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Double major, honors student encourages others to seek what is essential

Photo of Jacqueline Schisler

ASU honors graduate Jacqueline Schisler.

May 07, 2024

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

It seemed like nothing could stop Jacqueline Schisler, a Barrett Honors student working toward two bachelor’s degrees in philosophy and neuroscience and a minor in religious studies. In the fall of her final year, she was preparing to work on her honors thesis when a tragedy turned her world upside down: Her father passed away unexpectedly.

“I considered continuing with my original plan,” Schisler said about her thesis project, “but my (thesis) advisor, Professor Terry Shoemaker, encouraged me to step away and take time to heal.”

It became perhaps the most important lesson she would learn — that school may be important, but it’s not as important as taking care of yourself.

Schisler ultimately defended her thesis on the spiritual elements of rock climbing, but despite being an all-star academic and go-getter, when asked what advice she would give other students, her response wasn’t related to studying or getting straight A’s — it was heart wisdom from a young woman who has grown through enduring tremendous loss:

“Your most transformative and influential experiences during college will likely not be from inside the classroom,” she said. “Try new things, learn from all different types of people, and get to know yourself. Yes, go to class and study and get good grades, but to quote 'The Little Prince,' 'What is essential is invisible to the eye.'”

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies reached out to Schisler to learn more about her time at ASU.

Question: What was your "aha" moment when you realized what you wanted to study?

Answer: I started at ASU in 2020, and at this point in my life I was grappling with many questions about who I was as a person and what I believed in and what I didn’t believe in. I wanted my university experience to be about my growth as a person in addition to my growth as a student. I decided to study philosophy because I was seeking answers. Now, I have many more questions than answers, but I have learned to appreciate the questions more.

Q: What's something you learned while at ASU (in the classroom or otherwise) that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: When I began at ASU, I thought it would always feel huge, but I was surprised at how small and connected it could feel at times. Even though there are tens of thousands of undergraduate students, I often meet people who know many of the same people that I know. Especially in SHPRS, I can’t walk through a building without seeing someone I know, and that has definitely defied expectations and stereotypes about what ASU is like.

Q: What is your favorite spot on campus? 

A: My favorite spot on campus is probably the Sun Devil Fitness Center fields! I played a lot of intramurals, had several picnics and met many cool people on those fields.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to work at ASU in life science graduate programs while completing prerequisite courses and finishing my third bachelor’s degree in religious studies.

Q: If someone gave you $40 billion to solve one problem on our planet, what would you do?

A: As someone who has experienced loss, I would love to start a program that supports those struggling with grief. Especially in America, I think we have an odd relationship with death where we rarely acknowledge its intensity, and I would love to start an organization that creates centers where people can go and be cared for physically and mentally.

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