Philosophy PhD Programs: Baylor University and Boston University

In this blog post I provide some detailed, up-to-date information about two philosophy PhD programs. This week's picks are Baylor University and Boston University.* These programs were chosen randomly, using an app called "Pickster." (Next week's picks are listed at the bottom of this post.) This information comes from the APDA database, and was updated by my research assistant, Anna Durbin, using the program's placement page and what she could find online. The running tally includes select numbers from all of the programs covered so far.

*As a past graduate of BU I took the following precautions against potential conflict of interest: I relied on Anna's data gathering and checking skills, without adding or subtracting anything on the basis of personal knowledge, and I limited claims about the programs to be as close to the data as possible.

tl;dr

  • Baylor and BU are both mid-sized programs
  • Baylor has a higher permanent academic placement rate, but both are above average
  • Baylor students focus on Value Theory, whereas BU students focus on History and Traditions
  • Both programs have below average gender diversity, but BU has above average socioeconomic diversity
  • BU's student ratings are lower than average, with the largest difference for teaching preparation

Overall placement, 2012-present
Baylor had 33 PhD graduates in this period, whereas BU had 32. Of Baylor's 33 graduates, 31 went into academic or unknown employment, and they placed 20 of these into tenure-track or other permanent academic positions (65%), with 1 of these in a program that offers a PhD in philosophy (3%). BU placed 15 of 31 into permanent academic positions (48%), with 2 in philosophy programs with a PhD (6%).

Of Baylor's other graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 9 have other temporary academic placements, and 2 are in nonacademic positions.

Of BU's other graduates, 2 are in postdoctoral or fellowship positions, 12 have other temporary positions, 1 is in a nonacademic position, and 2 have no or unknown placement.

Nonacademic positions held by graduates of Baylor include teaching and UX (user experience), whereas those held by graduates of BU include academic administration.

The average salary of Baylor graduates is $62,679 and 86% preferred an academic job, whereas this is $62,273 and 100% for BU.

The current database values for all 2012 and later graduates now in permanent academic positions, out of those in academic positions overall, is 42%, with 14% in programs that offer a PhD in philosophy. The average salary of all graduates who took part in the survey is $68,542 and 90% prefer an academic job.

Areas of Specialization, by Category
Including all past and current students in the APDA database, 33% of Baylor students are in Language, Epistemology, Metaphysics, and Mind (LEMM), 48% are in Value Theory, 19% are in History and Traditions, and none are in Science, Logic and Math. 24% of BU students are in LEMM, 30% are in Value Theory, 37% are in History and Traditions, and 10% are in Science, Logic, and Math. For Baylor, the plurality of graduates 2012 onward placed into permanent academic positions were in Value Theory (50%), whereas the plurality of those from BU were in LEMM (33%).

Note that the current database values for all past graduates and current students are 28% in LEMM, 33% in Value Theory, 24% in History and Traditions, and 15% in Science, Logic, and Math.

Diversity
Including all past graduates and current students, 19% of those from Baylor are women, as are 27% of BU students.

The current database percentage is 31% for all past graduates and current students.

Including all past graduates and current students, 17% of those who answered questions about race and ethnicity from Baylor and 17% from BU identified as something other than White, non-Hispanic.

13% is the overall proportion reported by APDA in 2017. The percentage from the Diversity and Inclusivity survey is 14%. The current database percentage is 21%, but this is likely inflated relative to the true population due to some of our data gathering efforts.

None of those from Baylor and 33% from BU were first generation college students.

The percentage of all survey respondents who are first generation college students is 23.4%, compared to 31% for all United States doctoral degree recipients in 2015.

(Students from Baylor and BU did not provide any public comments on how philosophy could be more inclusive.)

Program Rating

In response to the question: "How likely would you be to recommend the program from which you obtained or will obtain your PhD to prospective philosophy students?" past and current Baylor students selected "somewhat likely" (4.3, n=15), whereas BU students selected “neither likely nor unlikely” (3.2, n=18).

Baylor had a moderate positive correlation between graduation year and program rating (more positive ratings from graduates of more recent years). BU did not have a moderate or higher correlation, positive or negative. Of 69 programs with at least 10 survey participants who are past graduates, 14 had moderate negative correlations between these values, 7 had moderate positive correlations, and there is a slight negative overall correlation of -.06.

"Somewhat likely," 4.0, is the average rating reported in 2017. The current database overall average is the same, with an average of 3.7 for teaching, 3.9 for research, and 3.7 for financial support.

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for undergraduate teaching," Baylor students selected between "satisfied" and “very satisfied” (4.5, n=6), whereas BU students selected “neutral” (2.7, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the advice and preparation this program provides to its graduate students for academic research," Baylor students selected "satisfied" (4.0, n=6), whereas BU students selected “neutral” (3.3, n=7).

