Erinn Vittum '17

Philosophy Major | Social Worker
picture of Erinn Vittum

Why did you major in philosophy?

As a first-generation undergrad at UNH, I had limited insight regarding my career path. I wanted to “help people” but didn’t particularly know who or how to do so. Choosing first semester freshman year classes was intimidating, and my strategy was fairly random. “Existentialism” with Professor Willem DeVries piqued my interest. I loved talking about theories, concepts, ideas that made my brain stretch in ways it previously hadn’t. The first semester I also took “Social and Political Philosophy” with Professor Matt Dowd. I remember him being so passionate about the material. Philosophy classes tackled and delved into deep, sometimes uncomfortable topics. I decided initially to elect philosophy as my second major purely based on my passion for the material, but became cognizant that the skills and knowledge I was acquiring would be very helpful to my career in Social Work.

Interesting stuff you did as a UNH undergrad? 

During undergrad, I was so genuinely excited to have access to all of the resources at UNH, so I tried to say yes to any opportunity that interested me. I double-majored in psychology and philosophy, participated in the University Honors Program to delve deeper into material across disciplines, conducted honors level research, presented my thesis titled, "Proactive Behaviors in Middle School Youth to Prevent Sexual and Dating Violence: A Descriptive Study," at undergraduate research conferences, studied abroad for four months in Ireland and traveled to 14 different countries. I also volunteered for multiple student organizations, including Alternative Spring Break Challenge, which allowed me to road trip throughout the United States and provide volunteer services to populations in need. My philosophy advisor, Paul McNamara, helped me immensely so that I was able to accomplish all of these goals together.

What are you doing now?

After graduation from UNH, I worked for two years as a child and family social worker for the Department of Health and Human Services, and also for a non-profit organization providing a wide array of preventative, strength-based services for at-risk children and youth in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. In the fall of 2018, I applied and was accepted to the MSW program at the University of Michigan School of Social Work. My concentration here is management of human services, with a specific focus on children and youth. Upon graduation, I will move into a leadership role within a non-profit organization serving marginalized children and youth.

How has philosophy been valuable in your personal and professional life?

Many of the courses I took within the philosophy department inspired me to think critically about my own values. Philosophy was the basis for my commitment to social justice. Philosophy courses entailed lots of reading, logic, critical thinking, analysis, writing; all of these skills have proven to be very valuable in my work and in graduate school.

Any advice for students considering a philosophy major or graduating with a philosophy major?

I encourage my peers to go after what truly inspires them to their core, whatever that may be. And if you haven’t found what motivates you yet, that’s ok; careers take time and passions evolve. Use the resources around you to explore and expand. I started UNH with hardly a clue what I wanted, and majoring in philosophy (as well as the multitude of other opportunities through UNH) solidified my passions and prepared me to thrive at a top graduate school in my field. Being apart of the philosophy department was such a privilege; small classes, passionate professors, colleagues, students, and people who truly care. There’s no environment better than that.