Philosophy at Haverford

Haverford has a vibrant Department of Philosophy. Haverford’s academic departments frequently invite professors from other colleges and universities to share their work at talks. Attending these talks is an excellent way to expand your knowledge and apply your learning from the classroom.

Throughout this year, the Department of Philosophy has hosted talks by, among others, Paul Snowden (“Wittgenstein on Rule Following”), Lisa Shabel (“Kant on the Mathematical Principles of Pure Understanding”), and Nate Zuckerman ’02 (“Becoming Who We Already Are: Heidegger and Kierkegaard on Repetition”). It has also hosted the Annual Global Philosophy Forum.

On Friday, April 10, I attended a talk by Professor Justin Broackes. Broackes talked about perception and knowledge and described what the soul understands through itself and through the senses in Plato’s Theaetetus (184-187). He also mentioned passages from Phaedo (65b-66, 82d-84c) and Symposium (210e-212b).

Another wonderful part of the Department of Philosophy is the New Philosopher’s Club. I am a member of this group of students that meets about once a month to discuss philosophical topics. Our most recent meeting centered on a discussion of performance studies and performatives. This meeting was also on April 10, which made my Friday quite philosophical! You can check out this blog post and this web page for more on the New Philosophers’ Club.

Global Dialogue Institutes

The poster for the Annual Global Philosophy Forum, courtesy of Professor Ashok Gangadean.

Tri-College Linguistics Conference

On February 13, Haverford hosted the first Tri-College Undergraduate Linguistics Conference. Linguistics is a Tri-College major at Haverford, which means that Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr share faculty, and students can take courses for the major at all three schools.

At this Tri-Co Conference, undergraduate students from across the country presented on a wide variety of topics.  I was able to attend the first presentation on Right-Node Wrapping, and it was an excellent display of high-quality scholarship produced by an undergraduate.

I also had time to see part of the outstanding keynote lecture from University of Texas at Austin Professor of Linguistics, Richard P. Meier on pointing in sign languages, a topic that encompasses, among other areas, syntax and phonology. Another fascinating area of his keynote was the discussion of psycholinguistics studies comparing pointing in Autistic deaf children of deaf parents to pointing in non-Autistic deaf children of deaf parents.

This gathering of so many undergraduates interested in pursuing projects in linguistics made for an exciting and erudite atmosphere at the conference. If you are interested in the Tri-Co’s thriving linguistics community, check out

Finals Week


Brandon’s favorite study spot. Photo credit: Jessica Dixon ’16

Happy Finals Week! My favorite place to study at Haverford is this desk on the second tier of the Science Library. Today, I’m preparing to write a paper for my Philosophy of Mind course. In this course, taught by Professor Ian Blecher, we have studied Plato (Philebus and short selections from Phaedrus and Parmenides), Aristotle (De Anima 3, 4, and 5), Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologiae, Question 79), René Descartes (Meditations on First Philosophy 1, 2, and 3), Immanuel Kant (The Critique of Pure Reason), and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (Faith and Knowledge and the preface to The Phenomenology of Spirit).  

The Nerd House Halloween Murder Mystery Party

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

A photo of our superb costumes: Teemo in his Fallout skin (Jesse Pazdera), a mummy (Harry Okun), Godric Gryffindor (ME!), Captain Hammer (Casey Falk), and the Eleventh Doctor (David Reilley).

The night was chill and dark. My companions and I gathered in our Halloween attire and set out for Nerd House. Upon our arrival, we encountered the eldritch scene: A mansion with ghoulish decorations, delicious snacks… and a sinister air. Continue reading

Exploring Haverford: Open Campus Day


Some of the Student Volunteers who made Open Campus Day such a success! Photo courtesy of Shane Trujillo

Some of the Student Volunteers who made Open Campus Day such a success! Photo courtesy of Shane Trujillo

