ASU philosophy student receives Dean's Medal


Erica May

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Jacob Martin, a graduating philosophy senior, has made quite the impact on Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. He will be receiving the Dean’s Medal at the commencement ceremonies this spring. To be chosen for this award is a great honor, as the recipient is selected by their department or school for demonstrating excellence to wear the medal with their graduation regalia and will lead their fellow graduates during the processional.

Martin is native to Arizona and has lived in Tempe his whole life. His Arizona roots go back generations, as his family is from Superior in the East Valley.

Despite starting off as a business major, Martin was able to find his passion with the help of the professors at ASU.

I've had so many great professors from whom I've learned so much.”

Martin answered a few questions about his ASU education.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study philosophy? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

A: On my dad's advice, I started out as a business major. I hated every minute of it. So I switched to philosophy, which I knew next to nothing about, but which seemed to me then as far from business as I could get. My first philosophy class was Philosophy 103 with Professor Cynthia Bolton. I loved it and I've been hooked ever since.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I've taken several African and African American studies courses, for instance on the history of the slave trade, Caribbean political economy, and jazz, each of which has deeply influenced me. The first two radicalized the way that I think about the United States and its place in world history and politics. The last one introduced me to what is, at least in my amateur opinion, the greatest American art form ever created. Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane — the music these geniuses made continues to improve the quality of my life nearly every day. Kurt Vonnegut once called jazz 'safe sex of the highest order.' He was right!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My only advice is to read as widely and as often as you can. For philosophy students, I think this is especially important. Don't just read philosophy. Read literature, history, science, whatever interests you.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I'm going to break the rule and name a spot near ASU but off-campus: Desert Roots Kitchen. It's a small vegan restaurant on Mill just after 5th Street. Great food and cool people.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: This summer I'm hoping to visit a close friend in Macedonia. I'm told I might get to see Croatia and Greece, too. In the fall I'll be headed to the graduate school at the City University of New York as a PhD philosophy student. That should keep me busy awhile.