Scott Welfel, '06


When you first came to Princeton what did you think your major would be?

When I arrived I was dead set on studying music, and for the first two years I arranged my schedule chiefly around music prerequisites.

What made you decide to major in Philosophy?

I decided that music felt like too much of a selfish pursuit, and that I wanted a career that could address some of the social injustices about which I had grown deeply passionate. At the same time, constantly seeing public figures assert dubious political and social positions propped up by fallacious arguments inspired me to seek the training in logical analysis and precision in writing and argument that only the Philosophy Department could offer.

Are there any stories about your experiences as a Philosophy major at Princeton that you'd like to share?

I became so engrossed in the process of logical analysis and writing that my studies began to influence my life, and in turn my life influenced my studies. By the middle of a semester taking Peter Singer’s “Practical Ethics” course, I had become a full-fledged vegan. This transition then inspired me to write my senior thesis on the nature of our moral obligations to non-human animals.

What did you do immediately after leaving Princeton?

I taught middle school science at North Star Academy Charter School in Newark on a Project 55 Fellowship. After leaving Newark to work as a field organizer on President Obama’s 2008 campaign, I returned in 2009 to work in the Housing Department of the City of Newark.

What do you do now?

I am the Reentry Staff Attorney and Skadden Fellow at the New Jersey Institute for Social Justice, where I provide direct representation to veterans and formerly incarcerated individuals to help them obtain employment. I also work on law reform efforts to remove barriers to employment for both populations.[NB: This interview was conducted in February 2014.]

Final words?

Without a doubt, the single best decision I made at Princeton was to major in philosophy. The analytic approach to writing and thinking has served me in every aspect of my professional life thus far, and will undoubtedly also prove crucial in the practice of law. What’s more, it is fantastic to be able to moderate a dinner table debate, distilling my friends’ arguments to show that they may not truly disagree after all.