Andrew Schmidt C'04
In order to tell an accurate story of why I am so deeply indebted to the philosophical environment offered by the University and the Sewanee community I must first sketch a picture of who I was as a person at the time I first entered the stony threshold that marks the boundary of the Domain. I am a life-long military dependent, and one who had moved three times during my four years of high school. The product of these "tours of duty" of which, at the time, I was most grateful, was a keen ability to adapt to the various environments I found myself located. The down side of the process of perpetual adaptation, to make a long story short, resulted in thick, deep-seeded walls within my mental and emotional self. So, I was a person who possessed a certain adaptive charisma, and on the other side of the coin, one who had a quiver full of defense mechanisms and who was bothered by self-doubt and anxiety. Basically, I was your typical college freshman.
So, within the picture of myself that I am sketching for you, the pencil strokes create many shades and may dimensions, some lines are clean and others are rough, and the picture is not so different from the one that you would sketch of yourself. I made it through my freshman year and really began to gain a sense of myself as an independent person, and had an interesting and wonderful time throughout the process. I assumed the role of an optimist. I took mostly required courses, the Humanities sequence, Biology 131, a Political Science course because it was an election year. I became comfortable making independent decisions and enjoyed maintaining and balancing my personal, social, and academic responsibilities. The biggest issue that accompanied this new transitional period in my life was my awareness of recurring questions that were bubbling somewhere inside of me. Who am I? How have I changed? Why have I changed? Where am I going? What is my place here? What is my place in the world? Do I really believe in what I say I believe in? And the list is vast. The question I was most concerned with, however, was, "How can I begin to answer all of these questions?"
The next chapter of my story has much to do with the friendship and guidance of the Philosophy Department, including both its' faculty and students. I found in the department a place where there was no shame in asking personal questions during class time, a place that excited me and carefully pushed me academically, and a place that set out to help me find my own path in life. In other words, the department was fully concerned with who I was as a person, not just as a student. The department taught me how to read and write critically (after all, the virgin enterprise of reading philosophy is no different than reading brail) and how to think dialectically. It has taught me how to clearly express myself. I have gained taste. I have carried these "skills" along with me to the current chapter of my life, and I cannot picture a future context where I would abandon them. The philosophy major introduced me to the world of ethics, and has urged me to always consider the repercussions of my actions in my relationships with others. In addition, the major has taught me about inner peace and poise, the affirmation of life, and has given me an unshakable confidence in the vein of eastern mind-states.
To put it simply, the philosophy major is a lifestyle. And an active and exciting one at that. I am currently a graduate student pursuing a Master's Degree in Landscape Architecture (something that Sewanee does not offer, nor something that I have ever studied) somewhere in the depths of Mississippi. I really enjoy what I am studying and feel that I have a strong grasp on this completely foreign subject. Philosophy taught me that there is always a critic, so a critic might chime in, "What!?, how did you go from philosophy to landscape architecture?" Very easily, I reply. Because the philosophy major at Sewanee prepares you to do anything in life, wherever your interests may lead you. Once you have learned how to properly orient yourself within the various contexts of the world, the question of life shifts from "What can you do?" to "What will you do and when will you will it?" So, the bottom-line and the conclusion is this: I can't honestly give a higher recommendation to another young person than to major in philosophy when you are attending the University of the South. Or in other words, make hay while the sun shines