April 13 was Open Campus Day, a day for students considering coming to Haverford to look around the campus, meet students, and learn about academic departments and extracurricular activities on campus.  It was a gorgeous day for walking around campus.  The Student Volunteers who work in the Office of Admission began the day at Ryan Gym – we reviewed our instructions and duties for the day.  A few students and I began near the parking lot, directing people to register at Founders Hall.  Next, I proceeded to Founders Hall for the academic fair.  There was a lively hub of people circulating in and out, talking with a wide variety of professors and students representing academic departments.  Of course, there were plenty of handouts to be had!  (Another way to learn about the academic ethos was at the Academics Panel later in the day.)  I talked with all sorts of parents and prospective students about my experience with academics and extracurricular life at Haverford, my interests (it helped that I had a name tag imploring, “Ask me about LINGUISTICS and Cognitive Science”), and, most importantly, the prospective students’ interests.  People had great questions which gave me a chance to expound upon what makes Haverford such a unique school with a plethora of opportunities. 

Tours of the campus and of specific buildings went off while I headed to lunch.  As I waited in the massive line, I answered more questions and shared more information about Haverford with other folks in line.  I moved back in line a few times to extend my time in line and thereby chat with more people.  (Some wonderful volunteers brought us cookies and brownies as we waited!)  After we were served, I sat down to talk with some visitors; when they left, I switched tables and had a wonderful conversation with two prospective students and their parents.  We were some of the last people to leave the Dining Center.  I directed the parents to the Parents Panel and walked the students to the Students-Only Panel, two excellent opportunities for the different cohorts to ask questions. 

My final event was at the Closing Reception.  As people met in the Gardner Integrated Athletic Center before they left campus, I approached various groups and even saw some folks I had seen earlier in the day.  It sounded like people had an exciting (and hopefully persuasive!) Open Campus Day experience, which made me ecstatic.  For me, the best part of the day was hearing so much about prospective students’ interests and ambitions, which, in turn, prompted conversations about the school.  I am a tour guide, so I get asked questions on tours, but, due to the limited time available on a tour, I can only share so much about the college.  However, on Open Campus Day, I felt like I had the chance to talk in a more extensive and detailed fashion and to describe in more detail what makes Haverford an outstanding learning environment and caring community on a personal level. 

If you are interested in working for the Office of Admission, one way you can do so is to apply to be a host (people who talk with students and parents as they wait for tours or interviews) or a campus tour guide during the Spring semester of your freshman year.  Both positions are opportunities to share the college with visitors and to present them not only with facts but with your or your friends’ personal experiences with classes and extracurricular opportunities, study abroad adventures and internships and externship experiences, funding from the CPGC and classes or exhibits from the Hurford Center.  This blog is my last for the semester, so, a bit in advance, I hope you all HAVER stellar end of the school year!

Leadership Training: Personal Development at Haverford


Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

Bonus visual: My splendid birthday cake – Haverford style!

The college experience is about academic development as well as personal development.  Of course, Haverford has plenty of resources to facilitate academic growth, but it also makes available many opportunities for personal development.  Among our many extracurricular activities is the Rufus M. Jones Leadership Institute.  The Institute has program requirements that are useful in becoming a well-rounded and informed leader; students can also complete different parts of the program as ways to hone their leadership skills.  For the spring semester, I submitted my name to be enrolled in Leadership 101: Foundations, a not-for-credit class that meets six times once a week, after receiving an email advertising it.  (As a side note, always check your college email account – opportunities can abound in the mail you receive.)  Leadership 101: Foundations is designed to introduce key themes in leadership that can be applied to real-world situations from leading a club to running a meeting.  We have had five of our six classes so far this semester, and we will have our final class on March 20 after we return from Spring Break. 

The class is a great opportunity for personal development.  Lilly Lavner (Coordinator of Student Activities and Leadership) and Chloe Tucker (International Programs Coordinator) lead the class.  Fewer than ten students are in the class, and that small class size ensures that we can hear each other’s opinions and break into small discussion groups.  (The class has also been a great way to meet new people and to get to know other people better.)  On the first day of class, we were given The Intentional Leader by Kenneth A. Shaw and Strengths Based Leadership: Great Leaders, Teams, and Why People Follow by Tom Rath and Barry Conchie.  The Intentional Leader is the text on which our class topics are founded.  We used the online component of Strengths Based Leadership to take a diagnostic test to examine what strengths we had and how we could utilize those strengths to lead.  We also used this diagnostic information to learn how to work effectively with people with different strengths.  From these sessions, I have learned that introspection and self-assessment are major components of leadership. 

