Philosophy transfer student learns the power of reflexivity


December 8, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Looking back at his time at Arizona State University, transfer student Bryson Brown believes the most important skill he learned is how to question his assumptions. Bryson Brown sitting on steps in front of Arizona State University in graduation gown surrounded by books This fall, Bryson Brown will receive a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, religion and society from ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Download Full Image

“Something that has changed my perspective and outlook more broadly has been getting in the habit of questioning my assumptions. I think that reflexivity is an essential skill in philosophy in general — being able to question your basic assumptions. Like most majors, when you start to do it pretty regularly, you start looking at things through that frame,” Brown said.

As he studied philosophy, religion and society at ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Brown had the opportunity to dig deeper and explore historical, theoretical and practical perspectives.

Although he started his ASU journey as a biology major with the intention of going into the medical field, Brown quickly realized he was more passionate about philosophy and decided to change his major.

“I continued with the elective credits and realized biology was interesting, but I didn't have the drive or the passion for that to be successful,” he said. “I had to take a break in the middle of schooling, and when I came back, that's when I changed my major. I think that break allowed some time of reflection and sort of a pause to consider why I was actually wanting to go to school.”

Last summer, Brown had the opportunity to study abroad in Europe through New College’s Reading England's Literary Landscapes global education experience. For five weeks, Brown and his classmates stayed at Harlaxton Manor in England and studied the intersections of British literature and landscape, exploring the work of authors such as Emily Brontë, William Wordworth, Alfred Tennyson, Kazuo Ishiguro, Bram Stoker and Beatrix Potter.

“If a student is considering studying abroad, I would say there's nothing to consider, just do it,” Brown said. “You can’t explain the entire shift in cultural dynamics adequately without just experiencing it. To experience it is to go into it knowing that it's a different culture and to set aside the cultural perspective you have as an American and try to actually learn something.”

This fall, Brown will receive a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, religion and society. Here, he shares more about his experiences at ASU and what’s next for him:

Question: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? How did you overcome them?

Answer: I would say mental health and having to work full time would be the two main obstacles I faced. I work for the Title I department at Greenway High School and I spend my day in a math classroom helping freshmen with algebra. I think taking some time away from school allowed me to reprioritize my time to seek out therapy and the proper treatments to get everything taken care of.

Q: Did you receive any scholarships or financial support while at ASU? How did those impact your experience?

A: For this academic year, I received the ASU New College Dean Scholarship. I've also had loans and grants through FAFSA and then the help from family financially. Realistically, without any of that, I just wouldn't be in school. So the fact that people anonymously donate to a fund to support students of the humanities is incredibly impactful.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Professor Patricia Huntington has had the greatest influence on me as a young academic. I've continuously chosen to take classes with her. She takes a very critical edge to the writing you submit, but I wouldn't really have it any other way. I think it shows the dedication she has to academic pursuits. It's forced me to trust that there's a reason to the process and that the finished product is hopefully something indicative of that.

Q: What message or advice would you share for future first-year students?

A: The best piece of advice that I would give is to really be present in the moment. This experience flies by. It doesn't seem like it when you're constantly registering for another class and buying a new set of books and starting over every semester. It just completely flies by. So in between homework assignments, just sort of take a couple of minutes to reflect about the privilege that we have to be able to be at a top-graded university. Also, you're a lot more capable than you realize.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan on finishing graduate applications. I'm hoping to get into a doctoral program for philosophy sometime this next fall. My hope is to eventually have the opportunity to teach at the university.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences