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Student Profile: Milad Doust
Co-op work experience helped Philosophy Major Milad Doust discover how skills learned in class assignments translate into the workplace. He’s not only closer to graduating, but also knows his degree is a valuable asset in future career plans. Contrary to popular opinion, philosophy skills will take him far from the clichéd ‘serving lattes and flipping patties’ track and he’s keen to share this with fellow undergrads.
Milad, who transferred to SFU from Douglas College under the Degree Partnership Program, admits that his ‘origin story’ for becoming a philosophy major is not at all flattering. Finding it difficult to decide what to do on leaving high school, he chose familiarity at first before exploring a successful path into post-secondary education. This included leveraging an interest in cars by working for a school friend’s dad in an auto shop for almost six months before seeing if sports science courses at Douglas College could build from his passion for soccer. He tried all sorts of courses before landing in a critical thinking class in the Philosophy department.
“I really excelled, and the professor was really impressed with my interest (given it's a first year course),” Milad says, still with some surprise. “I ended up getting an A.”
He continued with other philosophy courses, encouraged by feedback from David Wolfe, his professor, and found the material really interesting. This translated into great grades and Milad decided to stick with philosophy, realising the subject interested and motivated him the most.
But why did philosophy as a subject stand out? According to Milad there are three key features that drew him in. Firstly, he acknowledges that not only that the subject often precedes evolution of other disciplines—“in the beginning there was philosophy” he suggests as a neat slogan—but it also underpins many other subjects.
The issues that philosophy tackles also seem more important than in any other discipline.
“It’s one fascinating dilemma after another, and any solution to the problems we face in philosophy have consequences for how we view the world and how we view our life,” he explains. “No other discipline will necessarily teach you about how to live a good life, and that’s something that will always matter regardless of how the world changes.”
Though some people criticize philosophy for never settling any particular issues, Milad considers this as philosophy’s greatest virtue.
“For example, one day, we may fully understand the mechanics of the brain or know all there is to know about anthropology. Will those subjects still matter? Perhaps they will become boring? I’m not sure- but philosophy will always matter through not being totally solved.”
Philosophy also teaches us how to think, something that Milad considers highly valuable in any domain of life since it’s an independent skill, transferrable into any subject or situation.
“Philosophy gives us something universally useful,” he considers. “We may change the kinds of things we are interested in studying but we will never lose the need to think properly.”
Critical Thinking Skills in Action for Co-op
Critical thinking turned out to be a valuable skill during his co-op placement at the Employment Standards Branch of the BC Ministry of Labour. Critical thinking skills and the ability to analyse multiple issues, helped Milad deal effectively with employee complaints about employers.
His abilities there were recognised; Tyler Schwartz, Arts Co-op Coordinator notes that following two back-to-back terms, Milad was offered either a third term or to work part time while finishing his studies.
Milad’s co-op position saw him deal with employee complaints about employers. Issues included not being paid overtime, being terminated without just cause, or even not being paid at all. As the investigator tasked with determining whether any wages were owed, Milad either mediated a voluntary settlement by hearing both sides of the story and educating the parties on the legislation, or he would resolve the dispute by writing up a formal determination document that presented the facts of the case and his final decision.
For Milad, philosophy skills learned in class easily applied here; being able to analyse and construct arguments meant he could determine whether or not a case fit relevant criteria for adjudication. Coupled with the ability to write out these deliberations clearly and concisely, he also felt he could put ethics into action.
“I felt like I was making a difference, helping employees get what they were entitled to and enforcing employment laws.”
Sharing the Message with Peers
Keen to share the relevance of his degree with peers and bash stereotypes, Milad is enthusiastic about spreading the word. Despite a full course load, he decided that reviving the dormant Philosophy Student Union (PSU) would be his mission last year; PSU now provides Phil Club twice a week for all those enrolled in a PHIL course.
In explaining why an active student union is important, Milad explains, “Whether we like it not, people think that philosophy students are introverts, nerdy or weird. One of PSU's goals is to destroy that myth and open the subject to all types!”
PSU now runs all sorts of philosophy-related events catering to a wide variety of personalities, actively growing a community of philosophy students on campus. As Milad notes, classes are much more enjoyable with friends so existing Philosophy students stay, and the union helps attracts new students into the subject.
Brian Fox, Student Engagement Coordinator with FASS (Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences), talked Milad into revitalising the PSU.
“Milad was an exceptional mentor, helping students connect to our FASS community by being a welcome leader for their first day here and continuing a supportive relationship with them over the course of their first term here at SFU,” says Fox. “I figured he'd be well suited to help get the PSU up and running again. Sure enough, they now have a super vibrant group and run some pretty neat programming for events like Club Days and through the term.”
As well building community, PSU also helps show the value of an SFU Philosophy degree in the world of jobs and careers. One of Milad’s last events as PSU president was a well-attended career night showcasing philosophy skills in the workplace, highlighting the value of co-op for post-degree career success.
As Milad summarizes, “The rigor and [high] standards of SFU Philosophy means that I am confident in conquering any one of my future goals. I feel as prepared to join the workforce as I do to continue with further education, and that’s what I want to share.”
Milad is enrolled in a Philosophy Major with a Concentration in Law, describing the mix of ethics and law as ‘the bread and butter’ of philosophy and often viewed as the most ‘practical’ application by those outside the subject.
He notes that adding the concentration into his degree course didn’t add lots of extra work. It was when Philosophy Student Advisor, Laura Bologea pointed out that he was only a couple of courses short of getting the notation on his transcript that Milad realised how close he was to gaining the notation.
“Many students may find they are already 1 or 2 courses away from satisfying its requirements. This is exactly what happened with me. A future employer may like seeing it on a resume so why not have that extra line on your transcript?”
The Concentration in Philosophy and Law is a specialized path for those who intend to pursue an education and career in Law.
By focusing on topics in Philosophy of Law, Political Philosophy, Ethics, and Moral Theory, the Concentration in Law is directly applicable to legal theory and policy courses, giving you a strong background and a head start in Law school.
Successful completion of either a Major or Minor in Philosophy with a Concentration in Law will result in a special notation on your transcript.
The data shows that philosophy majors are better equipped to be admitted to law school than students in any other degree program. The Philosophy Department at SFU now offers specialized degree concentrations for students planning to enter law school after graduation.