In the midst of a stressful year, the UNC philosophy department is offering new ways for people beyond the University to stay academically involved and think critically through its Philosophy Outreach Program.
The initiatives the program offers include discussions with elementary schools, high schools and after-school programs. It also offers enrichment programs for correctional facilities, a public library philosophy speaker series and discussion groups in retirement facilities.
With the resources of the philosophy department and the Parr Center for Ethics, the Outreach Program is designed to help communities outside the University think clearly for themselves about a broad range of topics that impact their lives.
Michael Vazquez is a professor and director of outreach for the philosophy department and the Parr Center for Ethics. He said the mission of the Outreach Program is to expand the scope of philosophical thinking by engaging community partners.
“We aim to promote the University's mission as a public university and as an institution that sort of promises to be a public good for the community for North Carolina, of kind of producing and disseminating knowledge that benefits society,” he said.
Z Quanbeck is a doctoral student in the philosophy department and one of the volunteers for the Outreach Program's retirement community initiative.
He said one of his roles for this initiative is facilitating an open philosophical discussion among members of a retirement community about anything from free will to analyzing a philosophical paper.
“There's a sense in which philosophy is an activity that's done by academics and universities,” Quanbeck said. “But the philosophical questions that academics consider are the sorts that everybody needs to think about.”
He said facilitating these conversations and participating in them is an important way of connecting the University with the surrounding communities.