(Clarification note written prior to any visits: While I blog about these visits for several reasons (personal reflection, sharing my experiences with anyone interested, maybe someone else accepted but unable to visit will find them useful, etc.) I will note upfront I intend to omit anything I consider negative and also that no inferences should be drawn from any omissions. In fact, I may omit things just to ruin the ability to make inferences. I’ll also omit names. I doubt my blog is read enough to matter, but I’d rather not anyone read these and dislike what they see. Also, the no negative comments rule does not apply to food.)
I flew in Thursday morning, getting in around noon. After settling in, I had some time to wander Columbia before meeting with anyone. The city itself I immediately took to. There’s a lot of food options, a lot of stuff in an easily walkable area, and the level of crowdedness is comfortably low. The place looks pretty nice, and downtown is close enough to the university you can’t easily tell where one ends and the other begins.
The campus of Mizzou itself certainly earned its reputation. I couldn’t explore all of it because it’s huge, but what I did see was beautiful. Many of the buildings are historical, though the newer ones are obviously state of the art. (For contrast, none looked like they were thrown up thirty years ago and left to decay since.) The student center and the union (apparently different buildings) were both packed with things. Lots of restaurants, plenty of places to be, some recreational activities, a two-floor store, etc. The recreation center was named the best college rec center by Sports Illustrated, and for good reason. I found the rock climbing walls and lazy river with whirlpool to be the most appealing features of the rec center.
Regarding the philosophy department itself (right!), I spent most of my time in individual meetings with faculty. I was pleasantly surprised to find more areas of shared interest than I expected. If I were to go to Mizzou, I wouldn’t expect to have any trouble finding support for my interests. One professor and I got so immersed in conversation that our twenty minute meeting consumed the next twenty meeting. Whoops. That much should have been expected as soon as the topic turned to metaphysics, though.
Overall the climate was extremely comfortable. The term seems vague, but it really fits–the place felt like home almost instantly. Sitting in the hotel waiting for my taxi to pick me up, I feel sad to leave. The relationships between graduate students and professors appeared all quite virtuous. I haven’t personally seen any departments where people are really at each others’ throats in a negative sense, but I’m aware they exist, and this department seems to be the polar opposite of that. I couldn’t talk to anyone without them saying good things about someone else in the dept. Moreover, all of the grad students seemed really happy being there. Some went out of their way to say good things. Others, even when I asked, really had nothing bad to say.
The last event of the whole visit was a pizza party at one of the professors’ houses. It was about as pleasant as you would expect a pizza party to be (very). I bounced around for awhile before settling in a small group off to the side talking about metaphysics for a few hours. Seems talking about idealism will get pretty much anyone (quantified over the domain of people interested in philosophy) interested. From there everything from mereology to bodily resurrection to time travel came up.
On my free night (Thursday) I had Shakespeare’s pizza since I actually heard of it from over a hundred miles away. It was good, for sure, though not worth trying to replicate at home with the expensive frozen pizzas they offer. The cheesy fries in the student union were good. The cheese took awhile to get used to, but about halfway in I appreciated the depth of the flavor. The fries were average. I think the pizza at the pizza party was Wise Guys. Also decent, for sure, and it even held its own after cooling off throughout a couple hours of metaphysics.