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From guitarist to graduate student


Patrick Brooks

Patrick Brooks.

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April 10, 2019

If you had asked Patrick Brooks 15 years ago where he would be today, he never would have said he'd be a philosopher.

But Brooks graduated from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University in 2016 with his bachelor’s degree in philosophy and continues his studies on the subject today. Getting to where he is now has taken him down a few paths.

“I started undergrad at a small liberal arts college in Ohio in 2004 but dropped out in 2007,” Brooks said. “When I first started college, I was a biochemistry major. I took an intro to philosophy course to fulfill a general education requirement and fell in love with philosophy. I found myself spending more and more time reading philosophy and less and less time reading chemistry and biology.”

After taking a step back from his studies in 2007, Brooks took a job in oil and gas for five years. He then left the industry and moved to Austin, Texas, where he played music for a living. While in Texas, he played guitar and wrote and recorded his music until he decided to leave Austin to join the oil and gas industry once more.

“I quickly realized it was a step backwards for me,” Brooks said. “That realization led me to enroll in Arizona State University’s online program. I got laid off from oil and gas shortly after I started at ASU, but that was alright because ASU had just partnered with Starbucks. So I became a barista while I finished my degree online.”

When it came time to go back to school, Brooks says the obvious choice was to finish his degree in philosophy.

“My time at SHPRSSchool of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies was fantastic,” he said. “The philosophy program at ASU really is a great one. The faculty with whom I took courses are all excellent. I'm glad to have worked with them.”

Brooks notes the defining moment in his academic career to be his choice to go back to school after taking 11 years off. It must have been a long enough break, because he didn’t stop his education after he graduated from ASU.

He enrolled in Texas Tech University’s terminal MA in philosophy program. There, he was able to receive full funding for his degree by becoming a teaching assistant.

In the midst of finishing his master’s degree, Brooks found time to apply to PhD programs across the country including Northwestern; University of California, Davis; University of North Carolina; University of Texas and the University of Southern California, among others. Out of these schools, Brooks was admitted into every program and offered full funding.

“I’m over the moon at having been accepted to so many great programs, and I’m especially pleased to have been admitted at USC,” Brooks said. “It’s a bit wild, really. I had this plan of finishing my degree, getting an MA, and then going to a top 10 PhD program. Somehow, this plan has worked out. How often does that happen?”

Brooks points to time management being the most helpful skill he gained while studying for his bachelor’s degree as he moves forward in academia.

Brooks playing guitar while living in Texas

Brooks playing guitar while living in Texas.

“All of the online courses are condensed,” Brooks said. “I was also working about 30 hours a week. It was imperative to make a schedule and stick to it. This has been a tremendous help in my graduate studies.”

As a soon-to-be PhD candidate, he will have to use those skills to get through the rest of his schooling, but as someone who has been a student for a while, now, he had this to say:

“Chances are, you’re not going to be the smartest person in the room. That’s largely out of your control, but you do have control over how hard you work. You should do everything you can to ensure that you are the hardest working person in the room.”

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