In response to: "Rate your satisfaction with the financial support this program provides for its graduate students, Baylor students selected "satisfied" (4.2, n=6), as did BU students (3.7, n=7).

Public Comments
(Note that these comments primarily come from current students and recent graduates, but in some cases may be from non-recent graduates.)

Baylor students provided public comments on the program overall:

Excellent faculty. Warm, caring, and non-competitive personal relationships between graduate students as well as between graduate students and faculty. Historically oriented comprehensive exams which have made me a better philosopher and teacher.
Great faculty; excellent financial support and conference travel support; weekly graduate student colloquia; caring community; inexpensive cost of living makes graduate life affordable.
I wanted to teach at a Christian liberal arts institution. Baylor situates you to enter this world as well as any program in the country. The historical comprehensive exams gave me a broad knowledge of the tradition that complemented the more contemporary analytic focus of the classes. The program taught me how to teach, not just how to research. Professors genuinely care about the students and go above and beyond to assist them in fulfilling their goals. Students care about and support one another.
In terms of academics: Gave me world-class instruction and guidance in whatever fields of study that interested me, with no politics or camps. In terms of job preparation: Fully prepared me to teach, to understand and maintain or even create an entire BA curriculum, to find and grow a community and support system. In terms of the experience of graduate school itself: Extremely supportive, joyful, enthusiastic, experience. Huge growth intellectually and spiritually. Best years of my life as a student. Unparalleled community and collegiality among students and faculty/staff; there is no other graduate program like it that I have seen or heard of. Faculty and student colloquia, potlucks, poker nights, trips to the rodeo and the zoo, shared church life, vibrant discussion of academic and non-academic matters inside and outside the classroom. I became the man I am today, grown in knowledge, virtue and holiness, because of the people in and around that program and school.
The PhD program at Baylor has an extremely supportive and collegial graduate community and the faculty provide first-rate training in both philosophical research/scholarship and undergraduate teaching.
The program is strongest at offering a supportive environment for graduate study and for preparing students to teach at teaching-first schools. It has particular strengths in the philosophy of religion (especially Christian Philosophy) and M&E. There is a strong interest in Thomistic philosophy and also faculty strengths in Plato and Kierkegaard.

on preparation for teaching:

Having a course dedicated to teaching and the promise of (typically) two years of teaching as instructor of record helps a lot. In addition, there are other teaching resources available at Baylor through the Academy of Teaching and Learning, the Teaching Capstone in Higher Education, and the opportunity to teach in other departments such as the Baylor Interdisciplinary Core or Great Texts.
Program provides semester long teaching seminar; starting in 4th year students teach one undergraduate course per semester with monitored evaluations and feedback.

and on financial support:

excellent financial support and conference travel reimbursement
Generous travel funding. Acceptable to good stipends, contingent on whether students receive support from the graduate school also. Low cost of living and no state income tax help.

BU students likewise provided public comments on the program overall:

Boston University places a strong emphasis on teaching its graduate students History of Philosophy in the broadest sense, and this has been important throughout my career.
Excellent teachers in both knowledge and character. Diverse specialties within the Western tradition (has both substantial continental and analytic philosophers or even those that do both), friendly atmosphere, close to other universities (easy to find people who share similar interests), etc.
Good ambiance among the students; great academic environment in the area; faculty not always committed to or supportive of graduate students
I would marked definitely would recommend above if I were certain that the current program is similar to how it was when I attended. The professors were very supportive and very available to grad students. Moreover, they were serious scholars who modeled what the ideal academic life would look like. The program was rigorous, but in a way that fostered community among the students. I had a very positive experience.

on preparation for teaching:

As with most graduate programs in Philosophy, Boston University had graduate students learn how to teach by leading discussion sections for large undergraduate courses. This was a good introduction to teaching philosophy. However, it was limited by the ability of the professors to teach graduate students how to teach—which they had not themselves been taught how to do.

on preparation for research:

Advisors encouraged us to publish, and a number of professors helped me prepare my papers so that they would be suitable for publishing.
My mentors on the faculty were very helpful in directing my research in ways that would be publishable and relevant to my particular subdiscipline. I have not encountered any difficulties with publication due to the excellent mentorship I received on such matters at Boston University.

and on financial support:

Boston is a very expensive city, and it was quite difficult to live on my graduate school stipend. I had some money saved and also had a part time job to make ends meet.
I had 5 years of funding guaranteed then obtained 1 more without difficulty. Not enough support for traveling.

Next week I hope to look at University of South Florida and University of Tennessee. Feedback is welcome, at apda@ucmerced.edu.

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