The Karbank Fellowship

Karbank Fellowship recipients film backpacking adventures along the Lost Coast of Northern California; they ride along with EMTs in Atlanta; they join international philosophy and linguistic conferences in Germany. In short, they expand the parameters of the field of philosophy and take part in new, exciting opportunities. Supported by a generous grant from BU Philosophy alumnus Steven Karbank, five undergraduates in the Department of Philosophy are funded each year for “any structured activity, study, or hands-on experience” that will “significantly enrich the student’s philosophical understanding of self and world.”

Undergraduate students at Boston University who have taken at least two philosophy classes by the end of the spring semester in which they apply are eligible to apply for the Karbank Fellowship. The purpose of these Fellowships is to assist students in pursuing their philosophical reflections in a number of ways and venues. For example, a student interested in environmental ethics might intern for a nonprofit doing environmental work, or for a legal firm involved in environmental litigation, or for an organization that seeks new ways of resolving to press environmental issues whether global or local (these new ways could include policy proposals, or new technologies, or sustainability initiatives here at BU, or involve hands-on fieldwork—to mention but a few possibilities). Although we are especially receptive to projects pertaining to environmental issues, the Fellowships are not limited to projects related to those issues. Any structured activity, study, or hands-on experience that would significantly enrich the student’s philosophical understanding of self and world is a candidate for support. While holding an internship or working at a nonprofit organization are obvious ways to achieve this aim, the evaluation committee will also consider proposals that involve such things as taking a relevant course that cannot be taken at BU, or pursuing in one way or another a relevant branch of study.

Successful applicants will receive up to $5,000: $1,000 of this amount is a grant recognizing the awardee’s achievement and up to $4,000 is for budgeted expenses. Preference will be given to philosophy majors and minors, and to returning students over graduating ones, but any student who will have taken two philosophy courses by the end of Spring semester 2021 is eligible.

Click here for more information on the Summer 2021 Karbank Fellowship application process.

2020 Karbank Fellows

Shanshan Cao (’22) created a film on the pros and cons of attending graduate school in philosophy, including interviews with numerous faculty members and graduate students. Click here to watch To Think or Not to Think: Is Philosophy Grad School Worth It?

Francesca Davy-Falconi (’21) created short animations and accompanying brief analyses of some of Plato’s dialogues. Click here to see Plato Reanimated.

Maureen Interino (’21) produced a philosophical reflection on the significance of “unplugging” by spending a week in Joshua Tree National Park with no phone, computer, or television. She then conducted a survey asking participants to evaluate the effects of social media on their identity and sense of autonomy.

Aashutosh Mukerji (’21) examined whether Hinduism can be defined or whether it is best represented by a “cluster concept,” as well as whether it is, as is widely claimed, less unified than other major traditional religions.

Isobel Munday (’20) undertook a philosophically-informed psychological investigation into the different types of moral outrage and an empirical investigation into how widespread they are.

Anna Pham (’21) produced two children’s books (for ages 9—17) to make some important philosophical concepts accessible.

Anu Sawhney (’20) examined whether a disability is a social (as opposed to natural) kind, informed by recent work by such philosophers as Elizabeth Barnes. The results of the research will be communicated via podcast.

Alan Schuh (’20) created a multimedia presentation on the virtualization of contemporary life through a phenomenological perspective. Click here to view Absolute Divide.

Paul Weston (’21) virtually attended a conference on recent developments in modal logic.

Past Karbank Fellows

Arkadiy Baltser (’21) and Christian Borovik (’21) created a film exploring the historical and contemporary philosophical influences on Russian intellectual and political life. Several Russian professors of philosophy were interviewed.

Michael Dratch (’19) spent his summer investigating environmentally sustainable farming techniques. He also studied and reflected upon the “good food” movement and how it relates to various virtues on the part of producers and consumers of food. Michael shared his thoughts and findings on a blog.

