While it’s been nearly ten years since Christopher Phillips ’97 MAT has been back to campus, the memories of his time spent at the University remain with him as though he just left. Phillips has written numerous books, including Constitution Café, Socrates in Love, Six Questions of Socrates and his most famous piece, Socrates Café. In Socrates Café, Phillips promotes the idea of gatherings which are in-person discussion groups where anyone can come to exchange thoughtful ideas and experiences while embracing the Socratic Method.
Thinking back to his time as a graduate student at Montclair State, Phillips notes the University’s “open and receptive” climate as being particularly meaningful to him. As a researcher and graduate assistant, he fondly remembers learning through primarily roundtable group discussions. Although initially this type of learning seemed intimidating, ultimately Phillips says, “you take these classes at the time and don’t realize how meaningful they are.” Often the most intimidating courses became his favorite subjects. So much so, that they ended up serving as the perfect springboard for not only his career as a writer, but also creating his non profit foundation, Democracy Café.
In addition to receiving his MAT while here, he also met his future wife who was a graduate student at the time. In fact, his book Socrates in Love, was inspired by their time spent together at Montclair State.
As the final part of his MAT program, Phillips worked with students in local schools, and also brought these Socratic circles to residents in nursing homes and prisons. He recalls Montclair State being incredibly receptive to this type of learning.
“I would encourage students to delve into areas outside their passion or specialty and to take advantage of that time. It might lead you in some unexpected direction. Montclair State University has a wonderful blend of teachers and is ultimately such a treasure,” he says.