University of Minnesota
Philosophy Camp
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Frequently Asked Questions

What does an average day look like?

See A Typical Day.

Can we have visitors?

Because creating community is an essential part of the course, it is important to spend time with other course participants. We discourage visitors for the first ten days of the course. After this time, we will look to the community to develop a policy on visitors for the remaining time of the course. If problems or special concerns arise, we will look to the community to offer suggestions and problem-solve together.

Will we be able to leave the course for a couple of days?
Will we be able to leave the course to return to the Twin Cities for the day?

Since participation (including being there on weekends) is key to individual success in this course, leaving during the course is discouraged and should only happen in special situations.

Will we be able to receive and make phone calls?
Is there a computer available for email?

Phone and internet access are available, and most cell phones work in the Windom area — check with your provider for details on coverage. Access to e-mail and the internet will be available but somewhat limited. Students are encouraged to bring laptop computers if they have them.

What are the sleeping and bathroom arrangements?

Single and double rooms are available. Rooms share bathroom facilities — roughly one bathroom for every two rooms.

A typical room

What kind of food will we eat? Are there vegetarian options?

Together, we share the cooking and cleaning duties. We provide vegetarian options at all meals. The participants in the course determine the exact menu and shop for the meals. We buy in bulk, cook "from scratch," and minimize the types of prepared and highly processed foods purchased.

Is there any financial aid available?
Is there any way to decrease the cost of Philosophy Camp?

Summer session courses and living expenses are eligible for the usual forms of student financial aid. Check with your financial aid adviser to see which of these might be available to you. Some course-specific financial aid may be available. Check with Philosophy Camp Student Adviser for details.

What can I do to prepare for the course?

Check back with the Philosophy Camp website from time to time. It will be updated as we get closer to the beginning of the course. The Philosophy Camp Student Adviser is available to answer particular questions. You can reach the Adviser at 612-626-2044.

What qualities are you looking for in applicants?

We are looking for people interested in sharing the experience of forming community and reflecting together on the course material. Students will be expected to participate in the group and not hang back as spectators. They are expected to engage in the challenge of creating community with others, to give honest and respectful feedback on their experience throughout the session, and to help the community find ways to elicit, accept, and honor the unique gifts and contributions of each member.

How will we be evaluated/graded?

Twenty men crossing a bridge,
Into a village,
Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges,
Into twenty villages,
Or one man
Crossing a single bridge into a village.

Wallace Stevens
From "Metaphors of a Magnifico"

Philosophy Camp's approach to grading recognizes

You will use Philosophy Camp to find and nurture your growth and development in two areas: (1) grasping what a life worth living means for you; and (2) seeing possibilities for your engagement in and contribution to building stronger communities and a more decent world. Like the image in Wallace Stevens' poem, your growth will be completely individual — you will follow your own path to its conclusion — and this will happen by participating with the other students and instructors in the discussions, activities, and shared work of Philosophy Camp. The team of four instructors is aware that because there are many roads to growth in Philosophy Camp — that in a sense you will be living out the adage "we make the road by walking" — grading and evaluation may become a source of anxiety. It is important to emphasize that the instructors and other students will be on the path alongside you. In addition, you will meet every week for half an hour with two instructor "coaches" to help assure that your overall experience is successful, satisfying and of value to you.

Here are four examples of quite different yet successful ways in which students have grown or developed in Philosophy Camp over the past three summers.

"Annie" graduated with a B.A. the summer of her Philosophy Camp experience. She had arranged to move across the country in the fall to spend a year working with a religious order to assist people in need, but felt anxious about being separated from her parents and siblings for so long a time. She feared being miserably homesick: “I had a really hard time believing that I could actually build a home or build a community without my mom and my dad and my brother and my sister being involved." At the end of Philosophy Camp she said, "I'm much more confident that I can be happy in another community… I have faith that I'm going to be able to have my own family and my own home and that I'm going to be able to join other communities and feel that I have kind of a family away from my real family. And that was a relief for me because I was worried that I would just go my whole life being unhappy… so it was great to not feel that huge sense of homesickness. To just feel like I was kind of home when I was [at Philosophy Camp] was amazing, and I've never felt that way away from my family before." Her experience living away from home and serving others continues to go well. She recently applied to law school.

"Roger" came to Philosophy Camp as a senior. He was initially very sure of his direction in life; he had already worked his way into a high-paying job at a local corporation, and they had agreed to pay for his graduate education. He had had great success in his academic work and was looking forward to future challenges. Initially, the slow pace and relative lack of structure of Philosophy Camp bothered him, but he decided to fully engage in these strange new activities, just to see what would happen. One thing that happened: he developed some serious doubts about the ultimate satisfaction to be gained from the sort of success he was heading for. He began to imagine alternative futures for himself, eventually doing a final project in which he wrote alternative journals from several years into various alternative lives. This exploratory thinking inspired some changes in his planning. He became committed to working to promote meaningful conversations in various parts of his life, and developed a plan for a new kind of coffee shop. He came out of the course with a significant revision of his life-plan.

"Tom" was an older student returning to the University to finish his undergraduate degree after many years away. He felt that this course would be a good way to come back to school. As a parent with a full time job, he had to make special arrangements with his family and his employer to take time off to come to Philosophy Camp. He was skeptical at first about how the course would play out and what value he would find in it for himself. As an older student, would he fit in with students almost a generation younger than himself? Would he be sufficiently challenged with the informal learning situation? Could he manage to live with 17 other people very closely for three weeks? He was surprised to learn a number of unexpected lessons. He stepped into the role of performer (with his guitar), teacher, and mentor to others; he discovered that he could gain more perspective on his life by being away from it for a time; he learned that he didn't always have to be "the only one taking care of everything" and that other people are around to support you; and he had the time to design a project that challenged him by using an unfamiliar medium of expression—papermaking and bookbinding—to convey an interpretation of Martin Buber's philosophy.

"Shao's" family came to the United States when she was a young child. Her family is Hmong. They came from Laos, with an extended stopover in a refugee camp in Thailand, after the Vietnamese War. In high school and in her early years of college she had done substantial work with immigrant communities and was looking forward to a career creating educational opportunities with immigrant populations. After a week at Philosophy Camp in her junior year, Shao realized that her next step of growth should be to remember, honor and acknowledge the journeys that had brought her to her present place. She created an accordion-style artist's book, mingling drawings and text that depicted her journey on one side and her father's journey on the other. The book reflected a thoughtful analysis of Shao's identity and growth-a well-educated young woman in the United States who grew from a baby in Laos with the support of her community and especially of her father. This understanding provided Shao a foundation for moving forward. Shao continues her educational work with immigrant communities today.