Carroll College, Helena Montana
Philosophy Alumni Success

Alumni Success

Alumni Success

Click each profile below to learn more about our philosopy graduates and advice they offer to Carroll College students.

Jessica Knapp, Class of 2015

Jessica KnappI graduated in Fall 2015 with a degree in philosophy. My philosophy thesis was entitled, An Investigation of the Self as relational and the propensity for evil produced from indifference towards human relationships. Provoked by Albert Camus’ The Stranger, this thesis explores the connection between evil and indifference towards human relationships. Relying heavily on Hannah Arendt and Simone De Beauvoir, I offer an understanding of the self as relational and then explore how an indifference towards human relationships leads to a higher propensity for evil.

For my last semester at Carroll, I had the wonderful opportunity to study in Siena, Italy. Since graduation, I have returned to Siena to continue learning the language and culture that I have just begun to grasp and am living with a wonderful host family.

For the future, I plan on pursuing a career as a Foreign Service Officer, specifically working in public diplomacy.

Why did I choose philosophy?

To be honest, Carroll College wasn’t my first choice for college and philosophy was not my first choice for a major. However, I would not change any of the decisions that I have made. I am greatly indebted to Carroll College and the philosophy department for the holistic education it has provided for me.

I have already found immense value in my degree in philosophy. In general, a degree in philosophy can provide a student with a deep understanding of the complexities of ideas in the world we live in. I truly believe that someone who studies philosophy will learn to think critically, argue logically, and communicate effectively. These skills are so important, especially in today’s world. Philosophy is a way to approach the seemingly unanswerable questions to our lives.

My advice for future students of philosophy is to always understand what a philosopher is saying and why that philosopher is saying it. Then translate that skill to all you encounter for the rest of your life. This is a difficult task, and even more so if you disagree with the person you are in dialogue with. However, you will find that when you understand what someone is saying and why someone is saying it, you can address what has been said keeping in mind the motive of the person. This leads to an authentic and even productive philosophical discussion of any topic.

Taylor Peliska, Class of 2014

Taylor Peliska

Philosophy, to me, is lived. It’s interactive. One of the most important things I took leaving Carroll College is that, no matter how much you read philosophy, write about it, think about it, (all great things!) the basis of philosophy remains in the day to day, simple interactions with other people and with the world. To quote David Hume, “Be a philosopher, but above all be a man.”

I received my philosophy degree from Carroll College in the spring of 2014. In studying for my philosophy degree at Carroll College I took the opportunity to write an honors thesis my senior year. My thesis was entitled Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Aesthetics: On Perception, Art, and Embodied Existence. The following is the abstract from my thesis: French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty is one of the 20th century’s greatest phenomenological thinkers. Merleau-Ponty’s main philosophical concern is understanding how humans experience and perceive the world around them. He grounds his thought in phenomenological inquiry and existential ontology, providing a rich understanding of what it means to be a human living in the world. In his examination of human situation in the world, Merleau-Ponty draws from art, in particular the work of French painter, Paul Cézanne, in outlining a theory of aesthetics that brings to light our being in the world as an embodied individual who is immersed in it, not outside of it. In my paper, I explore the various implications of Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy, arguing that his aesthetic theory is not simply ancillary to his general perspective, but instead unveils a new way of understanding what it means to be human living and existing in the world.

Upon graduating, I took up a job as a Marketing and Media Content Developer a small, Catholic, liberal arts school near Naples, Florida called Ave Maria University. I found very quickly that my skills as both a technical and logical cohesive writer, skills that I attribute directly to my work in reading and writing philosophy, are more rare and valuable than I had realized during school.

Taylor PeliskaStarting in June of 2015 I moved to The Gambia, West Africa as a Peace Corps Volunteer working in rural schools helping with teacher capacity building. Currently living in the up-country village of Dobang Kunda, I work with teachers at the local lower basic school (grade school) on developing better classroom practices, material and content delivery, and content assessment.

I greatly value my degree in philosophy. Upon graduating college, what I am finding more and more is that, while a philosophy degree does come with a specific knowledge of different thinkers and ideas throughout history, more importantly it instills in the student a way of thinking about the world. Professionally, especially in working and living with people from other cultures very different from my own, my study of philosophy has helped prepare me to engage ideas and values that are very different from my own in an open minded way. Sometimes it is very difficult to overcome our own predispositions and opinions about the world. Constantly having my own values and perspective being challenged being comfortable with these challenges has been one of the single greatest outcomes of studying philosophy.