Group activities feature prominently in the class.  Of course, there are times when Lilly and Chloe provide information or new knowledge, but much of the time is dedicated to having discussions and participating in group tasks which are designed to put leadership skills into practice and demonstrate group dynamics.  We truly participate in learning and developing the concepts featured in the class.  The group activities allow for reflecting on what aspects of leadership worked well and which aspects could be improved.  During our classes, we have set goals, learned how to give constructive criticism, and discussed our own strengths and weaknesses, ways of working with people with different strengths or personal styles, decision-making, meetings, diversity, and identity. 

Maximizing the outcome of a meeting by establishing a purpose for the meeting, setting goals for the meeting, and using an effective meeting style was another a critical topic.  It segued smoothly into a session about effective communication.  For that session, we had a visiting instructor, Michael Webert, from the Office of Academic Resources who described proper communication techniques in addition to traits of effective leaders, values, and accountability.  He also emphasized evaluating others and oneself and creating a reason for others to follow a leader. 

I think the most important style that we discussed in Leadership 101: Foundations was facilitation.  Rather than commanding others, a facilitator can create an environment in which ideas can be bandied about without fear of harsh criticism.  A facilitator focuses on achieving discussion of pros, cons, and compromises.  Facilitating meetings to allow ideas to flourish or for ideas to be born from general themes is a crucial element of leadership.  Facilitation is perhaps an unconventional means of framing leadership, for facilitation is a hands-off approach.  However, it allows for someone to keep the meeting on task and to ensure various opinions are heard from different participants.

So far, my experience with Leadership 101: Foundations has been extremely positive.  I have gained insight into my own practices and reflected on ways to improve and refine them.  I have gained the vocabulary to talk about leadership in a precise and meaningful way.  I have learned what to look for in a group dynamic so that I can focus on giving agency to and including others.  All of the knowledge I have gleaned from the class has been extremely valuable in making me more aware of proper leadership practices that I will employ to make group experiences more effective and beneficial to all of the group’s members.

Let’s hope for warm weather!  Haver happy spring!

Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Haverford’s Dining Center as the snow falls in the morning

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Swarthmore after I finished my classes

Snow Day: Transportation in the Tri-Co

As I shared my Fall 2013 college stories with friends and family over Winter Break, I came to realize how vital college transportation was to my semester.  Haverford is part of the Tri-College Consortium (Tri-Co), which means that Haverford students are able to take classes at Swarthmore and Bryn Mawr.  Haverford is also part of the Quaker Consortium, which consists of the Tri-Co as well as the University of Pennsylvania (Penn); if a class is not offered within the Tri-Co, Haverford students can take that class at Penn.  This academic cooperation between the schools provides manifold resources and opportunities for students. 

For the Fall 2013 semester, I made extensive use of the Tri-Co.  There was a scheduling conflict at Haverford, so I took my classes at Swarthmore.  To get to Swarthmore, I used the Tri-Co Van, which shuttles students between the three schools. The trip between Haverford and Swarthmore is a reliable 20- or 30-minute drive.  On a related note, the Blue Bus shuttles students between Bryn Mawr and Haverford.  This ride usually takes around 5 or 10 minutes, and I have taken it to work on group projects.  Both the Tri-Co Van and the Blue Bus are complementary services to Tri-Co students.  The van was very punctual and allowed me to arrive at Swarthmore in the morning and leave in the afternoon once my classes had ended.  It also allowed me to go to Swarthmore on other days of the week (including Fridays and weekends) to, for example, complete problem sets with groups or meet with professors.  Without the Tri-Co van, my semester would have been impossible. 

However, on December 10, a snowstorm caused the Tri-Co transportation system to shut down.  Of course, December 10 was the last day of classes before finals at Swarthmore, and I had a group presentation for one of my classes.  I had never missed a class, and I did not intend to start on that day.  An email was sent, informing students that the shuttle was not operating, so I tried calling a taxi company, which was also not operating.  Then, like a shining beacon, an employee of the College appeared and told me that SEPTA, the bus and train system that connects areas in and around Philadelphia, was likely still operating.  (Students who take classes at Penn use SEPTA for transportation, and others use it to experience all that Philadelphia has to offer.)  I had never used SEPTA before, so I knew this day was going to be an interesting experience. 

