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From the Mount to Boston College

9/14/2018

Graduate embarks on fully-funded Ph.D. program

Micheal Stephens-Emerson ’18 is the quintessential liberal arts student. He studied in the Honors Program, double majored in philosophy and French, and graduated from Mount Saint Vincent with the highest honor of summa cum laude.

Now he’s off continuing his post-graduate studies in philosophy at Boston College—his top choice—where he has embarked on a fully-funded Ph.D. program.

Hailing from the small Midwestern town of Mount Vernon, Indiana, Mr. Stephens-Emerson happened to stumble upon Mount Saint Vincent after a Google search of colleges in the Northeast—a region he had always hoped to live in due to its combination of urban life and great landscapes. When Mount Saint Vincent offered him the highest financial aid package during his college search, it made his move to the Bronx official.

“The first time I saw the campus was with my family, during Orientation. They all thought it was perfect for me.”

And it was.

From his diverse academic interests—such as taking courses that analyzed the religious reformations in England during the time of Henry VIII through Elizabeth I—to traveling as a presenter at national conferences, Mr. Stephens-Emerson explored as many opportunities as he could to discover his best options and translate what he loves into a career.

During the fall semester of his sophomore year, Mr. Stephens-Emerson traveled to Georgia to attend and present at the Flannery O’Connor and Southern Women Writers Conference with Associate Professor of English Jacqueline Zubeck—one of his Mount professors and an O’Connor scholar.

“My conference presentation would not have been possible without Dr. Zubeck’s encouragement and commitment. This is what I love about my professors—they invite you to become collaborators in gaining knowledge.”

And not only did Mr. Stephens-Emerson earn the compliments of the head of the Flannery O’Connor estate at the conference, but he was the only undergraduate student to present original research.

“I had not considered becoming an educator before that experience. I got to see what happens when you get a bunch of people passionate about the same subject in a room together. That inspired my decision to become a professor.”

Research wasn’t the only outlet he explored during his time at the Mount. With a commitment to expanding his foreign language horizons, he also spent a semester in Aix-en-Provence in the South of France, immersing himself and honing his skills as only a true Francophile would—he took courses to advance his French proficiency, lived with a host mother, and visited famed European cities, including Paris and Amsterdam.

“I came into the program with zero French and left fluent. Studying abroad made a real difference.”

Studying abroad also motivated Mr. Stephens-Emerson to put his passion in action. He began at the College as an English and French double major, but often toyed with the idea of changing his major from English to philosophy. Prior to his experience abroad, he took a Philosophy of Social Responsibility course co-taught by Assistant Professor of Philosophy Joshua Shmikler and former Associate Director for Campus Ministry Kathryn O’Loughlin, which furthered his interest in ideas more than just readings themselves.

“Micheal’s outstanding work in philosophy demonstrated how a liberal arts education at the College of Mount Saint Vincent enables one to participate in the perennial conversation about the most fundamental questions that face us as human beings,” Dr. Shmikler said.

After returning stateside, Mr. Stephens-Emerson changed his English major to philosophy and immediately began working on his senior honors thesis, “Restorative Illegality in Montaigne’s ‘Of Custom,’” under the guidance of Dr. Shmikler.

“Montaigne is an overlooked figure, which gave me the elbowroom to do original work,” Mr. Stephens-Emerson said.

Dr. Shmikler—who also received his Ph.D. in philosophy from Boston College—advised Mr. Stephens-Emerson about the expertise required by Boston College’s doctoral programs, including proficiency and understanding of philosophical texts, conducting original research, using more than 40 sources, and of course, the strenuous demands of one’s time.

“The reason I am going to graduate school is mainly because of the level of my work and the quality of my thesis,” said Mr. Stephens-Emerson. “Everyone gave me great advice.”

Mr. Stephens-Emerson took advantage of the exceptional academic opportunities he found at Mount Saint Vincent, and his quest for knowledge in and outside of the classroom helped him understand the value of his strengths and the range of opportunities associated with them.

“As a liberal arts student, you read, examine texts from multiple perspectives, you do research—it’s the education of the whole person. It was definitely the best fit for me from the start.”

And with his graduate education underway at Boston College, he has taken the next step to launch his career.

“Micheal’s devotion to philosophy, language, literature, history, and political theory will serve him well in the Ph.D. program at Boston College,” Dr. Shmikler continued. “His humility, compassion for others, and love of wisdom reflect the best of the traditions of the Mount. I have no doubt that he will become an outstanding philosophical scholar and inspiring educator in the years to come.”

About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of professional accomplishment, service, and leadership in the 21st century.