Lucy Duke (’22) put various philosophical claims about consciousness, including Sartre’s contention that consciousness is always the consciousness of something in the world, to the test by immersing herself and other subjects in sensory-deprivation tanks. Each subject underwent ten 90-minute sessions. Lucy wrote up a detailed description of her own experience and interviewed the other subjects about theirs.

Khai Evdaev (’20) traveled to various urban and rural locations in Russia to determine whether people agree with Aristotle that eudaimonia or happiness is the highest end, and what they regard as constituting or leading to eudaimonia. Khai wrote his findings in a journal and produced a short video summarizing his findings.

Artem Gureev (’20) attended the prestigious Logic and Formal Epistemology (L&FE) program at Carnegie Mellon University. This was an invaluable experience for Artem, who wrote two senior honor’s theses the following year: one in Mathematics on subsystems of second-order arithmetic, and another in Philosophy on the ontological and epistemological issues involved in the development of metamathematics.

Alexander Keiter (’21) studied domestic and international human rights law. He visited the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, France, and the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg. There he attended court sessions and lectures, and he examined various archival materials.

Casey Lewry (’19) Together with our own Prof. Victor Kumar and Prof. Peter Blake (Psychological and Brain Sciences), Casey Lewry examined whether and how empathy and reasoning can be used as a “moral wedge” (Kumar) for changes in our social attitudes towards various groups of individuals. They examined, among other things, the manner in which changing social attitudes depend on whether a certain trait is believed to be voluntary or not, whether the trait is hidden or visible, and why our attitudes have shifted in recent years with respect to some groups but not others.

Isobel Munday (’20) worked as an intern at the Crockett Lab at Yale University’s Department of Psychology, which examined, among other things, human moral psychology, social learning, and decision making. Isobel was especially interested in determining how much of our moral framework is innate and what is the optimal moral framework for policy decision.

Anna Pham (’20) traveled to ten religious communities in California and interviewed ten members from each to examine their perspectives on the relationship between religious faith and happiness. Anna filmed many of the interviews and religious services and created a video journal.

Daniel Portnof (’20) taught a group of middle school students over the summer through Generation Teach in Boston. During his time, Daniel appealed to a number of historically prominent philosophical theories regarding knowledge and education examined how students learn, how much they are willing to accept on authority, and how much of their knowledge seems to be “innate.”

Zayda Romero (’19) took a course entitled “Foundations of Behavioral and Experimental Economics for Developing Countries” and the London School of Economics—University of Cape Town summer program. There Zayda examined various ethical issues regarding the developing world and various solutions to global economic inequality, as well as the psychological role that poverty plays in economic activity

Venissala Wongchai (’20) spent the summer as an intern with the The Citizens Campaign for the Environment (CCE) in Connecticut, an organization which advocates for both environmentally sustainable policies and for consumer health. While working with them, Venissala reflected on the impact of non-profit organizations on policy and on the ethical and moral issues surrounding our present patterns of use and consumption.

Yingshihan Zhu (’20) created a Feminist Philosophy discussion group in Beijing, which involved two weeks of small group discussions led by Yingshihan, as well as the necessary preparation for the discussions and philosophical work afterward. Yingshihan invited around ten high school and college age students to attend, where read about and discussed central issues in feminist philosophy. Yingshihan also created a multi-media blog and shared it with the American Philosophical Association (APA).

Rachael Molenaar (’19) attended the prestigious Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy’s School for Female Students.

Anna Stroinski (’19) was in Poland, putting together an oral history of participants in the Solidarity movement.

Michael Dratch (’19) studied the potential of non-anthropocentric approaches to the environment.

Ying Yao (’19) explored connections between philosophy, phenomenology and Buddhism.

Evelyn Castro (’18) took a UCLA summer course on issues in Latina/Latino poverty.

Morgan Ashurian (’18) interned for a federal judge in Florida.