The one piece of advice I would give to a student of philosophy is to be patient. You are encountering so many new ideas at once. Especially in college, it is often the first time your beliefs and views towards the world are being questioned in any way. But this is okay! In fact, it’s great. While frustrating at times, you will be much better equip to engage the huge variety of ideas, opinions, and beliefs you will encounter over the rest of your life.

Mark J. McLean, Class of 2013

Mark McLeanAfter receiving a B.A. in Philosophy and French from Carroll College in 2013 and my M.A. in Philosophy from KU Leuven in Leuven, Belgium in September 2015, I am currently enrolled in the the MPhil program at KU Leuven (a preliminary to the doctorate program).

The value in philosophy as nothing to do with the degree, but rather resides in one’s ability to grasp, articulate, and challenge perspectives in order to further the apprehension of (academic) philosophical discourse. Philosophy is often looked upon as a kind of ‘self-improvement’ degree. It shows that one has a developed sense of critical and analytical skills in their ability to approach problematic situations or projects. As for my own professional path, a degree in philosophy has helped me in developing and manipulating my teaching skills as well as allowed me to further my pursuit of academic philosophy.

For students in philosophy, the best advice I could give would be to learn how to say what you are trying to articulate by using your own words rather than some author’s philosophical jargon. You will find that this is easier said than done. Most importantly, be open to the conversation even if you are vehemently opposed to the other’s position. There is more to learn by hearing someone through in their argumentation, than by disregarding their initial claim as nonsensical or useless in light of your own stance.

Philosophy cannot stand-alone. This is why I would encourage any student in philosophy to pair it with another degree or study. Alongside the sciences and the arts, philosophy criticizes and analyzes their developing definitions, techniques, methods, and styles. With this, philosophy gives us just enough of an edge to stand upon, and, during these brief moments of footing, we are able to orient ourselves before we take our next grand leap towards those profound depths of understanding.

Nathan Pawelek, Class of 2013

Nathan PawelekI graduated from Carroll in 2013, majoring in Philosophy and Theology with a minor in Classical Studies.

Right after graduation I took a high school teaching position at St. Andrew School in Helena. For two years I taught high school theology courses including Catholicism, Scriptures, Catholic Social Doctrine and Moral Theology. I also taught American Literature and Classical Literature, Latin, Algebra and Speech. Subsequently, I made a bit of a career change and I’m currently the Human Resources Manager for a company in Helena called Pioneer Aerostructures. One day I hope to continue my education and eventually get a Ph.D., however, right now I’m enjoying Montana and my career in HR.

While at Carroll I had the opportunity to study abroad in Siena, Italy. This was one of the greatest experiences I had during my time in college and I would tell every student at Carroll, no matter what their major is, to study abroad. Even though I now call Helena my home, I love traveling and can’t wait to make it back to Europe.

I would tell students in philosophy to be open minded in their studies, firm in their beliefs, and to always seek understanding in truth. Philosophy is just what it means – it’s to love wisdom, seek truth, and crave learning. It’s more than just a major in college, it’s a way of life.

There is much value in a degree in philosophy. Philosophy has allowed me to be more open minded when approaching other world views and cultures. It has allowed me to think logically and critically through the challenges that life presents. Most of all it has allowed me to strengthen my beliefs as I seek to better understand the world around me.

Alex Woelkers, Class of 2008

I graduated in 2008 with a double major in Theology and Philosophy and minor in Mathematics. My honors thesis was in theology: The Theology of John Ziziuoulas: Contributions to Anthropology.

Since graduating from Carroll I have been a high school theology and math teacher, worked at a residential treatment program for severely emotionally disturbed children, volunteered working at a mission school in Guatemala for one year, finished my MA in systematic theology (my thesis was about St. Irenaeus’ treatment of human flesh), and most recently, spent almost six months volunteering at a boys’ orphanage in Jinja, Uganda.


In the future I hope to continue my study of Catholic anthropology, which (as I learned from my professors at Carroll) demands serious attention to both the philosophical and theological approaches to the Church’s doctrine, especially as it was articulated at the Second Vatican Council and after, and the application of this anthropology to current questions and situations in our world. In the future I hope to both study more theology and philosophy and to be able to continue my service work in the third world, either as a volunteer or in a paid position with a Catholic organization.

It has been my experience that the Church’s vision of the human person offers us the fundamental values necessary for truly integral human development. This Catholic anthropological vision needs to seriously and positively engage the questions and perspectives of our contemporary world in order to raise cultures to a more human level where dignity, freedom, and truth truly order society. Nowhere is this more true than in those societies and communities that are most underdeveloped, underprivileged and marginalized. To bring holistic development to individuals, families, communities, and societies that are so oppressed by the cycle of poverty, only an elevation of the culture alongside the development of economic and political opportunity can produce development that is truly human: that results in a more human existence for those who are de-humanized by poverty. My theological and philosophical engagement with the ideas about the human person and their effects in our world has always compelled me to put the Church’s anthropology into practice by serving those who are in greatest need and living in solidarity with those whose humanity is most diminished and dismissed in our world. In between studying and teaching It has been my joy to volunteer in places like Guatemala, Haiti, India, Uganda, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Rwanda, Mexico, and of course, here in the US.

