Vinay Limbachia, Class of 2011
Major: Philosophy and Religion
Why did you choose Philosophy and Religion as your majors?
I decided to take an Introduction to Philosophy course during my first semester of college. In the first very class, Professor Stephen Stich promised to make us all “socratically ignorant”—in other words, aware of just how little we know. True to his promise, Professor Stich opened my mind to the many assumptions that underlie my beliefs and his course encouraged me to spend the next four years challenging those assumptions through a double major in Philosophy and Religion.
What did you like most about it?
My Philosophy and Religion double-major focused on questions that were part of my daily life, i.e. how do I identify moral standards, and, Is there a God? This made my academic pursuits personally gratifying. My majors stimulated not just my academic and intellectual growth, but my personal, moral, and spiritual development. I felt fortunate to study subjects that were not purely academic but had real consequences for how I chose to live my personal life.
What is your current position, what do you, and what do you enjoy most about it?
I currently serve as a law clerk to the Honorable Patty Shwartz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (who is herself a Rutgers alum!). I assist the Judge with research and writing related to cases that are pending before her. What I enjoy the most about the position is the people I work with. What I enjoy the most about the actual work is the opportunity to dig deeply into narrow legal disputes, sometimes over phrases in laws or contracts in a manner that is reminiscent of how we parsed every word of a primary source in many of my classes at SAS.
What was your first job after Rutgers and how did you get it?
I went straight from Rutgers to law school.
How did you move from that first job to your current position?
My first job out of law school was at a large law firm, where my role was advocating for clients in litigation. I naturally became curious as to what was driving a judge’s decision-making in our cases, and I thought it would be a valuable experience to serve as a law clerk to a judge. This position would give me an opportunity to work closely with a judge and to see how judges think through cases. It would also give me the privilege of serving in the public sector, an aspiration that was nurtured by a service-oriented community at SAS.
Looking back, what classes or experiences at Rutgers would you point to as contributing to your successes?
My time at Rutgers helped prepare me for my legal career in so many ways—from classes that developed analytical skills to research papers that sharpened my writing to professors who challenged me with a new question every time I thought I had an answer. However, one of my experiences that I credit the most for preparing me for life as a lawyer is my time as a teaching assistant for Professor Edwin Bryant’s Hindu Philosophy course. In that capacity, I was often called upon to explain complicated bits of philosophy—often interlaced with foreign Sanskrit terms—to nervous students cramming for an upcoming exam. The core skills I built, namely explaining dense and foreign concepts as simply as possible, have translated very well to my legal career.
What advice do you have for our current Arts and Sciences students?
Take courses that challenge your beliefs! College is an opportunity for real growth, and there is no reason to limit that growth to areas outside of the classroom. Use the classroom to probe your own beliefs and assumptions and you will find that your academic experience is more rewarding than you could have imagined.