Conveniently, the Haverford Station stop is near campus, and a train was leaving soon.  Inconveniently, it was still snowing, there were several inches of snow on the ground, and I was worried about arriving on time.  I must have looked ridiculous, laden with a heavy bag and my burdensome backpack, wearing dress shoes, jeans, a button-down shirt, a sweater, a coat, hat, and gloves.  I made my way through the falling and fallen snow in a combination of running, jogging, and walking interspersed with labored breathing, but I made it.  With some help from an extremely kind stranger on the platform, I took the train to 69th Street Transportation Center and boarded the 109 bus, which took me to Swarthmore.  I thought the bus driver would stop at the appropriate place, and I did not know exactly where that place was, so as we were beginning to pass the campus, I asked where the stop was.  It had been a bit before, so the bus driver let me out where we were – I was at the bottom of the hill that leads to the part of Swarthmore’s campus where my classes were, which meant more jogging, running, and panting.  At least I got to see a new part of their campus!  I trekked up to my classroom and made all my classes.  As I walked into my first class (Semantics), my professor said that I did not have to come to class that day.  Triumphant and grinning, though out-of-breath, I responded, “Where would the fun be?” before I sat down and opened my notebook.  It was a satisfying moment to have arrived at the destination of my trek. 

When classes had ended, I bolted to the bus stop and just made it.  I took the 109 to 69th Street, which was rather busy, probably due to the evening rush hour.  I was surrounded by the hustle and bustle of the end of the workday as I made it to the right train to take me to the Haverford Station, so I tried to blend in as a commuter student.  As I walked back to campus, exhausted from my classes and transportation adventure, I felt quite accomplished. 

This day was the perfect encapsulation of a hectic but ultimately rewarding semester.  In spite of an obstacle, I persevered to learn.  I view my SEPTA day as an exciting, completely new experience; the obstacle provided an opportunity to prove to myself that I could adapt to a radical change of plan.  For all the stress, I must admit that it was fun.  Instead of dwelling on the rare Tri-Co transportation cancellation, I utilized a wonderful resource (a nearby train station) that Haverford’s location offers.  The Tri-Co transportation system and SEPTA are two resources that facilitate academic activity for Haverford students and are great benefits of attending Haverford.  HAVER happy New Year!

Community Housing at Haverford

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House's Halloween Party

A portion of our costumed guests at Nerd House’s Halloween Party

Hello, friends!  One thing I love about Haverford is community housing.  After freshman year, a group of interested students can join together and apply to live in an on-campus house (Yarnall) or one of three apartments set aside for community housing.  The agreement is that, in exchange for housing, the Office of Residential Life expects those living in the community house to host events for the community.  Often, the houses have a specific theme.  The house I live in is Nerd House in Yarnall, and we are a group of 13 students dedicated to various fandoms, science, technology, literature, movies (some of us would say “films”), and board games of all stripes.  We do not use the term “nerd” in a disparaging way.  Instead, we use it as a term for motivated students with particular interests that make us interesting members of a sub-community that reaches out to the larger community.  We are all about inclusion.

When my housemates and I were freshmen, we began as several different groups of friends who all had similar interests.  Like nodes on a graph, we gradually became connected.  I was connected to many of my current housemates through my freshman hall and classes such as psychology, Spanish, computer science, and my writing seminar.  Sometimes, friends can come from unexpected places, and what can at first seem like minor events (e.g., sitting next to my current housemates in computer science and my writing seminar and thinking something along the lines of, “These guys seem nice.”) may be far more important upon further reflection.    Several of my friends started thinking about living together, and we decided that a community house would provide us with the space we needed and also be a way for us to reach out into the community.  After all, we are extremely social nerds.  (I prefer “nerdlings.”)  Once we had filled out our application near the end of freshman year and established our mission statement, we had an engaging interview with the Residential Life Committee.  When we had approval, we began to plan for sophomore year and compile an email list that we now use to communicate with numerous students who are interested in our events.  Upon our return to Haverford as sophomores, we were indeed prepared for an exciting year!