Although the Church’s anthropology is unequivocally theological, it engages Catholics in a discussion with the world that is truly philosophical, and for this reason I am profoundly grateful for the philosophical training I received at Carroll. My degree in philosophy taught me to think well, to write well, and to read well—which is one of the greatest gifts anyone could receive. Beyond that, the disciplines of philosophy that my professors at Carroll modeled and formed have instilled in me an attitude of intellectual charity: a humility that understand that every perspective holds some element of truth that can contribute to an integral humanism and can to that degree can resonate with whatever is authentically Catholic. My philosophical training made me value the capacity for meaningful engagement with any serious human perspective, a reverence for truth rather than ideology, and a preference for dialogue over self-justification.


As the post- Vatican II popes keep calling the Church to renew and deepen our sense that every Catholic is fundamentally called to a missionary vocation, I find myself grateful time and time again for the way my philosophy prepared me to turn outward to the ideas, cultures, and people who are leading in our time rather than looking inward. This has made me a more dynamic and faithful Catholic, and to love the beauty and truth of the Church and her vision of the person more and not less, because to turn outward toward others is precisely the call of the Gospel.

This is the fundamental hermeneutic of the Christian life, and the key to understanding rightly the Church’s life and teaching (is this not precisely what Pope Francis keeps reminding us?)—and for this reason the Church’s mission is strengthened wherever philosophy is practiced in earnest— this has certainly been my experience. If the Church seriously believes that we are saved through the incarnation and Paschal mystery of God-made-man, then salvation must mean the truly integral development of the human person. That is a serious claim—it is based on faith in the revelation of Jesus Christ and is thus properly theological, yet to offer the fruits of this claim to the world is to engage in a philosophical exercise: an exercise of not just speaking the truth but witnessing to it by the way we treat others, especially the poorest. That gets me excited, and makes me so grateful to be wading through a post-modern world with not only a strong Catholic faith but also a strong formation in the practice of reason (philosophy, that is).

How has philosophy helped me?

Although I thought that I had ‘double majored’ in unemployment, I have found that the serious study of the human person through philosophy and theology has actually made me extremely attractive to the people I have wanted to work for and work with—you can teach anyone technical skills or professional practices on the job,but you can’t teach them to think. If someone already knows how to think well, they can learn anything...

More importantly if someone has a strong vision of the human person, is self-reflective in a positive way, and holds strong and intelligent values about what makes for truly human existence, that person is prepared to offer much more to their work and the people around them than simply the ‘product’ they produce: they will invest in what they believe in and in the people around them. In my experience, this has led me to be extremely successful in jobs I was ‘hopelessly underprepared for’ and to be extremely appreciated by the people I worked with.

What is philosophy?

I think philosophy is the art of asking right questions and in the right way. In a world where so many foolishly seek a right answer, a quick or convenient answer, an easy answer, or a self-serving answer; we are easily blinded to the fact that it is the questions we must get right if we are to be wise— any answer to a unwise question is a foolish answer, no matter how right or wrong it may be.

Albert Einstein once said something akin to this “A question cannot be answered on the same level of consciousness from whence it is raised”. Philosophy is about seeking wise questions, and then learning to use our reason not to justify answers but to raise our level of consciousness to a new level that capable of more wisdom than what we possess. That is the way of entering into a mystery... and philosophy above all is about the recognition of reason’s power to enter into the mystery of reality, but not to possess or circumscribe that mystery. That is why philosophy seeks truth and wisdom, where all the other sciences can only seek knowledge.

My advice to philosophy students

My advice to philosophy students is, first of all, to enjoy the beauty and truth of philosophy. Secondly, don’t be fooled into trying to decide which philosopher is right or wrong, or whether you agree or disagree—seek first to truly understand a philosopher: what they say, why they say it, who they are saying it to, and when they said (give a fair historical reading!). You will learn much more this way, and be far less frustrated.

Also, be grateful that you are able to study at a Catholic philosophy department—even if you are the farthest thing from Catholic (whatever that is, I am not sure I can say), the Catholic foundations of this school make it truly value philosophy for all that it is without needing to make it into something it is not- let this not be lost on you.

