Meet an Alum: Zeke Reich

I interviewed Zeke Reich about his MAPH experience and his current position at the Veterans Administration in Washington, DC.  Here’s what he had to say:

What were your goals upon entry into MAPH?

I came into MAPH with the primary intention of connecting with a constellation of people and ideas that can be found in the U of C Philosophy Department and almost nowhere else. There were a group of professors (Conant, Finkelstein, Pippin, Haugeland, Lear…) and interlocutors (Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Cavell, Austin, Putnam, Baz, McDowell, Brandom…) whom I felt I needed to connect with in order to make my basic education as a philosophical person complete. I’m happy to say that that intention was met: I was welcomed into advanced classes and workshops, and spent time with upper-level graduate students who were having all the conversations that I had wanted to be part of. And I still feel that the U of C Wittgenstein/Cavell/Heidegger/pragmatism axis plays an extremely important role in my sensibility and worldview.I also had the intention at the time to apply to philosophy PhD programs after MAPH. But after two quarters of philosophy classes, I realized that as much as I loved the subject and had profited from it, I didn’t see myself becoming a philosophy professor. Then I decided to study political theory. But after one quarter of political theory classes, I realized that I didn’t see myself becoming a political theory professor either…

What drew you to go to law school after your MAPH year?

After MAPH I considered my options and chose to go to law school. I had been working with a conflict resolution organization during the previous few summers, and I saw law school as the most appealing way to enter that field. I worked for that organization (and lived with my parents) during the year after MAPH, while I got my law school applications together.

Describe the work that you are doing now.

I graduated from law school in spring 2010 and I now work in the Workplace Dispute Resolution office of the Veterans Administration in Washington DC. I mediate employee disputes, train VA employees to deal with conflict, and help administer the agency’s nationwide dispute resolution program. I love the job and feel like it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing right now.

What continuities do you find between the work that you did in MAPH and the work that you are doing now?

MAPH set up a number of important intellectual streams that still serve me well professionally. Rigorously analyzing the philosophy of action with Jason Bridges gave me tools to think about interpersonal conflict that many practitioners in my field haven’t had access to. Soaking up the sensibility of Wittgenstein, as channeled by David Finkelstein and others, helped me develop a certain kind of attitude to human affairs that I might call “comfort with ambivalence” and that is necessary in my line of work. And what I learned about academic writing, from both the MAPH writing instruction and from the analytic philosophy classes I took, gave me more skill in that area than I had learned in four years as an Ivy League undergrad.

MAPH often serves as a transition in interest/focus for students.  What advice would you offer to more recent MAPH graduates who are still searching for a meaningful vocation?

Follow your passions and do what you love. I have been on a long road to a fulfilling career, and the most difficult obstacle has been my own tendency to choose the thing that I was “supposed to do” over the thing that would have spoken to me in the deepest way. Get rid of other people’s expectations, connect with your heart, and money and opportunities will follow!

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