'I never imagined a degree in philosophy could have such broad application'

Derrick Jones

Joliet, Ill. 

Why did you choose Cornell?

I'm very fortunate to be a full-time employee at Cornell and to have taken advantage of the employee degree program.

What was your favorite class and why?

I don't have just one favorite class, as there are too many choices. However, two classes at the top of my list would be PHIL 3475 (Philosophy of Punishment) and MUSIC 2370 (Planet Rap). I had some great discussions and debates about crime and punishment in Phil 3475 that made me rethink some of my opinions. I still refer back to the notes and discussions from time to time. Planet Rap was awesome because I learned far more than I expected. Although I grew up in the early days of hip-hop, I discovered there was so much that I did not know about its history and its global spread. That class was a real eye-opener for me.

What have you accomplished as a Cornell student that you are most proud of?

Derrick lays down with his cat.

I work in IT security here at Cornell, which can be stressful at times because the stakes are so high with Internet security. Although I've always prided myself on being an analytical thinker, my studies in philosophy have taken this skill to new heights. Over the years of pursuing this degree, I have applied the tools of analytic philosophy to my job with significant effect. I've used these tools to settle disputes, keep complex projects on track, and communicate more effectively. I never imagined a degree in philosophy could have such broad application.

How have your beliefs or perspectives changed since you first arrived at Cornell?

two people at a table

I've learned the value of entertaining an idea or alternative perspective, even if I do not adopt it. It helps me better understand where the other person is coming from and to see them in their humanity instead of just an opposing idea. I also learned not to take myself too seriously.

Who or what influenced your Cornell education the most?

I have to say my wife and my oldest daughter influenced my education the most. My oldest is finishing her Ph.D, and watching her has inspired me. The discussions (eh hem, debates) we've had about philosophy, politics and history have kept me on my toes. She has always been there to push me intellectually, even when I didn't want to be pushed. It made me a better thinker and student. My wife has been a constant source of encouragement and a sounding board when I struggled with challenging assignments. Her side eye when she knew I was procrastinating was often enough to get me back on task and to push through.


Every year, our faculty nominate graduating Arts & Sciences students to be featured as part of our Extraordinary Journeys series. Read more about the Class of 2024.

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Derrick Jones