Cole Mannix, Class of 2007

Cole MannixWhat is philosophy to me? To me, philosophy is striving to understand what is in order to best inform how to be. Or in other words, what to do with my limited time.

I received my degree from Carroll in Biology in 2007 and Philosophy in 2007. My thesis director was Mark Smillie and I wrote my thesis for philosophy on Replacement of the 'Augustinian Theodicy' with an 'Irenean Theodicy' and the Need for a New Metaphysical Foundation. The abstract for my thesis was: Much of current scientific consensus concerning the origin, history, and function of the natural world (especially evolutionary theory) comes into conflict with the traditional Christian explanation for evil as it was articulated by Augustine. Given Augustine’s great influence on the development of Christian thought and doctrine, it is not surprising that even after more than a century and a half since Darwin, Christianity remains uneasy about evolution and its implications. This paper argues that faith and reason must be compatible, and that evolving scientific understanding must necessarily shape our understanding of the human and divine.

Since graduation, I have completed a Masters of Theological Studies degree from Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (originally with Weston Jesuit), worked in Student Life at Carroll, and taught adjunct classes in Alpha Seminar and introductory theology.

Currently, I am an entrepreneur and leader of a startup trying to create a Montana-based meat company that provides an alternative to the mainstream oil-based grain and meat industries. Promoting and furthering such work is where I hope to spend my life.

Philosophy has helped me in my professional path because if you let it, the practice of philosophy will make you a better listener. Like another language, it will introduce you to new patterns of thinking, expressing, feeling while exposing your assumptions and paper certainties. Philosophy often causes you to prioritize “why and whether” over “how and how much.” In a world swimming in “data”, philosophy is all about distilling, prioritizing, and coming up with the most life-giving interpretations to program our hearts, minds, habits, and communities.

Advice that I would have for students: In philosophy would be to work very hard not to let yourself dismiss difficult authors, ideas, passages, etc. It is an essential experience to struggle with the meaning of something, to approach it with a bias against your own personal presuppositions in order to give actual learning a real chance. Fighting against bias is one of the most important tasks in any science.

John Gleaves, Class of 2006

John Gleaves

John Gleaves, PhD graduated Maximum Cum Laude from Carroll College in 2006 with a majors in both Philosophy and Theology and a minor in History. He was also a member of the Honors Scholars program. In 2007, John enrolled directly into the Pennsylvania State University’s Department of Kinesiology doctoral program in the History and Philosophy of Sport. In 2011, he successfully defended his doctoral thesis and became an assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at the California State University Fullerton. In 2015, CSUF awarded John early promotion and tenure as an associate professor.

In addition to his educational achievements, John has received numerous awards and professional leadership roles for his research in the area of performance-enhancing drugs in sport. In 2010, John received the North American Society for Sport History’s Graduate Student Essay Award. As a professor, John has been awarded the CSUF’s College of Health and Human Development Faculty Scholar Award and received CSUF’s 2015 “Titan’s on the Rise” Early Career scholar award. He is also currently the Co-director for the International Network for Doping Research and the Center for Sociocultural Sport and Olympic Research. He serves as the Associate Editor for the international peer-reviewed journal Performance Enhancement and Health. In 2015, the members of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport elected John the IAPS’s Conference Chair.

John attributes much of his professional success to the skills and learning that took place at Carroll. “Not only do I use the content I learned in my philosophy course work,” John explains, “But the skills—critical thinking, inquiry into large problems, debate with peers—have let me be successful in my professional career.” Additionally, John believes that philosophy provided a foundation that allowed him to adapt to new content areas. Now a professor of kinesiology, John finds that many of the problems he researches require the breadth of philosophy’s content areas. “It is amazing when you sit down with scientists, engineers, and lawyers to find that philosophy has much to say about the problems they are currently considering.”

John also finds that Carroll’s sense of service and mission continue to inspire his desire to educate. As a faculty member at California State University, Fullerton, John enjoys working with the campus’ diverse student body, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college. He annually takes twenty students to Greece for a study abroad course on the Olympic Games. He also serves as a faculty mentor for historically underrepresented minority students and is part of his campus’ LGBTQ Ally program.

Why Major in Philosophy at Carroll?

Whether you plan to start a career after graduation or continue your education in law, philosophy, theology or another field, Carroll will prepare you to succeed. US News and World Report placed Carroll:

  • #1 in their 2016 Regional Colleges West rankings
  • #1 in their 2016 Regional Colleges West Best Value Schools rankings
  • #1 in their 2016 Best Regional College in the West for Veterans rankings

With an impressive 13-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio and modest class sizes, Carroll offers students the opportunity to establish close relationships with their instructors and receive individualized attention from professors who maintain a sincere interest in their students’ achievements.