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Levinson Ambassador Program builds a philosophical community at UMaine

The University of Maine Levinson Ambassador Program is trying to change the philosophical culture on campus while adjusting to impacts from COVID-19. 

The UMaine Levinson Ambassador Program is just one of the many groups on campus to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We’ve been nothing but affected by COVID[-19] so far so we’re just now learning how to do things in-person with this program,” the Communication and Events Ambassador Bee Yates said

Yates, a third-year philosophy student, is one of four ambassadors involved in the program that are trying to bring attention to and build a philosophical community within UMaine. 

This is a relatively new program on campus. Launched during the spring 2021 semester, their goal is to change the narrative around philosophy on campus and be an outreach for students interested in the subject. 

“It started during COVID[-19], so even in past semesters not all of the ambassadors were here on campus so that definitely has impacted our options and trying to kickstart our philosophical community, but now that things are becoming more in-person that’s what we’re aiming for including increasing our online presence,” the Peer Writing Ambassador Connor Bolduc said

Bolduc, a fourth-year theater and philosophy student, highlighted his perspective of what the Levinson Program is meant to be. The ambassadors want to shift away from the stereotypes attached to philosophy and make it a more fun and inviting environment. 

“A lot of people sometimes have this idea that philosophy is just kinda sitting and talking about ideas that are really hard to understand and are unclear,” Bolduc said. “A lot of philosophy, especially here at UMaine isn’t like that, so it’s our goal to create some fun events people can go to whether or not they’re philosophy majors.” 

Currently the program offers a philosophy help session on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 11-1 p.m. in Room 104 of the Maples building. 

The Maples, built in 1877 as the College Farmhouse, currently serves as the home for the philosophy department on campus. 

The ambassadors highlighted that not a lot of students are aware of what the Maples building is, which is part of their mission to bring attention to the philosophy department. 

“You look at this old farmhouse and you don’t see the lively conversations or the people involved in it so we’re going to redecorate it,”Naomi Carr, a fourth-year psychology student, said

Carr is also the Communications and Events Ambassador and one of the projects they are currently working on for the program is a potential art contest. 

“We are still working on events at this time and coming up with ideas, one of which we’re thinking about hosting an art contest to have students not just in the philosophy department but of all majors to come and bring in their own artwork,” Carr said.

The ambassadors want the student body to know that you don’t need to know everything about philosophy to be able to talk about philosophy. They want to see a philosophical community continue to grow on campus. 

There is also a fourth ambassador role, which is the Diversity and Racial Equity program currently run by Xander Moore. Bolduc touched upon this role and how they all coincide with one another. 

“They have a role that is still collaborative with us but also completely their own, and they have been focusing on events that have to do with someone’s identity and how that is influential and a part of their philosophy experience,” Bolduc said.

These events are meant to highlight that philosophy is not just about academics. 

“It’s everything all the time like you could be talking about the current state of things in the world and that’s still a philosophical conversation,” Yates said. “It’s not just about taking a required ethics class, it’s just cool and fun to talk about.”

“Philosophy is still ongoing, people are still writing, thinking and teaching new aspects of life everyday,” Carr said

For more information about the program there is a weekly newsletter sent out to philosophy students and also an instagram account that was just relaunched, @umaine_philosophy, where they will be posting updates and upcoming events. 

You can also reach out to the ambassadors directly, or check out the Maples building to see this growing community on campus.

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