This year, we have hosted a variety of events on weekends, allowing students to have fun and “nerdy” evenings.  Some of our events have included an Open House board game night, several movie nights including an anime film night, Film Noir night complete with a jazz sextet, a Victorian Era murder mystery party, a video game tournament, and a Halloween party and costume ball.  Strategy board game night was our latest event.  Anyone on campus is invited to these events; we truly reach out to the community.  One of our crowning achievements was Humans vs. Zombies, a campus-wide game of tag wherein zombies had to infect humans to convert them, and humans had to resist the horde.  Nerd House advertised extensively and signed people up in the Dining Center; it was a phenomenal game with amazing participation.  Students have been responding with great enthusiasm to Nerd House; we have had impressive turnouts for our events, and I personally receive many compliments about those events and the general spirit of our house.  Community housing at Haverford is an excellent embodiment of the agency students have.  If there is not a club or group that suits your interests, you can create one.

Perhaps the most wonderful event that happens at Nerd House is when I walk in late at night to find my friends working in the kitchen.  We talk about our days, muse about our classes, and laugh about what is on the Internet.  I have a marvelous group of friends here whom I have gotten to know even better this year, and I treasure all of the success that we have been having in the community through Nerd House.  Be sure to check out previous and future blog posts.  HAVER great day!

Unconventional Paths to Knowledge: Haverford’s Hurford Center for the Arts and Humanities

Hello, and welcome to the Haverford College Admission Blog!  My name is Brandon Henken, and I would like to use my first official posting to talk about my exciting experiences with the John B. Hurford ’60 Center for the Arts and Humanities, an academic center on campus that seeks to enliven the artistic and academic scenes on campus by integrating disciplines in unique ways.  (Check it out here:  This semester, I have had two intellectual adventures with the Center, and I believe that they both are outstanding examples of the agency students have on campus to be creative and to pursue their interests.

The first experience was a presentation called “Demons, Witches, and Comets” that was presented by a student and a professor.  It was a discussion of evidence systems and knowledge centered on celestial events and accusations of witchcraft.  Of course, this presentation was on Friday the Thirteenth!  The cerebral pith of their presentation was that it is dangerous for a scholar to impose modern knowledge systems and epistemology on those of earlier times; rather than dismiss these older systems, scholars should seek to understand how people thought with them.  I loved the intimate atmosphere of roughly two dozen students and professors listening to a discussion and being able to ask questions to move the conversation forward, knowing that they had respect of their peers and professors.  It was truly a Haverfordian experience.

My second experience is a semester-long student-led seminar called “The Depths of Fear: Cross-Cultural Consciousness of Sea Monsters in Folklore, Mythology, and Popular Culture.”  A shared love of the sea inspired an English major and a history major to formulate and lead this class which will meet five times this semester.  I saw it advertised, and I thought it would be fascinating to use cultural, historical, and literary lenses to explore such an unconventional topic.  So far, it is!  The seminar is a great way to explore new subject matter as a break from my usual coursework.  Our first “voyage” on September 20 featured revelatory discussion of monsters and monstrosity, vastness and void, science and nature, and madness and personality in Herman Melville’s Moby Dick.  (Our reading list also includes Tales of the Cthulu Mythos, The Search for the Giant Squid, Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea, The Book of Imaginary Beings, The Odyssey, and The Field Guide to Lake Monsters, Sea Serpents, and Other Mystery Denizens of the Deep.)  Nestled in a cozy room in the library, each member of the seminar contributed a unique perspective to the discussion, and I was enlightened by the new concepts that my peers observed.  There were only seven of us, including the students leading the seminar, so everyone had ample time to share and debate ideas.  I was even able to integrate my knowledge from “Demons, Witches, and Comets” into a conversation about the science or attempt at science in Moby Dick.  Once again, this small group was ideal for discussion, and it was an embodiment of the Haverford culture of intelligent discourse.

The Hurford Center and Haverford College as a whole allow students to explore their passions.  Each semester, students can propose, design, and lead new seminars or make presentations with the support of the Hurford Center so that knowledge generated on campus never goes stale.  We have a thriving, vibrant community where students can showcase their own interests and share them with others, all with the support of the College.

Good luck with applications, and HAVER great day!