Rebecca Dobyns (’15) followed with her camera two experienced backpackers on the Lost Coast of Northern California for five days and 50 miles. Her project will result in a documentary film that explores, among other things, philosophical questions about the value of outdoors exploration and the relation between freedom and nature.

Samantha Kennedy (’15) researched the philosophical underpinnings of the contemporary issue of universal daycare, drawing on moral arguments from philosophers ranging from Aristotle to Smith and Rousseau.

Chad Kringen (’15) attended the North American School for Logic, Language, and Information (NASSLLI) in College Park, Maryland, as well as its European counterpart (ESSLLI) in Tübingen, Germany, taking a series of classes ranging from causal graphical models to game theory and temporal logic.

Julian Lijtszain (’15) visited pediatric hospitals as part of an internship with the Mexican Institute of Social Security or Instituto Mexicano del Seguro Social (IMSS) in Mexico City. He did extensive fieldwork for the Institute that resulted in new methodological approaches for patient surveys.

Demarius Walker (’14) used his grant to attend EMT training classes in Atlanta. The hands-on experience opened his eyes, he said, to many real-world ethical dilemmas that don’t find easy philosophical resolutions.

Claire Chiodini followed up on her recent philosophical study of the notion of good in Plato and Aristotle in a concrete way: participated in the annual Rimini (Italy) “Meeting for the Friendship Amongst Peoples,” which draws a diverse group of people from many faith and philosophical traditions, and interviewed attendees about their varying notions of the good.

Salimata Diakité researched how mass incarceration affects women, examining the procedures of non-federal prisons in Massachusetts, as well as the privatized and state-funded reentry programs partnered with Massachusetts Department of Correction.

Rebecca Strong Garcia explored the role of emotions in music as she takes part in a Renaissance performance program in Florence.

Rahim Hirji interviewed lawyers in the UK who have an unusual common experience: representing criminals or companies who were detested in the public eye.

Sharmin Rahman studied how internet access affects political decision-making and opinion-formation by comparing cities where internet access is low (Detroit, MI) and high (Cambridge, MA).

Anush Swaminathan explored the moral questions raised by the use of animals in lab work, making use both of key philosophical texts concerning the moral status of animals and of the first-hand perspectives that come from working in a developmental neurobiology lab at BU.

Abraham Tawil studied what light philosophy can shed on the difficult questions of free will and determinism raised by addiction.

Stephen Valdesuso explored the relation of human philosopher to natural environment by taking part in the rigorous Boulder (Utah) Outdoor Survival School Field Course.

Morgan Ashurian attended the BU Pre-Law London Summer Internship Program, gaining an insider perspective while living, learning, and working in London for 12 weeks. Along with the two classes, she interned at a law firm wherein she gained insight into the inner-workings of the UK legal system.

Rosie Carter explored the underlying philosophical questions that present themselves in children’s literature by attending the Children’s Literature Summer Institute at Simmons College

Madeleine Freeman participated in the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Philosophy Summer Seminar. The threeweek long seminar is designed to introduce undergraduate students considering studies in Philosophy to a graduate-level academic setting.

Olivia Gehrke interviewed local Boston musicians to challenge Nietzsche about the connection between art and life

Casey Lewry gained philosophical insight into what it means to teach by volunteering as a research assistant in a cognitive developmental psychology laboratory and kept a journal while there, reflecting on her experience by reading the Meno.

Rachael Molenaar participated in UC Boulder’s Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy and Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy’s Summer School on Mathematical Philosophy for Female Students.

Melinda Reyes traced Kant’s views on women and how they changed or should have changed women over time. This research is the third part of larger research project to analyze the extent of this analogy between nonwhite races and women, and to determine how Kant’s teleology influenced—or should have influenced— his views on nonwhite races and women over time.

Anush Swaminathan explored how the definition of ‘biological genes’ varies between research programs in closely related sub-disciplines of biology, and whether those definitions have common molecular micro-structures.