me, to have a career doing what my professors do.”

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