An Aspiring Scholar
Blake Kyler is not the type who gets bored with life. When you sit down and probe him about this (something he’s practically always willing to do), you realize quickly that his attitude comes through a devotion to pondering life’s deepest concepts and quandaries. As a model student of philosophy, Blake’s quest for knowledge of a deeper sort has, in his words, changed him for the better—and it was a long time coming from what some might say was an unlikely starting point.
Growing up in the Bible Belt of Southeast Texas in the small town of Groves, the world of philosophical diversity was fairly inaccessible to Blake, but his always-eager mind was ready for a chance to get away and learn more. “In Texas, the expectations didn’t fit my aspirations. That’s largely what spurned me on -- I wanted to get away for a pretty long time. There was something very appealing and idyllic about Vermont,” he said.
Vermont -- a long 1800 miles away from home -- would provide Blake with more than the lush scenery he had seen in postcards and calendars; it would offer him the chance to attend a school where he was encouraged to think freely and embrace himself—something that never came as easy for him in Texas. After Blake found GMC, he made his way back each semester by various means: car, plane, and even by motorcycle. As cliché as it may sound, Kyler had truly found his home away from home -- and could fully explore his academic passions.
“The fulfillment I derive out of writing a sentence and trying to take some of the raw experience that we have in life and say it in such a way that actually gets at what’s happening in that experience, at trying to truly articulate an experience -- that’s what makes me passionate about philosophy,” he explained.
Another interesting thing about studying philosophy, Blake noted, was that academic accomplishments come in a subtle and internalized ways. “Philosophical growth doesn’t necessarily come in particular academic projects, but, rather, in special, academic moments,” he says. These moments were spread out among a variety of topics in philosophy -- giving Blake a balanced overview of a number of philosophical disciplines. Having excelled in many of these subjects, Blake was ready to work on something that he could sink his teeth into. This opportunity was just around the corner, in the form of a special project with faculty member Steven Fesmire (philosophy).
Over the course of the semester, Blake will be serving as an undergraduate research assistant (URA) to Prof. Fesmire—who is working on his second book about John Dewey as a part of a series on major philosophers. The upcoming book is meant to be accessible by undergraduates studying philosophy, so part of Blake’s job is to see what approaches work best in communicating Dewey’s ideas to other young students. Blake has enjoyed the opportunity to work, and learn, alongside of one of his professors. “It’s a great opportunity because, at almost any other college, there are no URAs -- there are only research assistants at the graduate level. It’s one of the unique things that I appreciate about GMC… it’s a real privilege,” he concluded.
Blake has set the bar high for himself as he considers his future, as he would like to eventually get his PhD in philosophy. That may not come as much of a surprise if you know Blake -- he has some of the iconic traits of a philosopher in the way he carries himself and expresses himself. But perhaps beyond a playful presupposition, there is a more poignant and compelling realization to be made. Philosophy literally means “love of wisdom.” Given where Blake’s been and where he seems to be headed, you can’t help but think that he fits the bill rather well.
By Chad Skiles ‘12