College of Humanities & Social Sciences


mitchell howell

Alumni Spotlight: Mitchell Howell

How did you get into philosophy?

I became interested in philosophy in my freshman year while taking Introduction to Philosophy: Moral Issues. I fell in love with how the subject thought critically about every day issues that we often take for granted. From there, I heard about the Philosophy, Political Science, and Economics major and everything quickly fell into place.

What have you been up to recently?

After graduating from WWU in 2012, I enrolled at Willamette University College of Law. While I was there I competed in the National Appellate Advocacy Competition, winning at the local level in both my second and third years of law school and then competing again at the regional level. At the same time, I placed at the local level in the National Negotiation Competition my second year and won in my third year. This allowed me to place fourth at the regional competition as well as compete at the Liberty University National Negotiation Competition. I also worked as an Executive Editor at the Willamette Law Review and completed the certificate program for Alternative Dispute Resolution.

What do you hope to be doing next?

I hope to begin a mediation practice helping clients resolve disputes long before they become costly court battles. It wasn’t until I joined the certificate program for Alternative Dispute Resolution during law school that I saw the usefulness of mediation. A mediator has the ability to help break up blocked up and stuck parties much like a good push can get a car out of the snow. Sometimes people just need a helping hand to work through issues that can get them stuck in a rut.

How do you think that your background in philosophy helped prepare you for the kind of work you're doing now, and what advice would you give other students considering philosophy?

I use the basics of philosophy every day. Philosophy provides problem-solving tools. It gave me the base upon which I was able to build in order to succeed at law school. It taught me how to critically think about problems as well as how to communicate those thoughts in a structured manner. For instance, during appellate argument a lawyer is tasked with answering the judge’s questions regarding the appeal of a case. This often revolves around a minute point of law that requires a complete understanding of the issue, the facts, and an ability to pull those two things together at a moment’s notice in order to convey your point to the judge or to clear up confusion. I would not be able to dissect an issue, analyze it, and put it back together in the way that appellate argument requires without the lessons I learned in the Philosophy Department. My advice would be to test out a variety of fields. Philosophy is broad and varied. Don’t be discouraged if one angle or approach doesn’t suit you. Philosophy is about discovery, contemplation, debate, and conversations! All it asks of us is that we think about anything and everything. Doing so can be intrinsically rewarding as well as immediately useful. I would advise everyone to consider it and pursue it.