From performer to philosopher, undergraduate makes moves to better the world
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.
Logan Mitchell didn’t want to go to college when he was a teenager in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After graduating high school, he moved to New York to pursue a career on the stage and found much success as a dancer, singer and actor. He even got to travel to Europe, Asia and the Middle East with the international tour of the musical “West Side Story.”
“While I was on tour, I realized that I really aspired to have a skill set beyond performing that would allow me to give back to my community that was also intellectually stimulating,” said Mitchell. “So I decided that after I was done touring I would get my bachelor’s at ASU.”
During his time as an undergraduate student, Mitchell worked as the resident writing and logic tutor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.
“I've been able to work with a really diverse group of students from around the country on their philosophy papers, as well as logic assignments,” said Mitchell. “It's confirmed that I really enjoy teaching, and I hope to do more of it in the future.”
He was also a research assistant for assistant professor of philosophy Maura Priest during his semester in the Undergraduate Research Experience program through the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Not only did he help restart the Applied Philosophy Blog, he organized and moderated several debates on topics in applied philosophy like voting, smartphones and COVID-19.
Mitchell was the recipient of the Christine Sato Memorial scholarship in 2019 and is a Phoenix Pride Scholar. He hopes that by earning his degree he will be able to make a positive impact in the world and gain skills he can use to help contribute to positive social change.
“I am planning on pursuing my PhD in philosophy actually, because I really feel as though philosophy provides me with a way of leveraging my intellect to work towards a more just and compassionate society through work in ethics and social and political philosophy,” said Mitchell.
He is graduating this semester with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a minor in nonprofit leadership and management, a certificate in ethics and a nonprofit professional certification. We caught up with him to ask about his time at ASU.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I was in an introductory ethics class at Scottsdale Community College, and I discovered that same-sex marriage had been a topic of debate just a few years prior. As a queer person, it was incredibly sobering to remember that my own rights were up for discussion just a few years before taking that class. It showed me how powerful and relevant ethics can be. I imagine a lot of prejudiced and ignorant students were able to really examine their own ethical beliefs through courses like that, and I imagine many students ultimately changed their mind when forced to defend their beliefs with rational arguments.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: I had no intentions on pursuing graduate studies before attending ASU. I had no idea I would love philosophy so much that I was willing to devote an entire career to it!
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I knew ASU had an excellent program in nonprofit leadership and management and I really just lucked out that they also have an amazing philosophy department. I also knew that ASU provided so many flexible and affordable options, allowing me time to work and build a schedule that fit with my needs without sacrificing the quality of my education.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Cheshire Calhoun, 100%. She is one of my favorite people and philosophers, but she's taught me so many important lessons that I can't pick just one! One really important lesson; every sentence you write needs to serve a purpose.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Ask for help. Often. Go to office hours. Often. Don't be afraid to use the resources provided to you like the SHPRS Writing Studio and other tutoring centers. And ask for help before you get too far behind in your coursework!
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: Being on campus seems like a lifetime ago! One of my favorite spots is the little meditation room in Hayden Library in the basement. I used to go there to meditate in the mornings when I had a 9 a.m. class. I attribute a lot of my academic success to my daily mindfulness meditation practice, which has allowed me to stay calm and gain a deeper understanding of my mind — and all the ways my mind tries to psych me out.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Next semester, I will be teaching mindfulness to elementary school teachers, online, through the local nonprofit Mindfulness First. I am currently in the process of applying to PhD programs in philosophy, and if accepted I will begin pursuing my doctorate in fall 2021!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Oh, no; I don't want to pick just one! Philosophers love to choose controversial things, so I'll say we should spend the $40 million to lobby for higher taxes on the rich, maybe even an income cap, so that we can then get billions to help fix our education system, health care, criminal justice system, etc. Is that too much like wishing for more wishes?